The Sun, director Alexander Sokurov's drama aboutEmperor Hirohito after Japan's WWII defeat, hasexpanded its cinema count earlier and in greater numbers than originallyanticipated.
The film,released by small distributor Slow Learner, opened Aug 5 on one screen each inTokyo and Nagoya. The opening weekend in Tokyo broke the predominantly B-movietheatre's record with a gross of $33,700 (Y3.9m), with many people buyingstanding-room-only tickets.
While theoriginal plan was to expand the film to 20 theatres in September, greater thanexpected demand for tickets has forced the distributor to find 35 additionalscreens across Japan for this month and next, a challenge in the summer movieseason.
While The Sun had screened at suchinternational festivals as Toronto in 2005 and San Francisco earlier this year,its opening in Tokyo and the great curiosity of Japanese moviegoers at howtheir former leader was depicted gained media attention domestically andinternationally.
There were alsoconcerns of protests by staunch nationalists at the depiction of Hirohito, considered a God-like figure before Japan'smilitary defeat and America's occupation of his country saw him reinvented as ahumbled, human figure.
Hirohito is played by IsseiOgata (Tony Takitani,Yi Yi), famous for his long-running comedic stageperformances, which have also been successful overseas. The choice of Ogata wasone reason for concern about the portrayal, with his identity kept secret whilefilming. The film also stars Kaori Momoi, who appearedin Memoirs Of AGeisha.
The Sun follows Moloch (focusing onHitler) and Taurus (focusing onLenin) as the third entry in Sokurov's cinematic lookat figures who held ultimate power.