Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, June 3, 2008
WOULD ANY ACTOR dare dream that his film debut would be screened at the Cannes Film Festival? And that when the house lights came up, he would be hailed by an audience calling out his name, which was also used as the film’s title? But that’s just what happened to Morimoto Ken’ichi this year, who must still be pinching himself in disbelief.
The best part of the story is that none of it was his dream to begin with—Morimoto is not an actor, and his performance in the movie Monsieur Morimoto was his first in any medium. In fact, he’s a retired postal worker from Mashiki-machi, Kumamoto, who left his family behind to go to Paris and pursue an entirely different dream. M. Morimoto wanted to become a painter.
As an article in today’s Nishinippon Shimbun reports, Morimoto ended his job at the post office in 2000 after 40 years of service when he reached the mandatory retirement age. He traveled to New York, Tahiti, and several places in Europe before deciding to relocate in Paris because it was “the most suitable for my creative environment”.
Sporting a beret and nattily trimmed white beard, the 68-year-old Morimoto drew the attention of passersby as he sketched on the city streets. He also drew the attention of director Nicola Sorgana when the latter encountered him in a Paris art gallery. Sorgana then conceived of a movie with Morimoto as the main character, though the story itself is fiction. (It follows the artist as he encounters some unusual people while wandering around the city looking for one of his paintings, which has disappeared.)
When asked about his acting technique, the postman/artist/actor replied that he just followed the instructions of director Sorgana as if he were a robot. He said the experience was exhausting because each scene required about 10 takes, and he didn’t understand the story very well to begin with.
The newspaper reports that when the movie was shown at Cannes, the audience erupted in applause at the end, with some of the viewers calling out “Morimoto!” He telephoned his wife—whom he left back home in Kumamoto—to tell her what had happened, and she replied, “You’re joking, right?”
Here’s a brief review from the American show biz trade paper Variety, which didn’t care for the film. They say it doesn’t have an international distributor and is unlikely to get one (though it will surely be shown in Japan at some point). Here’s another brief review from CineEuropa.
One has to wonder: Does Morimoto Ken’ichi get into bed every night and laugh himself to sleep?