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Tezuka updates manga in ‘Barbara’

Shochiku launches horror, comedy, mystery lineup


LOS ANGELES, Oct 22, (RTRS): The son of the late Osamu Tezuka, who is known as the “the legend of manga” in Japan for his innovative and enduringly popular comics, Makoto Tezuka (also known as Macoto Tezka) long ago escaped his father’s looming shadow, carving out a career as a film and animation director. At the same time, he has been a guardian of his father’s legacy, supervising the release of his work and holding a stake in Tezuka Productions, the animation house his father founded.

 Tezuka has recently been enjoying a professional resurgence, with a remastered version of his 1985 debut feature – the pop musical comedy “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers” – playing the international festival circuit. Also, his new film, the fantasy/romance “Tezuka’s Barbara”, will premiere in competition at the 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival.

 Based on his father’s cult manga “Barbara”, the film features Fumi Nikaido (“Fly Me to the Saitama”) as the title character – a seductive, mysterious muse to a self-hating bestselling writer (Goro Inagaki, formerly of the pop mega-group SMAP).

 “Its selection for the competition surprised me, frankly,” Tezuka told Variety. “A lot of my films are a bit strange and offbeat.”

 In telling his story, which in the manga is set in the 1970s, Tezuka updates it to the present. “It would have been a huge hassle to make it as a period piece,” he says. But otherwise he remains faithful to its romantic spirit. “It’s a simple love story,” he says. “The biggest difference between then and now is that everyone now is carrying around mobile phones,” he says.

 To prepare for the film, Tezuka read not only the “Barbara” manga, but also researched its source material: “Stories by E.T.A. Hoffman”, The Jacques Offenbach opera “The Tales of Hoffman”, and the 1951 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film of the same title. “My father was probably most influenced by the film,” he says. “When he made it into a manga he changed the story a lot.”

 Key to creating the film’s mood of being suspended between fantasy and reality is cinematographer Christopher Doyle, an Asia-based veteran best known for his work with Wong Kar-wai. “First of all, he’s great at shooting cityscapes,” says Tezuka. “And he also photographs people beautifully.”

Major Japanese studio, Shochiku has the honor of leading off next week’s Tokyo International Film Festival with its “Tora-san, Wish You Were Here”. The film is a revival of a beloved in-house drama franchise, directed by veteran Yoji Yamada, that is set as the event’s opening night gala presentation.

 Before that, the company has the no less important matter of launching its new sales and distribution slate at the TIFFCOM market that opens Tuesday. Mystery, horror and comedy films are among the main genres among the new lineup.


 “Tora-san” aside, the slate is led by “Special Actors”, the second film by Shinichio Ueda, director of last year’s hit horror-comedy “One Cut of the Dead”. Starring Kazuto Osawa, “Special Actors” is a comedy drama in which none of the characters are quite what they seem. It launched this weekend in Japanese theaters.

 In the same comedy-drama vein, the studio is also launching “Not Quite Dead Yet”, in which a frustrated college girl sort of kills off her domineering dad. Directed by Shinki Hamasaki, the picture is set for a March 2020 release.

 Straight-up horror film “Stare” is set for a holiday weekend, Jan 10 release in 2020. Directed by Hirotaka Adachi, the film is pitched in the same vein as Japanese horror classics Sadako and Kayako, and features a woman whose gaze can kill.

 Other 2020 titles include literary adaptation “Sakura”, a drama about endurance and hope in the face of adversity, being directed by Hitoshi Yazaki, and “Kiokura”, a mystery drama that probes an urban legend about the pursuit of lost memories.

 The studio is also relaunching “Flowers of Shanghai”, the 1998 Hou Hsiao-hsien-directed masterpiece about the stifling life in four 19th century brothels. The 4K digitally-restored version is set for a new festival and commercial career, with a theatrical revival in Japan over the past weekend, and a special presentation at the late-November Singapore International Film Festival among its first stops.


LOS ANGELES: Christian Bale and Matt Damon will both campaign in the lead actor category for awards for their work in Fox’s upcoming “Ford v Ferrari”, Variety has learned.

“Ford v Ferrari” follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver, Ken Miles (Bale), who are dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca to build an entirely new vehicle with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans World Championship in France. “Ford v Ferrari” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and will be released by Disney on Nov 15.

Bale has been nominated for four Academy Awards and won in the supporting category for “The Fighter”. He was nominated for “The Big Short”, “Vice” and “American Hustle”.

Damon has been nominated for five Academy Awards and won one for original screenplay for “Good Will Hunting”. He was nominated for acting Oscars in “Good Will Hunting”, “Invictus” and “The Martian”. He also received a best picture nomination for “Manchester by the Sea”.

Disney bought Fox in March. Fox had decided in February to move the film back from June 28 to an awards season date of Nov 15.

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