Shunji Iwai

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Scharphedin2
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 7:37 am
Location: Denmark/Sweden

Shunji Iwai

#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Jun 30, 2007 10:08 am

Shunji Iwai (1963 - )

Image


Filmography

Ghost Soup (TV, 1992) Norman's Nose (R2 JP)

Geshi monogatari (TV, 1992)

Uchiage hanabi, shita kara Miruka? Yoko kara Miruka? / Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? (TV, 1993) Norman's Nose (R2 JP)

Fried Dragon Fish (TV, 1993) Norman's Nose (R2 JP) / Panorama (R3 HK)

Undo (1994) Pony Canyon (R2 JP)

Love Letter (1995) Fuji TV (R2 JP) / Panorama (R3 HK) / SRE Corporation (R3 KR) / Dawoori (R3 KR) / Mangpong (R3 TH)

Pikunikku / Picnic (1996) Pony Canyon (R2 JP)

Swallowtail (1996) Pony Canyon (R2 JP) / Panorama (R3 HK) / enterOne (R3 KR)

Shigatsu monogatari / April Story (1998) Norman's Nose (R2 JP) / Dawoori Entertainment (R3 KR)

Riri Shushu no subete / All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001) Home Vision Entertainment (R1) / Optimum Releasing (R2 UK) / Norman's Nose (R2 JP) / Panorama (R3 HK) / EVS (R3 TH)

Jam Films (segment, 2002) Amuse Entertainment (R2 JP) / Universe Laser & Video (R3 HK)

Hana to Arisu / Hana and Alice (2004) Home Vision Entertainment (R1) – tbr 10th July, 2007 / Norman's Nose (R2 JP) / Panorama (R3 HK) / enterOne (R3 KR)

Ichikawa Kon monogatari / The Kon Ichikawa Story (2006)


Recommended Web Resources

The Age Out of the ether by Stephanie Bunbury (July 23, 2002)

All Movie Brief career overview of Iwai

Animefringe The un-famous Shunji Iwai by Dillon Font (February, 2004)

Animefringe Review of April Story by Dillon Font (March, 2004)

Midnight Eye Review of Fried Dragon Fish by Jasper Sharp (17 April, 2001)

Off Off Off Review of All About Lily Chou-chou by Grady Hendrix (19 November, 2001)

Yen Town Report Official Shunji Iwai Web Site

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truefaux
Joined: Fri Jun 16, 2006 8:20 am

#2 Post by truefaux » Sun Mar 09, 2008 4:46 am

does any-one know of other asian directors with this kind of dreamy sentiment?

(thanks for the links, original poster!)

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Sanjuro
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:37 am
Location: Yokohama, Japan

#3 Post by Sanjuro » Sun Mar 09, 2008 7:25 am

See if you can find Naoto Kumazawa's 'Letter's from Kanai Nirai' or 'Niji no Megami' I caught both recently by accident and immediately noticed that 'dreamy style' so watched them not realising they were both by the same guy. In fact Niji no Megami was produced by Iwai.

A bit of investigation on the net reveals all sorts of links between Kumazawa, Iwai and their various actresses (he produced the Swallowtail making of Doc for example). Did they all go to school together or something?!

torkst
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:35 am

Re: Shunji Iwai

#4 Post by torkst » Sat Nov 06, 2010 11:40 am

Recently while overseas I stumbled upon a 2-disc collection of early Iwai Shunji short films titled "initial" but to my disappointment there were no English subtitles. Has this collection ever been released in the west?

After discovering Iwai Shunji's films back in 2003 shortly after Hana and Alice was released, I've considered him one of my favorite contemporary Japanese directors along with "Beat" Takeshi Kitano and Naomi Kawase. I know he recently did some work on an American film based in New York, but has anyone heard anything about plans for a new solo project?

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mostly asia
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 2010 5:54 pm

Re: Shunji Iwai

#5 Post by mostly asia » Sat Nov 06, 2010 1:35 pm

Sanjuro wrote:See if you can find Naoto Kumazawa's 'Letter's from Kanai Nirai' or 'Niji no Megami' I caught both recently by accident and immediately noticed that 'dreamy style' so watched them not realising they were both by the same guy. In fact Niji no Megami was produced by Iwai.

A bit of investigation on the net reveals all sorts of links between Kumazawa, Iwai and their various actresses (he produced the Swallowtail making of Doc for example). Did they all go to school together or something?!
Please note there are NO ENGLISH SUBS on both versions (Japanese & Korean) of "Letters from Kanai Nirai" !!!!

Letters from Kanai Nirai (Japan Version)
Letters from Kanai Nirai (Korea Version)

yoshimori
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 2:03 am
Location: LA CA

Re: Shunji Iwai

#6 Post by yoshimori » Sat Jul 28, 2012 3:20 am

Japanese blus of Hana & Alice, April Story, and All About Lily Chou-chou on 9/5. Still no sign of Vampire.

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Caligula
Carthago delenda est
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 2:32 am
Location: George, South Africa

Re: Shunji Iwai

#7 Post by Caligula » Mon Jul 30, 2012 4:57 am

yoshimori wrote:Japanese blus of Hana & Alice, April Story, and All About Lily Chou-chou on 9/5. Still no sign of Vampire.
Any indication as to whether these will have English subs?

Calvin
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:12 am

Re: Shunji Iwai

#8 Post by Calvin » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:27 am

Caligula wrote:
yoshimori wrote:Japanese blus of Hana & Alice, April Story, and All About Lily Chou-chou on 9/5. Still no sign of Vampire.
Any indication as to whether these will have English subs?
Unfortunately, only Japanese subs are listed.


rumblefish
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:12 am

Re: Shunji Iwai

#10 Post by rumblefish » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:51 am

Found this on eBay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/SHUNJI-IWAI-BES ... 0329394086" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Probably a bootleg?

Applesauce
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:23 pm
Location: 02128

Re: Shunji Iwai

#11 Post by Applesauce » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:44 pm

Definitely a bootleg. I saw this box and many others focused on other filmmakers in DVD stores in Beijing. While I can't comment on the quality of this specific set, the others I saw had wildly varying PQ and included some unsubbed films.

yoshimori
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 2:03 am
Location: LA CA

Re: Shunji Iwai

#12 Post by yoshimori » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:11 pm

Got the Japanese Vampire set today. Two blu-rays. First has the movie - in English, with removable Japanese subs. Second (also a blu!) has a 70-minute making-of in English and Japanese (no English subs for the Japanese dialogue), eight short interviews (several in English), and two trailers. Nice looking set.

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bainbridgezu
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:54 pm

Re: Shunji Iwai

#13 Post by bainbridgezu » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:23 pm

Eleven Arts will be releasing Vampire on blu-ray and DVD in the US this summer.

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rockysds
Joined: Wed May 19, 2010 11:25 am
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Re: Shunji Iwai

#14 Post by rockysds » Sat May 25, 2013 5:20 am


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kai.ryn
Joined: Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:04 am

Re: Shunji Iwai

#15 Post by kai.ryn » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:19 am

Wasn't a fan of Hana and Alice. Ditto All About..., but it deserves a rewatch. The H&A Blu-ray was nice -- an accurate representation of the source

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Shunji Iwai

#16 Post by feihong » Sun Dec 08, 2013 6:54 am

I watched my blu-ray of Swallowtail Butterfly tonight with the English subtitles that are floating out on the web. Compared to my old Panorama DVD of the film, the blu-ray is remarkable. On my bigsreen it's clear that there's grain and depth in the image, but the unusual cinematography of the film remains. The image is extremely low-contrast, with occasional lens-flares and overexposure. People are constantly backlit and most of the film seems to be done in soft-focus, with swaths of smoky lighting pouring over the image.

This picture was one of my favorite film discoveries when I got a VHS of it from a Little Tokyo video store in about 1997 or 98. But after learning a lot more about film in general and after seeing the movie with proper English subtitles, I found myself growing away from it--the implausibilities throughout the story began to rankle, and the fact that Iwaii never set foot in the imaginative realm of this movie again in subsequent productions made me insecure about liking the film. The performances seemed all over the place, and the distress of my Chinese-speaking friends at the way Chara and Hiroshi Mikami mangle the Chinese-language dialogue began to seem like insurmountable problems with the film.

Seeing it now, with an exceptionally improved image, with the translation, all the doubts left me, and I was reminded of why I thought it was such a great film. The narrative doesn't add up in any especially lockstep way--the gangster bits are especially poor parodies of gangster movies past--but the theme of the film is very vibrant, and it's addressed in a unique way. On the other hand, the massive tonal shifts of the move from sequence to sequence turn out to be one of the film's sources of strength and charm. My dad stepped in for part of the screening, and he was hooked by the unusual settings; then by the collection of languages; then by the eclectic music, the wild vacillation from genre to genre, and by the humor. I had forgot ten how constantly, riotously funny the film was, and how funny it remains, even seeing it again. My dad was intrigued, and loved the film--and it's not easy to show him a film he likes.

Seeing the film in such high quality, I find myself wondering a lot about where the picture came from, exactly. Iwaii's previous film, Picnic, is nowhere near as deft with narrative, and it takes itself way too seriously. Later pictures like April Story and Hana & Alice have a lot of humor (Lily Chou-chou has a few unusually-placed jokes, in spite of its predominantly grave tone), but none of them build humor with quite the chutzpah Iwaii brings to this movie. The look of the film is extremely unusual: the low-contrast, soft-focus seems such an unusual choice for the gritty subject matter. The pastel-like, broad color pallette and the soft backlighting looks unusual for Japanese movies of the 90s. What kind of film stock and camera techniques creates this remarkable visual atmosphere? Where did Iwaii find the locations for the film--the gritty, dilapidated neighborhoods and backalleys that fill the film. There are still some Picnic-like settings, like the jail for deportees, that look as if they've been sponge-painted with grime to add texture to the walls. The "Aozora" shantytown seems to come straight out of Dodes'kaden, and the Opium Street set seems to be lifted out of Burst City. Even after seeing the movie many times, it's unclear how Ageha remains the principal focal character in the narrative, even as she's also the least-active story driver. It's also a little mysterious how the best performances seem to float to the top of the film (Hiroshi Mikami, whose character, Feihong, is my username namesake, Ayumi Ito, Chara, Andy Hui, Atsuro Watabe, and lots of the smaller supporting roles), just as it's odd to see the formerly wretched performances take on some camp luster (Mickey Curtis, Yosuke Eguchi, Atsuro Watabe, Shiek Mahmud-Bey ) now that the film is closing in on being 20 years old.

I first read about this movie in Thomas and Yuko Weisser's Japanese Film Essential Handbook for Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror, wherein the Weissers claimed that the film was a phenomenal hit in Japan with young audiences. I've never seen anything to dispute that claim, but if it's true, why isn't the film better-known on the whole? What happened to the actors in the picture? Ayumi Ito ended up in the live-action Gantz and played a crazy person in the Kiyoshi Kurosawa TV miniseries (a sad waste of her talent to my eyes), but why didn't Hiroshi Mikami play big roles after this film? Why was Chara done with movies, seemingly for good? There are lots of unanswered questions. We know, for instance, that the cast of Obayashi's McDonald's-sponsored Drifting Classroom were provided catering exclusively by McDonalds for the duration of the shoot, but what about the Opium Street freaks in Swallowtail? Where did they come from? How do they look so spectacularly jacked-up (this scene also reminds of Kurosawa--it looks like the garish heroin street scene in High and Low)? Are these actors, or addicts? And what happened to Shunji Iwaii, for that matter? His success with this movie seemed at first to inspire him--April Story boasted the same sensitivity, ecstatic visual imagination and a similar sense of humor to this movie--but then maybe it began to intimidate him as well. His later narrative features are a little more resigned to chance deciding thrust of the story--in these later films Iwaii sometimes seems to be an author that is attempting to retreat from the storytelling. Hardly anyone else in Japanese cinema today seems to approach storytelling in the scope Iwaii deals in with Swallowtail. Aoyama does, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa a little--but Kurosawa seems far less motivated by the narratives of his films than Iwaii.

Anyway, if you're an Iwaii fan and you've never seen this movie, I think it's pretty fascinating; a glimpse of what Iwaii was always capable of doing, even though he has never dealt in this kind of filmmaking since.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: Shunji Iwai

#17 Post by Cold Bishop » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:18 am

I wouldn't believe Thomas Weisser if he told me the sky was blue, but from what I can gather, Swallowtail was a massive hit for a local, relatively indie film, grossing 2 billion yen (roughly 19 million). Still, pretty far from the numbers scored by big Hollywood films or Studio Ghibli blockbusters.

Never got around to seeing this film: I really wanted to years back when I started importing discs, but at that point, the R3 DVD was long out of print.

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feihong
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Re: Shunji Iwai

#18 Post by feihong » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:14 am

Swallowtail Butterfly came out before the J-horror boom, at a time when very few Japanese movies were being exported with any success. But on the other hand, it came out the same year as Kids Return, Organ, Shall We Dance? and Village of Dreams. But then, three of those four pictures were released in the U.S. only years later. But it still puzzles me why Swallowtail was ignored. It seems to me as culty as a cult film can get--speculative fiction with light sci-fi elements, a vivid parable of culture and money, with musical numbers and unexpected bursts of rapturous violence. And it boasts a character who spends the entire film in clownface--an achievement Shall We Dance? can hardly lay claim to.

I suppose the concerns of the movie seemed too local in nature? The rest of the world had yet to really come around to thinking of themselves as part of a global economy. The idea of immigrants skimming off the top (or maybe the underside) of the financial bubble didn't seem so close to people in other parts of the world, maybe? The understanding that the Chara character is meant to be Chinese is something not necessarily registered by the English subtitles--you have to be listening for the dialogue. And yet it is central to the themes of the movie, and to key plot points. The deliberate fairytale quality of the movie didn't jibe with distributors (interestingly though, the other films that were widely exported from Japan that year all deal in fantasy or a kind of ruminative nostalgia which Swallowtail also offers at key moments--1996 also saw a rerelease of Emperor Tomato Ketchup, which is even more surreal and fantastical than Swallowtail)?

AisleSeat
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All About Lily Chou Chou (Shunji Iwai, 2001)

#19 Post by AisleSeat » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:25 pm

What is it about All About Lily Chou Chou (Shunji Iwai, 2001) that causes such strong reactions from viewers? A large majority seems to find the work unsettling and disturbing, yet brilliant and fascinating at the same time. Others, however, are put off, dismissive and sometimes contemptuous. One either highly values the film or loathes it; there tends to be little middle ground.

As the scenes begin to unfold, it slaps you a little, not hard, but enough to get your attention. Then it smacks you good, again and again, followed by heavy blows that rattle one to the very core. There is little relief, it just keeps hitting. In the end, as the credits roll, you feel as if you've been put through a wringer, squeezed dry and hung out to twirl ... in nothingness.

If anything, All About Lily Chou Chou is a complex film. It is non-linear, following a present, near past, present, framework, though even that basic structure may be a challenge for some to discern. One needs to pay attention at the very beginning, when the who's who is presented via typed messages on an internet bulletin board. The overriding theme is bullying and its pernicious effects and consequences. There is teenage prostitution (enjo kosai in Japanese, or contractual dating), rape, coercive peer pressure, ostracism. Tough stuff.

Some proclaim the film is not realistic. And while there may be a grain of truth in that, the film touches very close to home--perhaps too close for some--probing aspects of Japanese culture that exist in society, but are not widely known or understood by those on the outside. One only has to read the papers in Japan to know that some pretty awful stuff occurs from time to time. In fairness, a lot of terrible stuff happens in all societies. All About Lily is notable because it crystallizes this "stuff" (and does so exceeding well) and rams it down your throat, so that you get it, clearly see how someone can utterly change, become empty, become evil.

Only one thing can be said with certainty about the film: It is not for everyone. But those who value the challenging, difficult, and disturbing will likely find it time well spent.

nolanoe
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:25 am

Re: Shunji Iwai

#20 Post by nolanoe » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:44 am

Some proclaim the film is not realistic.
Indeed, every film that dares to be, bah, NOT REALISTIC, should be outright banned!!

Lily is my favorite from Iwai. By far. I think he has a stylistic sensibility close to that of Michael Mann in the US, or Dominik Graf in Germany, possibly even Godard in France.

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colinr0380
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Re: Shunji Iwai

#21 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jun 28, 2015 7:57 am

I threw up a review on Letterboxd about Lily Chou-Chou last year and agree with you AisleSeat. It is a more 'amped up' film than something like Shinji Aoyama's magnificent Eureka, but Eureka is a bit more about coming to terms with the aftermath of horrific events, while Lily Chou-Chou feels sort of about the tragedy of small kindnesses and connections being powerless in the face of the cruelties of the wider world. I think the most refreshing part of the film for me was that the film feels as if it has the philosophical point of view that the internet is generally a good place (where anonymity can actually strip away pre-existing antagonisms or preconceptions: everyone's just a Lily Chou-Chou fan on that forum, following the ups and downs of her career!), while the outside world is the more casually cruel, abusive and dangerous place, which is a rare subversion of the usual approach! Here's what I wrote a while ago, which involves a bit of synopsis:

An excellent film, albeit rather melodramatic in its bullying sequeing into forced prostitution and suicide second half. The film is most valuable for its great portrayal of the internet, with messages flashing up on screen from people frequenting a forum dedicated to a pop singer Lily Chou-Chou, and the film beautifully shows the way that people can bond rhapsodising together over pop culture despite not physically knowing the people that they are chatting to.

The forum is moderated by our main character, and the bulk of the first section of the film after the initial scene setting is taken up by a flashback his school experiences a couple of years before as he makes friends, start petty thieving in a gang to pay for a trip (which all gets filmed on videotape). The trip itself is full of ominous signals of it being the end of something rather than the beginning, and once school starts the next year sure enough our main character's best friend begins a reign of terror in the school, leading to extreme bullying, forced prostitution and a harrowing (although not explicitly shown) gang rape, all whilst our flawed lead impotently watches from the sidelines.

The final section of the film at a Lily Chou-Chou concert clashes the level playing field of the online world and the imposed heirachies of the real one together quite devastatingly, as online pseudonyms get married up to real people (and simultaneously in the queue people start arguing about whether Lily is a 'true artist' pursuing her own vision or a corporate shill. Just another brand like the band that she broke away from previously). All illusions get shattered but that doesn't lead to catharsis, just guilt and a retreat into Lily's fabled "Ether", that itself also now feels slightly sullied.

I especially like that in this film the real world is more distressingly, inescapably and unchangably cruel and abusive one (perhaps because we are seeing it from the perspective of a, damningly, onlooking and passive character), while the online world perhaps might be delusional (where identities can be fluid and anyone can begin anew, or connect in a way that they could never do in person) but is a less brutal place. The tragedy is less from the flights of fantasy (of who the person you are chatting to really is; or what Lily's ethereal music means or was inspired by) but of the violence of the real world seeping into it and overwhelming any respite entirely.

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rockysds
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Re: Shunji Iwai

#22 Post by rockysds » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:02 am

Shunji Iwai has made a 4 four part mini series with Nestlé. Totals about an hour. English subbed link here.

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manicsounds
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 10:58 pm
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Re: Shunji Iwai

#23 Post by manicsounds » Fri May 12, 2017 11:59 am

Shunji Iwai's latest film is a concert documentary: "Yen Town Environment in Inujima" (円都空間 in 犬島)

Featuring Yen Town Band - the fictional band from "Swallowtail Butterfly" and Lily Chou Chou - the fictional singer played by Salyu from "All About Lily Chou Chou", the concert was a benefit for victims of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese Blu-ray and DVD - 6/14/2017
https://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B071S2D9XK/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXU-2I3RMdE" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

beamish13
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:31 am

Re: Shunji Iwai

#24 Post by beamish13 » Fri May 12, 2017 3:39 pm

Has Swallowtail Butterfly ever gotten a decent DVD release?

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manicsounds
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 10:58 pm
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Re: Shunji Iwai

#25 Post by manicsounds » Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:51 pm

beamish13 wrote:Has Swallowtail Butterfly ever gotten a decent DVD release?
https://www.amazon.co.jp/Swallowtail-Bu ... B00ATLG57M" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
It got a Blu-ray release in Japan in 2013.

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