Saturday, February 21, 2009

Festivals On the Rise!

The one thing I love about living near a big city is the opportunity to check out large film festivals. Being a huge genre film fan, I have always been somewhat jealous of places like New York and Toronto that host big festivals which focus on films I like to watch. Then, there are places like Los Angeles that house theaters that I would pay rent to reside in, just so I wouldn't miss a single showing.

The San Francisco Bay Area, of course, is no slouch when it comes to film festivals and events. In addition, this area has its own slant to festivals; as the last link shows, they tend to focus on diversity as well as individuality. I was bound (pun intended) and determined to attend the "I Am Curious" pink eiga event at the Roxie last week at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival but was hit by the mutant cold that's been going around lately. Luckily, though, the San Francisco International Asian-American Film Festival is rolling through in a "hot on the heels" sort of way and has several showings during the Kiyoshi Kurosawa (director of Cure and Pulse[aka Kairo]) that I'm hoping to attend.

Tokyo Sonata, Kurosawa's latest, is at the top of my list. His first non-horror film in six years, it has been receiving very favorable reviews since its release late last autumn. It's also the first film he's done without his usual leading man Koji Yakusho in that long. This is a bit of a surprise since Yakusho, when not starring for Kurosawa, typically plays in family dramas like Tokyo Sonata. The spotlight will also feature many rarer Kurosawa films such as Eyes of a Spider and Serpent's Path, both meditations on violence and revenge and featuring another common Kurosawa leading man, Sho Aikawa (below), as well as 1998's dryly comedic yet human License to Live. Two other Kurosawa-helmed Aikawa vehicles that I'm hoping to catch are The Revenge: A Visit from Fate and The Revenge: The Scar That Never Fades, both V-Cinema yakuza flicks that will be screening one after the other. Direct to video yakuza flicks are typically pretty cheaply made on digital video and feature tons of ridiculous overacting, gunplay, and haircuts. If there's one director, however, who's proven that he can make V-Cinema stand for "very good" cinema, it's Kurosawa. I'm currently looking for people to see these last two showings with but, considering the rarity of the two films, I will go alone if I have to. Stay tuned for reviews of some sort.