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Pic rewrites WWII history

Toho to release nationalistic 'Lorelei' wide in March

TOKYO — Nine months of production and a budget of ¥1.2 billion ($11.5 million, generous by Japanese standards) later, Japan’s take on a WWII U-boat saga premiered at a lavish publicity event in Tokyo last week, complete with a giant U-boat model.

“Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean” is being prepped for a wide Toho release in March. But observers wonder if auds will buy the far-fetched story of a submarine chasing after the B29 Bomber that took off from Tinian island in August 1945 to drop a third atomic bomb on Japan, this time on Tokyo.

“Lorelei” was originally conceived by writer Harutoshi Fukui in his bestselling adventure “Lorelei of the End of the War” published in late 2002. The novel won several awards. Filmed almost entirely on a soundstage at Toho studios in Tokyo, “Lorelei” depends extensively on special effects, which some critics called “too obvious.”

In a typically nationalist ending, a U-boat guns down the threatening bomber as it lifts off from the tiny Pacific island, after creating havoc among the overwhelming U.S. fleet ready to obliterate the underwater intruder.

Skywalker Sound was used to mix sound.

“There are few war movies in Japan these days, so it was exciting to have this opportunity,” says lead actor Koji Yakusho (“Shall We Dance?”). “It’s not so much about nationalism, but about patriotism and about deciding the important matters in life.”

Yakusho, who is a huge box- office draw in Japan, joined the Tokyo premiere during a break in shooting “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Toho Intl., which handles exports, faces the biggest hurdles. Sales to the rest of Asia could be problematic because of the nationalistic overtones, which are anathema in South Korea and China, and Western interest might also be limited.

“Lorelei” screens at the Berlin fest’s European Film Market.

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