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Two weeks and a day from today over in Waterloo, Ontario, the fifth edition of the young Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema will be kicking off its four-day run, giving people a chance to see a number of significant recent feature-length animated features from around the world up on the big screen in the theater, where they deserve to be seen. The lineup is outstandingly well balanced, with films in various different media from Estonia, Hungary, Denmark, Russia, Japan and the US.
It's been several months since Mind Game has been seen at a festival on these shores, and I'm glad to say that this is something the WFAC '05 will be rectifying. Bafflingly without any kind of release whatsoever in sight, this is not a chance to be missed. But really, none of the lineup feels like it's to be missed - particularly so Frank and Wendy, a full-length feature written by none other than Priit Pärn.
Also on the lineup: The much-talked-about Danish feature Strings; Alosha Popovich and Tugarin the Serpent, a Russian feature that looks to harken back to the classic Soyuzmultfilm features; the Hungarian feature Nyocker, which I regret having missed at the VIFF this year; and a CG feature from Denmark. An excellent selection that really shows off the diverse possibilies of the medium.
There will also be what should be a fascinating lecture on traditional animation, and last but hardly least, a Kihachiro Kawamoto retrospective - a rare chance to see his films up on the big screen that is definitely not to be missed. Congrats to Joseph on putting together a great little fest.
I just noticed that at least two other sites including Cartoon Brew reported on the Mind Game wins a day earlier than me using the exact same title: Mind Game sweeps Fantasia. Aside from the fact that it's amazing how fast Mind Game news travels now, I thought that was kind of remarkable, but then again, it really was just the perfect title. I went ahead and changed the title for good measure. Great minds think alike.
It's kind of shocking how overwhelmingly positive most of the reactions I've read have been, not just in terms of proportion, but in terms of degree, of how glowing the already positive reviews are. I didn't know whether people over here would react as positively as me to it, so it feels good to see that most people over here seem completely bowled over by it, as I suspected they would if they could just see it. It's so great to hear all these people - many of whom know a good bit about animation - coming forwarding saying this is one of the best animated films they've ever seen. I'm obviously not the only one who felt Mind Game was the animated film I'd had to wait all my life to see.
There were plenty of people in Japan who praised it as soon as it appeared, but there were just as many, if not more, who just didn't seem to get it. Far from the tepid reaction on its home turf, over there the reaction has been incredible so far, as Yuasa said in an interview at the Montreal festival. I felt happy for him that he'd finally been able to get a great reaction like that. It's entirely possible that that's only because of the unique nature of the venue at which the film has been seen - a festival - but I think it confirms what most people knew: the film would have to wait to get its real due from the rest of the world. Of course, one year later probably more people have heard of it than seen it (which isn't even saying a lot), since it's still not available over here, so it looks like it will take a little while longer for the film to really make way. But at least it looks like it may do so eventually, slowly but surely, now that it's made a splash at a major festival.
Just about the only thing I've regretted about having seen Mind Game is how gray and boring everything else has seemed in comparison ever since. What's amazing - to me - is not that Mind Game is so original, but that everything else in comparison can seem so unoriginal. If the film was a celebration of the possibilities of the medium, then the flipside is that it showed us just how little those possibilities were being explored in animated filmmaking. I'm hoping it can stimulate people to break out of those boundaries and look for new forms and styles. I mean, Mind Game was made by a very small staff at a very small studio, and it looks closer to something Bill Plympton might conjure up than to a big studio warhorse, but technically it's an industry film, so I see it as a wake-up call to the industry.
Speaking of whom, it's nice to know that Bill Plympton appreciated Mind Game. I figured if anyone should like the film, it's him. He's about the only person who's been (singlehandedly) making interesting animated features over here these last few years.
It would appear that Mind Game was a hit among both the official jury and the public at the Montreal Fantasia film festival. The official award list for the festival was unveiled two days ago, and Mind Game made off with no less than four of the total eight awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Script, as well as a Special Award for Visual Accomplishment. Public prizes were also awarded in a variety of categories, among which Mind Game took the Golden Prize for Best Animated Film and the Silver Prize for Most Groundbreaking Film, ending the day with a grand total of six awards - no mean feat.
Interestingly, the Canadian premiere in Montreal seems to have generated a lot more buzz than the world premiere in New York. Nice. Here's a great review by Jay Seaver, one by Siu Fung, one in French by Karine Projean on the site for a Montreal U, and also another review on Twitch, this time by Mark Mann. Man, all that enthusiasm feels good. And the kicker: Masaaki Yuasa on the evening news?! This person appears to have caught these snaps while waiting in line at the fest.
All right, here's the first one. The Montreal Mirror interviews Masaaki Yuasa in their writeup of the first week of the Montreal Fantasia film festival, which gives top billing to Mind Game.
I have belatedly discovered an "interview" with Eiko Tanaka from the NYAFF screening of Mind Game, available here. (It's more like a general write-up interspersed with a few interview snippets.) Hopefully someone will conduct a nice interview with Masaaki Yuasa tomorrow evening in Montreal, at the Canadian premiere.
We've seen a lot of up-and-coming animator Tetsuya Takeuchi lately, with some impressively dense and nuanced acting animation in Koji Masunari's latest endeavor, Kamichu, which characteristically takes a fresh approach to an otherwise pedestrian concept, infusing it with new vitality, and a bit of animation at the beginning of the latest ending of Pierrot's Bleach, all coming quite soon after his impressive feat in Honey and Clover. We're beginning to get a good idea of where Takeuchi is headed as an animator, and it looks like a good direction. Now deprived of Masashi Ishihama, Masunari has found a nice new lead animator.
There's also been a few Tadashi Hiramatsu items recently. He animated the curiously erotic pre-title section of Eureka Seven 11, as well as directing the latest ep of Aim 2.
A name that brings back memories from my early days in anime, Umanosuke Iida, returns with a TV concept of his own creation at Telecom, Tide-Line Blue, a decade after what is probably his best piece, the unfortunately unfinished Space Miners, which is the first item I remember buying/translating/subbing entirely on my own. I remember struggling to find information on the elusive creator of the show, as well as struggling to figure out how to romanize his name - Forthman Lunchfield? Fothmann Ranchfield? It only goes to reason that I couldn't find anything, because it turns out Iida just made it up. He was the creator. It seemed unusual.
Supposedly next month's issue of Ntype will have a feature on Naruto 133, complete with reproductions of Norio Matsumoto's key animation and an interview with Atsushi Wakabayashi. Unusual for this magazine. There will also be what promises to be an interesting discussion between, of all people, Osamu Kobayashi and Mamoru Hosoda. There have been rumours floating around about Hosoda joining Madhouse, so this gets me to wondering. Hosoda's film comes out on DVD two weeks from now.
Mind Game will be showing on three dates at the Montreal Fantasia film festival:
July 8th, 2005 @ 7:30 pm
July 10th, 2005 @ 2:20 pm
July 12th, 2005 @ 3:00 pm
Producer Eiko Tanaka attended the NYAFF screening that just wrapped up last Friday and Sunday, but this time director Masaaki Yuasa will be in attendance. Too bad this isn't taking place one month later, when I'm going to be in Quebec.
Here's one of the first reviews from the NYAFF screening, by Mark Gilson, posted on Twitch.
There's been a resurgence of Mind Game news here all of a sudden after a long quiet spell. The weekly all-nighter at the Shin Bungeiza art house theater in Ikebukuro will be wending its way on into the wee hours again this Saturday night with a selection of films from three "Hot anime creators", namely Masaaki Yuasa, Satoshi Kon and Makoto Shinkai. The night will kick off at 10:45 with a talk show between Masaaki Yuasa and Satoshi Kon, followed at 11:25 by Sound Insect Noiseman (a rare chance to see this gem on the big screen), Mind Game at 11:40, Shinkai Makoto's two latest films at 1:35, and finally Tokyo Godfathers topping the evening off at 4AM.
The talk show will be Satoshi Kon's first for Mind Game, although the director could be heard publicly praising Mind Game as early as last November in this interview. Masaaki Yuasa was really petered out after making an uncharacteristically large number of public appearances and doing numerous interviews to try to get the word out about the film last year, so it's moving to see that he still goes out of his way to put in an appearance even for a one-off screening like this. Needless to say, this is one of the most tantalizing taidan (talks) I've heard about in a long while. It's good to see that the film continues to find small venues here and there eager to give it a spin.
Coming hot on the heels of the announcement that Mind Game will be shown on the Japaneese satellite TV station WOWOW four times in the coming weeks, here is even better news for those of us who have been waiting impatiently for the film to be seen by the rest of the world. Almost a year after the Japanese premiere, it looks like Mind Game is finally getting what to my knowledge is going to be its international premiere. The film will be screened at the New York Asian Film Festival 2005 on the following dates:
Friday, June 24, 6:30
Sunday, June 26, 1:30
Those are great slots. The "producer" is going to be present at the first screening. It would be a big event if Eiko Tanaka were to be there, but it seems more likely that they mean the producer of the international version, Joel Silver. There has been no news about the progress of said international version, and there is nothing mentioned about what version is being shown, so I take it the original version will be shown with subtitles. Hopefully some insiders will infiltrate the first screening to hear what the producer has to say, and how the reaction is, and report back to those of us too far from the big apple to make this glorious event.
JUNE 3 ADDENDUM: After looking at the page for the film, I realized that Eiko Tanaka is indeed the producer who is going to be present at the first screening. This is truly an event not to be missed.
Italian speakers can read some comments about Mind Game on this blog.