Somai Shinji

mark schilling schill at
Sun Feb 27 05:04:18 EST 2005

Somai's Typhoon Club won the Grand Prix at the first Tokyo Film Festival in
1985. Moving (Ohikkoshi) was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at
Cannes in 1993. And Wait and See (Ah, Haru) was awarded the FIPRESCI
(International critics prize) at Berlin in 1999.

So Somai didn't totally strike out on the festival circuit. Why didn't he
gain more traction? He often worked in a genre, seishun eiga, that got
little critical respect. His timing wasn't great, but he could have better
ridden the Japanese New Wave of the 1990s. Moving had a more visible
platform at Cannes in 1993 than did Kitano's Sonatine, which only screened
in the market -- but we know which film the Western critics whooped up,
don't we?

Why didn't they also whoop up Moving, a coming-of-age masterpiece? I did my
little bit in The Japan Times and elsewhere -- but Somai didn't much help
his own cause. When I interviewed him at Cannes, he struck me as smart,
sensitive and very, very shy.As in no eye contact and voice just above a
whisper. Not the type to dazzle the foreign press with his witty repartee.
(I believe he spent as much of the festival as possible in his hotel
room.)Then there was the matter of the film itself, which did not fit any of
the then trendy categories (extremely violent, cleverly subversive action
pic, etc.) So it quietly sank out of sight, as did its director.

I compliment the Jeonju festival for raising up him and his criminally
under-appreciated films.

Mark Schilling

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "tanaka taro" <tarouttt at>
To: <KineJapan at>
Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2005 7:13 PM
Subject: Somai Shinji

> Hello everyone,
> I am writing a piece on Somai Shinji for the catalogue of the upcoming
> Jeonju International Film Festival (April 28-May 6), which will show 8
> Somai films in a retrospective.
> One of the things I'm looking into is Somai's reception (or rather lack
> thereof) outside of Japan, which already came up on this list a few days
> ago.
> Video and dvd-releases are one thing, but I was wondering if any of you
> know of other festivals (or events) which have paid attention (gave
> to Somai's work in the past, or places where his films got a theatrical
> release. I've only heard of one retrospective organised by the Japan
> Foundation in Germany a few years ago.
> I wonder how much the reason why so little has been written about him in
> the West has to do with the age to which the main part of his work
> as the eighties in general are largely overlooked (or dismissed as the
> decade when Japanese cinema was as good as dead).
> Many thanks for any suggestions you may have,
> Luk Van Haute
> _________________________________________________________________
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