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Helen Mirren shows respect to the masters: Ozu, Kurosawa—”Japan has a really wonderful film culture”


©2015 TIFF

Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren’s new film Woman in Gold was screened on October 24 as part of the Special Selection section at the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival. The actress visited Japan for the first time in two years to attend the festival, appearing together with director Simon Curtis to present the film at TOHO CINEMAS Roppongi Hills. They were joined onstage by actor Koji Ishizaka.

Mirren said she enjoyed her walk down the red carpet at the festival’s opening on October 22, and told the audience of her respect for the masters of Japanese cinema. “My husband is a director, and he introduced me to many Japanese films. Thanks to him I’ve seen lots of films from Ozu (Yasujiro), Kurosawa (Akira), and Mizoguchi (Kenji). Japan has a really wonderful film culture.”

In the past Mirren has been nominated for four Academy Awards, and having won the award for Best Actress for her role as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. In Woman in Gold, she plays real-life character Maria Altmann, a woman who battled the Austrian government over the ownership of a portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was seized from her family by the Nazis in World War II. A smiling Mirren said she chose the role because, “Although I receive a lot of offers, not many are for good movies. My actress instinct told me, ‘This role is a good one.”’ She continued more seriously, “On top of that, when I read this story it really hit me in the chest. I was born right after the war, but I wanted to become someone who communicates the sadness of losing your family—with whom you share your memories—or how cruel it feels to lose your identity, to war.”

Mirren, who was selected earlier this month by the UK Mirror as “Most ’empowering’ female in Britain”, said humbly, “I’m not young, and I don’t look that great in the morning.” But she dazzled the audience with her charm, which has only grown with age. “There’s only one reason I want to live a long life. Up till now we’ve created lots of different kinds of technology, and I’m so curious I want to see for myself how far it can go. Perhaps curiosity is the secret to staying young.”

The actress filled the room with energy as she joked with director Curtis and Ishizaka, the smile never leaving her face. Curtis spoke enviously of his daughter, who he said “…was in Japan on an internship up until two months ago. Even though I was the one who had wanted to visit Japan for so long.” Mirren chimed in with an offer that made the audience erupt into laughter. “Today I’m going to bring Mr. Curtis to pachinko! I bet he doesn’t know anything about it!”

The 28th Tokyo International Film Festival runs until October 31. Woman in Gold tells the tale of a trial and Maria Altmann’s beautiful, sad past. It screens at TOHO CINEMAS Chanter and theaters nationwide from November 27.

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KEIRIN.JPThe 28th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
27th Tokyo International Film Festival(2014)