Shunji Iwai

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Skapad den: 15 maj 2012
Shunji Iwai's films consistently have an uncanny resonance with 90s Japanese pop culture, making him one of the most important directors of his generation.

Shunji Iwai (岩井 俊二)
born January 24 1963, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

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One of the most popular and influential Japanese directors of his generation, the multi-talented Shunji Iwai is commonly recognized for his distinctive and innovative visual style. Although describing himself as an "eizo sakka" (visual artist), characters and plot themes are often excellently developed in his films, all of which he has personally scripted. Iwai has also edited several of his films, and has even scored the music for more recent efforts. Often using women protagonists, Iwai has garnered fine performances from Japanese Pop singers in key roles, most notably Miho Nakayama in Love Letter (1995) and Chara in Picnic (1996) and Swallowtail Butterfly (1996). A trend-setter, he has created a style that resonates with Japanese pop culture, striking a chord with contemporary Japanese youth, especially young women.

Picnic (1996)

Swallowtail Butterfly (1996)

Fascinated by film, Iwai spent much of his youth in Sendai theaters before entering Yokohama National University in 1981 where he shot experimental films. Graduating in 1987, he began his career directing music videos and TV ads before beginning in 1991 to write and direct TV dramas. Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? (1993) impressively won the Japanese Director's Association Best Newcomer Award, a tribute usually given to directors of feature films. Iwai switched to theatrical productions with the short film Undo (1994). The short feature Picnic (1996), about a trio of mental patients venturing outside to find a spot to view the end of the world, was withheld from release until 1996 due to a fear that the plot mirrored some aspects of the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo in March, 1995. So, Love Letter became his theatrical feature debut. Typical of Iwai's collaboration with his preferred cinematographer, the late Noboru Shinoda, Love Letter (1995) is visually innovative. They pioneered the use of hand-held "scope" (2.35:1) camera work to lyrically photograph snowy winter scenes. An artistic and commercial breakthrough, it played to sold-out audiences in Japan. Swallowtail Butterfly (1996), set in the near future, was even more popular. Iwai set the tone of his next feature, April Story (1998) using springtime weather creatively, with cherry blossom petals cascading like snowflakes in one early scene, and rain showers pivotal to the ending.

Undo (1994)

He debuted as an actor in Ritual (2000) and then created an Internet chat site where he guided discussion to create a plot about the mythical pop singer Lily Chou-Chou and her music. This led in 2001 to a CD-ROM "novel" followed by a printed novel and the release of the theatrical feature All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001) appropriately the first Japanese feature captured digitally rather than on film. Of many plots involving students, this is Iwai's darkest. Iwai contributed the short-film, 'Arita' to Jam Films (2002), a compilation by seven Japanese directors. Hana and Alice (2004) started as short films on the Nestle website to commemorate the 30th anniversary of "Kit-Kat" bars in Japan. These were merged into a feature film about friendship and first love for theatrical release.

Ritual (2000)

All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)


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