May 30, 2005

Asano Tadanobu: What A Man, What An Actor


(from left) from Gohatto; beauty shot of some kind; from Ichii the Killer

Really, you might think this weblog has become an Asian cinema site but it's not true. Cinecultist watches other national cinemas, why today we even watched the New York foodie documentary Eat This New York on the Sundance Channel instead of doing the huge pile of laundry we needed to attend to. (PS. Remind us never to decide to open a cafe in Williamsburg, it looks like a lot of hard, hard work.) But when it comes to films on our list of to sees, the bulk are from parts of Asia. Take for instance Taste of Tea and Cafe Lumiere, two movies we've been thinking/reading about lately and both of which star the Japanese actor Asano Tadanobu. So fascinating, so brilliant -- we're hard pressed to think of an English-speaking actor working so prolifically and also so thoughtfully.

With an Asano movie, you put it in the DVD player and you wonder, "Who will he be this time? What will he do?" You have no idea and there's something so exhilarating about that. He could be an obsessive gay samurai, or a charismatic, womanizing yakuza or a masochistic underworld kingpin. But even more than changing costume or hair color or character detail, Asano has the ability to transform on screen and yet remain completely compelling. To watch Ichii the Killer (as we did a few weeks ago) and then Last Life in the Universe (which CC saw this afternoon), you'd barely know they're the same leading actor. And the guy makes 4 or 5 films a year to boot. It seriously boggles the film-going mind.

Plus, he has this adorable and weird pop star wife, Chara who is really the cutest thing ever, despite not understanding any of the content on her website. They met on the set of Shunji Iwai's movie Picnic and... All right. Enough. You get it. We're a bit obsessed. The problem is that this world of Asian cinema is so beautiful and varied, once you learn a little bit you can't help but want to know more. And also, they're constantly making more so really there's no end to our potential consumption. It's a problem that isn't really much of a problem.

Subway Cinema will be screening Taste of Tea, directed by Katsuhito Ishii, the director Asano made Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl with, exhibition date tbd. Lumiere was at last year's NYFF but doesn't seem to have US distribution yet. Drat. An interview from a few years ago with Midnight Eye editor Tom Mes. And of course, you should buy a copy of this month's Interview magazine devoted to culture in Tokyo. There's an interview with Asano inside and we worked our ass off on it, so that's certainly worth the $3.95.

Posted by karen at May 30, 2005 6:09 PM