Chris Fujiwara

Film critic and journalist Chris Fujiwara took the reins at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) in 2011 to much acclaim. As he launches into his second festival, one that shows an increasingly international focus, he takes a moment to reflect on his defining moments in cinema.

Chris Fujiwara

What’s your connection to the British Council? 
EIFF works closely with the British Council to help present outstanding UK filmmaking to international audiences and to further contacts between UK filmmakers and their international counterparts. This year, we’ve launched a new partnership with the British Council to select some of the best films from our British animation programme for a touring package, which the British Council will make available for international screenings.

What’s your current project / what are you working on?
Currently EIFF 2013 is about to start so all my attention is on that.

What/who originally turned you onto film?
I became interested in film when I was a teenager. At that time it was still possible to see films from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s on television in the United States every night, mostly Hollywood films but also many British films; and on public television you could see films from the Janus Films collection, films by Bergman, Antonioni and others. I got a very good film education from television and from the film criticism I was reading at the same time.

What has been your career high so far?
Interviewing Jerry Lewis for the book I wrote on him.

What was your first job in the film industry?
My first paid piece of writing on film was a piece on Touch of Evil for the Colorado Daily in Boulder, Colorado.

If I knew then what I know now…
It goes for every field obviously, but to someone just starting off I would stress the importance of taking full advantage of any opportunities you get and working as much as you can. Don’t assume that something else will come along or that you can take a few months off and then come back.

What is your favourite British film? Why?
I have lots of favourite British films but I guess I will go with The Brides of Dracula by Terence Fisher. It’s a perfect film in its complete delineation of a specific atmosphere.

If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
The film I would most like to have been involved with is Jacques Tati’s Playtime. It must have been amazing to watch him directing in that city that was built for the film.

What’s the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?
The first film I remember seeing was a low-budget horror film called The Hideous Sun Demon. The thing I remember about it was that there were shots of this monster clambering around on the girders of an electrical power plant, and the camera was shooting from low angles with the monster silhouetted against the sun, which seemed very impressive.

What’s your favourite line or scene from a film? 
For no reason I can explain, a line that often comes to my mind is from The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp: Roger Livesey saying “Now here is the lake, and I still haven’t changed.”

Favourite screen kiss? 
Let’s say the kiss between Tom Conway and Simone Simon in Cat People. Her reaction is very slow and ambiguous; you don’t know if she’s stunned by how tremendously erotic it was, if she’s outraged and speechlessly angry, or if she’s about to change into a panther.

Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain? 
I’m always moved by the characters John Wayne plays in John Ford’s films, especially Fort Apache, The Wings of Eagles and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford stresses the softness and the weakness of Wayne’s characters, qualities that make them more attractive and human.

Who would play you in the film about your life? 
At different stages of my life I should be played by Joachim Fuchsberger, Kyle MacLachlan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not for any reason that would necessarily make sense.