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Gukoroku – Traces of Sin 愚行録 Dir: Kei Ishikawa (2017)

Gukoroku – Traces of Sin   Gukoroku Film Poster

愚行録  Gukoroku」    

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Kei Ishikawa

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Tokuro Nukui (Original Novel),

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Keisuke Koide, Asami Usuda, Yui Ichikawa,

Website IMDB

A brutal crime is committed in Tokyo where a picture-perfect family is knifed to death by an unknown assailant. With the killer having disappeared, questions are left unanswered but the central protagonist of this film aims to answer them. Kei Ishikawa’s tightly controlled directorial debut ostensibly looks like a murder mystery similar to Rage (2016) where an ensemble cast lead the audience into the conclusion of a terrible atrocity but this is a mystery where it is less about the how and more about the why the perpetrator committed the crime. Based on a novel by Tokuro Nukui and adapted by veteran scriptwriter Kosuke Mukai, this is a disturbing film gives us a chilling portrait of people driven to murder by issues of class and background in a society where hierarchy is everything. In this tale, lies and deceit are inherent in everyone who bears traces of sin.

Continue reading “Gukoroku – Traces of Sin 愚行録 Dir: Kei Ishikawa (2017)”

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Ito-kun A to E, Evil and the Mask, Our House, Watashitachi no Ie, Hopeiro no Yuutsu, Left Fly, Legend of the Stardust Brothers, Brand New Legend of Stardust Brothers, Hoshikuzu kyodai no aratana densetsu, Mazinger Z Infinity, Full Metal Panic! One Night Stand, Shingeki no Kyojin Movie 3: Kakusei no Houkou, Cinema Kabuki Kyouganoko Musume Gonin Doujouji / The Dancing Girl at the Dojoji Temple, Cinema Kabuki Ninin Wankyu Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend!

Kako My Sullen Past Film Image Kyoko Koizumi Fumi Nikaido

I hope everyone is well!

Work has been okay, writing has been better, movie viewing has been fantastic. I posted a review for the wonderful drama, Kako: My Sullen Past, posted my top ten films from last year and watched a whole lot of Japanese movies, usually before going to work. Various things are being put into place this week as I book tickets for the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018 event at the ICA and something else.

What’s released this weekend in Japan?

Continue reading “Ito-kun A to E, Evil and the Mask, Our House, Watashitachi no Ie, Hopeiro no Yuutsu, Left Fly, Legend of the Stardust Brothers, Brand New Legend of Stardust Brothers, Hoshikuzu kyodai no aratana densetsu, Mazinger Z Infinity, Full Metal Panic! One Night Stand, Shingeki no Kyojin Movie 3: Kakusei no Houkou, Cinema Kabuki Kyouganoko Musume Gonin Doujouji / The Dancing Girl at the Dojoji Temple, Cinema Kabuki Ninin Wankyu Japanese Film Trailers”

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Kako: My Sullen Past ふきげんな過去 Dir: Shiro Maeda (2016)

Kako: My Sullen Past   

Kako My Sullen Past Film Poster
Kako My Sullen Past Film Poster

ふきげんな過去 「Fukigen na Kako」 

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Shiro Maeda

Writer: Shiro Maeda (Screenplay)

Starring:  Kyoko Koizumi, Fumi Nikaido, Kengo Kora, Mei Kurokawa, Yuki Yamada, Itsuji Itao,

Website IMDB

Playwright and novelist Shiro Maeda has long been working in films, adapting A Story of Yonosuke (2013) and his novels Isn’t Anyone Alive? (2012) and The Extreme Sukiyaki (2013) for the big-screen. Indeed, his adaptation of The Extreme Sukiyaki was his directorial debut and he followed it up with Kako: My Sullen Past (2016), an exquisite character-driven story of a teenager plagued by uncertainty and cynicism who finds her dull life turned upside-down when her long-dead aunt dashes back into her life and a whole lot of skeletons tumble out of the closet.

Continue reading “Kako: My Sullen Past ふきげんな過去 Dir: Shiro Maeda (2016)”

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We Make Antiques, Love Disease, Tetsuya Kumagawa K Ballet Company “Cleopatra” in Cinema, Garo – Kami no kiba -, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Movie: Take On Me Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, people!

The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue Film Image Shizuka Ishibashi and Sosuke Ikematsu

I hope you are all well and had an excellent New Year’s period. I managed to watch three films and complete a lot of writing, share good food and drink with family and chat with friends. Then it was back to work, which is a bit of a drag, but my job is good and I get to meet lots of people and work in a nice environment. I would like to try a new job soon and I suppose the New Year’s Resolutions I made will help me. I posted about the Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme for 2018. More importantly, I kicked off the year in an awesome way with a review of The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (2017). Reviewers paint it as a depressing film about isolation but I saw it as an uplifting human drama. Mindset and positive thinking.

What’s released in Japan this weekend?

Continue reading “We Make Antiques, Love Disease, Tetsuya Kumagawa K Ballet Company “Cleopatra” in Cinema, Garo – Kami no kiba -, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Movie: Take On Me Japanese Film Trailers”

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Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018 Preview – (Un)true Colours Secrets and Lies in Japanese Cinema

The 2018 Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme (February 02nd to March 28th) has had its line-up of films revealed by the organisers and its a veritable feast of excellent contemporary titles with a classic and an anime added which looks/is fantastic respectively. I’ll come out cheering for The Long Excuse which is just fantastic. I cannot recommend this film enough. There’s also Sword of the Stranger which is pure action thrills, and Joy of Man’s Desiring and Room for Let which look exquisite. What’s the theme behind all of these films? Here’s more from the organisers:

Everybody has once told a lie or kept something hidden from others. Whether for good intentions or otherwise, it is a fundamental and intriguing aspect of human nature which has provided inspiration to countless storytellers and filmmakers.

With diverse cinematic voices, The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018 features some of the best examples of cinema from Japan and will look at how the country’s filmmakers have been drawn to portraying the “(un)true” colours of human nature. The twists and turns of life portrayed in the programme are at times heart-rending, at other times hilarious, but always enthralling.

Without further ado, here are the films!

Continue reading “Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018 Preview – (Un)true Colours Secrets and Lies in Japanese Cinema”

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The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ (2017) Dir: Yuya Ishii

The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blueyozora-wa-itsudemo-saiko-mitsudo-no-aoiro-da-film-poster

夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ Yozora wa Itsudemo Saiko Mitsudo no Aoiro da   

Running Time: 108 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii (Screenplay), Tahi Saihate (Original Poet)

Starring: Shizuka Ishibashi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ryo Sato, Takahiro Miura, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryuhei Matsuda, Paul Magsalin, Tetsushi Tanaka,

Website   IMDB

Yuya Ishii has gone from indie kid to director of award-winning adaptations of major books with films like Sawako Decides (2010), A Man with Style (2011), Mitsuko Delivers (2012), The Great Passage (2013). Despite the growth in projects, he has kept looking directly at his characters and in his incisive looks at human nature he spots the oddities and uniqueness of everyone regardless of the story and gets the actors to perform perfectly.

Here, he works with newbie actor Shizuka Ishibashi (later to star in Parks) and pairs her up with the more experienced Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!) and Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare Detective, My Little Sweet Pea) who was the lead in The Great Passage. The actors all portray characters caught up in the whirlwind world of Tokyo, a place which is fearsome or fantastically rewarding depending upon a person’s perspective. Film festival synopses paint the characters as alienated, stressed, and looking for relief from the everyday grind making the film sound grimdark. Far from being a miserable time, The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue is a tribute to the magic of Tokyo and the people living in it. It exhorts its audience to seize life and appreciate all the small blessings and all the positives, to work hard no matter the good times and bad times and embrace the people who offer love.

Continue reading “The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ (2017) Dir: Yuya Ishii”

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Genkina hito Says Goodbye to 2017 and Hello to 2018 – New Year’s Resolutions – Follow Your Dreams Remix

Welcome to my last post of 2017.

I hope everyone is well and has had a good year.

Around this time last year, I was at the first of many shrines I would travel to in Taito-ku welcoming in 2017. It was an amazing experience made possible by a good friend and the start of a pretty good year for me. I was able to continue travelling across Japan and enjoyed doing unique things due to the kindness of others.

I had a blast at the Osaka Asian Film Festival where I got to watch lots of films and I really enjoyed meeting the team and working with them. I continued working on a film by helping out with sound-recording and photography on a couple of shoots, something which is set to continue into the new year in a more behind-the-scenes role. I took part in a major festival in Tokyo thanks to a friend (a seriously sophisticated and beautiful JoJo’s fan) and found that carrying a shrine is as hard as it looks. Also, visiting Kyoto was pure magic and it was made better since it was spent in great company.The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Image

Continue reading “Genkina hito Says Goodbye to 2017 and Hello to 2018 – New Year’s Resolutions – Follow Your Dreams Remix”

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Cardcaptor Sakura Movie 2: The Sealed Card, The Dragon Dentist Special Edition, Umi no ubuya Ogatsu houinkagura, Zen for Nothing Japanese Film Trailers

 

Happy weekend, people.

The Night is Short Walk On Girl Drinks

I hope everyone is having a great holiday period.

I got a lot of cool gifts connected to exercise and, Yakuza Kiwami and some video game clothes so I was pretty pleased but, more importantly, I received a lot of friendship in the form of messages and cards and I had a good time with my family with lots of food and drink consumed. To my friends and family, thank you for so much. To the people who visit my site, thank you as well.

This week, I posted a review for the fabulous film about a fantastic artist, A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light (2016) and the comedy Emi-Abi (2016). What a way to see out the year.

What’s released in Japan this weekend? Well, two anime and some documentaries midweek so there are two of the first titles to be released in cinemas in Japan!

Continue reading “Cardcaptor Sakura Movie 2: The Sealed Card, The Dragon Dentist Special Edition, Umi no ubuya Ogatsu houinkagura, Zen for Nothing Japanese Film Trailers”

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Emi-Abi エミアビのはじまりとはじまり Dir: Kensaku Watanabe (2016)

Emi-abi    

Emi-Abi Film Poster
Emi-Abi Film Poster

エミアビのはじまりとはじまり 「Emiabi no Hajimari to Hajimari」 

Running Time: 88 mins.

Director: Kensaku Watanabe

Writer: Kensaku Watanabe (Screenplay)

Starring:  Ryu Morioka, Tomoya Maeno, Haru Kuroki, Hirofumi Arai, Mari Yamachi,

Website IMDB

Emi-Abi is a film marked by death but it is incredibly life-affirming. Written and directed by Kensaku Watanabe (he adapted the novel The Great Passage  into a script for the big screen), it tells the tale of artistic endeavour in the face of disaster and comes up trumps with a happy ending in a film that perfectly balances tragedy and comedy.

The story begins at the end of the manzai act Emi-Abi. The duo has lost its funny-man Unno (Tomoya Maeno) in an accident. All that remains is the handsome straight man Jitsudo (Ryu Morioka) and his dutiful manager Natsumi (Haru Kuroki) who has a comedy streak funnier than her remaining charge. With Unno’s funeral in the past and an uncertain future as a mere pretty-boy performer in a pretty crowded field, Jitsudo is on his way to his comedy sempai Kurosawa’s (Hirofumi Arai) home to pay respects and to get advice.

Continue reading “Emi-Abi エミアビのはじまりとはじまり Dir: Kensaku Watanabe (2016)”

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A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light あえかなる部屋 内藤礼と、光たち Dir: Yuko Nakamura (2016)

A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light   

A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light Film Poster
A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light Film Poster

あえかなる部屋 内藤礼と、光たち「ae ka naru Heya Naitō Rei to, kotachi

Running Time: 87 mins.

Director: Yuko Nakamura

Writer: N/A (Screenplay),

Starring:  Rei Naito, Hina Yukawa, Ran Yaniguchi, Keiko Oyama, Kyoko Tanaka,

Website IMDB

Art is life and life is art. That sounds like hyperbole but Yuko Nakamura’s documentary, A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light, takes a look at a remarkable artist’s extraordinary installation work which uses light and delicate objects to make life-affirming works that give insight into the world and human existence. Again, sounds like hyperbole but this film is inspirational in the way its shot and reveals a lot about its subject even if she remains a mysterious figure.

Nakamura takes audiences to the genesis of this project, when she learned she would have to support her terminally ill mother. While contemplating how to look after her parent and feeling the serious weight of her connection, she took a trip to Teshima Art Museum, on an island in the Seto Inland Sea, and she encountered an integrated artwork named “Matrix” by architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito (more info). The visit was a profound moment that gave Nakamura an insight into life but how to explain it? How to understand it? How to understand the artist, Rei Naito? A film had to be made.

Continue reading “A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light あえかなる部屋 内藤礼と、光たち Dir: Yuko Nakamura (2016)”

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Tremble All You Want, Waiting for the Moon, Revenge Girl, Torinoko City, That Is Not a Child But a Minor Japanese Film Trailers       

Happy weekend!

I hope everyone is well! I have just got back from meeting a friend at a coffee shop and I’m excited about the prospect of having time off work to watch films and eat good food with family over the Christmas period. This week, I posted about the films Being Good (2015), which was directed by Mipo O, and The Long Excuse (2016), the latest from super-talented director Miwa Nishikawa. These two women are at the top of my best directors list.

What’s released in Japan this weekend?

Continue reading “Tremble All You Want, Waiting for the Moon, Revenge Girl, Torinoko City, That Is Not a Child But a Minor Japanese Film Trailers       “

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The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016

The Long Excuse The Long Excuse Film Poster

永い言い訳 Nagai Iiwake

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director:  Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Tamaki Shiratori, Kenshin Fujita, Keiko Horiuchi, Haru Kuroki,

Website IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa loves writing about the worst traits of people. Nishkawa’s previous feature films, Wild Berries (2003), Sway (2006), Dear Doctor (2009), and Dreams for Sale (2012) have protagonists who are unctious liars, unappreciative egotists, unrepentant cheats, and utter scoundrels. In this film, based on a novel she wrote, Nishikawa asks the audience to follow a character whose emotional life is a cold-hearted absence borne by self-absorption, a man who has disappeared into himself and lost sight of what really matters in life, other people.

Continue reading “The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016”

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Being Good きみはいい子  Dir: Mipo O (2015)

You Are a Good Kid   / Being Good   

You're a Good Kid Film Poster
You’re a Good Kid Film Poster

きみはいい子  「Kimi wa iiko」

Release Date: June 27th, 2015

Running Time: 121 mins.

Director: Mipo O

Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Hatsue Nakawaki (Original Novel)

Starring:  Kengo Kora, Machiko Ono, Chizuru Ikewaki, Michie Kita, Mei Kurokawa, Kazuya Takahashi,

Website IMDB

One of the most important lessons I took away from being a teacher was the idea of being a guardian. An important part of our role is to care for the well-being of our students, to consider their personal circumstances, and emotional needs as well as educational ones. These responsibilities make the role slightly analogous with being a parent. It is a weighty responsibility but gratifying when you genuinely help someone. You don’t need to be a teacher or a parent to care for others. The simple act of caring can save lives. Being Good (2015) shows why.

Continue reading “Being Good きみはいい子  Dir: Mipo O (2015)”

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Hanagatami, Mr. Long, Konu ka ame, The 8-Year Engagement, Borderline, Nippon’s Educational Challenge Part II, The · Compassion part 2 hope and action, Movie Shimonoseki, Movie Yokai Watch Shadow Side Demon King’s Resurrection Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend!

Hanagatami Image

I hope everyone is having another great weekend! We are just over a week away from Christmas so that means gathering together with the family and enjoying good food and drink, Christmas movies, and giving and receiving presents. You better be prepared!

With time off work, I’m looking forward to relaxing a lot more and indulging in watching films, hanging out with friends and family etc. Reviews will still be published as I aim to increase the amount of reviews over news items. Two films I watched and posted about this week were… Bitter Honey (2016) and Haruneko (2016).

What is released in Japanese cinemas this weekend?

Continue reading “Hanagatami, Mr. Long, Konu ka ame, The 8-Year Engagement, Borderline, Nippon’s Educational Challenge Part II, The · Compassion part 2 hope and action, Movie Shimonoseki, Movie Yokai Watch Shadow Side Demon King’s Resurrection Japanese Film Trailers”

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Bitter Honey    蜜のあわれ  Dir: Gakuryu Ishii (2016)

Bitter Honey    

Mitsu no Aware Film Poster
Mitsu no Aware Film Poster

蜜のあわれ 「Mitsu no Aware

Running Time: 105 mins.

Director: Gakuryu Ishii

Writer: Takehiko Minato (Screenplay), Saisei Muro (Original Manga)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Ren Osugi, Yoko Maki, Kengo Kora, Masatoshi Nagase, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Seiko Iwaido,

Website    IMDB

Director Gakuryu Ishii made his name with crazy indie films fizzing with punk energy, works like Burst City (1982) and Crazy Thunder Road (1980), but that is just one aspect of his career since he has an imagination capable of covering different genres from gloomy serial killers films like the brilliant Angel Dust (1994) and talky apocalypse movies like Isn’t Anyone Alive? (2012). I recommend watching them but of his other works, The Crazy Family and August in the Water are my personal favourites. Most of his films burst with voluptuous visuals and costumes, dense dialogue, and big name actors and over his long career he has maintained his flare for shooting scenes in energetic ways, something much needed here in a story that takes a while to get traction despite an exuberant performance from Fumi Nikaido as a goldfish turned human.

Based on a 1959 novel by the author Saisei Muro, Bitter Honey is set in 1950’s Tokyo. Although shot in a few outdoor locations like a yokocho, some streets, and temple grounds, most of the action takes place indoors, particularly the well-appointed house of an old male writer (Ren Osugi) who is busy making works of literature that will stand the test of time. Well, he would be if he wasn’t enthralled with a red goldfish who is able to transform into a beautiful voluptuous young woman (Fumi Nikaido).

Mitsu no Aware - Ren Osugi and Fumi Nikaido Continue reading “Bitter Honey    蜜のあわれ  Dir: Gakuryu Ishii (2016)”

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Haruneko はるねこ Dir:  Sora Hokimoto (2016)

Haruneko    

haruneko-film-poster
haruneko-film-poster

はるねこHaruneko

Running Time: 85 mins.

Release Date: December 16th, 2016

Director:  Sora Hokimoto

Writer: Sora Hokimoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Yohta Kawase, Lily, Min Tanaka, Lion kawai, Minako Akatsuka, Ryuto Iwata, Keisuke Yamamoto, Yo Takahashi,

Website IMDB

Produced by experienced writer/producer Takenori Sento and producer/director Shinji Aoyama (Eureka), this curious mash-up of a film is the distinctive debut of Sora Hokimoto and the type of thing that will most-likely only be seen at festivals and that’s a shame because it is strikingly beautiful and haunts the memory.

Essentially a supernatural musical, the movie takes place deep in a forest where there is a cosy and well-furnished café nestled in a grove of trees by a river. It is run by The Manager (Yamamoto), an earnest young man who makes pour-over coffee. He lives with an elderly woman (Lily) and a boy called Haru (Iwata). The café is an idyllic place and a refuge for anyone who wants to die. These people vary, good and bad but they all want to escape something.

Continue reading “Haruneko はるねこ Dir:  Sora Hokimoto (2016)”

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Girls und Panzer das Finale Chapter 1,Vigilante, Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura, Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FINAL: Build & Ex-Aid with Legend Riders, Discovery of images = Age of Toshio Matsumoto, ALL YOU NEED is PUNK and LOVE, Koi to Wolwachia, Sekai wo kaenakatta futashikana tsumi, Nacchan ha mada Shinjuku, Hedoroba, For Real kanarazu modoru to chikatta, ano butai e. Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend people!

Daguerrotype Film Image 6

I hope everyone is well!

With a story-check finished, I soon find myself braced for more movie action with a trip to the cinema due next week and a whole lot of films to go through. I also managed to hit a milestone in my kanji learning but now I have to make words with all of the characters I can write from memory. Work continues apace but with Christmas approaching, I am looking forward to having a few days off.

I posted reviews for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2016 horror film Daguerrotype, (a real return to form) and the charming, amiable dramedy, Neko Atsume House (2017)

What is released this weekend?

Continue reading “Girls und Panzer das Finale Chapter 1,Vigilante, Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura, Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FINAL: Build & Ex-Aid with Legend Riders, Discovery of images = Age of Toshio Matsumoto, ALL YOU NEED is PUNK and LOVE, Koi to Wolwachia, Sekai wo kaenakatta futashikana tsumi, Nacchan ha mada Shinjuku, Hedoroba, For Real kanarazu modoru to chikatta, ano butai e. Japanese Film Trailers”

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Daguerrotype ダゲレオタイプの女  (2016) Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Daguerrotype   Daguerrotype Film Poster

ダゲレオタイプの女 Dagereotaipu no onna

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Cattherine Paille (adaptation) Eleonore Mahmoudian,

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet, Mathieu Amalric,

Website IMDB

Daguerreotype is the first film Kurosawa has shot outside Japan but the story fits easily into his horror oeuvre which consists of tales where supernatural beings impinge on the vistas of protagonists who we watch undergo crises, their minds unable to correlate events that, once pieced together, provide a shocking revelation for the viewer as we see the main characters are actually morally compromised. The French setting, cast, and crew ably deliver this type of tale in a chilling ghost story light on jump scares and heavy on melancholy and dread as an ordinary man finds himself sucked into a supernatural tale of love and betrayal.

Jean (Tahar Rahim) is a working-class guy with a vague interest in photography. Desperate for a job he applies for many each day and finally stumbles into one as a photographer’s assistant. He heads to a crumbling manor on the outskirts of Paris to work as the assistant for the reclusive photographer named Stephane (Gourmet).

Daguerrotype Film Image

Continue reading “Daguerrotype ダゲレオタイプの女  (2016) Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa”

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Neko Atsume House  ねこあつめの家 (2017) Dir: Masatoshi Kurakata

Neko Atsume House  Neko Atsume House Film Poster

ねこあつめの家 「Neko Atsume Ie

Running Time: 92 mins

Release Date: April 08th, 2017

Director:  Masatoshi Kurakata

Writer: Yuji Nagamori (Screenplay)

Starring: Atsushi Ito, Shiori Kutsuna, Tomoro Taguchi, Tae Kimura, Kayoko Okubo, Masahiro Toda,

Film adaptations of video games are usually bad. Filmmakers face the choice of trying to faithfully transfer a source choked with awfully written lore like Assassins Creed or depart from the source entirely like Super Mario where the platform jumping turtle stomping plumber fights property developers in New York. What to make out of a casual mobile video game where there’s no real story and the sole aim of the experience is collecting cats and purchasing toys to keep them content?

Neko Atsume House, when translated into English, means Cat Collector’s House. As delightful as this sounds, the narrative eschews producing a Rent-a-neko (2012) style quirky protagonist and gives audiences an every-man struggling in a real situation and shows the help he derives from cats in a gentle comedy.

The character we follow is novelist Masaru Sakumoto (Atsushi Ito). He was once a celebrated hotshot in the literary world but a severe case of writer’s block means he is now forced to churn out a zombie-themed serial novel to earn money. Panicked by feelings of failure, he retreats to an old house in the countryside in a place called Tako town. It is here he aims to find inspiration and jump-start his creativity.

Continue reading “Neko Atsume House  ねこあつめの家 (2017) Dir: Masatoshi Kurakata”

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Fullmetal Alchemist, Demekin, Akai tasuki tomioka seishijō monogatari, The Last Shot in the Bar, Touken Ranbu Hanamaru Intermission Flashback Record, Laughing Under the Clouds Gaiden – Parting The Oath of the Yamainu, Thunderbolt Fantasy Shōshi Ikken, Cocolors, Ashita ha docchi da, Terayama Shuji, Sugite ike, entai 10-dai, Yagate mizu ni kae (kae) ru, Nigeta sakana wa oyoi deru., Fuku Kaze wa Aki Japanese Film Trailers       

Happy Weekend People!

I hope everyone is doing well. After a couple of months of pretty decent output in terms of Japanese practice and film-watching and balancing my day-job, I hit a week where, due to emergencies and meeting friends, I didn’t get as much as I wanted done. Pushing on through that, I have got back on track and just in time to. I need to finish off a script quick-sharp and watch six more films before the year is out and re-watch two special ones. I can do it!

This week, I reviewed the films Tokyo Idols (2017) and Rage (2016). What films are released in Japan this weekend?

FEEL THE HYPE!

Tokyo Idols Rio

Continue reading “Fullmetal Alchemist, Demekin, Akai tasuki tomioka seishijō monogatari, The Last Shot in the Bar, Touken Ranbu Hanamaru Intermission Flashback Record, Laughing Under the Clouds Gaiden – Parting The Oath of the Yamainu, Thunderbolt Fantasy Shōshi Ikken, Cocolors, Ashita ha docchi da, Terayama Shuji, Sugite ike, entai 10-dai, Yagate mizu ni kae (kae) ru, Nigeta sakana wa oyoi deru., Fuku Kaze wa Aki Japanese Film Trailers       “

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Tokyo Idols (2017)

Tokyo Idols    Tokyo Idols Film Poster

Running Time: 89 mins

Director:  Kyoko Miyake

Writer: Kyoko Miyake (Screenplay),

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

Many people will be aware of the glitzy and glamorous world of idols which is slowly but surely encroaching on mainstream life due to its increasing ubiquity thanks to the money it makes and the fact the culture is cultivated and energised online. There are many opinions on how innocent it is as unbelievably cute females have their innocence and erotic potential fetishised for profits by record labels but what is the reality?

Continue reading “Tokyo Idols (2017)”

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Rage 「怒り」 Dir: Sang-il Lee 2016

Rage Rage Film Poster

怒り 「Ikari

Running Time: 142 mins

Director:  Sang-il Lee

Writer: Sang-il Lee (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Novel),

Starring: Ken Watanabe, Aoi Miyazaki, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Gou Ayano, Suzu Hirose, Pierre Taki, Mirai Moriyama, Takahiro Miura, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kenichi Matsuyama,

Website IMDB

Rage is about the desperate need for human connections and the difficulties in maintaining trust when paranoia grips people. It takes place in four different communities in three separate regions of Japan following a grisly crime and the ambitious story allows a star-packed ensemble cast to go for glory in its bid for human drama but not everything resonates.

Continue reading “Rage 「怒り」 Dir: Sang-il Lee 2016”

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Hibana, The Lowlife, Kaiketsu Zorori Movie: ZZ no Himitsu, Full Metal Panic! Boy Meets Girl, A puzzle for you to complete, Cinema Kabuki Megumi no Kenka, Itazurana Kiss The Movie 3 Propose Hen, Anonymous Noise, Dear Girl Stories THE MOVIE 3 the United Kingdom of KOCHI Six Lords of Ryoma Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend!

I hope everyone has had a good week. I’ve been busy everyday with work and studying Japanese. I managed to practice speaking and writing both in and out of work. The good thing about my job is encountering Japanese tourists and I met a family from Nagoya. When not speaking directly to Japanese people, I’m speaking to myself, haha! Film-wise, I wrote about the release of Tag (2015) and published a review of A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler (2009).

The London International Animation Festival also launches next week so get hyped!

Winter is approaching but there are a lot of good films in Japan still coming out. Let’s take a look!

A Normal Life Sumo Wrestler Film Image

Continue reading “Hibana, The Lowlife, Kaiketsu Zorori Movie: ZZ no Himitsu, Full Metal Panic! Boy Meets Girl, A puzzle for you to complete, Cinema Kabuki Megumi no Kenka, Itazurana Kiss The Movie 3 Propose Hen, Anonymous Noise, Dear Girl Stories THE MOVIE 3 the United Kingdom of KOCHI Six Lords of Ryoma Japanese Film Trailers”

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A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler 辛抱 Dir: Jill Coulson (2009)

A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler

辛抱 「Shinbou

Running Time: 55 mins.

Release Date: NHK 2009

Director:  Jill Coulson

Writer: N/A

Starring: Takuya Ogushi

Website IMDB

This review was published on V-Cinema.

A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler (辛抱)” is a documentary that was produced for Japanese TV corporation NHK in 2009 as part of its “Tokyo Modern” series.

A Normal Life Sumo Wrestler Film Image 3

When you think of sumo wrestling, you might think of two big men explosively launching themselves at each other as they try and quickly push their opponent out of the ring. This seemingly speedy spectacle of power belies the amount of eating, effort, and training that goes into moulding the wrestlers, something indicated by the kanji in the title which means endurance. Sumo is a test of endurance for the participants and also a comment on how this sport has maintained a central place in Japanese culture since the 08th Century. Both are demonstrated in a film that reveals a fascinating world of ancient traditions and physical dedication in a behind-the-scenes look at the early phase of one sumo wrestler’s career.

Continue reading “A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler 辛抱 Dir: Jill Coulson (2009)”

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, Shashin Koshien Summer in 0.5 Seconds, The Stand-In Thief, Death Row Family, Tsumasaki no Uchuu, Itoshi no Nora: Shiawase no Meguriai, Cage, Chisana Hashi de, Koinowa: Konkatsu Cruising, Nagura Team ga kaisan suru hi, Mobile Suit Gundam Twilight AXIS, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower Japanese Film Trailers             

Happy weekend, people. I hope everyone is doing well! I have been a bit quiet this week, working away on a video game and practising Japanese. I managed to put out two posts, one about the London International Animation Festival and the other about the films BAMY and Tokyo Vampire Hotel getting screened at the Torino Film Festival in Italy. I’ll get back on track with film reviews next week. Expect one about a documentary soon.

What’s released in Japan this weekend?

Gokurosama Image 2

Continue reading “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, Shashin Koshien Summer in 0.5 Seconds, The Stand-In Thief, Death Row Family, Tsumasaki no Uchuu, Itoshi no Nora: Shiawase no Meguriai, Cage, Chisana Hashi de, Koinowa: Konkatsu Cruising, Nagura Team ga kaisan suru hi, Mobile Suit Gundam Twilight AXIS, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower Japanese Film Trailers             “

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Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2017

The 14th London International Animation Festival (LIAF 17) returns to the Barbican from 1st-10th December and there are 200 animated shorts and features slated to appear as well as a lot of guests who will take part in Q&As and presentations. There is a focus on the on-screen representation of women and the usual high-quality and diverse selection of films which show the various media used in making the many different films.

As the organisers have written on their site,

This year’s uncompromising programme promises to inspire, delight and challenge the notion that animation is merely for the 3D-CGI blockbuster genre or cute cartoons for kids. Independent animation is an art form that continues to thrive and develop as a breathtaking medley of styles, materials, techniques and production – including hand drawn, paint on glass, collage, sculpture, cut outs, puppets, abstract, sand/salt, the interesting developments in CGI – all of which can be seen at LIAF 2017.

Here’s what’s on offer:

Gokurosama Image

Continue reading “Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2017”

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Japanese Films at Tokyo FILMeX International Film Festival 2017

Taking place in Yurakucho as Yurakacho Asahi Hall, Tokyo FILMeX offers English-subtitled films from across Asia. It runs from November 18th to the 26th and during that time, filmmakers will appear to show off their latest works and take part in industry events aimed at strengthening Asian cinema. Some of these titles have already hit the festival circuit and won awards. There are three Japanese films due to be screened and they all look special as do all the other films from various parts of Asia.

Here is the trailer for the festival and the films will follow. Click on a title to be taken to the festival page:

Continue reading “Japanese Films at Tokyo FILMeX International Film Festival 2017”

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Japanese Films at Abertoir Horror Festival 2017 in Aberystwyth, Wales’ International Horror Festival 14-19th November

The 2017 edition of Abertoir, The International Horror Festival of Wales, takes place from November 14th to the 19th. It is an annual horror and horror film festival held in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Ceredigion, Wales, and it has a history of screening great Japanese horror movies as well as attracting guests from around the world. It’s great to see Aberystwyth hosting so many Japanese films (especially since they support anime in the form of Kotatsu – the 2017 run is here, 2016, and 2015 and 2014) and it’s great that the people who run Abertoir pick a diverse selection of films including these ones!

Here are the Japanese films programmed!

Tokyo Ghoul Rize

Continue reading “Japanese Films at Abertoir Horror Festival 2017 in Aberystwyth, Wales’ International Horror Festival 14-19th November”

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Dear Etranger 幼な子われらに生まれ (2017) Dir: Yukiko Mishima

Dear Etranger    Dear Etranger Film Poster

幼な子われらに生まれ 「Osanago Warera ni Umare

Running Time: 127 mins.

Release Date: August 26th, 2017

Director:  Yukiko Mishima

Writer: Haruhiko Arai (Screenplay), Kiyoshi Shigematsu (Original Novel)

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Rena Tanaka, Kankuro Kudo, Shinobu Terajima, Sara Minami, Miu Arai, Raiju Kamata, Shingo Mizusawa, Narushi Ikeda,

Website IMDB

Dear Etranger is an intimate drama about one man trying to balance two families and be an ideal father at a time when others give him or are going through crises. Free from melodrama and idealism, it paints a believable picture of the stresses and strains of maintaining a loving family unit built from the scraps of past relationships.

The film is based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu and tells the tale of 40-year-old Makoto Tanaka (Tadanobu Asano), an assistant manager at a company.

Continue reading “Dear Etranger 幼な子われらに生まれ (2017) Dir: Yukiko Mishima”

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Goodbye, Grandpa!, Kokoro, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, Yurari, Hyouka, The Last Recipe, We Love Television?, The Miraculous Postcards, Cinema Rhapsody ~ Nagoya Movie Theater Revolution, Kimi ha nanimo warukunai yo, Kamera wo tomeru na!, Yasashiku naani naochan to kazoku no 35-nen, Dance with Devils Fortuna Japanese Film Trailers        

Happy weekend, people.

I am elbow-deep editing a story at the minute but there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a supernatural tale which is fitting for the season since it was recently Halloween. For that particular day, I did my yearly review of a horror film and chose Snow Woman (2016) as my tale to publish. That film has Kiki Sugino as director, a young woman making waves on the international festival circuit including with her retelling of the Snow Woman (which was at this year’s Edinburgh festival) tale which gives it a more contemplative spin so it was with a degree of pleasure that I posted about a season of free films dedicated to the leading women directors of Japanese cinema who are now being celebrated in screenings in London over the next month or so. If I lived in London, I’d definitely take advantage of it because there are class films like Rent-a-neko and Wild Berries getting screened!!!

Yuki Onna Film Image

Continue reading “Goodbye, Grandpa!, Kokoro, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, Yurari, Hyouka, The Last Recipe, We Love Television?, The Miraculous Postcards, Cinema Rhapsody ~ Nagoya Movie Theater Revolution, Kimi ha nanimo warukunai yo, Kamera wo tomeru na!, Yasashiku naani naochan to kazoku no 35-nen, Dance with Devils Fortuna Japanese Film Trailers        “

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Archipelago: Exploring the Landscape of Contemporary Japanese Women Filmmakers – Miwa Nishikawa, Satoko Yokohama, Naoko Ogigami, and Mami Sunada films will be screened in London

Archipelago: Exploring the Landscape of Contemporary Japanese Women Filmmakers’, is a season of free film screenings co-organised by the Japan Information and Cultural Centre (JICC), Japan Foundation and National Film and Television School with the aim of celebrating the diverse and exceptional work by the new generation of female directors who have emerged from the Japanese archipelago in the last fifteen years. There are four female filmmakers on offer, three as part of the main season and one as a special screening at the Japanese embassy. Here is the information:

Archipelago Contemporary Japanese Female Filmmakers Banner

This special season dedicated to showcasing some of the works of female directors from the Japanese archipelago will take place in cinemas across London with a screening at the Japanese embassy. Naoko Ogigami (originally from Chiba) is the first to get shown off and that takes place at the embassy. The three other directors whose works will be shown on screen are Miwa Nishikawa from Hiroshima, Mami Sunada from Tokyo, and Satoko Yokohama from Aomori, hence the name of the season.

Nishikawa and Sunada have both worked with Hirokazu Kore-eda as assistant directors but while Nishikawa has gone on to write and direct feature-films in the realist mould, Sunada has concentrated on documentaries. Yokohama, meanwhile, has made films that combine reality and touches of fantasy. Cinephiles with an interest in Japanese films will probably know Nishikawa and Yokohama and Sunada since their films are getting more and more exposure. For those not well-versed with Japanese films, they will be in for a treat since their works are excellent. As the event organisers have written,

“This programme will offer a glimpse into the distinctive voices of these screenwriter-directors, whose work remains largely undiscovered outside their home country. Each with their particular style, these filmmakers have secured themselves a unique place in the Japanese film industry by occupying a narrative space that is neither mainstream nor fully arthouse, subverting genre boundaries, and rarely adhering to a solely female-centric vision.”

Here are the films on offer:

Continue reading “Archipelago: Exploring the Landscape of Contemporary Japanese Women Filmmakers – Miwa Nishikawa, Satoko Yokohama, Naoko Ogigami, and Mami Sunada films will be screened in London”

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Snow Woman 雪女 (2017) Dir: Kiki Sugino

My yearly Halloween post is back! Last year, when I was in Tokyo, I reviewed Hideo Nakata’s mid-90s chiller, Don’t Look Up! (soon to be released in the US with a sparkly update thanks to Tidepoint Pictures). That very same week, I went to see Snow Woman at the Tokyo International Film Festival thanks to a friend. Here’s my review!

 

Continue reading “Snow Woman 雪女 (2017) Dir: Kiki Sugino”

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Birds Without Names, My Teacher / Teacher! Is It Okay for Me to Love You?, Ayamachi Scramble, To Become a Woman, Hibaku ushi to ikiru, Linking Love, Dawn Wind in My Poncho, Free! -Take Your Marks-, Yama no Susume: Omoide Present, Kirakira☆Precure A La Mode Movie: Paritto! Omoide no Mille-Feuille! Japanese Film Trailers

Hello dear reader. I am bringing back my trailer weeklies as the film resurgence begins. Inspired by my stay in Japan, recent films I have watched, and seeing the works listed at the Tokyo International Film Festival, I’m super-excited about what the Japanese film industry is producing. I’ve also been inspired by my stint working at an anime film festival and writing recent reviews such as:The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Film Image 3

Mind Game

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl

Double Life

Close-Knit

Japanese Girls Never Die   Mind Game Film Image

Getting Any?

Zigeunerweisen

Yamato (California)

I also wrote about the Five Flavours Film Festival in Poland.

What is released this weekend in Japan?

Continue reading “Birds Without Names, My Teacher / Teacher! Is It Okay for Me to Love You?, Ayamachi Scramble, To Become a Woman, Hibaku ushi to ikiru, Linking Love, Dawn Wind in My Poncho, Free! -Take Your Marks-, Yama no Susume: Omoide Present, Kirakira☆Precure A La Mode Movie: Paritto! Omoide no Mille-Feuille! Japanese Film Trailers”

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Yamato (California) 大和(カリフォルニア)  (2017) Director: Daisuke Miyazaki Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017

Yamato Californiayamato-california-film-poster

大和(カリフォルニア)  Yamato (Kariforunia)   

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Writer: Daisuke Miyazaki (Screenplay)

Starring: Hanae Kan, Nina Endo, Reiko Kataoka, Mayumi Kato, Shuya Nishiji, Haruka Uchimura,

IMDB

Yamato (California) is a coming-of-age tale from Daisuke Miyazaki, a graduate from Waseda University with a varied filmography consisting of indie films and experience working as an assistant director on commercial movies such as Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s family drama Tokyo Sonata (2008). Much like that film, he looks at people left trailing by the economic problems and the split in identities caused by different forces in contemporary Japan and he does so through one teenager’s rebellion against cultural apathy through the medium of Hip-Hop.

Continue reading “Yamato (California) 大和(カリフォルニア)  (2017) Director: Daisuke Miyazaki Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017”

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A Preview of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2017

The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) runs from October 25th – November 03rd in Roppongi and it’s the best event to see films with English subtitles in Japan at this time of the year since nearly all will have them and there will also be English interpretation at Q&A sessions with filmmakers. Another great thing about the festival is that it nearly all takes place in one location which means that getting to venues is easy.

There are a heck of a lot of films programmed and just as many events and it looks as if there are over 300 things for people to attend. Tickets are sold-out or selling-out fast but I wanted to cover this because it has an exciting line-up and Japanese indie cinema and the shorts looks strong. Heck, Japanese cinema in general looks to be in rude health.

There is a lot to get through and it will be difficult for anyone not using a computer with a decent internet connection to view this (apologies) but I wanted to do this in one post because it is impressive. Accuse me of maximalism if you want but I hope people find something to enjoy thanks to reading this. Click on a title to be taken to the festival page. Here’s what’s on offer.

Ojiichan Shinjattatte Film Image

Continue reading “A Preview of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2017”

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Close-Knit    彼らが本気で編むときは、 (2017) Dir: Naoko Ogigami

Close-Knit   karera-ga-honki-de-amu-toki-wa-film-poster

彼らが本気で編むときは、Karera ga Honki de Amu toki wa   

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Naoko Ogigami

Writer: Naoko Ogigami (Screenplay),

Starring: Rinka Kakihara, Toma Ikuta, Kenta Kiritani, Mimura, Eiko Koike, Mugi Kadowaki, Lily, Kaito Komie, Shuji Kashiwabara, Misako Tanako,

Website   IMDB

Naoko Ogigami is one of Japan’s most commercially successful female directors. She has built up a large audience at home and abroad following her debut feature film Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2004) which was a winner at Berlin International Film Festival. She followed that up with Kamome Diner (2006), Glasses (2007), and Rent-a-Cat (2012). Her oeuvre could be described as quirky dramas about outsider characters in unusual circumstances but Close-Knit is a lot more serious as Ogigami looks at LGBTQ issues in Japan, a country that is still conservative in some ways, and she does so through the perspective of a child.

Close Knit Film Image 3

Said child is eleven-year-old Tomo (Rinka Kakihara). When we first meet her she is all alone in an apartment where unwashed dishes are piling up in the sink and onigiri wrappers and cup noodle containers are overflowing from the bin. Indeed, a meagre meal of store-bought onigiri is her only option on the menu as she dines solo. She has a mother named Hiromi (Mimura) but when Tomo does see her it is usually when she comes home late and drunk after a day at the office and, presumably, a night at an izakaya. Hiromi is a single-mother struggling to cope with the role but when she finds herself a man she quits her jobs and takes off for who knows how long and little Tomo is pretty much forgotten about.

Continue reading “Close-Knit    彼らが本気で編むときは、 (2017) Dir: Naoko Ogigami”

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Getting Any? みんな~やってるか! (1995) Dir: Takeshi Kitano

Getting Any?   Getting Any Film Poster

みんな~やってるか!Minna~ Yatteru ka

Running Time: 108 mins.

Release Date: February 11th, 1995

Director:  Takeshi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),

Starring: Dankan, Moeko Ezawa, Takeshi Kitano, Susumu Terajima, Kanji Tsuda, Yurei Yanagi, Ren Osugi, Taka Guadalcanal, Hakuryu, Yojin Hino, Yoneko Matsukane,

IMDB Website

Takeshi Kitano the director and Beat Takeshi the performer meet together in a manic film about a young man’s increasingly desperate attempt to get laid which becomes a series of prurient slapstick sketches that push the boundaries of good taste.

Getting Any Film Image

The story follows middle-aged layabout Asao (Dankan). His one and only goal in life is to have sex. To do this, he embarks upon a series of misadventures ranging from buying a car to impress a woman enough for car sex to becoming an actor to get a seat in first class on a jet because, in his narrow-minded world, he thinks sex is one of the services on offer from air-hostesses. His antics get bigger and bolder and wackier the more desperate he becomes. Pretty soon they involve armed robbery, becoming the next Zatoichi in a movie production, a yakuza hitman, and an invisible man and worse because of crazy scientific experiments.

Getting Any? uses an episodic structure to launch a scattershot satire of Japanese society and popular culture through the lens of Kitano’s unique sense of humour which he takes to extremes in terms of the inanity and stupidity. Every situation start off at some reasonable level of idiocy initiated by Asao before becoming a series of bizarre, over the top and absurd slapstick gags at the expense of the central character and a cast ranging from serious actors to Kitano’s army of fans, his Gundan who appear in many of his films and TV shows, all of whom throw themselves into the skits with gusto. Even Kitano shows up to take part.

Kitano finds comedy in every situation thanks to Asao being of a character with a one-track mind with a brain straight out of dullstown. This leads to tremendous sight gags especially in the first part of the film. In order to get money Asao figures he needs to rob a bank. So he needs a gun. Who has guns? Cops. Asao imagines stealing a gun and getting blown away. When he acquires a gun, one of his targets is a bank run by cops.

As the film ticks along, his imagination gets only slightly bigger but his luck get much better. Seeing Asao graduate from being a bit-part player stuck full of arrows in a samurai movie to playing Zatoichi by way of accidentally getting the original actor to almost drown is hilarious and then taken to the next level as the central fool plays the blind swordsman by closing his eyes and engaging in physical slapstick such as dousing people with manure and much more dangerous liquids while in the presence of a naked flame.

Kitano managed to work in references to and mock films as diverse as Ghostbusters, Branded to Kill, Ultraman, Mothra, Zatoichi, Michael Jackson’s song Beat It and Akira Kurosawa as Asao travels across Tokyo and gets into misadventures. Having a knowledge of Japanese pop-culture adds a lot of depth to the gags and makes them funnier, the laughs last longer, but towards the end of the film, many of them have a habit of going on way too long (especially the tokusatsu stuff), past the point where the joke is funny. This was deliberate on Kitano’s part since he made the n’est plus ultra of bad jokes to scandalise the Japanese entertainment industry and also to destroy his own career.

This a film with which some Japanese fans of Kitano feel he tried committing suicide as public figure since he went to such great lengths to be absurd audiences wondered if he had lost the plot. It was filmed at a time when he was at the height of his fame and fortune in Japan as Beat Takeshi, the comedian, radio star, writer and so forth but not taken seriously as Takeshi Kitano, the film director and serious actor. With so many TV shows, books, and other projects he was working on and an eventful private life to say the least, he was finding it difficult to manage the stress of fame and public interest as well as his excessive work and partying. This was compounded by the box-office failure of the 1993 gangster film Sonatine, which he personally saw as his first major artistic achievement as a director. With fame and pressure mounting, he let the comedian, Beat Takeshi tear up the screen with this film and the results are scandalous. Further adding to the dramatic context of the film, Kitano finished production on it before the motor-scooter accident which left the right side of his face paralysed. No wonder some interpret Getting Any​? as something he made unconsciously to help him deal with his career frustrations and anxiety over his fame as well as being a rebel yell against an industry not taking him seriously. 

Getting Any? may have been made out of frustration but there is enough comedy and shock value and bizarre prurient humour here to justify viewing it. It is easy to imagine fans at the time being scandalised by some of the scenes packed full of nudity and violence but also there’s a sense of dangerousness and liberation in seeing people gleefully engaging in the anarchy on screen. Kitano is pushing back against good taste and does so effectively.

Getting Any Film Image 2

Kitano leads actors and his Gundan who he worked with in previous films astray as everyone throws themselves into this nonsense. It is fun seeing the likes of Yurei Yanagi, Susumu Terajima, and Ren Osugi from Boiling Point and Sonatine reprise roles as gangsters and weirdos who only show up to get bumped off or take part in sight gags based on societal quirks and erotic games that will lead to audience-members doing spit takes. Leading the cast is Dankan who plays Asao with a vacant gaze perfect for a man so shallow he is unable to see where his disastrous schemes go wrong and why women don’t like him. He would come off as a sexual predator of the worst kind if he wasn’t so inept at everything he put his hand to and Kitano didn’t keep slapping him in stupid situations that break off his ardour or totally subvert it.

Getting Any? is a solid comedy and interesting to engaging with when you consider this as Kitano’s mid-career crisis film. We should be glad he survived it and his accident because he went on to make even more films and gain a serious following in Japan as an auteur and we are now able to watch his films get re-released in wonderful 4K and enjoy his idiosyncratic sense of humour and direction. Even if it doesn’t always work, most of it is amusing to watch and a great time-capsule of pop-culture hits from the 80s and 90s.

Third Window Films continue to release the newly restored films of Takeshi Kitano on sparkly blu-ray in the UK with Getting Any?. Prior to this release, it was only available in the UK via Second Sight Films and their Kitano box-set. The Third Window Films release is a massive improvement in terms of visuals and sound and the subtitles have been given a unique UK spin with money translated from yen to pounds and there’s an interesting interview with Kitano.

Getting Any? みんな~やってるか! (1995) Dir: Takeshi Kitano is erotic nonsense of the highest order and presented perfectly here so if you have to get any version, then this is the one.

This review was originally written for VCinema.

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Cooperation and Community [績(う)みの村] (2015) Dir: Keishiro Ikeda Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Cooperation and Community

績(う)みの村  Isao (u) minomura   

Running Time: 51 mins.

Director: Keishiro Ikeda

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

One of the more interesting trends in documentaries made in Japan over the last decade is the number that are dedicated to tracking the movement of people from the major cities back to small villages as they take up farming and find their place in smaller communities. This focus on settlers in smaller villages and on communitarianism is here in Cooperation and Community, my favourite film from the Housen strand since it gives an insight into a village undergoing a fascinating revitalisation and offers a possible answer to the much-publicised issue of the falling population and the stresses of modern life in Japan.

This particular documentary takes place in a small mountain village near Miyazu city in the Tango Peninsula which is located in Kyoto Prefecture. It is here that twelve households reside. It had been dying since most of the youngsters had left for the bigger cities but recently, more and more people disillusioned with life in capitalist society have arrived seeking a new way of living. These new settlers are only allowed in through introductions from friends and family ensuring some harmony as these newcomers and the original population of mostly elderly people must learn to get along.

Continue reading “Cooperation and Community [績(う)みの村] (2015) Dir: Keishiro Ikeda Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue”

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Bright Night レンコーンの夜 Dir: Yasumasa Konno (2016) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Bright Night 

レンコーンの夜   Renko-n no yoru   

Running Time: 43 mins.

Director: Yasumasa Konno

Writer: N/A

Starring: Yuji Komatsu, Toru Kizu, Hidetoshi Kawaya, Akana Ikeda, Suguru Onuma, Atsushi Yamanaka,

This one was fun and my second favourite film from the Housen strand and at only 43 minutes, it flew by with a flurry of laughs. Its story about a freshly-minted salaryman forced to join the R&D department of a failing company and given the difficult task of saving it from imminent closure through inventing some new contraption is delightfully whimsical since it features a cast of good-natured if odd characters and a script that warmly embraces them. Yasumasa Konno, already something of an experienced writer and director, further shows his skills with this.

Bright Night Film Image

The story starts with 28-year-old Shinji Hanayama visits a small company named Nakata Cyber desperate for a job. They are famous for making 3D glasses and televisions but have fallen on hard times. After a cursory interview where the boss assures himself that Shinji will just be a yes-man, he is hired and given control of the company’s R&D department to come up with a new gadget to make sure that a bank invests in the project. There’s a deadline and it’s next week or the company will go bankrupt without that financing.

Continue reading “Bright Night レンコーンの夜 Dir: Yasumasa Konno (2016) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue”

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Promises 子供たち Dir: Mikihiro Endo (2015) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Promises

子供たち   Kodomotachi   

Running Time: 85 mins.

Director: Mikihiro Endo

Writer: N/A

Starring: Shugo Oshinari, Tatsuki Ishikawa,

Promises, one of three films from graduates of the film course at Tokyo University of Fine Arts, was the only film in the Housen strand at the Osaka Asian Film Festival that would qualify as feature-length in terms of duration. Much like the other entries, it was professionally shot and featured great performances from its cast and it used its extra time to ask big questions about identity. This is a somewhat intriguing but fuzzy existential tale about false masks worn in society and authenticity and the creeping madness that emerges in people when there is a gap between the two.

A young man named Masaru Fukada (Oshinari) begins working as a teacher at an English cram school. His big selling-point as a teacher is that he has lived and studied in America but it’s all a lie. He didn’t go to America to learn English, he used reference books and online tutorials. Despite this, his English is pretty good – far more natural and easy to understand than some professional teachers in state schools. He may not have the experience but he can act like he does. Thus, his employers encourage him to teach and ready the students to perform at a speech contest.

promises-film-image

Continue reading “Promises 子供たち Dir: Mikihiro Endo (2015) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue”

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Breathless Lovers 息ぎれの恋人たち Dir: Shumpei Shimizu (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Breathless Lovers

息ぎれの恋人たち Ikigire no koibito-tachi   

Running Time: 20 mins.

Director: Shumpei Shimizu

Writer: Shumpei Shimizu (Screenplay)

Starring: Kaito Yoshimura, Fusako Urabe, Daisuke Kuroda, Atsushi Shinohara

Breathless Lovers is the latest work from Shumpei Shimizu. It came into the festival with positive word of mouth, something to be expected from someone who has been educated at Tokyo University of the Arts. Indeed, his career features a directorial debut, Fuzakerun Janeeyo (2014), produced by Shinji Aoyama and work Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence. Shimizu’s short explores a pathological relationship between a man and the ghost of his lover.

The story concerns Toshiyuki, a 23-year-old guy who recently lost his boyfriend Tatsuya in a motorcycle accident. While he physically survived the accident, Toshyuki has been mentally wounded and is unable to ride or drive any vehicles. If he needs to go anywhere, he walks or runs and he does this despite having asthma. To try and connect with Tatsuya, Toshiyuki visits the boxing gym his ex-lover used to train at and performs the same emotionally and physically draining routines over and over as he follows the ghost of Tatsuya. Throughout the film, Toshiyuki is constantly breathless from his desperate attempts to connect with Tatsuya whose lifeless corpse… well, you get the picture. These are two of the breathless lovers of the title.

IF05_breathless_ikigire_1

Continue reading “Breathless Lovers 息ぎれの恋人たち Dir: Shumpei Shimizu (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue”

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Sweetest Truth スイーテスト・トゥルース (2016) Dir: Evdoxia Kyropoulou Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Sweetest Truth 

スイーテスト・トゥルース   Sui-tesuto Turu-su   

Running Time: 58 mins.

Director: Evdoxia Kyropoulou

Writer: N/A

Starring: Emiko Nakai, Efstathia Tsapareli, Ryo Tsujikura, Giota Festa,

Sweetest Truth is writer/director Evdoxia Kyropoulou’s graduation work for the Kyoto University of Art and Design graduate school’s master’s course. She has written and directed short films and documentaries in Japan, the UK and Greece on young women coping with modern, urban reality and Sweetest Truth is her most ambitious film yet since it takes place in two countries.

There are two characters at the centre of the film. The first is Sissi Nakamura (Emiko Nakai), a young model living and working in Kyoto. She tries to balance a career entering overdrive and a relationship with her difficult boyfriend, Hideo (Ryo Tsujikura), who is also a model. He has a cold attitude to her and he has financial problems but she persists in loving him.

Meanwhile, in Athens, we see Katerina (Efstathia Tsapareli), a middle-aged woman who works as a cleaner. She is drifting far away from her youthful ambitions. She lives a suffocating existence with her selfish and overbearing mother Athanasia (Giota Festa) in a small apartment. The internet is her only escape and it is how she briefly makes contact with Sissi.

Sweetest Truth Film Image 2

Kyropoulou’s script effectively balances two narratives in distinctly different locations with characters who go on similar journeys.

Continue reading “Sweetest Truth スイーテスト・トゥルース (2016) Dir: Evdoxia Kyropoulou Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue”

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Programme Housen Film Round-Up

I’m writing this the night before I age another year… Back, way back, way way back in the past, when 2014 was about to turn into 2015, I made many New Year’s resolutions. I actually hit every one of my resolutions. Except one:

  • I will investigate the Japanese indie film scene much more,

I didn’t do much in terms of indie films. In fact, reviews of films in general have been dropping to all-time lows. This year, I was gifted the chance to get involved in the Japanese indie film scene when I was at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and had access to a whole bunch of indie titles and filmmakers. However, when it came time to network, I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm and just stood in the background with a bemused expression because I was deep in thought (strange for a shallow person like me). I did make a couple of connections after film screenings and one has turned out to be a film-friend of sorts. The really indie stuff, as in the kids still in university or freshly graduated, the people who have ascended from the foothills to the slopes as they scale the mountain of a movie-making career, well, I briefly talked to a few but mostly just watched the films and sat in on a couple of Q&As. This happened at National Museum of Art in a really cool area of the city which I enjoyed walking through every day.

National Museum of Art, Osaka

The venue was pretty cool, the relaxed atmosphere of a small lecture hall in the quiet museum being conducive to thinking about a film without distraction. A decent-sized screen was enough to convey the cinematic visions of a bunch of talented creatives to a dedicated audience who seemed very interested in what they had watched (that was the impression I got from the Q&As where people asked probing questions). As was the case for every film at the festival, every screening had subtitles and the ones I saw were perfect. For my part, I sat back and wrote, laughed, and was entertained and informed by new stories of life in Japan and visions of communities and individuals that were unique. I even asked a question at a Q&A. Also, all of the screenings were totally free. Free films. I mean, what a deal!

I’ve got notes on each film and will be publishing reviews for them individually. This post is a bit like a statement of intent and a contents page. The Osaka Asian Film Festival sort of revitalised me as a film-blogger at a time when I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing except having fun. I have a direction to go in now. I’ve also rediscovered anime with Mind Game, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, and A Silent Voice and with the new Kino no Tabi series out it’s time to get hype!

So what were the indie films I saw? They were part of the Housen strand.

Hosen Cultural Foundation: Support for film study and production

What is Housen? Based in Osaka, the Housen Cultural Foundation supports film study and production in graduate schools across Japan with the aim of preserving and helping grow film culture in Japan. This year’s crop of directors came from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Kyoto University and each shot a film that was technically great or near enough. Every film screening with the exception of Icarus and the Son was a world premiere and one of the Housen-backed films – Breathless Lovers – was selected for a screening in the Indie Forum section. Two of the films later made it to festivals like Nippon Connection and Japan Cuts.

Everybody watches a film differently due to their mindset and emotional baggage and I found I got wildly different responses from other people who saw the same thing. Since I’m usually the odd man out, whatever.

Insecurities out of the way, here are a few brief thoughts before I post reviews over the next week.

bright-night-film-image

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The Night is Short, Walk on Girl 夜は短し歩けよ乙女 2017 Director: Masaaki Yuasa

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl

夜は短し歩けよ乙女 「Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome

Release date: April 07th, 2017    The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Film Poster

Running Time: 93 mins.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Masaaki Yuasa, Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay) Tomihiko Morimi (Original Novel),

Animation Production: Science SARU

Starring: Kana Hanazawa (Kurokami no Otome), Gen Hoshino (Senpai), Kazuya Nakai (Seitarou Higuchi), Yuuko Kaida (Ryouko Hanuki), Nobuyuki Hiyama (Johnny), Aoi Yuuki (Princess Daruma), Junichi Suwabe (Nise Jougasaki),

MAL     IMDB    Website

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the latest film from anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa and his studio Science Saru. One of two award-winning movies he has released in 2017 (the other being Lu Over the Wall which took top prize at Annecy), this film is the very definition of the word exuberant in terms of story and style and should cement Yuasa as one of the best anime directors around.

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Mind Game マインド・ゲーム  (2004) Dir: Masaaki Yuasa

Mind Game

マインド・ゲーム 「Maindo Ge-mu    
Mind Game Film Poster
Release Date:
August 07th, 2004

Running Time: 104 mins.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Masaaki Yuasa (Screenplay), Robin Nishi (Original Manga),

Animation Production: Studio 4°C

Starring: Sayaka Maeda (Myon), Koji Imada (Nishi), Seiko Takuma (Yan), Jouji Shimaki (Yakuza Boss), Takahashi Fujii (Ji-san),

MAL      IMDB

Mind Game is God-tier filmmaking. It is incredible. It is inventive. It is inspirational. It is imaginative. Its visual and aural aspects are deliberately crude yet beautiful. Its story is intricate yet delivered in a madcap way that you may miss the genius plot device behind the whole narrative and the basis of a whole host of directorial tricks. Its animation is full of life itself. Indeed, Mind Game IS life itself!

I have started with this hyperbole because the experience of seeing it in a cinema is life-affirming. It reminds me of why I fell in love with anime and how full of joy life is.

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Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2017

The 2017 edition of the London East Asia Film Festival takes place from October 19th to the 29th. This is the second year of the festival and it features a great selection of films from Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. The Japanese selection features some films fresh from Cannes, Camera Japan, Kotatsu, and other festivals and there are two new titles for me to write about, one live-action film and one anime.

London East Asia Film Festival 2017 Poster

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Double Life  「二重生活」 Dir:  Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016

Double Life   Double Life Film Poster

二重生活 「Niju seikatsu

Running Time: 83 mins

Director:  Yoshiyuki Kishi

Writer: Yoshiyuki Kishi (Screenplay), Mariko Koike (Original Novel)

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Masaki Suda, Lily Franky, Setsuko Karasuma, Naomi Nishida, Yukiko Shinohara, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB

Double Life is the debut feature-film from Yoshiyuki Kishi but it is done with such control you would have no idea. It is based on a novel by Mariko Koike and features a strong cast that bring audiences an interesting drama of a student who becomes obsessed with her neighbour ‘s life.

The student at the centre of the story is Tama (Mugi Kadowaki in her first lead role). She is a philosophy student who lives with her video game designer boyfriend Takuya (a low-key Masaki Suda) in a comfortable apartment.

A Double Life Film Image

When we first see her, she’s slogging through her masters thesis and even questioning the meaning of her own life when her inspirational professor, Shinohara (Lily Franky playing his role in a physically and emotionally constricted manner), gives her some guidance by telling her to follow in the footsteps of the French writer Sophie Calle and follow, in turn, in the footsteps of some random stranger on the street to discover their life.

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Zigeunerweisen ツィゴイネルワイゼン (1980) Director: Seijun Suzuki

Zigeunerweisen

ツィゴイネルワイゼン 「Tsuigoineruwaizen」   Zigeunerweisen Film Poster 2

Running Time: 145 mins

Director:  Seijun Suzuki

Writer: Yozo Tanaka (Screenplay), Hyakken Uchida (Original Novel)

Starring: Yoshio Harada, Naoko Otani, Toshiya Fujita, Kisako Makishi, Akaji Maro, Kirin Kiki, Yuki Kimura, Nagamasa Tamaki, Sumie Sasaki,

Website IMDB

This is an unruly and long review for a great film! You have been warned.

Seijun SuzukiSeijun Suzuki’s (1923 – 2017) career as a director is split into two parts – as one of Nikkatsu studio’s stable of salaried directors, he was tasked with making rather generic low-budget yakuza films but Suzuki’s output was different because he had a keen sense of style and humour that subverted the genre products he was hired to write and direct. Brave use of dissonance in terms of arty visuals, sounds and music, and penning irreverent stories with outrageous twists made his films more memorable for audiences but less palatable for the guys running Nikkatsu who were not so enamoured with creating art and more interested in making a quick buck. This period came to an end with Branded to Kill which proved to be a critical and commercial flop and so the head honchos at Nikkatsu fired him for making, and I quote Suzuki-kantoku himself, “movies that make no sense and no money.” Suzuki successfully sued them for wrongful dismissal but successfully challenging industry figures tends to get a person blacklisted (just ask Kiyoshi Kurosawa after his run-in with Juzo Itami) and so he spent ten years in the movie making wilderness formulating ideas with other creatives. Continue reading “Zigeunerweisen ツィゴイネルワイゼン (1980) Director: Seijun Suzuki”

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Japanese Girls Never Die  「アズミ・ハルコは行方不」Dir: Daigo Matsui 2016

Japanese Girls Never Die  

japanese-girls-never-die-film-poster
japanese-girls-never-die-film-poster

アズミ・ハルコは行方不  Azumi Haruko wa yukue fumei

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Daigo Matsui

Writer: Mariko Yamauchi (Original Novel), Misaki Setoyama (Screenplay)

Starring: Yu Aoi, Mitsuki Takahata, Maho Yamada, Shono Hayama, Taiga, Kanon Hanakage, Ryo Kase, Motoki Ochiai, Tomiyuki Kunihiro, Akiko Kikuchi,

IMDB Website

In this film, Japanese girls are mad. Justifiably so if you look at reality. Despite Japan being a country on the bleeding edge of culture and cool, the way women are treated leaves a lot to be desired. Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan (I’m dating this review with a reference to him), has pledged to make Japan’s economy boom again and one of his methods is to get more women into the workplace and not just in menial positions but in leadership roles – womenomics. Rather contradictorily, he wants this whilst also trying to persuade women to boost the birthrate of a country with workplace environments that often penalise people for taking time off to look after family matters. Unfortunately, his grand plans have faltered and women still find themselves trapped in lowly positions never mind other issues such as stalkers and whatnot. Japanese Girls Never Die, based on the novel Haruko Azumi Is Missing by Misaki Setoyama, manages to tackle many issues of that women face in a bright neon blaze of righteous anger and anime-inspired visuals that will drive home the injustices that women endure.

Continue reading “Japanese Girls Never Die  「アズミ・ハルコは行方不」Dir: Daigo Matsui 2016”

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The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016

The Long Excuse The Long Excuse Film Poster

永い言い訳 Nagai Iiwake

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director:  Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Tamaki Shiratori, Kenshin Fujita, Keiko Horiuchi, Haru Kuroki,

Website IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa loves writing about the worst traits of people. Nishkawa’s previous feature films, Wild Berries (2003), Sway (2006), Dear Doctor (2009), and Dreams for Sale (2012) have protagonists who are unctious liars, unappreciative egotists, unrepentant cheats, and utter scoundrels. In this film, based on a novel she wrote, Nishikawa asks the audience to follow a character whose emotional life is a cold-hearted absence borne by self-absorption, a man who has disappeared into himself and lost sight of what really matters in life, other people.

Continue reading “The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016”

Genkina hito’s Top Ten Films of 2017

Welcome to my top ten films of 2017.

The Long Excuse Mistress

LAst year was dominated by work/fun at two festivals. There was the Osaka Asian Film Festival at the start of the year while I was in Japan and the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2017 during the autumn when I returned to the UK. Both experiences were great because I got to do what I love the most, writing about films. I also got to work with some really great people and made friends. I have to say thank you to all of them. I hope these people stay with me. As far as I’m concerned, they have my loyalty for what it’s worth. Once I got back from Japan, I made sure to take my family to see as many films as possible. Going to the cinema was something we already did as a family but spending more time together is important. As a result of all this activity, I saw lots of films this year. Due to the type of films I cover or circumstances or pure choice, I flit between years so not everything has been released in 2017. Here’s an article on VCinema I contributed to about a year in cinema and here are my top ten for 2017:

I hope you discover something in this list that interests you.

I’ve updated my Top Ten Films page for these entries.

FINAL JUSTICE

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Top Ten Films of 2017”