TOKYO — After a gap of a decade, Japanese auteur Kohei Oguri (“Muddy River,” “The Sting of Death”) is finally shooting his long-anticipated feature “Foujita.” The film is a biopic of seminal 20th century artist Leonard Foujita (Japanese name: Tsuguharu Foujita), a contemporary of Picasso and Modigliani, who was famous for mixing up European and Japanese styles.
Joe Odagiri (“Real,” “Adrift in Tokyo”), plays the title role, which sees Foujita fall for a European model (Ana Girardot) with exquisite white skin and rename her Yuki (“snow” in Japanese.)
The story sees Foujita evolve from humble origins, become a celebrity in Paris known for painting nearly naked ladies in delicate shades of white, and later returning to Japan where he dramatically changes his style to a classical Velazquez- or Delacroix-inspired drama.
Miki Nakatani also stars as Kimiko, Foujita’s first wife, and the woman with whom he has a lifelong relationship.
The film too is a European-Asian co-venture involving “Amelie” and “Betty Blue” producer Claudie Ossard. The production partners are Ossard’s Eurowide Film Production, K&A Kikaku and Oguri Kohei Office.
Production is now under way with lensing in both France and Japan with French and Japanese dialogue. Odagiri reportedly began intensive French lessons last June to prep for the role.
The pic seems a shoo-in to Cannes, given that Oguri’s drama of a troubled marriage, “The Sting of Death,” won the festival’s Grand Prix in 1990. Also, his last film prior to “Foujita,” the surreal drama “The Buried Forest,” screened in Directors’ Fortnight in 2005.
A simultaneous bow in Japan and France is scheduled, but the release date, sales representatives and distributors have yet to be announced.