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November 6, 2011

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Concert of Japanese film tunes

Japanese film director Shunji Iwai will come to Shanghai, not to screen a new film, but to perform as the pianist in a concert of theme music from his famous films.

The "Shunji Iwai's Movie Works Concert" will be staged at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center on November 17.

The concert will feature famous theme music from Iwai's "Love Letter" (1995), "All About Lily Chou-Chou" (2001), "Flower and Alice" (2004), "April Story" (1998) and "Vampire" (2011).

Pianist Yui Makino, who has cooperated with Iwai in many of his scores, will be the principal pianist, while Iwai will play some pieces on his own, as well as a duet with Makino.

Video clips will show some of the famous scenes and also tell behind-the-scenes stories about the movies and music creation.

Though Iwai always loved the piano, he received little training and didn't have access to a piano until college when he often slipped into the music room and practiced on his own.

Iwai has said he wants his films to flow like music and knows exactly what kind of music he wants, so he writes most of his own music, including themes for "Vampire," "April Story" and "Flower and Alice."

"The music is all about the feelings that I had while creating the movie," says Iwai. "Just like drawing and shooting movies, composing music is also a way to present the images in my brain."

For "Flower and Alice," the melody just arose in his mind, based on the story. All he had to do was figure out the notes on the keyboard and write them down.

Though proud of his music and films, Iwai is less confident about playing the piano in public and prefers sitting in the audience and listening.

"I have never been professionally taught to play the piano; I have to summon up all my courage for the concert this time," says Iwai.

Iwai and Makino met when Makino was only eight and playing music from "Love Letter" in a recording studio.

"I thought that she was just an ordinary child brought in by a staff member, but when she started playing, I was astonished and realized it was she who played the music in my movie so perfectly," says Iwai.

Iwai asked her to play in his later movies, "All about Lily Chou-chou" and "Flower and Alice."

Iwai had planned to release an album of "All about Lily Chou-chou," together with other two Japanese musicians, since this is the film's 10th anniversary. But the earthquake earlier in the year forced a delay. If the upcoming concert goes well, a musical performance of "All about Lily Chou-chou" may be arranged in China next year.

Iwai is now working on a film about the impact of the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, which occurred in March. It is expected to be completed by next March, the first anniversary.

He says he wants to shoot films in China but does not yet have specific plans. While filming "Swallowtail Butterfly" (1996), he visited Shanghai and was impressed by the landscape.

"Apart from the amazing streets, I think the people are important elements. I think I will set up a folder in my brain when I get the chance to learn more about Shanghai people and their stories - and thus I will be working on my own project," he says.

Date: November 17, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center

Address: 425 Dingxiang Rd

Tickets: 280-1,280 yuan (US$44-200)

Tel: 6217-2426, 6217-3055


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