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Japan Picks ‘Passage’ as Oscar Pic

Quirky tug of love drama involves dictionary maker, sexy chef

TOKYO — Japan has picked Ishii Yuya’s quirky drama “The Great Passage” (Fune o Amu) as its contender for the foreign-language Academy Awards race.

It stars Matsuda Ryuhei as a nerdy bookworm who works diligently at his dream job — editing a dictionary — while awkwardly wooing his landlady’s granddaughter (Miyazaki Aoi).

The film had its world premiere at the Hong Kong International Film and was released by Shochiku in Japan on April 13. Shochiku is also selling the film internationally.

Based on a best-selling novel by Shiwon Miura, “The Great Passage” has since been snapped up by other foreign fests, propelled by the “cult” label director Ishii earned from such high-profile dramadies as ”Sawako Decides” and “Mitsuko Delivers.” “The Great Passage,” is by comparison quieter, gentler and more mass audience friendly, finishing its long theatrical run just short the $10 million mark considered the measure of a commercial BO hit in Japan.

Japanese films have a strong track record at the Oscars. They won honorary awards for three successive years in 1951-53, won the foreign-language award in 2008 with “ Departures,” received a further 11 unsuccessful nominations and saw 2010 film “Confessions” make the January short list.

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