Stephen Cremin asianfilmlibrary
Tue Dec 7 23:39:19 EST 1999

HAKUCHI was released in Japan on 13 November 1999, up against the more 
commercially successful SALARYMAN KINTARO (Miike Takashi), NILE (Izumi 
Seiji) and BLACK HOUSE (Morita Yoshimitsu).  I presume its still playing.  
It received its premiere in Venice - not in competition - and subsequently 
played at the Pusan International Film Festival.  David Stratton reviewed it 
in "Variety" (1-7 November 1999).

I caught it in Pusan and loved the first hour to bits: very original humour, 
visually wondrous, great casting, etc.  And of course it looks incredibly 
expensive: from that very first shot of the aeroplane.  We've been waiting a 
long time for this adaptation with a rumoured budget of US$6m.  The book is 
decades old, so Tezka Macoto (Tezuka Makoto) has created an alternate 
universe with a modern sensibility: I thought the media critique was much 
more interesting than Isaka Satoshi's recent "The Frame".  But it just went 
on and on ... 146 minutes.  And I confess I lost interest rapidly after the 
first hour.  Perhaps somebody family with Sakaguchi (Unagi) Ango's book can 
give a more informed opinion on the adaptation.

I don't think it will do the festival rounds, because certain critics have 
taken a distinct disliking to it, but any festival programmers wanting to 
see a preview tape might have luck trying:

     hakuchi at tezuka.co.jp

If the budget is anywhere near the reputed US$6m then presumably they'll be 
looking for foreign sales.

Stephen Cremin
The Asian Film Library

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