It may seem incredible that the lead actors of the opening movie, A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga and Bradley Copper failed to arrive at the Tokyo International Film Festival, which began its 10-day run on Thursday. Given Gaga's love for Japan, one had presumed that she would have been here to present her movie, a turning point in her life which proved that she could act, and very well. An Indonesian film critic compared Gaga to the legendary Ingrid Bergman. “Gaga acted with her eyes just like Ingrid”, he gushed.
However, Ralph Fiennes and the Japanese star, Koji Yakusho -- whose Shall We Dansu, continues to be all-time favourite of the masses, a work where an office worker finds his mundane life sparkling when he joins a dance club – made up for the absence of Cooper and Gaga.
Fiennes, whose The White Crow about the travails of a Russian ballet dancer in Paris is one among the 16 movies in competition here, said in an impassioned speech at the opening night party: “Filmmaking is a fragile business. Every single movie is a struggle to make. You must not take films for granted. They are hard to make, they are difficult to make. Movies are made because people have passion and purpose.
"Films have the power to inspire and show us our common humanity. They are vital in a world, which is falling apart. We really must prize our common humanity, it’s very important. My toast is to the common humanity recognised by moviemakers everywhere."
A tribute to Yakusho is on at the Festival. Apart from Shall We Dansu? the actor's 1997 Palm dÓr winner, The Eel, will be screened among others. Shall We Dansu? was remade in English in 2004 with Richard Gere playing Yakusho's part.
The opening night also saw on stage members of the competition jury, Filipino auteur Brillante Mendoza, director Stanley Kwan from Hong Kong, American producer Bryan Burk (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Westworld), and two actresses: Iran's Taraneh Alidoosti and Japan's Kaho Minami.
India's Rajiv Menon and his wife, Lata, were also at the opening ceremony. Menon is here with his latest work, Madras Beat, a critical look at how the barriers of South Indian Carnatic music are being broken.
Apart from Madras Beats, Akshay Kumar's Padman and Aamir Khan's Dangal will also be screened here.
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering The Tokyo International Film Festival for several years)
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