Temple in Saga…

June 26, 2010 | 2 comments | Blog Post | Video Podcast

When I passed through Saga city, something like a Century ago it seems, I saw this fairly common temple. We stopped and I quickly took a few pictures. No big deal, but somehow, this is one of the reasons why I love Japan so much…SANY0034.JPG



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Twin Cinemas, Hagi

June 24, 2010 | No comments | Blog Post | Video Podcast

After more than 60 days on the roads of Japan, visiting dozens of movie theaters, there are days when I feel that there is very little hope left for cinema in this country. There are days like this when I feel that the system has been too slow in following the evolution of society, too slow in preparing the grounds for the next generations. As a filmmaker, there are days when I feel really frustrated and angry at the system that didn’t plan well and got caught at its own game…

Yet, there are days when I feel real good about the movie passion that I meet everywhere, the love for cinema that I see in the people’s eyes… The Twin Cinemas in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture is such a place. The movie theater was closing down and the community decided to take it in their own hands. They even installed a 3D Projector and were playing “Alice… ” when we visited..

And on the way out from Hagi, we saw this nice little Buddhist temple with a tiny cemetery, surrounded by “Mikan” orchards. We stopped to take a look and found those interesting statues…





And we couldn’t resist buying some “mikan”. There was no one to sell them, but here is the proof that we paid for them…


This already feels like it was such a long time ago… Actually it was more than a month ago… I will try harder in the coming days…

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Eiji Okuda and me, and his Cinema…

My first contact with Eiji Okuda came a bit over thirty years ago, even though it wasn’t a physical nor a communicative one: two movies brought us together. My first feature film, “Keiko”, had been a surprising success in the Japanese industry, breaking quite a few records for an Independent film. The Toho company, despite the fact that they had turned us down in the first place, decided to “give us a second chance”. They offered to book “Keiko” as a double bill with another successful Independent Film, “Mo Hozue wa Tsukanai”, by director Higashi Yoichi and starring Kaori Momoi and Eiji Okuda. What a match!… Two years of showing the two films all over Japan definitely made it for me!… The thirtieth anniversary release of “Keiko” came out on DVD last year.

Mo Hozue wa Tsukanai Keiko

It would take something like another 11 years before I would meet Eiji in the flesh. He made the perfect handsome young japanese “pianist” that I was looking for to play in my movie “The Pianist”. The meeting was memorable: I discovered a passionate, intense and dedicated man, someone with a vision, a direction. He was an excellent actor, a perfect drinking companion and someone up to any type of challenge that we could bring up to him.

The Pianist.tiff

During the several weeks of piano rehearsal and the shoot in Montreal, Eiji’s wife Kazu and their two young daughters, Momo and Sakura came to visit. They spent several days playing with our daughter Marilou and Chunk, the family dog. Today, Sakura has become a very successful actress and Momo just completed her first feature film as a director. Her movie “Kakera” is now being shown all over Japan, including her father’s theater in Shimonoseki, the Scalaza Theater Zero.

Kakera.tiff sakura-ando-thumb.jpg

My relationship with Eiji didn’t stop there. In 2002, he became the Japanese co-producer of my movie “Revival Blues” and played the lead role in it, next to Kaori Momoi, the very same who played in Mo Hozue wa Tsukanai, after a mutual wait of twenty years, and Takeshi Naitoh. Eiji gave a fabulous performance in this film.


This is also Eiji, as producer of “Revival Blues”, who facilitated my now long time association with Takako Miyahira, director of “Looking For Anne”. She had been hired in Okinawa just for one week, as assistant cameraman, but was so dedicated to the job that Eiji agreed to bring her with us to Tokyo for the rest of the shoot, instead of hiring a local technician. And I’m still working with her to this day…

As all this was not enough, Eiji, who has since become a several times award winning director in his own right, also played a major role in the production of my last feature film, “Kamataki”.


Eiji is now the proud owner of a very nice, two screens cinema in Shimonoseki where we will hopefully play “Looking For Anne”. He got the cinema from Toho a few years ago and made it into a very interesting Art House Cinema as you can see in this video:

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Kokura Showakan, Second Run Theater

Kokura escaped twice the awful and unacceptable atomic bomb towards the end of the Pacific War (What an association!!!… Pacific & War…). Kokura was the second target in case the drop of the bomb failed in Hiroshima, but we too sadly know what happened… Next, Kokura was to be first target, but was saved by the weather and Nagasaki ended up getting the murderous blast.

So Kokura did survive despite all the war madness and so did its Second Run Theater, the Kokura Showakan for the last seventy years. Since we expect to play our movie “Looking For Anne” at some point in the future, we paid a visit at the end of a very long traveling day.


It is one of the rare theaters where they still present two movies together, paying a flat rate to the distributor for a three weeks use. It does have its own character.

IMG_0305  IMG_0302 IMG_0303

Once again, the iPhone footage isn’t great, but we had to rush around since we arrived late and the manager Maehara San was supposed to leave about an hour earlier. A very rewarding visit, nevertheless…

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Seventh Art and The Cove…

The Juso area in Osaka might possibly not to everyone’s taste. It is a little noisy and not particularly elegant.

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

But if you search attentively, you will find a real cinematographic pearl hidden in the ocean of Pachinko parlors, bars and what have you. The “Dainana Geijutsu Gekijo or, if you prefer, “The Seventh Art Theater” can be found among a jungle of signboards, on the sixth floor of a building full of all sorts of businesses.

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka     Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

We paid them a visit, as we were eager to have our our movie “Looking For Anne” played in this famous Art House Theater in Osaka. Not only does it play top quality movies, but it also shows a lot of courage in defending the freedom of expression of filmmakers from all over the world.

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka       Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka       Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka    Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka       Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

We really had a nice and long conversation with the owner, Matsumura San. His cinema went through a lot fascinating fights and victories over the years. The most recent one was about the scandal of the movie called Yasukuni, by Chinese director Li Ying and for which you can find information on the Internet… Matsumura San was the first one to play it in Osaka, despite the boycott and strong opposition from many right wing extremists. The movie eventually ended up making a big hit all over Japan following his courageous stand for freedom of expression… Matsumura San also teaches on the side, in order to have a little security, as many other theater owners do. We met so many teachers who own Art House Cinemas, you wouldn’t believe!…

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka   Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka   Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka   Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

Anyways, things were going very well and we left a DVD copy of our film, expecting to hear quite soon from our new friend and movie lover. And of course, hoping that he would want to play our film in the Seventh Art Theater.

Seventh Art Theater, Juso, Osaka

But all this was before the new major incident surrounding the opening of the important documentary “The Cove”. Several groups are threatening the release of the film and Matsumura San has his hands full right now with the controversy. We do hope that he will win his battle for the freedom of expression and against the unacceptable repression. We can wait a little longer: the access to information is more important than anything else. Meanwhile, please screen this and see for yourself if such a movie deserves to be seen by the largest number of people or not:


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