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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kazue Fukiishi 吹石一恵 at the Gegege No Nyobo 『ゲゲゲの女房』 world premiere

Nine years ago, when I was just finishing high school, I went to Japan for a family trip. I remember being in a hotel that was known for the hot springs, but what I remember most then was the lobby, where a public service announcement poster of actress/ model Kazue Fukiishi from the fire department was pinned onto the wall.

I vaguely recognized her name (few years earlier I had seen her debut feature in the TOKIMEKI MEMORIAL, a film adapted from a dating simulation... er, yeah), but I was mostly mesmerized by her beauty. That large luminous eyes peering deep into my soul, telling me to be careful not to play with fire, the slight playful smile on her face hinted that she knew secrets of me and would be a willing co-conspirator.

Returning to my room, images of her lingered, and the question that haunted my mind then was... "what if I cannot see this poster again? What if, for the rest of my life, this poster would just be a fleeting image that would just fade off in my mind, along with her name?"

Night came. I went back to the lobby. It was unattended, I approached the poster, looked at it, and slowly... I liberated it from its original place.

Nine years have passed since then. My fears of Kazue Fukiishi disappearing into obscurity and from my mind, were unfounded, she had became bigger than before, first as the spokesperson of Uniqlo (now, before things get too creepy, I will reiterate the fact that I am a frequent customer of Uniqlo NOT because of her, but mostly because of its economical price!) and also involved in numerous high-profiled film and TV projects.

While I myself had became a globe-trotting award-winning filmmaker two months removed from writing and producing a film selected by the Cannes Film Fest. Even so, a sight of her poster, or a mention of her name, would make me remember the events from nine years ago, in that hotel lobby, when I did something I've never done before.

In a cliched Hong Kong romantic film, or TV dramas, whenever the main protagonists were to reunite after separating for a period of time (usually a number of years), both man and woman would have become professionally successful individuals and they would end up being impressed with each other. Then this would be the obligatory exchange that would lead to tears of joy and reconciliation.

WOMAN: You have changed a lot.
MAN: Yes. (a beat) But my feelings for you remain unchanged. (meaning his love for her, not his resentment towards their separation)

Since the history between Kazue Fukiishi and I had been entirely one-sided, and played solely in the crumbling architecture within my mind, the scene described above would not really apply.

The more I narrate my tale here for the sake of amusement, I wonder whether I would come off as a stalker?

Yesterday I headed off to the 32nd Pia Film Festival. I just got myself a free pass from Professor Ando and thought to catch whatever film that was playing.

The event held then happened to be the world premiere of Gegege No Nyobo ゲゲゲの女房, a biopic based on an autobiographical novel by Nunoe Mura, wife of “Gegege no Kitaro” creator Shigeru Mizuki, directed by Takuji Suzuki. Also currently a long-running NHK series, the story covers the married life of Shigeru and Nunoe. Theirs was initially a fixed marriage. They lived a life of poverty as as he struggled and toiled to gradually become a famous manga artist, the relationship between the two would also blossom from one filled with distant formalities to genuine affections. Kazue Fukiishi played Nunoe and Kankuro Kudo (screenwriter of Ping Pong and Zebraman) played Shigeru. (news of the film on Nippon Cinema and J-Film Pow Wow)

I felt excited, and headed off to the Tokyo National Center of Film (venue of the Pia Film Festival, it's in Ginza). When I finally saw Kazue Fukiishi emerging on stage prior to the screening, and bathed in the blinding lights of the photographers, I felt as if past, present and future were bridged, and all time had manifested into that single instant.

(Or maybe I felt like that because while on my way to the premiere, I was reading Yukio Mishima's TEMPLE OF DAWN in the train. I would end up finishing the book last night, hours after the premiere)

Kankuro Kudo talking while Kazue Fukiishi listens during Gegege no Nyobo world premiere

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Photo session with Kazue Fukiishi 吹石一恵, Kankuro Kudo 宮藤官九 and director Takuji Suzuki 鈴木卓爾 at Gegege no Nyobo world premiere

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Director Takuji Suzuki speaking to Kazue Fukiishi. Gegege No Nyobo world premiere at the Pia Film Festival

Oh, as for the film, it was all right, I liked how most scenes were staged nicely in long takes, but I had some issues with some stylistic choices, the mixing of the fantastical with the mundane realism (the cartoonish characters from Shigeru's drawings would pop out) remembered me a little of the Serge Gainsbourg biopic that came out earlier this year, yet they felt a little jarring due to its more grounded execution (the Gainsbourg biopic was very whimsical and psychedelic)