At last, I’m back from the Locarno Film Festival. Even though anime was only one of several strands, it still saw more incident than several conventions combined across ten-days of multiple screenings and events. There were hundreds of anime on show, including screenings of Summer Wars, Musashi: Dream of the Last Samurai and an open-air screening of Ponyo.
Meanwhile, Isao Takahata and Yoshiyuki Tomino arrived to pick up Golden Leopard Awards; the Pokémon people sent a massive entourage of Pikachu supporters for the new Pokémon movie; Madhouse sent a delegation for the world premiere of Redline; the National Film Centre of Japan’s Museum of Modern Art sent a whole bunch of pre-war anime, including some that I have been waiting ten years to see. Ichiro Itano (that’s him on the right) gave a fascinating three-hour workshop on animation trickery and playing with fireworks, and Katsuhito Ishii and Shunichiro Miki gave a morning presentation on advertising and character design, followed by a lavish lunch in the cloisters of a medieval convent. The Gainax delegation alternated between appearing on their own panels as celebrities, and sneaking into other people’s as audience members to cause trouble.
For my part, I was introducing a giant swathe of well-known anime to an audience that had never seen them before, including, on one memorable occasion, having to explain Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind to 300 squealing French schoolgirls. It was also a rare opportunity to hunt down Italian books on anime – for some reason, Amazon hasn’t quite made it to Italy, but so I had to use low-tech methods to pick up Eleonora Benecchi’s Anime: Cartoni Con L’Anima, the multi-authored Satoshi Kon: Il Cinema Attraverso lo Specchio, and Davide Taro’s Mamoru Oshii: Le Affinita Sotto Il Guscio – those last two given to me by Taro himself. I swapped him for a copy of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis. I was also interviewed on Swiss radio, by a German newspaper, and appeared to have inadvertently edged myself into two Japanese Making-Of documentaries. Quite accidentally (and contrary to form, for I hate interpreting), I also became the interpreter for the Redline delegation so they could understand what the hell William Friedkin was saying as he introduced To Live and Die in LA.
I learned some very interesting gossip about early anime, met some very fascinating people from Sony Germany, and had a fun-packed dinner with the Russian producers of First Squad, the anime that is best described as Alexander Nevsky 2: Attack of the Devil-Worshipping Nazis. I’ve already written up a couple of my experiences, (such as a trip to the pub with Hiroyuki Yamaga, director of Wings of Honneamise) which will be appearing in Neo magazine in a couple of months, and on this blog next year.