Far East Film Festival diary: Day 2
Highlights from the second day of the FEFF in Udine, Italy
Listening to …
… Japanese director Yoshitaka Mori and star Kenichi Matsuyama impress first with their Italian and then with their collaboration on Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow. The film recounts the tragic life of Japanese shogi player Satoshi Murayama, crippled by health issues and dead at the age of 29 before he could fully realize his dream of becoming a Meijin (or master) of the board game, often compared to chess but more complex.
Matsuyama is a heartthrob back home thanks to role in the likes of the Death Note franchise and the film adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel Norwegian Wood. He revealed he’d put on around 25kg for the part, the sort of dedication to the craft that made Robert De Niro the actor he is – most famously when he packed on the pounds when playing the boxer Jake La Motta in director Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, and picked up and Oscar for his efforts.
Mori revealed he had taken some inspiration from that film, too, and boxing has deep historic links in the Fruili region where FEFF’s host city of Udine in northern Italy can be found. It was just up the road from here that the giant Primo Carnera began life as a carnival strongman before “The Ambling Alp” went on to become Italy’s one and only world heavyweight champion back in the 1930s, and ending his career as a bit part player in Hollywood.
Thinking about …
… how great it was to see Hong Kong veteran Michael Hui back on the big screen in Taiwanese director Chung Mong-hong’s moody and languid black comedy-cum-thriller Godspeed. The actor-comedian and one-time staple of Hong Kong box office smashes such as The Private Eyes (1976) and Security Unlimited (1981) doesn’t appear much these days and found the role – as a aging taxi driver seemingly on the road to nowhere – a perfect fit.
It was almost as though the 74-year-old Hui’s character was an extension of characters he once played back in the day, now beaten down by life and its various disappointments as he finds himself drawn into the Taiwanese underworld while still, as ever, looking to catch an even break.
The film was proof once again that Chinese language cinema can really push the boundaries when it comes to what on paper might seem an ordinary tale of misdeeds and misfortune. Little wonder Godspeed was nominated for a Golden Horse Award, as was the director and the star.
… an early surprise on the program from – again – Japan. Noted theater director Kenji Yamauchi’s set piece At the Terrace places distinctly Japanese characters in a setting that has shades of the very best of David Mamet. In it, a dinner party slowly unravels as truths are revealed between the assorted guests – what you first see is most certainly what you get by the end of the night – and the twists and turns had the FEFF audience glued to their seats to the last frame.
Surprisingly, At the Terrace lasted little more than a week in Japanese cinemas such is the cluttered nature of the domestic release calendar that has been full to over-flowing for the past 12 months.
… everything in sight. The main courses are yet to come – both in terms of what we’ve so far been digesting both in the cinema and in the city’s restaurants and cafes. But how can you go past the local gelato, with temptations such as that captured by FEFF Campus member Paige Lim on offer everywhere you look, and a single serve (for those with willpower) never setting you back more than two euro. No wonder the Udinese always look so pleased with themselves.
Meeting up with …
… the eight members of this year’s FEFF Campus – proudly supported by Asia Times. The video below – shot by Joshua Lim, in between mouthfuls – reveals just how tough life has been or them this week, and why a legion of Asian film fanatics return to Udine every year.