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‘Welcome Back, Tora-San’ Set as Tokyo Film Festival Opener

“Welcome Back, Tora-san,” by veteran director Yoji Yamada, has been set as the opening title of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The title is a 50th anniversary instalment in the long-running “It’s Tough Being a Man” film franchise.

The “It’s Tough Being a Man” (aka “Otoko wa Tsurai yo”) films follow the travels of a kind-hearted vagabond, Torajiro Kuruma (aka Tora-san) who is always unlucky in love. Each film features a different leading lady, called a Madonna, and a different region of Japan.

There were 49 previous “Tora-san” movies, with the last appearing in 1995. “It was always very exciting to anticipate the latest work in this series every summer and New Year holiday. The ‘Tora-san’ series was a nationwide favorite, and looking back, it also captures the history of popular actresses in Japan,” said Tokyo festival director Takeo Hisamatsu.

The new film focuses on Tora-san’s nephew Mitsuo, as he meets his first love Izumi after many years. It will star Kiyoshi Atsumi as Tora-san, brought back to vibrant life onscreen long after his death in 1996. It co-stars Chieko Baisho, Gin Maeda, Hidetaka Yoshioka and Kumiko Goto recreating their roles from the long-running film series. It will have its commercial release in Japan on Dec. 27 through distributor Shochiku.

At 87, Yamada is one of Japan’s oldest working film directors. He was responsible for writing and directing most of the previous “Tora-san” movies. In latter years he is known for “The Twilight Samurai,” “Tokyo Family,” his remake of Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” and three “What A Wonderful Family!” films.

The Tokyo festival will run Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, 2019. This year the TIFFCOM market will be separate, running Oct. 22-24.

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