Live from the Green Carpet: COLLIDER Goes to the Tokyo International Film Festival

     October 18, 2009

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The green carpet iss hard to miss. Last year, in a deviation from traditional protocol, the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), became the first film festival in the world to make ecology awareness its major theme. After an overwhelmingly positive response to the unrolling of the green carpet, TIFF’s chairman, Tatsumi Yoda, decided to do it again this year. With the environmentally conscious slogan of “Action! for Earth,” the 22nd annual TIFF began this past Saturday in Roppongi, one of Tokyo’s most upscale and cosmopolitan districts. Over the next week Collider will be providing an exclusive, inside look into the festival as well as movie reviews and awards announcements. Hit the jump! for Earth.

Tokyo International Film Festival 2009 image.jpgJapan has more to offer than just a borderline inexplicable enthusiasm for the weird, the cute and the Brad Pitt. However, as a recent, ill-fated trip to the local Pokemon store in Yokohama proved, at least one of those stereotypes is not an exaggeration. Japan does have a culture of cinema that dates back to the silent era and has produced such visionaries as Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Hayao Miyazaki, just to name a few. Today, not only is Japan the largest Asian market for American films it also is the third largest film industry in the world per number of films produced each year. In fact, a comic and touching Japanese film, “Departures,” received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Oscar ceremony.

Though I only have a passing knowledge of Japanese cinema, I was thrilled to acquire a press pass for TIFF this year. But then I heard about the green carpet. At first I was a bit worried that the festival would resemble something that only Greenzo or Al Gore could dream of. Thankfully, that was not the case and the entire opening day was superbly organized. One of Japan’s claims to fame is an almost unparalleled commitment to timeliness and accountability, a trait that the festival proved true once more. There were no delays, no excuses, nothing to distract from the opening ceremony.

Tokyo International Film Festival 2009 image (2).jpgAnd what an opening it was. Starting with a brief (and eco-minded) nod to the sponsors, the latest Prius hybrid car was unveiled. As was an advertising campaign seeking to associate the superness of the car with, well, Brandon Routh’s Superman. From there it was all glitz and glamor and, mercifully, the distinct absence of Ryan Seacrest. In a feat of ingenuity, the green carpet was made from recycled plastic bottles. Western presence was limited and the biggest arrivals were Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldana for a special preview of “Avatar” and Colin Firth for “A Single Man.” Perhaps inspired by the proceedings which were ostensibly in her honor, Mother Nature decided to bring some rain as the promenade wrapped up. Either that or she, like me, was tired of hearing the same song on repeat for the previous four hours.

Once the pomp and circumstance was over it was finally time for the premiere movie, “Oceans,” to begin. Unfortunately, this is the one part of the festival that could have been better. Unlike with the other movies, a press pass could not be used to enter the theater. And, of course, “Oceans” just happened to be listed in the top pricing level. That inconvenience aside, the movie watching experience was great. Different from American theaters, there was assigned seating and the seats themselves were quite luxuriant. No need to worry about armrest wars here-everyone gets two big ones. The movie itself was also very well done but more on that in a later review.

For now, here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

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