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TIFFCOM: Nikkatsu’s ‘Roman Porno’ Package Finds Reboot Success

TOKYO — Good things can come in small packages — especially if that package is five films in Nikkatsu’s reboot of its famed Roman Porno series.

At their peak in the 1970s and 1980s, these softcore films, made with the resources of a major studio, if one hit hard by the rise of television in Japan, were training grounds and proving grounds for directors later recognized as major talents. One, Yojiro Takita, went on to collect an Academy Award for his 2008 best foreign language film “Departures.”

The reboot films were made under much the same conditions as the originals — low budgets, tight shooting schedules and bed scenes scattered through, but the directors were already well known in Japan and the world at large.

Nikkatsu has found this to be winning combination with foreign festivals.  Akihito Shiota’s “Wet Woman in the Wind” was premiered at Locarno this year and since been invited to seven festivals, with more on the way. “The Locarno invitation has helped make it our most popular (reboot film),” says Nikkatsu international sales manager Mami Furukawa.

Others scoring multiple festival invites include veteran indie maverick Sion Sono’s “Antiporno,” which has been screened at Sitges and two other festivals to date, and Isao Yukisada’s “Aroused by Gymnopedies,” which was invited to the Busan and Hong Kong Asian film fests. Isao was this week at the Tokyo Film Festival as part of the “Asian Three Way Mirror” project and as a recipient of one of the APN awards.

“We still don’t know how well they’ll do theatrically,” said Furukawa. “We’re releasing one a month, staring in November with ‘Aroused.'” But PR in Japan is not lacking. An event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan this fall, with all five directors present, drew a full house and wide coverage. “That was a great launching pad for us,” said Furukawa. And of course the bed scenes had nothing to do with it.

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