FEATURE: Japanese cinema plays to enthusiastic crowds at LA Film Festival.LOS ANGELES Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. , June 28 Kyodo
More than 200 independent American and international films, including works by Japanese directors, were featured last week at the 11th annual Los Angeles Film Festival in Hollywood.
From June 16-26, thousands of industry insiders and fans of independent cinema attended movie screenings and cast their votes on more than 70 titles competing for awards in the best narrative, documentary, and short film categories.
Only a fraction of the 3,700 works submitted from around the world were selected for the Festival, including the 2004 Japanese films ''Tony Takitani'' by Jun Ichikawa Jun Ichikawa (市川 準 Ichikawa Jun , and ''Kamikaze Girls'' (Shimotsuma monogatari) by Tetsuya Nakashima.
''It's exciting that they would show these two films, because they're not gangster or Samurai movies, they're filmmaking based more on characters,'' said Martin Wong, 36, co-editor of Giant Robot, a Los Angeles-based Asian popular culture magazine, which sponsored ''Kamikaze Girls'' at the Festival.
Wong, who attends film festivals throughout the United States, said there is a diverse range of Japanese cinema for American movie-goers to enjoy.
''It's great to show other aspects of modern Japan in film besides 1950s robotic monsters and 1960s yakuza yakuza
Japanese gangsters. Yakuza, who trace their roots back to ronin (masterless samurai), often adopt samurai-like rituals and identify themselves with elaborate body tattoos. ,'' he said.
With its bright costumes and punchy punch·y
adj. punch·i·er, punch·i·est
1. Characterized by vigor or drive: "He speaks in short, punchy sentences, using plain, populist words that excite" dialogue, ''Kamikaze Girls'' made its U.S. premiere at the Festival, giving audiences a comedic view of vibrant Japanese youth culture.
Nakashima's film features the unlikely friendship between two teenage girls and their antics inside pachinko pa·chin·ko
A Japanese gambling game played on a vertical pinball machine.
Noun 1. parlors and across the Japanese countryside.
Actress Kyoko Fukada stars as a doe-eyed high school student consumed by the Lolita fashion trend, while Anna Tsuchiya plays a brash, quick-tempered member of an all-girl biker gang.
''Visually it was great. It was humorous, artsy art·sy
adj. art·si·er, art·si·est Informal
Arty. and kind of had a deeper meaning,'' said Marina Marit, an audience member in her 40s who has designed costumes for Hollywood productions like ''Pirates of the Caribbean,'' and ''Constantine.''
Mike Andrews, 36, a second-year Japanese language student was also impressed by the high-energy comedy.
''It was creative, funny, and very entertaining. It was very unpredictable. I think it was a lot more creative than a lot of the stuff that I've seen in America,'' he said.
Kaai Nishida, 33, arts and culture program coordinator of The Japan Foundation in Los Angeles, which helped promote Festival screenings of ''Tony Takitani,'' has seen an increasing number of Americans exploring the world of Japanese cinema.
''More and more people are interested in Japanese film,'' she said.
Based on the short story by popular Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, Ichikawa's ''Tony Takitani'' stars acclaimed stage actor Issei Ogata as a lonely commercial artist who experiences happiness and heartache with a beautiful young woman. Famed actress Rie Miyazawa plays his beloved wife with an obsession for designer clothes.
''I was really intrigued, because I really like Murakami's work,'' said attendee Jennifer Flinn, 25, a writer for the Los Angeles magazine Asia Pacific Arts.
As a fan of Japanese film and contemporary literature, she carefully considered Ichikawa's cinematic version of the Murakami story. The renowned novelist rarely allows film adaptations of his work.
''I think the filmmakers were extremely skillful skill·ful
1. Possessing or exercising skill; expert. See Synonyms at proficient.
2. Characterized by, exhibiting, or requiring skill. in how they set up the shots and used color,'' said Flinn. ''I think they took a lot of care and thought about everything in that film.''
Another audience member shared her appreciation of the film's thematic and visual aspects.
''I loved it,'' said Jodi Elliot, 25, an actress from Los Angeles. ''It's the story of a man and how he makes sense of life. I thought it was beautiful and visually stunning in its simplicity.''
As official entries in the International Showcase, ''Tony Takitani'' and ''Kamikaze Girls'' competed for the Audience Award for Best International Film. The award was presented on Sunday to the documentary ''March of the Penguins,'' by French director Luc Jacquet.