Aya Ueto stars in the Japanese film Hirugao: Love Affairs in the Afternoon. Photo FEFF

Listening to …

… the star factor was out in full force as actress Aya Ueto greeted the public before the world premiere of director Hiroshi Nishitani’s romance flick Hirugao: Love Affairs in the Afternoon. In terms of an audience back home, the film is a no-brainer – being derived from an immensely popular TV series and having in its lead Ueto, whose wildly popular marketing campaigns for the likes of Asahi Breweries have lifted her status, as have her appearances in the likes of the box office smash Thermae Romae (2012) which also played in Udine.

Aya Ueto and Takumi Saito at the world premiere of Hirugao: Love Affairs in the Afternoon at the Far East Film Festival. Photo: FEFF

And so, there have been TV crews following Ueto’s every move. The surprising thing is that the actress has – like so many of Asia’s stars before her – been able to have a rare chance to walk around the town of Udine like, well, a mere mortal. The actress admitted that for a while it had been disconcerting.

Aya Ueto and Takumi Saito. Photo: Joshua Lim

“No one has recognized me,” she said before her film, admittedly a soft-focus TV-style drama, had played to a packed house. “It’s been my dream that someone here will call my name or recognize me on the street.”

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Ueto has also carved a career for herself back home as a singer but the distance between her and a rabid fan base in Japan led to an unlikely confession: “I hate singing,” she said. “I can’t say that in Japan. Before any performance I cry a little bit.”

Thinking about …

52Hz, I Love You is a tale of modern love’s rich complexities. Photo: FEFF

… Taiwanese director Wei Te-sheng, who’s brought his musical 52Hz, I Love You to FEFF after a diverse string of hits back home, including the musical drama Cape No 7 and the epic Seediq Bale, which have also won critical acclaim as they toured the world.

Read: Day three of the Far East Film Festival

The film plays FEFF on Wednesday and the director knew he’d be questioned about the genre he’s turned too, given the “rebirth” of musicals heralded by the Oscar and box office success of La La Land. Wei stood proud about both the subject matter – based around Valentine’s Day and a celebration of modern-day love’s rich complexities – and the film itself when asked whether he’d seen La La Land while he was piecing together 52Hz, I Love You.

“I liked it [La La Land],” Wei said. “But I like my film better.”

52Hz, I Love You co-stars Taiwanese indigenous musician Suming (center). Photo: FEFF

Wei said he taken a chance on the genre – a notion fully supported by producer Jimmy Huang who said he’d taken some convincing when presented with the project. “My idea was to make some money,” Huang said. But being a “filmmaker is about taking new journeys.”

Watching …

Yoo Ji-tae (center) of Oldboy fame plays the lead in Split. Photo: FEFF

… with a little bit of awe, to be honest, by the time the credits rolled on South Korean director Choi Kook-hee’s Split. It’s about bowling, but it’s also about friendship and the unlikely bonds we humans make, regardless of the motivations each party might have. The film – let’s just say, think Rain Man meets Kingpin – allows its audience to dismiss any concerns that might be raised by placing a mentally challenged character as (initially at least) a comic foil to the often brutal shades of street life, and instead focus on the path each character is taking. Full credit then to Choi’s skills as a storyteller. It helps heaps that the enigmatic Yoo Ji-tae (Oldboy) plays the lead – and he makes you care.

Drinking …

Giovanni Munisso comes ready with a drop of Refosco.

… well, we had to fall to temptation eventually – given the local wineries have a bar set up in the main theater’s lobby. The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region boasts unique wines, we are told, emerged from a blending, mostly, of the vines left behind by Napoleon’s troops – who conquered most of Europe but never wanted to stray too far from the liquid comforts of home – and the local stock.

For red lovers, the Refosco comes from a dark-skinned grape favored by none other than Livia, the wife of Roman Emperor Augustus, and provides a constant surprise, sweeter and lighter that traditional reds from the likes of Bordeaux and distinct, it seems, from vineyard to vineyard. “I love it because you love it,” said Giovanni Munisso, on hand each evening to make sure the selection suits the mood.

Video of the day:

Aya Ueto and Takumi Saito on stage during the world premiere of Hirugao: Love Affairs in the Afternoon. Ueto appears from the 20-minute mark.

AYA UETO and TAKUMI SAITOH are on stage! Prepare to meet the super stars of HIRUGAO – LOVE AFFAIRS IN THE AFTERNOON (World Premiere)!

Posted by udine FAR EAST FILM festival on Monday, 24 April 2017

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