The Japanese appetite forweepies - originating in the early days of Kabuki theatre - remainsundiminished, and local producers are counting on this cinematic staple to paydividends in 2005.

What producers have beendiscovering, with the runaway success last year of Isao Yukisaka's romanticdrama Crying Out Love In The Centre Of The World - nearly $86m in Japanalone - as well as the Korean TV drama sensation Winter Sonata, is thatthis traditional audience preference has not changed.

One factor in WinterSonata's popularity is its resemblance to the blatantly tear-jerkingJapanese soaps of a generation ago. Also, Crying Out harks back to themid-eighties in its back story of a tragic teenage romance that haunts itsthirtysomething hero, a story it tells with a full-blown emotionalism very muchtypical of the period.

Unsurprisingly, Japanesefilm company line-ups for 2005 feature plenty more opportunities fortear-jerking. One prominent example is Letters From Kanai Nirai, (NiraiKanai Kara No Tegami), Naoto Kumazawa's drama about a girl who goes insearch of a mother she has only known from letters. Yu Aoi, a rising youngtalent who worked with Shunji Iwai in All About Lilly Chou Chou and HanaAnd Alice stars as the girl. Xanadeux will release in Japan this spring.

Another is Maison DeHimiko, Isshin Inudo's drama about a girl who reconciles with her dying gayfather. Ko Shibasaki, one of Japan's hottest talents after a slew of hitsincluding Crying Out Love, stars, as does Min Tanaka, a Butoh dancer whoappeared in Yoji Yamada's Academy-Award-nominated The Twilight Samurai.

Inudo also directed Josee,The Tiger And The Fish, an offbeat romance about a self-centred college boywho falls for a cute but cranky disabled girl that was a big indie hit in 2003.

Yet another is TheProfessor's Beloved Formula (Hakase No Aishita Sushiki), Takashi Koizumi'sdrama about a retired mathematician losing his memory. Koizumi, a long-timeassistant director for Akira Kurosawa, made his directorial debut in 1999 with WhenThe Rain Lifts, a period drama based on a Kurosawa script.

Star Akira Terao also workedwith Kurosawa on several films and last year starred in Casshern, theKazuaki Kiriya retro future thriller. Asmik Ace Entertainment is handling both MaisonDe Himiko and The Professor's Beloved Formula.

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