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Thanks to Carol Burnett and Dolly Parton, New Life for a 1988 Film

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Kuzui went on to direct only one other feature, which many more people saw: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992). Pointing to an admiring 2022 article in The Atlantic, Kuzui believes that even that film may receive the kind of re-evaluation that she anticipates for “Tokyo Pop.” It’s in the zeitgeist, she said, that audiences are giving a fresh look to work made in the 1980s and ’90s.

Kazu Watanabe, who programmed “Tokyo Pop” at the Japan Society and now runs distribution at Grasshopper Film, discovered the film while curating a series on outsiders making movies in Tokyo. He thought the movie held up, even in small ways, and, unlike some films of the era, seemed in tune with modern sensibilities. “There’s a scene where the two leads are in bed together, and then she changes her mind, doesn’t want to sleep with him,” he said. “And it’s done so matter-of-factly. There’s no big dramatic scene about it.”

Schulberg of IndieCollect said she wanted to restore the film in part because it was a remarkable directorial debut by a woman “who in my view never got the opportunities and attention she deserved.”

Burnett, speaking by phone in early July, before the actors’ strike, recalled when Hamilton was shooting the film. “I remember she had a terrible time, she said, with her hair, because the bleach or whatever it was over in Japan made her hair fall out,” Burnett said, with a laugh. “So she wore a lot of scarves and kind of had to make do with what she had.” In an anecdote Burnett also recounted in “Carrie and Me” (2013), her book about her relationship with her daughter, she said that Marlon Brando somehow saw “Tokyo Pop” and called Hamilton to discuss a project — which Hamilton turned down.

While Burnett occasionally searches for her daughter on YouTube and reads the comments, keeping tabs on her “small following,” she added, “I’m thrilled that, again, after all these years, people are going to discover her all over again.”


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