SHOWBIZ: Comedy on identity switch

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Japanese film director Kenji Uchida talks to Subhadra Devan about the upcoming world premiere of Key Of Life

THIS year’s Japanese Film Festival offers the world premiere of a comedic thriller called Key Of Life (Kagidorobou no method), that kicks off a list of 12 Japanese movies.

Key Of Life, scheduled to be released in Japan on Sept 15, recently won the Best Screenplay Award at the 15th Shanghai International Film Festival. It was also screened to much applause at the Toronto International Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema category).

It stars award-winning Masato Sakai (After School, Climber’s High) as an unemployed actor called Sakurai who contemplates suicide after failing in his career.

He decides to clean up at a public bath house before killing himself. There, a wealthy gangster-type, Kondo (played by the veteran actor Teruyuki Kagawa), slips on a bar of soap, and suffers amnesia after his fall.

Sakurai switches identity with Kondo and laps up the latter’s good life. Unfortunately, Kondo’s recent “job” wasn’t really settled before the switch was made and life gets hectic for Sakurai.

Meanwhile, Kondo meets a young, bookish woman, Kanae (Ryoko Hirosue of Departures fame), who is seeking a future husband.

Director Kenji Uchida, 40, says about the storyline: “The premise of having one’s belongings disappear at a public bath, and losing one’s ID while being stark naked has been around for a long time and it was something I’d wanted to use some day.

“Also, several years ago when I heard the lyrics in a Japanese song, I thought I could create a whole movie based on that one particular phrase. I think those two were where the idea came from.”

Kenji who is from the Kanagawa Prefecture, studied filmmaking at the San Francisco State University. His theatrical feature film debut, A Stranger Of Mine, in 2005 garnered four awards at the Cannes Film Festival.

He talks about the 128-minute feature film and his work in an email, translated by the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, the organiser of the upcoming film festival. The festival is co-organised with Golden Screen Cinemas, and sponsored by Mitsubishi Corporation.

How long did you take from writing of script, to filming Key Of Life?
I think it’s been about one and a half years since the final script was completed. I’m not too sure since it was still being revised right up till the start of shooting.

What inspired you to be a film producer?
Films, novels, manga, music, rakugo (traditional Japanese comic storytelling) that I’ve liked .... I think those things that I was attracted to in my youth have had a particularly big impact.

What is it about comedy that appeals to you in a film?
It’s a means to lovingly portray a world and people that’s imperfect and full of contradictions.

Any childhood memory that may have influenced your film-making today?
The fact that I had a really fun, ordinary, and happy childhood has influenced my work.

From your 2005 film debut to today’s Key Of Life, what has changed most in your life, from the perspective of film-making?
I no longer have excessive expectations of my own ability.

What would you say is your “key of life”.
Love, gratitude and humour.

Your top 5 films this year are?
First would be The Artist. The rest haven’t been that memorable.

9th Japanese Film Festival 2012
Screenings Klang Valley (GSC Mid Valley, GSC 1Utama & GSC Pavilion KL), Sept 13-18, 2012 Penang (GSC Gurney Plaza): Sept 20-23, 2012
Ticket RM5 each.
All films are in Japanese with English subtitles.
Details at www.jfkl.org.my.
Tel 03-2284 6228.

FREE: passes to Japanese Film Festival

THE NST is giving readers 200 complimentary Golden Screens Cinema passes to the Japanese Film Festival 2012, to be held in the Klang Valley and Penang.
Each pass entitles you to one movie at the festival. You can view the film of your choice at GSC Klang Valley outlets or in Penang. Please bring this page bearing the article (originals only) to redeem your tickets.

Redemption Details:
When: Friday, from 11am
Where: GSC Mid Valley (Gold Class Counter)
Mechanics: One article cutout (originals only) for two JFF12 complimentary passes.
First-come, first-served basis. You can get a maximum of four passes each, while stocks last.

“The fact that I had a really fun, ordinary, and happy childhood has influenced my work”. - Director Kenji Uchida


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