‘Pacchigi!’ tops Japan critics poll

Izutsu's love pic woos crix

Kazuyuki Izutsu’s “Pacchigi!,” a rough-and-tumble Romeo-and-Juliet romance set in 1960s Kyoto, has topped the 2005 Kinema Junpo magazine Best 10 critics poll, the oldest and most prestigious award of its kind in Japan. Top foreign film was “Million Dollar Baby.”

Other Japanese films in the Best 10 are, in order, “Always,” “The Milkwoman,” “Maison de Himiko,” “A Stranger of Mine,” “Linda Linda Linda,” “Canary,” “Yamato: The Last Battle,” “Hanging Garden” and “Whispering of the Gods.”

Izutsu won the director prize for “Pacchigi!,” and Kenji Uchida took the screenplay award for “A Stranger of Mine.” Yuko Tanaka (“The Milkwoman”) won for actress and Joe Odagiri (“Maison de Himiko”) for actor, while Hiroko Yakushimaru and Shinichi Tsutsumi drew supporting actress and actor nods, respectively, for their work in “Always.”

New thesp prizes went to Erika Sawajiri (“Pacchigi!”) and Takuya Ishida (“Semi Shigure”).

The biggest of the Best 10 at the box office so far is “Always,” which has grossed ¥2.87 billion ($25 million) after two months in release and is still playing on 173 screens. Helmed by CGI whiz Takashi Yamazaki, the film is a startlingly realistic re-creation of a Tokyo downtown neighborhood circa 1958. It also has scooped 13 nominations for the Japan Academy Awards, including picture and director plus tech prizes.

Close behind is “Yamato,” a WW II drama that has passed the 2 million admissions mark while raking in $22 million since opening Dec. 17.

Founded in 1919, Kinema Junpo is Japan’s oldest film magazine, and its annual Best 10 prizes carry considerable weight with both critics and fans.

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