Friday, August 07, 2009

"Redline" update: World premiere 8/14 at Locarno Film Festival

Here's my latest for the Yomiuri in Japan: a story about the world premiere of Madhouse's "Redline" anime feature, including interviews with director and animation artist Takeshi Koike ("World Record") and screenwriter Katsuhito Ishii ("The Taste of Tea"). The boffo, over-the-top racing caper will debut next Friday, 8/14, at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland--beneath the stars in the open-air Piazza Grande, no less.

The story features interviews with both Koike and Ishii that I conducted with them back in Tokyo:

Anime with Texas roots to debut in Switzerland

"Manga Impact: The World of Japanese Animation," a special program at the 62nd annual Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, will include next Friday's world premiere of the Japanese anime Redline in the city's historic central square, which can accommodate more than 8,000 viewers.

Also featuring tributes to Yoshiyuki Tomino (Gundam), Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) and the Gainax studio (Neon Genesis Evangelion), "Manga Impact" is devoted to furthering the West's highbrow embrace of Japanese pop culture.

Redline, from Madhouse Studios, is one of a growing list of 21st-century Japanese-produced anime features that seek to return that embrace by deliberately targeting Western audiences.

"We really want non-Japanese to see and appreciate this work," says Takeshi Koike, Redline's director and chief animator in the Tokyo offices of Tohokushinsha, the film's worldwide distributor. "We were thinking of people who don't normally enjoy anime or know anything about it when we came up with the ideas."

The "we" he refers to is himself and veteran film director, screenwriter and illustrator Katsuhito Ishii (The Taste of Tea), who began collaborating a decade ago on the edgy underground film, Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl.

Ishii was immediately drawn to Koike's distinctive style and skills, which he describes as a next-generation cross between the action-oriented bravura of Yoshinori Kanada (who worked on many Studio Ghibli films), and the meticulous design and artistry of Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll).

Ishii first encountered Redline's eventual target audience several years ago, when he stayed with a friend in the flatlands of rural Texas and discovered a phenomenon jarring enough for a Tokyo urbanite to record. Unlike city dwellers in such places as New York, rural Americans spent their weekend hours lovingly washing, polishing and endlessly tinkering with...their cars. [more here]