LOS ANGELES -- The Japan Film Society launched the LA EigaFest  ("eiga" means "film" in Japanese) to showcase the country's best new films and filmmakers. Over the last two decades, the American Cinematheque has presented many fine Japanese films, and we are thrilled to bring the LA EigaFest to the Egyptian in December!
Opening the festival is the Japanese summer blockbuster KENSHIN, based on the best-selling manga about a samurai whose vow never to kill again comes under increasing challenges. Samurai are called upon to defend a remote stronghold against a warlord's enormous army in THE FLOATING CASTLE. In the dark satire HELTER SKELTER, Erika Sawajiri falls apart - literally - as the plastic surgery used to transform her into a superstar model begins to fail. The latest animated film from Studio Ghibli disciple Mamoru Hosoda, WOLF CHILDREN follows a brother and sister whose monthly transformation into wolves brings the ire of townspeople. In THERMAE ROMAE, a time portal connects a bathhouse in ancient Rome to one in modern Tokyo, to amusing effect.
In addition to the feature films co-presented by the American Cinematheque there are additional films and panels. Full programming schedule can be viewed here .
The 2012 LA EigaFest is presented by Japan Film Society in conjunction with the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre. All films are in Japanese with English subtitles.
Friday, December 14 - 7:30 PM -- SOLD OUT! THIS OPENING NIGHT SCREENING IS NOW SOLD OUT! TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR THE REMAINING SCREENINGS.
Los Angeles Premiere! KENSHIN (RURONI KENSHIN: MEIJI KENKAKU ROMAN TAN), 2012, Warner Bros. Japan, 134 min. Dir. Keishi Ohtomo. In this live action film based on the best-selling manga, Takeru Sato stars as the deadly but gentle samurai Kenshin Himura - a warrior whose swordsmanship is unrivaled. To atone for his past as the nation's most notorious government assassin Kenshin has vowed never to kill his opponents. With the gruesome transition to the Meiji Era complete, Kenshin wanders Japan, eventually meeting the fierce Kaoru (Emi Takei), a teacher at a Tokyo school for swordsmanship. When Kaoru's dojo is overrun by an industrialist whose henchman begins a killing spree, Kenshin begins to question his vow - as well as the reformation that he once murdered for. Full of fast-paced swordplay, over-the-top-acting and contemporary stylistic flourishes, KENSHIN is a modern take on the period swashbuckler that fans of the manga and anime won't want to miss. In Japanese with English subtitles. Discussion following the film with director Keishi Ohtomo. Opening night reception following for all ticket holders
Saturday, December 15 - 7:30 PM
Los Angeles Premiere! HELTER SKELTER (HERUTA SUKERUTA), 2012, Asmik Ace, 127 min. Dir. Mika Ninagawa. Lilico (Erika Sawajiri) is Japan's top model and the envy of every high school girl across the country. She is also, with the exception of her fingernails and a couple other parts, entirely fake. Created with the most advanced plastic surgery methods organized by her savvy and manipulating manager (Kaori Momoi), Lilico is a star on the verge of elite status. But as her own manufactured body deteriorates, she lashes out at and torments her social circle, particularly her infatuated assistant (Shinobu Terajima). When a philosophical prosecutor (Nao Omori) begins to collect evidence of medical malpractice stemming from the grisly suicides of models whose bodies have been destroyed by similar surgeries, Lilico's life starts to unravel in spectacular fashion. Based on Kyoko Okazaki's eponymous award-winning manga (2004 Grand Winner of the Tezuka Osama Cultural Prize), HELTER SKELTER has the bright sets and colorful palette of Ninagawa's SAKURAN, with some kinky sex and macabre violence thrown in for good measure. As a kinetic look at celebrity culture and the fashion industry, the mix of black humor and gaudy melodrama makes for a satire that is appropriately in-your-face. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Los Angeles Premiere! THERMAE ROMAE (TERUMAE ROMAE), 2012, Pony Canyon, 108 min. Dir. Hideki Takeuchi. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither were its baths. Lucius (Hiroshi Abe) is a bathhouse architect in 2nd-century Rome. Having difficulty coming up with a design that will please Emperor Hadrianus (Masachika Ichimura), he comes across a time-travel portal while unwinding in one of his bathhouses. Lucius is promptly whisked away to a bathhouse in present-day Tokyo, where he marvels at the modern bath culture of the Japanese. Taking ideas and inspiration from the showers, saunas, hot springs, Jacuzzis and fruity milk bottles of contemporary Japan, he goes back to ancient Rome and revolutionizes bathhouse design, gaining the favor of the emperor and citizenry in the process. But as Lucius goes back and forth between Rome and Japan, he gets caught up in the lives of suffering manga artist Mami (Aya Ueto), as well as his own emperor, who has become the victim of a widespread conspiracy to overthrow him. Filmed in part at Rome's Cinecitta Studio and based on Mari Yamazaki's popular manga series, THERMAE ROMAE is a fun and funny dedication to the Japanese obsession with cleanliness, bolstered by a pitch-perfect comedic performance by Abe as the wet and naked Roman architect. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Discussion between films with HELTER SKELTER director Mika Ninagawa.
Sunday, December 16 - 6:00 PM
Los Angeles Premiere! WOLF CHILDREN
(OKAMI KODOMO NO AME TO YUKI), 2012, Nippon Televsion, 117 min. Dir. Mamoru Hosoda. Hana notices a mysterious older man auditing one of her classes, and before long, the two begin dating. When she falls in love with him, he confesses that he is a descendent of an ancient tribe of wolfmen, who have the ability to alternate between human and wolf form. Hana does not bat an eye, and the two begin a lengthy romance that produces daughter Yuki and son Ame, who behave more like pets than people. A tragedy leaves Hana alone to care, as best she can, for her two kids who also exhibit furry tendencies. As young Yuki and Ame grow older, they must grapple with what they want to be: civilized human beings or the wild animals within. WOLF CHILDREN is the latest film from Hosoda (GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME, SUMMER WARS), a protégé of the historic Toei Animation and the Hayao Miyazaki-led Studio Ghibli; many are calling him Japan's next great animation master. But while WOLF CHILDREN exhibits amazing attention to detail and movement in its animation, it is no mere imitation of previous masters, as it displays a wry sense of humor, a mature view of romance and a deeply moving portrayal of siblings who transform - literally and figuratively - before our very eyes. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Los Angeles Premiere! THE FLOATING CASTLE
(NOBO NO SHIRO), 2012, TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System), 146 min. Dirs. Shinji Higuchi, Isshin Inudo. In 1590, powerful warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Masachika Ichimura) seeks to unify all of Japan under his rule. One of the last holdouts is Oshi Castle - often referred to as the Floating Castle - which is surrounded by an enormous lake. Hideyoshi sends his right-hand man, General Ishida (Yusuke Kamiji), and 20,000 soldiers to take the castle, which is defended by only 500 men. The death of his father leaves control of the castle with Narita Nagachika (a bravura Mansai Nomura), but the clumsy child king fails to gather the support of any of the other samurai except childhood friend Tanba (Koichi Sato). But Nagachika refuses to acquiesce to Hideyoshi's army, and through a mix of self-deprecating humor and unconventional tactics, he is slowly able to connect with the people and fight alongside the hardened samurai who once doubted him. Half David-and-Goliath, against-all-odds jidaigeki and half broad slapstick comedy, FLOATING CASTLE pays tribute to films like Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI (or even 300) while also being cheeky enough in its homage to have fun with its character archetypes. While the film packs in the action and laughs (especially from Nomura's wild antics), there is also a rather stunning flood sequence that was the cause of an 18-month delay to the theatrical release. When viewed in light of the tragedy of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it makes for one of the most somber and powerful scenes in Japanese cinema this year. In Japanese with English subtitles.
In addition to these five features presented in the Egyptian's Rigler Theatre -- all of them Los Angeles premieres! Visit LAEigaFest.com  for more programs screening throughout the weekend in the Egyptian's Spielberg Theatre.
Source: The American Cinematheque