Saturday, July 10, 2010

AAIFF ’10: The Hirosaki Players (short)

It would have been incredible to see Toshiro Mifune on-stage, regardless of the production. In that spirit, a capacity house has turned out to see Kentaro, the famous but cantankerous samurai actor, rather than his son’s pretentious play in Jeff Sousa’s New York-set Japanese language short The Hirosaki Players (trailer here), which screens at the 2010 Asian American International Film Festival.

Though the curtain should be rising any minute, Kentaro and the playwright Tsubasa are still having “creative differences” likely exacerbated by their strained father-son relationship. Kentaro thinks the play is overwritten, whereas Tsubasa attributes the over-the-hill actor’s difficulties to age and attitude. Yet they each have reasons for wanting the New York premiere to be a success.

Last year, AAIFF featured an unusually strong slate of short films and this year’s festival looks like it upholds that tradition. A case in point, Hirosaki is a well-produced, entertaining back-stage drama that might be described as a My Favorite Year inspired by the films of Kurosawa rather than Errol Flynn. It also boasts a convincing cast, particularly leads Ikkô Furuya and Eijiro Ozaki, who play off each other nicely as Kentaro and Tsubasa, respectively. Relatively longish for a short at about twenty minutes, it makes its point without overstaying its welcome.

Smart and classy, Hirosaki is one of the better short films currently on the festival circuit. It screens as part of AAIFF’s Oh Family Where Art Thou? program of shorts this coming Friday (7/16) at the Chelsea Clearview.