Tokyo’s International Film Festival returned this evening for its first completely unrestricted, post-COVID-19 edition with a well-attended screening of Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days.
Fresh from an appearance at Thierry Frémaux’s Lumière Film Festival in Lyon, Wenders, who is also the head of the competition jury at Tokyo this year, was in attendance and introduced the pic alongside most of his cast, including leading man Koji Yakusho. Yakusho won the best actor award at Cannes for his performance in the pic.
During a comedic opening speech, Wenders told the audience inside Tokyo’s Takarazuka Theatre that he had long dreamt of completing a feature shot entirely in Japan, with Yakusho as the lead actor, and a premiere screening at the Tokyo International Film Festival. However, Wenders said there was one milestone he never thought the film would achieve.
“I didn’t dare dream that it was going to be the Japanese entry for the Oscar race,” he said.
Back in September, Japan announced Perfect Days as its selection for the best international feature race. The decision marked the first time a non-Japanese filmmaker has been chosen to lead the country’s Oscars push. The Tokyo-set pic is likely to have beat out Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy And The Heron for the spot.
Wenders also received a shoutout from Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who sent a video message as part of the opening ceremony. Alongside Wenders, Kishida paid tribute to Yakusho for his win at Cannes and seminal Japanese filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu, who is the center of a large-scale festival retrospective to mark the 120th anniversary of his birth. Kishida also highlighted the festival’s Spotlight On Italy industry strand. The tribute to Italian cinema has been mounted to celebrate the confirmation of a new co-production treaty between Japan and Italy.
Proceedings this evening began with a musical tribute to the late Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. A string band performed part of Sakamoto’s score for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor.
Elsewhere during the evening, Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (The Great Wall) received the festival’s Lifetime Achievement award.
“This is like a new start for me,” Zhang said accepting the award. He continued to add that he has traveled to the Tokyo film festival twice before, and today’s win felt like the beginning of a new chapter in his career.
Later in the week, the festival’s other tribute honor, the Kurosawa Akira Award, will be handed to filmmakers Gu Xiaogang and Mouly Surya. The festival revived the Kurosawa honor last year for the first time in 14 years.
Competition titles set to screen at Tokyo this year include (Ab)normal Desire by Kishi Yoshiyuki, The Persian Version by Maryam Keshavarz, and The Settlers from Felipe Gálvez. Titles like Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, All of Us Strangers by Andrew Haigh, and David Gordon Green’s remake The Exorcist: Believer make up the gala screenings.
Addressing the evening’s crowd, Festival chairman Hiroyasu Ando said the number of titles screening at Tokyo had increased by 25% on the last year. Ando added that this year the festival is welcoming around 2,000 international guests.
“Last year due to various restrictions the number of foreign guests was only 100,” he said.
International delegates set to attend the festival include outgoing Berlin head Carlo Chatrian, San Sebastian head Jose Luis Rebordinos, and Toronto director Cameron Bailey. Filmmakers and actors set for Tokyo include Tran Ah Hung, Tony Leung, and Wu Lei.
The Tokyo Film Festival runs until November 1. The closing film is Toho’s Godzilla Minus One from director Yamazaki Takashi.