Monday, December 17, 2012

Eiga Fest LA 2012: Rurouni Kenshin

The LA Eiga Fest brought big budget Japanese blockbusters to Hollywood this weekend. An early Christmas present for those into Japanese culture in our fair city. Friday night saw the premiere of the live action adaption of Rurouni Kenshin. Director Keishi Otomo and co-star Munetaka Aoki who played Sanosuke in the film were in attendance. They stood around for a Q and A after the film where it was revealed they'd be fine with having a sequel if the studio gave them a chance. Before the film even got underway, George Takei showed up and surprised the audience. He talked about the love of  Japanese film and the hope more Japanese films could make a bigger splash in the US. He was proud Eiga fest was happening in the heart of Hollywood.

After speeches and some of the oddest hosting I've seen since Pacific Media Expo Rurouni Kenshin played to a sold-out crowd. Rurouni Kenshin is a adapted live action film about a Samurai who has a reverse blade sword who vows not to kill after a bitter war. I was a fan of the anime and it does do it justice. It has a more realistic take on fights and sword play from the series.

The audience all gasped or clapped when new incarnation of beloved characters took the screen. Munetaka Aoki who played Sanosuke got some of those gasps for his street fighter role where he carried a sword  design to take out a horse. His battle with Rurouni was a great mix of martial art styles. His best fight might have been against a fellow street fighter brawler that had them beating each other up throughout a house and into a kictchen. At one point the two street fighters take a break for some food and wine, then right back into their fight.

At the Q and A afterward it was revealed that Takeru Sato, who played the star Kenshin, had suffered a collapse lung on a previous film. Concerns about his health were asked. The director told the audience Takeru was always physically fit to work on set.  Director Otomo also explained that Takeru's speed and footwork in the film were not special effects, he really trained hard to pull of his fancy foot work. Munetaka was praised for all he learned about street fighting after getting... well fat, was how the director described it while he was in America before shooting got underway.

Rurouni Kenshin is an epic action drama that seems fine for American cinema. I hope it gets a wider release here in the states. Many of the films seen don't seem to have a set release in North America or any distribution, so it may be the only chance to see some great work abroad.

The opening night of the festival also had an after party with free drinks and food for all the guests who attended the film. Kotoya, a local restaurant provided a fine meal after the film. They also spent the next two days having a ramen booth nearby where patrons could have something warm in the cold winter nights in LA. A taiko drum troupe banged in the start of the festival after the showing of Rurouni Kenshin. The big thumping beat alerting attendees to a big start of this Japanese showcase.

Munetaka took his chances with the suit he was wearing for the premiere, if anyone else wore it they be considered crazy, but after seeing him kick butt on screen you might reconsider saying it looked bad to his face.