Tokyo pic fest bows with Besson opus

'Joan' leads event, Kurosawa's 'Rain,' 'Godzilla' follow

TOKYO — Director Luc Besson and actress Faye Dunaway were on hand as “Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” opened the 12th edition of the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival.

In all, 144 films will be unspooled, with 16 vying for top honors at the largest film festival in Asia, which runs through Sunday.

Czech director Karel Reisz heads the international jury and promised that the selection process would result in an “honest prize” for the best films and performances.

The budget for this year’s fest is 400 million yen ($3.8 million), the same amount as last year, when it was reduced by 150 million yen due to government cuts and difficulties in getting sponsor support.

The lineup for this year’s fest lacks some of the firepower of previous years. Special screenings do include, however, one of the first glimpses of the newest (and decidedly low-tech) Godzilla movie from Toho, “Godzilla 2000: Millennium,” and a new movie made from a screenplay by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, “Ame Agaru” (After the Rain), which premiered at the Venice Intl. Film Festival this summer.

Among the films in competition for the Grand Prix are Martha Fiennes’ “Onegin”; “Twin Falls Idaho,” from Michael Polish; French film “Criminal Lovers,” from director Francois Ozon; and “Darkness and Light,” from Taiwan’s Chang Tso-Chi.

There are also awards given in the young directors category as well as an Asian film directors prize.

Disney will close the show with a special screening of its animated feature “Tarzan,” with pop star Phil Collins, who wrote the songs for the animated feature, scheduled to attend.

A new wrinkle will be the Tokyo Film Creators’ Forum, which seeks to find co-financing and co-production partners for movie projects from Japan and other Asian countries.