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star struck

Sweet and sour
Directors and actors from Japan, Taiwan and China join forces for a labor of love
By Chie Masuda

The cast of About Love, from left: Ryo Kase; Taiwanese stars Mavis Fan and Bo-lin Chen; Misaki Ito; Takashi Tsukamoto; and Chinese actress Xiaolu Li

Although the political situation among China, Taiwan and Japan has been tense recently, the three seem to be communicating well at the cultural level. A good example is the film About Love, a collaborative effort between directors and six young actors and actresses from the three regions. About Love focuses on relationships between three couples who speak different languages and come from different cultural backgrounds. Set in Tokyo, Taipei and Shanghai, About Love consists of three stories that each concerns a student studying abroad who falls in love with a local. The trio of directors—Japan’s Ten Shimoyama, Taiwan’s Chih-yen Yee and Yibai Zhang from China—explore intercultural relationships in their own style using the city as almost another character in the scenes.

“Shanghai is usually depicted as a developed and futuristic city,” said Zhang, who directs the Shanghai segment, “but I wanted to express a quiet, simple love story that was in contrast to the big, noisy city.” His episode stars Xiaolu Li, who is well-known for her movie and soap opera roles in China as well as commercials in South Korea. She plays a high school girl named Yun who is attracted to Shuhei, a Japanese student played by Takashi Tsukamoto. She tries wooing him in Japanese, Chinese and even Spanish (in the Shanghai version), but Shuhei is oblivious to her advances because he still pines for his girlfriend, whom he left behind in Japan. The multilingual Xiaolu joked that the Japanese phrase she used the most on set was “Onaka hetteru?” (“Are you hungry?”) because Tsukamoto seemed to be hungry all the time during filming.

For the Taipei story, director Yee chose Taiwanese singer-actress Mavis Fan (who sold 20 million albums when she was 17) as the protagonist A-Su. She starts dating a Japanese guy named Tetchan (Ryo Kase) to forget her loneliness after being dumped by her boyfriend. A-Su calls up Tetchan, who only speaks a little Chinese, for help. Although it is the middle of the night, he speeds over on his motorcycle, hoping for a one-night stand—only to find out that A-Su wants him to help make a bookshelf. “The most difficult thing in making this movie was to do love scenes with Ryo Kase only two days after we met,” Fan cooed.

In the third story, set in Tokyo, Taiwanese actor Bo-lin Chen plays Yao, a student in Japan who dreams of becoming a successful digital cartoonist. One day in a crowded video shop, Yao is intrigued by a heartbroken young graphic artist named Michiko (Misaki Ito). Ito said she and Chen quickly became good friends and that filming in Shibuya was the toughest part of their episode. “There are always so many people at the intersection in Shibuya, so we had to shoot either very early in the morning or late at night,” said the 28-year-old actress.


 

Q&A


Tyler Whisnand
Cult Adman Has His Eye on Tokyo
photos Courtesy of KesselsKramer

From its website, KesselsKramer looks like a DIY electronics company. Or a vending machine maker. Or a tropical bird sanctuary. Or a clothes hanger supplier. Or whatever pops up the next time you hit your browser’s reload button. In fact, KesselsKramer is one of the most outlandish ad agencies on the planet.

Founded in 1996 by Erik Kessels, Johan Kramer and Tyler Whisnand, KesselsKramer occupies an office in a converted Amsterdam church that includes an oversized Baywatch lifeguard tower and a miniature Russian fort.

Why are you in Tokyo?
We’re launching our book, 2 kilo of KesselsKramer.

It looks like a brick.
That’s the point. The idea came from the two Ks in KesselsKramer...2k is 2 kilos, so we made the book weigh exactly that. And it looks like a brick.

But why Tokyo, and not Amsterdam?
The idea for the book came from the Japanese publisher, Pie Books. There’s high recognition of our kind of work in Japan.

What projects have you done here?
This year, the MTV Japan Music Awards Eye Doll hunt. We hid dolls around Tokyo, and gave people clues on the air and via their mobile phones. Anyone who found a doll could go to the awards ceremony.

Are you looking for more clients in Japan?
We would love to work more here, but we have a lot of respect for the different way they do things, so we’re in no hurry.

How do you balance ethics and advertising?
We do nonprofit work all the time that we learn from and feed into jobs for our clients. Branding Ben Mobile in Holland, we created a top-to-bottom philosophy—including things like human resources—that should make the company behave itself. We branded Ben as a person, not a business.

Tell us about some of your other favorite projects.
The Hotel Hell website (www.hans-brinker.com) for the Hans Brinker budget hotel was one. Another was staging “The Other World Cup” between the two worst football teams in the world on the day of the World Cup final in Japan in 2002. Bhutan beat Montserrat 4-0. 2kilo of KesselsKramer will be released in October. www.kesselskramer.com AV

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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