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Itami rolls 10th project

TOKYO — Top Japanese director Juzo Itami, helmer of films such as “Tampopo” and “Ososhiki” (The Funeral), has started filming his 10th movie, “Marutai no Onna,” which is scheduled for a Sept. 27 release, a spokesman for Toho Inc. said.

The new film is about an actress who witnesses a murder and is then threatened by members of a religious cult who committed the crime. She is placed in a witness-protection program. The film’s title can be translated as “a woman protected by the police” (“Marutai” is a term used by police for a person put under round-the-clock surveillance).

The project stars Nobuko Miyamoto, Itami’s wife and leading lady for most of his films. She will be supported by a cast that includes many Itami regulars, such as Masahiko Nishimura and Toru Emori.

Itami said the idea for the pic came after he was attacked by Yakuza crime syndicate members following the completion of his movie “Mimbo no Onna,” about a woman lawyer who fights for people caught in a Yakuza extortion racket.

The attack by Yakuza thugs left Itami hospitalized for several weeks. “I was given police protection for several months after my attack,” Itami said. “This new movie will be explore the suspense and comedy of being placed in protective custody.”

The film is loosely based on the Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo. Leading cult members have been convicted of the March 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways that left 11 people dead and injured thousands.

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