The London International Animation Festival is due to launch at the end of the week and it lasts ten days (December 02nd to December 11th). There are over 200 films getting screened and many of them are Japanese. The titles are spread across competitions and special screenings and there is a wide variety of Here’s a preview based on a press release and information from the festival site:
It’s a grey day today and snowing in Tokyo. I have to go out into the cold to get more clothes fit for winter. It makes me think of home back in the UK which is also cold as winter gets a grip over there. That won’t stop me writing about events related to Japan and here’s one that has been in my email inbox for a while. The avant-garde Musician Koichi Makigami will give a talk and performance in London on December 03rd. I had to look up his work and it seems like fun based on the first couple of videos I found:
Here’s the information from the organisers:
People in New York have a nice winter treat since Metrograph will play host to a series of movies by the genius that is Takeshi Kitano. This event will see most of his major works screened on 35mm prints from November 17th to November 25th. It features highlights such as Sonatine, Boiling Point, A Scene at the Sea and Kids Return. There’s also one of his weaker efforts, Getting Any?, a comedy that wears out its welcome after 30 minutes… Otherwise, this is a stellar selection of films.
At a time I am currently working on a documentary in Japan I get an email about a cool season of Japanese documentaries filmed by indie creatives. The Japan Foundation and Institute of Contemporary Arts have teamed up for a retrospective of the documentaries of Shinsuke Ogawa and his acolytes. The event starts on November 17th and lasts until December 11th and it features films that chart the tumultuous period of the ‘60s and ‘70s when there were many student protests and a lot of social change as Japan modernised itself and controversial defence treaties were signed with the US which was embroiled in the Vietnam war. This is the best line-up of Japanese documentaries I have seen in the West so far and so it’s a great chance to learn more not just about Japan but filmmaking. I have written about one of these films (the Narita airport one) and recognise a couple of others but Japanese documentaries are a blindspot I have yet to watch any listed here so this I would have loved to see. Here’s a trailer:
I arrived in Japan on September 10th and while I had a few things I knew I wanted to do such as visiting specific museums I didn’t plan things out in too much detail and forgot about certain events such as the Tokyo Game Show (TGS). It wasn’t until a friend mentioned going to it on the final day that I realised that I was about to miss a weekend extravaganza of games.
TGS is the second biggest video game event in the world after E3 and it’s the chance for the Japanese video game industry to showcase what it can do. The majority of the event is for journalists only but on the final weekend the public get to experience the games on the show floor. The part of this year’s TGS that was open to the public ran from September 17th to the 18th and, as in previous years, took place in the Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture which is less than an hour away from Tokyo. Since I was based in Ikebukuro I had to catch a Yamanote Line train to get to Tokyo Station and then a Keiyo Line train to get to the Kaihin-Makuhari Station from where I could get to the convention hall. This was my first trip to Tokyo Station so I was unprepared for how huge it was but that wasn’t much of a problem due to the signs that were in Japanese and English and the logical layout of the station itself. The train ride was a short trip made slightly longer by the fact I missed my stop and had to double-back. I knew I was on the right train due to the high number of Westerners, otaku, and video gamers but totally didn’t register when they got out at the right station…
Akihabara – this is a long and rambling post so feel free to just look at the pictures. If you’re feeling brave you can listen to this music while you read:
Akihabara (Electric Town as it’s also known) is billed as the electronics and nerd-culture centre of Japan. If you like anime, manga, computers, video games, cameras or any other types of electronic and otaku goods then this is the area that you need to visit. I have been aware of it since at least my high school years when I heard of its legendary collection of video game and anime goods. I had pictured a densely packed warren of streets containing arcade dens full of herds of video game nerds clustered around classic beat-em-up game cabinets while anime fans pored through second-hand book stores and cute guys and gals cosplayed colourful anime characters and the scene was complete with the neon glow and anime music cast out by ads on video screens. I imagined myself pushing my way through aisles of goods crowded with other fanboys and fangirls, making my way to holy grails of videogamedom. Even as an adult with less interest in games and anime I still held onto that dream and made it a point to visit it during my first week.
Akihabara wasn’t like I imagined it.
Regular readers might know that I set up this blog to review Japanese films and track my journey to Japan. Nearly six years after starting out I have made it to Japan. I am on a working holiday and have been in the country since September 10th but I haven’t had the chance or motivation to write anything. Instead, I have been out and about exploring places, trying things out, eating new food, and making friends. I have travelled from Osaka to Tokyo to Yokohama to other places in Kanagawa and Gunma. I am only just getting started since I have around ten months left in my working holiday. I timed my working holiday to take in as many film festivals as I possibly could. The first film festival I went to was the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF).
The Tokyo International Film Festival was pretty awesome. I was there for four days and three films. It takes place in the rather upmarket area of Roppongi and the films I watched were in two locations – Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills and Ex Theater Roppongi. Both cinemas are earthquake-proof (as was constantly announced before film screenings) and look really cool – space-age structures of glass and steel and cool lighting.
Happy Halloween! This is the time of year when people celebrate the supernatural and ghoulish aspects of popular culture and national myths. I do my part by highlighting horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare Detective, Strange Circus, Shokuzai, POV: A Cursed Film and Charisma. This is the fifth year of this strand
and I am doing it in Tokyo, Japan. The last two weeks has seen the city go into Halloween overdrive and I am told it is a recent phenomenon. For my part I have viewed things from afar (such as from on top of Roppongi Hills and down onto a parade) rather than get stuck in what looks like a proper melee in jam-packed crowds (boring, I know, but I want to eat my ghost cakes and pumpkin Kitkats and drink my Halloween juice).
Anyway, this year’s film is from the ‘90s and it came from a young director who is now a familiar name thanks to a scary person who curses people via VHS. This isn’t Ringu, it’s an earlier film…
Release Date: March 02nd, 1996
Running Time: 75 mins.
Director: Hideo Nakata
Writer: Hiroshi Takahashi (Screenplay), Hideo Nakata (Original Story)
Starring: Yurei Yanagi, Yasuyo Shirashima, Kei Ishibashi, Ren Osugi, SABU, Daisuke Iijima, Naomi Kojima, Reita Serizawa,
We are in Japan in the ‘90s. A promising young director Toshio Murai (Yurei Yanagi) and his beautiful lead actors Hitomi Kurokawa (Kei IshibashI) and Saori Murakami (Kei Ishibashi) and the film staff are working hard on a film in a studio that has been around since the Second World War. It’s a huge place with a set that is built like a traditional house from the 1940s, props and scenery and other feature both modern and from the time of the studios construction as well as a lot of film canisters containing rolls of films from forgotten television shows and movies. It is an ideal location for the war drama being filmed and also place with a lot of memories. There is nothing so out of the ordinary at first glance and with so many people on set it looks like a lot of fun. Unless one looks up.
Lowlife Love has been reported on here multiple times. I tracked it from its inception as a Kickstarter Project (which I backed) and then I wrote about it four times when it featured at a number of prestigious film festivals and got it’s theatrical release in Japan. It has been a long road and I got the chance to watch it at the Tollywood Cinema in Shinjuku after being invited by the film’s producer, the ever-cool Adam Torel. The film was an interesting ride to say the least. I was expecting a comedy but it is dark, a rather grimy expose of some of the horrible things that go on in the world of cinema in Japan. Despite having seen the director Eiji Uchida’s previous film, Greatful Dead, I was taken aback by this. It’s a must-see for anyone who wants a dose of reality. Thankfully it has a veneer of comedy and some great performances to keep it from being unbearable.
I am still in Tokyo and still writing about films and still getting press releases so here’s the information for its UK release on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Here’s the press release:
The first 100% Third Window Films production!
Third Window films team up with GREATFUL DEAD director Eiji Uchida to produce a darkly comic satire of Japan’s no-budget film industry!
Dual format bluray & dvd set out November 21st
Featuring a Making Of, Cast interviews, Deleted Scenes, Alternate ending, Music video, Theatrical Trailer
“A nasty peek at the underbelly of the Japanese independent film scene.” – Screen Anarchy
“Lowlife Love is a fantastic piece of Japanese indie cinema, and a bold offering from the talented and creative Eiji Uchida.” – Eastern Kicks
“Presents uncomfortable truths in sharp, funny ways.” – The Japan Times
Ah, being in Japan means I get to miss so many cool Japan-related events in the UK such as this talk with the writer Mitsuyo Kakuta that will take place in London. She is a name that film fans may know of thanks to the adaptations of her works Pale Moon and Rebirth. She is a highly respected author who is visiting London on October 26th for a talk hosted by the Japan Foundation which sent an email out to alert anybody interested about the event. I’m in Tokyo right now but I know a few people who will be interested. Here are the posters for the film adaptations and the details of the talk: