The BFI London Film Festival kicks off next month (12th – 27th October) and amidst a lot of genuinely exciting international films is a selection of brilliant new Japanese titles which I’ll list here. I have yet to see them but the directors are very familiar to me so here’s a run-down of what’s on offer and you better be quick in booking your tickets!
Kiseki / I Wish
Hirokazu Kore-eda became a favourite director of mine when I watched a BBC Four screening of his quirky second film After Life and the emotionally shattering Nobody Knows. Since then he has dabbled in a samurai tale and a family drama with his last film, Still Walking, which had shades of Ozu. A lot of his skill comes from his documentary background which allows him to create scenes and foster performances that seem naturalistic. Kiseki has a lot of actors from Still Walking so I’m eager to see what the results are.
Two young brothers find themselves caught in the aftermath of a messy divorce between their parents. Now separated and at opposite ends of the island of Kyushu they hatch a plan to unite their parents through a miracle that the Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train) can create.
There are two screenings at the Vue West End cinema in Leicester Square which will take place on Saturday the 15th of October at 18:00 p.m and Monday the 17th of October at 18:oo p.m.. Visit the page to book your tickets!
Hara-Kiri – Death of a Samurai 3D
Following on from the blistering classic that was his remake of 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike offers another remake featuring Koji Yakusho and Hikari Mitsushima.
Seeking an honorable end, poverty-stricken samurai Hanshiro requests to commit hara-kiri in the courtyard of feudal lord Kageyu’s estate. Trying to dismiss Hanshiro’s wish to save face, Kageyu recounts the tragic story of a similar plea years ago from young ronin Motome. But the arrogant lord is unaware of vengeful Hanshiro’s bond to Motome…
There are two screenings at the Vue West End cinema in Leicester Square which will take place on Sunday the 16th of October at 20:15 p.m and Monday the 17th of October at 12:15 p.m.. Visit the page to book your tickets!
Shohei Imamura is one of the biggest names in Japanese cinema and something of the anti-Ozu. Compared to Ozu’s genteel and respectable output, Imamura’s films can be hard and uncompromising, as if pulling aside the curtain of respectability and pointing to the unseemly desires that all humans carry. His interest in human bodies created all sorts of stories like Black Rain, The Profound Desire of the Gods, Vengeance is Mine and The Ballad of Narayama. His last film, Warm Water Under the Red Bridge starring Koji Yakusho ranks as one of my favourite Japanese films of all time and probably the only one I can watch more than once a year but his reputation is being revived due to Eureka releasing more of his films through their Masters of Cinema imprint.
Now his son, Daisuke Tengan has directed a sequel to The Ballad of Narayama where the old women sent to the top of the mountain plan to come back down… for revenge.
There are two screenings at the Vue West End cinema in Leicester Square which will take place on Monday the 24th of October at 17:45 p.m and Wednesday the 26th of October at 12:oo p.m.. Visit the page to book your tickets!
I’m a recent convert to the school of Yuya Ishii’s humanistic comedies after watching Sawako Decides a witty and charming satire of modern Japanese society. In this film, Mitsuko is in her ninth month of pregnancy but she puts others before her
There are two screenings at the National Film Theatre, one on (Sunday the 23rd of October at 20:45 p.m. FULLY BOOKED)and the other on Wednesday the 26th of October at 13:15 p.m.. Visit the page to book your tickets!
My Back Page
Fresh from playing a student in 1960’s Tokyo in Norwegian Wood, Ken’ichi Matsuyama (Death Note, Usagi Drop) is in another film set in the same period. This story takes place in a tumultuous 1969 where Tokyo is suffering student riots and a rookie journalist (Satoshi Tsumabuki – Villain) falls under the spell of a student radical portrayed by Matsuyama.
There are two screenings at the Vue West End cinema in Leicester Square which will take place on Wedneday the 26th of October at 17:45 p.m and Thursday the 27th of October at 12:oo p.m.. Visit the page to book your tickets!
Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
The U.K. Premiere for Makoto Shinkai’s latest film, “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below” will take place at the London Film Festival. He is frequently compared to Hayao Miyazaki and looking at this trailer it’s easy to see why.
Asuna is a girl who spends her days listening to mysterious music coming from the crystal radio, a memento she received from her father. She embarks on a journey in the underground realm of Agartha which some believe has the properties of bringing people back from the dead. With a brave young man named Shun, Asuna will see the cruelty and beauty of the world as she evades dangerous beasts and and a ruthless group of soldiers from her world.
The screenings will take place on Tuesday the 18th of October at 18:15 p.m. at the BFI Southbank Cinema and Saturday the 22nd of October at 12:45 p.m. at the Vue West End cinema in Leicester Square. Visit the page to book tickets!
Film tickets can be booked online or by telephone (0207 9283232) by BFI members from the 19th of September, and for the general public on the 26th of September. The BFI Southbank screening costs £10.50, and the Vue West End screening is £14. Judging from the line up of other films at the festival (Wuthering Heights anyone?) it might be worth signing up for BFI membership which costs £40 which will entitle you to priority bookings and other benefits.