New York, I Love You: Shunji Iwai on the Upper West Side

New York I Love You New York I Love You

Shunji Iwai’s segment of “New York, I Love You” stars Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci. The film, whose concept was created by Emmanuel Benihby, is being release October 16, 2009 by Vivendi Entertainment.

Holed up in a dingy uptown apartment, a young musician (Orlando Bloom, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) works feverishly to finish the score for an animated film – while staying in contact with the outside world only through phone calls and e-mails with the director’s mysterious and unseen assistant (Christina Ricci, MONSTER, SPEED RACER).

When Irrfan Khan the assistant relays the message that he must read two Dostoyevsky novels in order to understand his creative task, the musician struggles with the strange request; but when the assistant shows up at his doorstep to help him read, all their different disembodied modes of communication – from music to cell phones to literature – add up an astonishingly raw moment in the here and now.

Shunji Iwai, one of Japan’s most popular and influential directors, contributed this section of the film, which was written with esteemed playwright and screenwriter Israel Horovitz (SUNSHINE). Iwai’s visual style is so well known in Japan it is known as “Iwai Aesthetics.” Among his feature films are LOVE LETTER (released in the US as WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES), SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY, APRIL STORY, ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU, the popular short film HANA AND ALICE, and A FILMFUL LIFE.

Benbihy was drawn to Iwai’s very 21st century perspective. “He’s a young director who is loved by the younger generation,” he comments. “He’s a complete artist who does everything on his films – not just the directing but the music and the editing – and he has a very original and somewhat irrational way of looking at the world.”

The film also suggests a 21st century route to love, via technology. “You watch a relationship being forged out of all this media – the computers, the cell phone, the animated images, the answering machine, the music, the books,” observes Benbihy. “It’s a virtual world in many ways, yet you see a real bond being formed. I love that the segment ends at the start of a relationship because there’s a lot of hope and anticipation to it.”

True to his ethos, Iwai built most of the sets from scratch on soundstages with great attention to detail and then set his two actors, Bloom and Ricci, loose in this slightly unreal world. “Orlando and Christina had a really interesting time because this was something so different,” says Grasic. “I especially don’t think people have seen Orlando like this before – all down and grungy – and I think he really related to this experience of an artist having a very, very romantic moment. When he and Christina finally meet, it’s one of the most surprising and fun moments in the film.”



Written by SHUNJI IWAI
Director of Photography MICHAEL McDONOUGH