Japanese Films at the Berlin Film Festival 2012

Berlinale 2012 starts today and it has a huge selection of international films. This is a film blog focussing on Japanese films so I’ll detail what content in the various programmes is Japanese. There is a great selection of old and new here but the unearthing of director Yuzo Kawashima is the most interesting.

Bakumatsu Taiyoden – The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (1957) 110 mins.

Yoko Minamida, Frankie Sakai and Sachiko Hidari in Bakumatsu Taiyoden

Directed by Yuzo Kawashima and starring Yoko Minamida, Frankie Sakai and Sachiko Hidari

This comedy takes place in the politically turbulent end days of the Shogunate and involves a colourful cast of characters in a brothel. Shohei Imamura helped to write the screenplay.

Kino to Ashita no Aida (Between Yesterday and Tomorrow) (1954) 120 mins

Koji Tsuruta and Yumeji Tsukoka in Kino to AshitaDirected by Yuzo Kawashima and starring Koji Tsuruta, Yumeji Tsukoka, Chikage Awashima, Eitaro Shindo

Based on a novel by Yasushi Inoue this is another comedy from Yuzo Kawashima only this time it deals with the relationship problems of an ad-man who quits his job and relationship to found an airline and chase after another girl only finds that his old girlfriend won’t give up so easily and his new paramour is already married. To one of the airline’s investors.


Suzaki Paradaisu Akashingo (Suzaki Paradise: Red Light) (1956) 81 mins.

Michiyo Aratama, Tatsuya Mihashi in Suzaki Paradise: Red LightDirected by Yuzo Kawashima and starring Michiyo Aratama, Tatsuya Mihashi, Yukiko Todoroki and Izumi Ashikawa

Unlike the previous two Kawashima films this one seems to be more serious with a look at the hard lives led by those on the border between the red-light district of Suzaki and the rest of Tokyo.


Kazoku no Kuni (Our Homeland/ Our Family’s Country) (2012) 100 min.

Iura Arata and Ando Sakura in Kazoku no KuniDirected by Yang Yonghi and starring Iura Arata, Ando Sakura, Yang Ik-June

Japan’s Korean population has had a few films made about it like Blood and Bones which deals with racism or gangsters but this film tells a story I have not known about – the emigration of 90,000+ Koreans from  Japan to North Korea after being promised a better life amidst their own kind and the emotional and cultural clash between a brother named Sonho and sister named Rie that ensues when Sonho returns to Japan briefly for an operation. It is partly autobiographical story that draws on the director’s life.


Kikoeteru, Furi wo Sita Dake (Just Pretended to Hear) (2011) 99 mins

Hana Nonaka and Meru Gouda in Kikoeteru, Furi wo Sita Dake Directed by Kaori Imaizumi and starring Hana Nonaka, Meru Gouda, Takayuki Sugiki, Aki Etohu, Yasumi Yashima

This film follows a young girl named Sachi whose mother has died and her father is emotionally self-destructing as a result. Her only relief is in a friend and the belief in an afterlife that allows her mother to stay by her side.


Koi ni Itaru Yamai (The End of Puberty) (2011) 116 mins.

Miwako Wagatsuma in Koi ni Itaru YamaiDirected by Shoko Kimura and starring Miwako Wagatsuma, Yoichiro Saito, Aimi Satsukawa and Shota Sometani

This film plays on the Japanese schoolgirl genre by producing a strange looking film. Tsubara has a crush on biology teacher Madoka but when she tries to get physical the two swap sexual organs. They flee to the country but are followed by Madoka’s friends. The film stars Shota Sometani who is soon to be seen in the UK when Third Window Films releases Himizu.


Rentaneko (Rent-a-Cat) (2012) 110 mins.

Maho Yamada and Mikako Ichikawa in Rent-a-NekoDirected by Naoko Ogigami and starring Mikako Ichikawa, Reiko Kusamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Maho Yamada, Kei Tanaka

Sayoko walks along a river daily with a cart full of cats. Why? Well she rents cats to lonely people. Unfortunately Sayoko is lonely herself and things get even worse when a face from the past turns up.


Unter Schnee (Under Snow) (2011) 107 mins.

Takamasa and Kiyotsugu Fujima in Unter SchneeOkay, I cheated. This is a German film but it has Japanese subjects. Directed by Ulrike Ottinger this is a look at the reality of those who live in the snowy region of Echigo.


Uzushio (2011) 6 mins.

Damaged Film Stock in Uzushio

Directed by Naoto Kawamoto.

This short film examines the conflict between the past and present, the denial that occurs and the aesthetic clash as we consider how the present and past can coexist through film stock that has been scratched.

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