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Introducing The #DFNYFive!

Here’s the first #DFNYFive, our five favorite flicks!  So hard to choose,  but these are the ones that consistently come to mind when people ask.  And it doesn’t necessarily mean that these are best movies ever made, just the five flicks that I can return to over and over again and enjoy just as much as the first time I saw them!

1. Annie Hall (1977)

2. Seven Samurai (1954)

3. All The President’s Men (1976)

4. A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway To Heaven) (1946)

5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Hope you like the #DFNYFive,  what are your favorites? Looking forward to receiving some interesting responses!

 

DFNY Focus On: Filmmaker Pierre Filmon

Our latest DFNY Focus is on French Filmmaker Pierre Filmon. He is a writer, producer and director, known for his documentary on Hungarian-American cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond (2016), as well as Papa est mort (2014) and Le silence, d’abord (2003).

DFNY: What is a film that you love that might surprise people who know you?
PF: Someone giving a look at my list of 809 favourite films (so far) could be considered to know me (https://www.imdb.com/list/ls000431317/) and she / he could be surprised by some entries like Sky Riders (1976) by Douglas Hickox, Clockwise (1986) by Christopher Morahan or Monsters (2010) by Gareth Edwards. But I sure also love those three films, although very different from each other and from my main classical films taste, but I appreciate the breathtaking action bravoura and its staging in the first, the clever script and its funny rendition in the second, the smart effective achievement by a low budget film for the third one.

DFNY: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, to appear in a “Dream Flick” together, which two would it be & what kind of film?
PF: Let’s pair two dead actors, then… A young Montgomery Clift and a young Ava Gardner, utmost vibrant interiority facing irresistible intense sensuality. Directed by a young Nicholas Ray (the one who did They Live by Night).

DFNY: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
PF: Children of Paradise (1945) by Marcel Carné, because I met its director a few months before his death, because this film is undoubtedly a (if not “the”) French film at its finest, because I was a projectionist and screened this particular title much more than any other film in one theater (the Ranelagh theater in Paris) which had a retro-projection system (and two titles only every weekend for years – the other title being “Grock” 1931 by Carl Boese). So I often went, during the longest reels, just behind the screen (invisible to the audience on the other side of the screen), on stage, and watched the huge image at its foot, admiring the masterpiece. Because it’s the film I would dream to have made.

DFNY: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?
PF: I’m not really a fetishist so I would not wish to detach an object from any film (except from mine : I keep a few objects from my own shootings) because it would lose its magic power.

DFNY: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
PF: Arachnophobia (1990) by Frank Marshall was chilly enough to watch once, so please do not ask me to make a film about spiders…

Pierre’s 2016 documentary on cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond can be seen on Amazon Prime:

More information on Pierre and his films can be found at his IMDB page, as well as his website:

Daily Japan Focus On: Jazz Pianist Senri Oe (大江 千里)

The latest Daily Japan Focus is on Japanese musician Senri Oe (大江 千里 – Oe Senri). Born in Japan, Senri is a pianist, composer, producer, actor, singer, and songwriter who had a very successful pop-music career in Japan in the 80’s and 90’s (winning the equivalent of their Best Album Grammy several times), but after the death of a close friend and band member, Oe-san decided to make a complete change and go to New York to pursue a career in jazz music. Our exclusive interview (translated from Oe-san’s original Japanese answers, posted below as well) give an insight into his thoughts and experiences in New York from his first days here until now.

(日本語での表記は後に続きます)

Daily Japan: What did you think of NYC as a “musical city” before you came here, and has being here changed your mind?

Senri Oe: Broadway, street performers, jazz clubs – I thought that the whole town was overflowing with music. In fact, when I first tried out living here for four years in the early 90’s, I came in contact with a lot of music. In particular, the club culture was a lot of fun – there were all night clubs, and even ones where you could start dancing in the morning and go until the afternoon. I was really impressed, and thought, “Wow, what energy!” Compared to the time from around when Giuliani was mayor, it really feels like NY has become much more “grown up” and quiet. NY has been my base for the past 13 years, and since living here and seeing how extremely safe it is, and how people follow the rules, it doesn’t really feel much different from Tokyo. But it also seems like the crime and homelessness that had been increasing since Trump took office has seen a sudden rise since the Corona pandemic, and it feels like a return to the dangerous times with a lot of crime like from before Giuliani. But unexpectedly, you can hear a lot of lively music playing in the streets, it’s really fun.

DJ: How much time had you spent in NYC before you decided to locate here? How were those experiences?

SO: I finally came to NY the winter I was 29. I planned to stay at a midtown Sheraton like a good tourist, but I managed to get myself invited to stay at the apartment of someone I’d just met. What’s more, the person was going to London and said “feel free to use the place,” so while staying for the first time in a place that had its own piano, I was able to write music while looking out the window at the dancing snow. Ever since that intense first experience, I came to strongly believe that NY is the city I must come to when my power is low. Soon after my trip, I came back again for a recording, eventually renting an apartment and coming back and forth from Japan for about four years. When I think about it now, I saw everything at that time as sparkling from a tourist’s viewpoint, probably because I would come to stay whenever I got time off from work. Back then it was a very different world from the NY I’m living in now. It felt full of danger and excitement, the people were interesting, even the older people were lively and funky.

DJ: What was your first musical gig in NYC and how did it go?

SO: When I was attending the New School, I performed as part of a trio with an Israeli bassist and a drummer from Connecticut – we were invited to play at a Korean restaurant on St. Mark’s Place by a businessman who liked jazz. That was my first gig. At the time, I had bought something to put my tips in from a local Korean supermarket, it was a small pot for one person to cook rice in. I’d actually used it ever since then to cook in, and although it broke recently, it’s always been a meaningful memento for me.

DJ: How has NYC changed musically since you’ve been here?

SO: Recently, the number of places to see live music has decreased greatly, and they’ve been split into two types – first there are the famous venues that lots of tourist go to, and then there are the places where the locals go. There’s also been a decrease in the amount of jazz and other music being played in the hotel lobbies and lounges, etc. It’s been really sad, but somehow despite so many places being closed from the pandemic, there’s also been a revival of hearing music in different places throughout the city. So even with venues closing, events being cancelled, musicians having to depend on unemployment insurance, and even having my own difficulties at this time, music will always be something that’s enjoyed. That’s the current state of music now.

DJ: How does NYC compare to Tokyo musically? The audiences?

SO: Tokyo has everything, it’s a huge market with musicians going there from all over the world, so it doesn’t seem second to NY at all in that regard. But New York has opera, ballet, jazz and classical music – people here can even drink champagne in inexpensive seats without it being so unusual, I only wish it could be like that in Tokyo. Audiences in Tokyo obey the rules and conform to the mood of the room, so I think their behavior and manners are great. New Yorkers seem to think it’s all about their “having fun” when they come to hear music, so it seems like they’re much more active participants. I’m not sure which is better, but for me, it’s easier to perform in NY. I’m the type that easily gets caught up in things, so when I hear their cheers and reactions, I can play with a lot more excitement than usual.

DJ: Who are some of your musical inspirations?

SO: Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Burt Bacharach, Herbie Hancock, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Ravel, Bach….

DJ: If you weren’t playing/composing music, what would you be doing?

SO: I’m 60, so if I were working at a company, it would be almost time for retirement. But I don’t have the kind of personality that’s suited for coming and going to a company at the same time, so I’m sure if I did something outside of music, I would have done something where I would have had a lot of flexibility and freedom about making my own schedule – perhaps something like real estate.

Senri Oe’s WEBSITE:

Check out Senri’s album HMMM:

Check out Senri’s music videos:

‘Poignant Kisses’(Hmmm)  3’35”

‘Re:Vision’(Hmmm) 3’53”

‘Orange Desert’ (Hmmm) 5’13”

‘Indoor Voices’ (Hmmm)  4’38″

Additionally, Senri Oe’s song ‘Togetherness’ has been selected by the AP News organization as one of their “Top 40 songs to listen to during the pandemic.”:

Article: “40 songs about the coronavirus pandemic.” Listen here. (AP)

Video: SENRI OE, “Togetherness”: The Japanese pianist’s breezy instrumental track will brighten up your day. (AP)

DJ: ここに来る前、音楽の街ニューヨークをどんな風に思っていましたか? ここにきてからそれは変わりましたか?

SO: ブロードウエイ、路上演奏、ジャズクラブ、、、町中に音楽が溢れていると思ってました。
実際、試験的に住んだ90年代の初頭の4年間もたくさんの音楽に触れることができましたが、特にあの頃はクラブカルチャーが楽しくて、夜通しそして朝から昼過ぎまで踊っているというクラブもあり「なんてエネルギッシュなんだ」と感心しました。その頃に比べるとジュリアーニ市長以降「おとなしい静かなNY」になったなあと感じています。13年前からニューヨークが拠点になりましたが、住んでみると非常に安全で人々も規則に順従、東京とあまり変わらないような印象です。しかしトランプ政権後に増えたホームレスや様々な犯罪が、更にパンデミックにより最近は一気に増えて、ジュリアーニ市長以前の危険で犯罪が多い街に逆戻りしていると日々感じます。でも皮肉なもので、ストリートで鳴っている音楽は逆に生き生きして
面白いのです。

DJ: 実際に引越しを決めるまで、何回ニューヨークに通い、時間を過ごしましたか? その時はどんなことを経験されましたか?

SO: 29歳の冬に初めてNYにやってきました。ミッドタウンのシェラトンに宿泊し安全な観光客であるはずが、その日に知り合った人のアパートへ転がり込み、更にその人がロンドンに旅に出るので「あとは自由に使っていいよ」とピアノのある部屋を出会ったばかりの僕に貸してくれて、窓の外に雪が舞うのを見ながら曲を書きました。この強烈な最初の体験から、NYは「自分にパワーがないときに来ちゃいけない街だ」と痛感しました。その後すぐにまたレコーデイングでNYを訪れることになり、やがてアパートを借りて日本とNYを行ったり来たりということを4年ほど経験しました。あの頃は、今思えば観光客の視点で全てがキラキラしていたし、仕事で休みができればすぐにNYに戻って暮らすという生活でした。あの頃は、今僕が暮らしているNYとは別の世界です。とにかく危険やスリルにあふれていて、人々も面白くて高齢者も元気でファンキーでした。

DJ: ニューヨークでの初めてのギグはどんな感じでしたか?

SO: ニュースクール大学に在学中、イスラエルから来てたベース、コネチカット出身のドラム、そして僕がピアノという3人でセントマークスにあるコリアンレストランで、ジャズ好きの経営者に誘われてトリオで演奏しました。これが最初のギグです。そのとき近所にあったコリアンスーパーでチップを投げてもらう入れ物を買ったのですが、それが小さな一人用のご飯を
炊く釜だったのです。その釜は最近までずっとご飯を炊くのに使っていました。つい最近割れてしまったのですが、思い出の品でした。

DJ: あなたがここにきてから、ニューヨークの音楽シーンはどのように変わりましたか?

SO: 最近ではライブハウスがだいぶ少なくなり、観光客がたくさん来る有名なベニューとローカルの人々が集う場所という二極化が進んでいました。ホテルのロビーのラウンジなどで演奏するジャズなども少なくなり、街からどんどん音が消えていくのが寂しかったのですが、皮肉な事にこのパンデミックでライブハウスが閉まったことで街のあちこちで音楽が復活しつつあります。ソロやバンド、ビッグバンドも街角で演奏しています。ライブハウスはクローズしたまま、イベントは全て中止となり、ミュージシャンも失業保険に頼らずえない、生活は僕も苦しいですが音楽は楽しい。それが最近の音楽事情です。

DJ: 音楽的に東京とニューヨークはどんな違いがありますか?オーディエンスも違いますか?

SO: 東京はなんでもあるし、世界中から演奏家もやってくる巨大なマーケットで、NYと比べて負けてない感じです。ただNYはオペラやバレエ、そしてジャズもクラシックもそうですが、シャンパンを飲みながら安い値段の席でも日常感覚で音楽を楽しめるので東京もそうなればいいなあと願ってます。東京の観客はルールを守って場の空気を読む人が多く、マナーやお行儀がとてもいいと思います。NYはとにかく「自分が楽しむ」ために音楽を聴きに来るので、観客は大変に能動的です。どちらがいいかというと僕はNYの方がやりやすいです。乗せられやすいタイプなので、観客の声援や反応が大きいとつい普段以上に張り切って演奏してしまいます。

DJ: 音楽的なインピレーションを誰から受けていますか?

SO: セロニアスモンク、ビルエバンス、バートバカラック、ハービーハンコック、アントニオカルロスジョビン、ラベル、バック、、、、。

DJ: もし、演奏したり作曲などしていなければ、何をしていたと思いますか?

SO: 60歳なので会社勤めをしていればそろそろ引退の年です。しかし毎日同じ時間に会社に行って帰る生活に適していない性格なので、音楽以外だと時間や日々のスケジュールを自分で組み立てて柔軟な時間割で働ける職業に就いていたでしょう。例えば、、、不動産とか。

#DFNYFocus On: Carol Bodie

The DFNY Focus is a five question survey for film makers/lovers about what kinds of films stay with them and why. Today we talk with Talent Agent/Manager Carol Bodie.



 

DFNY: What is a film that you love that might surprise people who know you?
CB: People would be surprised that I love to dance…so, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, because I became obsessed with dancing (and Danskin bodysuits) after seeing that movie.  It gave guys my age permission to dance and Travolta made it “cool” to dance which was fun for me as a teenager.

DFNY: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, to appear in a “Dream Flick” together, which two would it be, and what kind of film?
CB:  A young Daniel Day Lewis and a young Jessica Lange in an epic love story.


DFNY: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
CB: I love mob movies, because my father would take me to opening night of any Scorsese film or Godfather movie when I was a kid… no matter how age-inappropriate! My favorite being CASINO, because DeNiro and Sharon Stone remind me so much of my parents, they had a similar dynamic and style.
I also love tearjerkers and love to cry during a movie.  I’ve probably watched TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and LOVE STORY a million times.


DFNY: If you could have one prop from any film, what would it be?
CB:  ARTWORK.  I love set design and art in movies…so any painting from POLLOCK or BASQUIAT…or Willem Dafoe’s paintings in ETERNITY’S GATE.
There’s a great Alex Katz painting in Meryl Streep’s house in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA that I would love!


DFNY: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
CB: I hate rape scenes or any abuse of animals.

‐————————————————————–

Carol Bodie was a talent agent for many years and transitioned into her own management/production company, art2perform, a few years ago.

art2perform website:

Listening To Springsteen In Japan

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(Blinded By The Light – Warner Bros. Pictures/ New Line Cinema /Entertainment One)

I was lucky to catch the film Blinded by the Light at the Tokyo International Film Festival at the last minute (thank you Naozo!).  Director Gurinder Chadha’s film captures the experiences of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor growing up as a young Pakistani immigrant in England in the 1980’s and is based on Manzoor’s memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll. 

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(The Boss with journalist Sarfraz Manzoor)

It was interesting to me as an American who had grown up listening to Springsteen’s music to see how much of an impact it had on a young man from a different country and culture, struggling in his adopted country, while I was watching the film in a THIRD country (Japan) going through my own challenges living in a different country.

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(Bruce with director Gurinder Chadha)

I wasn’t a hardcore Springsteen fan per se (I was actually a David Bowie fan, which led to some memorable battles in the sixth grade!), but growing up in the Tri-State area in the early 1980’s, it was hard NOT to listen to The Boss.  In fact, I’m not sure exactly when I first heard Bruce’s music, but at my upstate New York summer camp, they played Born to Run on repeat over the loudspeakers so many times that it feels like that album is the soundtrack to my early childhood.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1987 (coincidentally the same year that Manzoor’s memoir and film are set in) and I was having very similar experiences as him (the pains of young love, wondering where life would take me, and a desire to be somewhere else) that I began to listen to a ton of Springsteen while driving alone at night – specifically Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, and of course, Born To Run.

Now listening to Springsteen in Japan (again on repeat, but now on Spotify!), I’m mentally brought back from here to a very different time and place, and realizing just how much his music captures the essence of the American spirit – a desire for exploration and aspirations for a better life while also being tinged with the difficulties of life and the struggles that so many go through.

From driving in a car as a teenager to flying halfway around the world in a jet airplane thirty-plus years later, I’m finally realizing that I truly was born to run, and looking forward to seeing where the (thunder?) road takes me next!

Blinded by the Light Wikipedia Entry:

 

Kawaii Halloween At Kawaii Monster Cafe In Harajuku

Kawaii Halloween!

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What better way can there be to celebrate Halloween in Tokyo than at a place that literally has the word MONSTER in the name?  Harajuku’s most surreal gathering spot, the Kawaii Monster Cafe (designed by local artist Sebastian Masuda, the “Kawaii King”), is like a trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory after it having had all its candy-making machines set to KAWAII!

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While it can seem like it’s Halloween everyday in Harajuku with its legions of Kawaii culture adherents and fans of dressing up in colorful cosplay outfits, October 31st brings out an even larger than usual number of costumed revelers to the storied area.

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(Pink Warriors’ Dance show set on KMC’s famed giant revolving cake-stage!)

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(Even the food gets in on the colorful act at KMC!)

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(Dessert is as colorful as the rest of KMC!)

The Kawaii Monster Cafe seems to be the natural place for Halloween revelers to gather, whether it’s as the starting point for a late night out, or as a place to spend the night and celebrate with characters like mascot Choppy, Pink Fat Cat and also watch performers like Pink Warriors and Tempura Kids with their colorful costumes that are a perfect fit for Halloween!

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(Checking out Choppy & Pink Fat Cat)

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With its guests wearing a mix of costumes both kawaii (cute) and kowai (scary), the Kawaii Monster Cafe is the must-go-to place for any serious Halloween revelers in Tokyo!  Looking forward to seeing how the party grows next year!

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Kawaii Monster Cafe is located at:
4-31-10 Jingumae
4F YM Square Bldg
Shibuya 150-0001

Tel +81-3-5413-6142

KMC Website:

Kawagoe – Memories Of A Distant Japan

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Getting off the train at Kawagoe Station, it at first feels like any of the dozens (if not hundreds) of similar areas scattered throughout the Tokyo metropolitan area.  The usual assortment of shops, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants give way to an even larger mix of stores, pachinko parlors, and karaoke bars as one makes the fifteen-minute or so walk towards the Kurazukuri historical area that is separated from the station not just by distance, but seemingly by time.

Approaching the older part of the city, it’s immediately striking to see the black-tinged buildings that hint at previous encounters with damaging fires that were apparently held at bay by the local builder’s historical expertise at building structures with multiple layers of clay to help defend from fire damage.  Looking up at most of the remaining buildings, one can see the unique interlocking structures of massive window shutters that were designed to be shut to an almost paper’s-width thickness to block out fire.

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But it’s hard to imagine such conflagrations on a beautiful October day walking along the central Chuo street with hundreds of other visitors to a city that has retained all the charms of a time long past.

An interesting feature of Kawagoe shops is that many have retained the old sign-boards of prior businesses, so you might find a clothing store with a sign for an old knife-maker in front, or an ice-cream shop that was previously a rice seller, etc.

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Speaking of knife-makers, there is one shop, Machikan, with an impressive array of what seem to be razor-sharp tools, knives, and even farming implements.  The young man behind the counter took a break from his work at the whetstone to give an enthusiastic explanation of the hamon (blade patterns) on a beautiful collection of katana and naginata blades that would be at home in any museum.

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The enthusiasm of locals for their culture and history didn’t stop there – I was fortunate to be able to just join a guided tour that had started at the Kawagoe City Art Museum given by a woman with more than enough energy to overcome any tourist’s jetlag.  She possessed an intimate knowledge of the area’s rich history as both an ally and friendly rival to Tokyo.  She mentioned how visitors to Tokyo (then called Edo) were so impressed by the neighboring city’s opulence, returned to Kawagoe, and then had luxurious (but hollow) adornments added to the top of their buldings.

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Additionally, the name Edo for Tokyo, led to Kawagoe becoming known as “Koedo” or “Little Edo” (小江戸)  – a name which seems to have been taken by the current local craft beer, Coedo (but spelled with a “C,” possibly to avoid appearing to have an official connection to the city?).

Further encounters which included a kindly book-binder in another well-preserved building (that had previously been a livestock feed-producer), along with many friendly food vendors, souvenir shop owners, restaurant & ice-cream store workers, led me to believe that there is not one merchant in Kawagoe that does not have both a pride in their city, as well as a friendly spirit that seems to be fading in their neighboring city, Tokyo.

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It seems that for neighboring Tokyo residents, Kawagoe has a very strong attraction.  While Tokyo has remnants of old townscapes that were not successful and have been taken over by new businesses, Kawagoe managed to have similarly old areas develop thriving businesses early on.

The old towns in Tokyo have had their beautiful old buildings mercilessly torn down by large developers and replaced with new buildings that seem to be all of one design, and by doing so, the loss of those towns’ individuality continues.

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I’m curious to find out more about the process of how Kawagoe goes about preserving their classic look while at the same time allowing for new building construction.  In the meantime, it can definitely be said that Kawagoe seems to be a city that’s worth it to residents of Tokyo to take a day and visit, so it must be doubly so for foreign visitors as well!

Koedo-Kawagoe Website:

 

DFNYFocus On: Filmmaker Anna Takayama

ANNA TAKAYAMA was born in New York and raised in Tokyo. Her first short film, Neko Sees All, screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival as part of its Narrative Short Program, “Mixed Emotions,” and made its online debut on Kentucker Audley’s NoBudge.com. She is currently working on her second short film, The Voice Actress, which tells the story of a veteran voice actress living in Tokyo.

Q:   What is a film that you love that might surprise people who know you?
A: “The Brave Little Toaster” (1987). I think about this movie a lot. I love the idea of these banal everyday objects coming to life and going on an adventure looking for their owner. It’s kind of like the original Toy Story.
Q:   If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, to appear in a “Dream Flick” together, which two would it be & what kind of film?
A: Setsuko Hara and Isabelle Huppert in a remake of “Mulholland Drive” (but set in Cinecitta like in “Contempt”)
Q:  Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
A: “Stranger than Paradise”. My mom told me she skipped school one day to go see this film on repeat at a (now defunct) arthouse theater in Tokyo. I think that was probably the first indie arthouse film I ever watched… I also think this film might be one of the reasons why I came to NY.
Q: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?
A: Flubber. Hands down.
Q: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
A: Hmm… maybe military films. And films that show kids and animals being harmed.
#TheVoiceActress Kickstarter Campaign Is Live:

 

 

DFNYFocus On: Le Cinéma (@lecinema_)

Le Cinéma Can Also Be Found At Instagram, Posting “Pictures Of Films We Love” – Thank You For Your #DFNYFocus!

https://www.instagram.com/lecinemaig/

Q: What is a film that you love that might surprise people who know you?

A: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I used to love Jim Carrey and this film so much when I was a child and I still watch it from time to time. It brings me happy memories.

Q: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, to appear in a “Dream Flick” together, which two would it be & what kind of film?

A: I would have loved to see a volcanic Anna Magnani and a cerebral Isabelle Huppert in a Pedro Almodóvar film.
Q: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?

A: It may sound cliché, but ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ changed my vision of cinema. I was 16 and I had never seen something as mesmerizing, as visually beautiful. It blew me away and still does.
Q: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?

A: The winged puppet from La double vie de Véronique.
Q: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
A: Animal cruelty.

DFNYFocus On: Independent Filmmaker Jason Charnick

Jason Charnick is a Bronx-born, Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker. Starting his career in 1999, he has worked in post-production, writing and directing his own independent shorts 5:19 TO MOLINA and CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR, and now faces his family’s past and his own future by presenting his debut feature, the personal documentary, GETTING OVER.

DFNY: Which film do you love that might surprise people?
JC: It’s no surprise if you’ve known me for a while, but considering I’m a documentary filmmaker, it might surprise people to hear how much I’m still addicted to National Lampoon’s Vacation. The trials and tribulations of the Griswold family has been a personal favorite for over 30 years now. I can recite from memory BOTH the R-rated and the TV edit of Clark’s car meltdown!

DFNY: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, which two would it be & what kind of film?
JC: Oooh, good one… if I took some extra time to really think about it and go deep into the vault, I’m sure I could think of some crazy combinations, but off the top of my head let’s keep the comedy aspect rolling, and go with Gilda Radner and Chris Farley. That would have the potential to be the funniest movie ever!

DFNY: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
JC: Yet another question that I’m having a tough time narrowing down… I see what you’re doing here! I’m gonna take the easy way out and pick two! The first would be Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Yes, it’s almost a cliche mob movie at this point, but imagine a 15 year old year kid, sitting in the third row of the theater, looking up at this monstrous screen watching how Scorsese moves the camera around like the master that he is. It was the first movie that really broke through to me, and showed me the art form of motion pictures, rather than just something the family did on the weekends. The second would be Clerks. Less than three years after Goodfellas taught me how film can be art, Clerks taught me that I myself could be involved in making movies as a career. Growing up, the movies were always something other people did on such a grand scale, and Clerks was so gritty and homegrown, that it sparked a love of independent film that still burns in me to this day!

DFNY: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?
JC: It’s funny… I collect autographs, and much of my collection are from famous filmmakers, but I never considered collecting movie props. But if I were to dive into that ocean, and nothing was off limits, I’d probably want that snow globe from Citizen Kane. Another cliche, yes, but Orson Welles is the original independent film icon, and I’m in a Welles state of mind lately with his last film and the new doc about it airing on Netflix right now.

DFNY: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
JC: Very little is off limits in its entirety, but I’m squeamish, and not really a big fan of the really bloody/gory torture porn movies, or any kind of extensive real life violence. A good horror/thriller is always solid though, but blood for blood’s sake… no thanks. Also, anything that would deny the holocaust is an immediate dealbreaker.

 

Official website of GETTING OVER, an independent feature-length documentary by Jason Charnick about his father Ray, a hardcore heroin & cocaine addict and petty criminal who passed away from complications due to AIDS in 1997. Now available in stores on DVD & Blu-ray, and online on all streaming platforms. 

On My Introduction to Japan & Japanese Culture Via “Budo”

Image result for budo the art of killing

My earliest exposure to Japan and Japanese culture was my study of Judo at the age of eleven.  I’m honestly still not sure why I was drawn to it, I was never an athletic kid, and even during little league play, I was happy to sit and read a comic book out in left field as no one would ever reach out there.

But for some reason, I can still remember that when choosing among my elementary school’s weekend activities, the “gentle art” of Japanese self-defense just jumped out at me.  Perhaps it was because I had just moved to a new school, and was definitely feeling like an outsider.

I remember taking to it instinctively, and even now after almost 20 years of studying the Japanese language, when counting numbers, I still remember the memorization trick my first teacher gave me for counting “1,2,3,4” (ichi, ni, san, shi) – “You have an “itchy knee”, and the “sun” is what “she” is looking at”.

I loved it – the techniques were actually fun to learn, and I enjoyed the training a lot.  I’m sure my parents were surprised when this quiet, comic book-reading skinny little kid said he wanted to register to go to the Bronx for a Judo tournament.  And upon arriving there, they were definitely relieved to hear over the loudspeakers “no chokes for kids under 13”.  I don’t remember how I did, but it was an eye-opening entry to another world.

Not many of my friends knew that I was practicing Judo, but it definitely came in handy on the playground a few times – and its ability to be effective without pain definitely appealed to me.  After I got too old for the junior high school program, I took a couple of years off, but then, after seeing the film The Karate Kid (about another “new kid in town”) my interest in Japanese martial arts was reignited, and within a few days I was in a Karate dojo making LOTS of use of my “itchy, knee, sun, she” counting practice!

The dojo became my second home.  At one point, I was there 5-6 days a week while training for my black belt test.  My Sensei (teacher) became like a second father to me, and he loaned me a videotape that would come to have great significance to me many years later.  It was called Budo, and was a combination history/demonstration of most of the major Japanese martial arts, several of which I would end up studying over the next few decades.  When I finally arrived in Tokyo to study Yoshinkan Aikido, I would look around in amazement that this school was the same system and instructors (albeit in a new location) that was highlighted in that old videotape which I had first seen so long before (and watched dozens of times since then).

In addition to Judo, Karate and Aikido, my study of Japanese Budo (martial arts) over the years has included Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Kenjutsu as well as Kendo.  This intense introduction has given me a deep appreciation and respect for Japanese culture, and ironically a big part of it was thanks to a film of the same name (Budo).  That film also has a symbolic meaning as an example of another art form that is of great importance to me – cinema.  My love of film inspired me to start writing about it via Twitter and this blog, and I’m hoping that via film I can help bridge some of the cultural gap that exists between Japan and the west, whether it is via introducing Japanese films to a western audience, or explaining some of the nuance of western films to a Japanese audience.

In that sense, the film Budo might have been the most significant film I’ve ever seen – hopefully somewhere down the road, someone who’s reading this will be similarly inspired to pursue something they love – but hopefully one that’s a lot less painful! 🙂

Budo – Full Fim at Youtube

(Image courtesy Mondo Digital)