Monday, April 27, 2009

The other Laputa

One of my favorite places in Tokyo is a repertory cinema on the western side of the city - about 10 minutes from Shinjuku, by train - called Laputa Asagaya. Owned by a friend of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, the cinema's name comes, of course, from the movie of the same title, Laputa: Castle in the Sky. The theatre screens all kind of retro series, from retrospectives of famous actresses to old yakuza movies to a series dedicated to the Japanese salaryman. It's always a treat to look at their website and see what's coming up, to get a taste of their innovative programming. And what's more, the cinema itself is designed to look like something out of a Miyazaki movie!

The exterior:

The box office:

A sampling of old-school yakuza posters from their Kosaku Yamashita series:

And a bunch of folks waiting in the lobby to go upstairs to the cinema:
Besides the cinema, the Laputa building also contains a live theatre and exhibition space, and a very cool, Continental European restaurant on the top level. Around the block is an animation school and screening space also owned by the same people.

The best, however, is the cinema. Like most rep cinemas in Tokyo, it's small - only 40-50 seats - but very cozy. The seats are incredibly comfortable and the whole space is well-maintained, with top-notch projection and sound.

Doing a projection test on the next show: Junko Fuji in 1970's NIHON JOKYO DEN: TEKKA GEISHA.

Best of all, and most surprising to me, is that the theatre is managed by an entirely female staff! And they are some of the most formidably rabid genre film fans I've ever met, too, so boys beware. The young woman on the right in the photo below, Nami Sakita, not only works at Laputa, but I met her last November at a Koreyoshi Kurahara retrospective, too, and she was planning to head to a Masahiro Makino screening right afterward! Sugoi, ne?

The young lady on the left is Hikari Ishii, the main manager for the cinema and the one who sets up their amazing talk events, with legends like Junko Fuji, Yasuharu Hasebe, and others. She's also graciously allowed us to do some of our interview work at Laputa, including the interview and commentary with Norifumi Suzuki on the Star of David DVD, and also the yet-unreleased interview with Hiroaki Fujii for Rikyu.

And the reason for posting this appreciation of Laputa on the blog right now? Because I'll be visiting them again next week for some more work, including an audio commentary featuring the director and screenwriter for a modern genre classic re-release on DVD and Blu Ray. Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Beauty Hunting

It's been a while, eh?

Not a lot to report from the work world, though a project has re-surfaced that I hinted at many months ago, and if it comes through, it'll mean a cool bit of work for us and eventually a great DVD for Japanese cinema fans. More on that as details arise.

Speaking of many months ago, a project I worked on back in November of 2007 recently saw the light of day. This week, Discotek Media offshoot label Eastern Star released their DVD of Norifumi Suzuki's solo Roman Porno effort, 1979's
Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls (aka Dabide no hoshi - bishojo gari), and I encourage all fans of ahem, adventurous cinema to pick up a copy. It's one of Suzuki's best films and also one of the better titles produced by Nikkatsu during their Roman Porno period. We shot a video interview with Suzuki and also recorded a commentary with him and film writer Kiichiro Yanashita, and it's pretty fun.

And no worries about the silly cover-up applied to Hiromi Namino's ticket-sellers on the domestic cover, shown above in all its glory. The disc includes a reversible sleeve you can adjust after opening to put the actress's glamorous mams on the outside, for all your houseguests to see. Blame puritanistic retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart for the need to print two versions of a DVD cover; as if they'd even carry a movie like this, anyway!

So please check out the disc if you have a chance, and either rent or purchase it. Downloading stuff that's easily available, particularly from small labels struggling to stay alive, is just plain stupid in today's market. Anybody who does so can't really call themselves a fan of the genre, since they're contributing to its death. Watch this space for some more updates soon, about Synapse's upcoming Meiko Kaji two-fer discs, a terrific cinema and theatre space in Tokyo where the Suzuki interview was done (called Laputa!), and eventually, the work I hinted at at the beginning of this post.