No Golden Lion for Japan

Three Japanese moviesThere was little consolation for Japan’s three entries at the Venice International Film Festival, which ended Saturday. None managed to capture the Golden Lion award for best film, which went to Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke. Miyazaki Hayao‘s “Gake no Ue no Ponyo” (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) picked up a “collateral” award from the Mimmo Rotella Foundation, which annually honors a film that “shows a firm connection with the arts.” A hit with audiences and critics alike, it also received the audience award from the magazine CIAK. The rival anime entry, Oshii Mamoru’s “The Sky Crawlers,” received the Future Film Festival Digital Award. Oshii said, “I guess it will take time before Japanese anime gets its due respect.” But the festival jury considered giving Ponyo a Special Lion award this year, deciding against it as Miyazaki received a lifetime achievement award in 2005. And director Marco Mueller said, “Anything other than a Lion award would have been rude.” Meanwhile, 1997 Golden Lion winner Kitano Takeshi had to settle for the Bastone Bianco Award for his entry, “Akiresu to Kame” (Achilles and the Tortoise).

• Speaking of films and festivals, this summer’s surprise hit at the Japanese box office, the movie “Detroit Metal City” may be already headed for a Hollywood re-make. Based on a six-volume manga by Wakasugi Kiminori that sold over 2 million copies, the wacky comedy stars popular young actor Matsuyama Kenichi (23), who made his name in the “Death Note” series. He plays a mild-mannered street musician with a taste for Swedish pop, but whose alter ego is the intense death metal vocalist Johannes Klauser II. In the three weeks since it opened, it’s been seen by over a million cinema-goers and has grossed over ¥2 billion. Several studios in Hollywood and Hong Kong have expressed an interest in doing a re-make. Distribution of the original has already been agreed for Hong Kong and South Korea and discussions are underway for two dozen more countries worldwide, including the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Matsuyama and director Lee Toshio were in Canada over the weekend, where the movie was shown in the “Midnight Madness” category of the Toronto International Film Festival.

• Actress Okina Megumi (29) was in Tokyo for the opening day of her first Hollywood movie. Directed by Ochiai Masayuki, “Shutter” is a horror story about a newlywed American photographer (Joshua Jackson) who visits Japan with his new bride (Rachael Taylor) on a combined honeymoon and business trip. Okina, who plays the spirit that haunts them, looked a bit less creepy as she shook hands with fans at the Cinema Mediage in Odaiba on Saturday. A re-make of a Thai hit, the movie has not been critically well received, and was described as “second tier” compared to earlier J-horror re-makes such as “The Ring” and “The Grudge.”

• Popular duo Porno Grafitti are to release a pair of hits albums. With the October 29 release of “Ace” and “Joker” they will be hoping to repeat the success of a similar double release in 2004, when “Red’s” and “Blue’s” sold over 2 million copies between them. The new albums are composed mainly of recent singles, including the latest, “Gift,” and “Love, too. Death, too,” set for release next month. Celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, the band played shows at Yokohama Stadium at the weekend.