“The Sun,” Russian helmer Alexandr Sokurov’s drama about Emperor Hirohito in the dying days of World War II, has packed out two theaters in Japan since opening Saturday, despite concerns that right-wing protesters might disrupt screenings.
They fear the portrayal of the emperor by a local comedian undermines Hirohito’s dignity.
Currently screening in Tokyo and Nagoya, pic will roll out to around 20 screens, according to distrib Slow Learner.
“We haven’t set an exact release schedule — we’re still negotiating with theaters — but we’ll reach that number and maybe more,” said Slow Learner’s Michio Koshikawa.
Depicting the emperor onscreen is not taboo. Kabuki actors, considered to have the requisite dignity and bearing, have long cornered the market on playing emperors, including Shichinosuke Nakamura’s turn as Emperor Meiji — Hirohito’s grandfather — in “The Last Samurai.”
Sokurov, however, cast comedian Issey Ogata as Hirohito, a controversial choice that reportedly was kept secret during the shoot to protect Ogata from the wrath of rightists, who still flare up at any perceived slight against Hirohito, who reigned until his death in 1989.
Slow Learner has asked the police to keep an eye on the Tokyo theater where “The Sun” is playing. “We haven’t hired our own guards,” Koshikawa added. “We’ve had a few angry phone calls, but that’s it.”
Rightists have attacked or disrupted theaters in the past, including an incident during the run of “Japanese Devils” (Riben Guizi), a 2001 doc by Minoru Matsui on atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China.