Japanese Films at the 56th BFI London Film Festival

Hyouka Genkina hito BFI LFF 56

Last year I started writing about film festivals – I think Venice was the first because I was following a film named Himizu. The British Film Institute’s London Film Festival is a popular post that still gets views today. This year I decided to try and increase my coverage and even take part in a festival. The 56th London Film Festival will be the first major one I will visit. It takes place from the 10th until the 21st of October and the line-up of films is spectacular. There are some great titles like Nameless Gangster, Rust and Bone, and Antiviral. There is also a strong selection of Japanese films, some of which have been at other festivals and others which have already been released in Japan. I have already written about all but one of them. They all look exciting. As for my own picks they are The Wolf Children, Key of Life, and For Love’s Sake. Very happy titles amidst the darkness. Check out Alua’s post for more information on other titles worth checking out. Maybe I’ll see you there?

What films are at the festival then?

 

Dreams for Sale                                   Dreams for Sale Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 夢 売る ふたり

Romaji: Yume Uru Futari

Running Time: 137 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa

Starring: Takako Matsu, Sadao Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Tamae Ando, Yuka Ebara,  Tsurube Shoufukutei, Tae Kimrua, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yusuke Iseya,

This film has appeared in two posts on this blog already – Toronto Film Festival and a new entry in the Japanese film charts. It is far darker comedy than I am used to seeing from Japan and this twisted relationship comedy looks deliciously immoral.  The principal cast are lead by Takako Matsu (9 Souls, Confessions, April Story), Sadao Abe (Paikaji Nankai Sakusen, After Life), Sawa Suzuki (Loft), Tae Kimura (My House, Kaidan, Starfish Hotel, Infection), and Tamae Ando (Noriko’s Dinner Table, Phone Call to the Bar). I wish I could have seen this one

 

When Kanya (Abe) and Satoko (Matsu) celebrate the fifth anniversary of their restaurant they had no idea it would end with the place burning down. This disaster forces Satoko to take on a job at a noodle shop while Kanya gets depressed and does what most movie men do in such a situation: drink and gamble. Then, one night, he returns home with cash and claims he got it by spending time with a lonely woman.  Satoko is initially angry but then realises the full potential of the scame and so the two embark on a series of sham relationships to get money together to re-open their restaurant. Surely it wont go that smoothly?

 

For Love’s Sake              Ai to Makoto Film Festival

Japanese Title: 愛 と 誠

Romaji: Ai to Makoto

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto

This will be the final film I see in the festival and I am expecting this to be highly entertaining because it is directed by Takashi Miike. I hate musicals but Miike made The Happiness of the Katakuris which I loved. Tony Rayns, a highly experienced Japanese film expert states, “you can only gasp in disbelief at Miike’s inventiveness: performances, design, choice of golden-oldie hits and fight choreography are all beyond ace.”  Sounds awesome! Anyway Miike reunite with Emi Takei and Takumi Saito (13 Assassins) two stars from his previous film, Ace Attorney. It also stars Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain) and Sakura Ando (Love Exposure). Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation of Ai to Makoto is the fourth so far, the previous three being made in 1974, 75, and 76.

High school student Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki) is an ultra-delinquent who has arrived in Tokyo to avenge an incident from his past. That will have to wait as he falls in love with the angelic Ai (Takei) who comes from a respectable family. Things will get complicated as Iwashimizu (Saito) is in love with Ai while Gamuko (Ando) has feelings for Makoto.

 

 Helter Skelter                                            Helter Skelter Poster

Japanese Title: Heruta Sukeruta

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Mika Nanigawa

Writer: Arisa Kaneko (Script), Kyoko Okazaki (manga)  

Starring: Erika Sawajiri, Nao Omori, Shinobu Terajima, Gou Ayano, Yosuke Kubozuka, Mieko Harada, Sho Aikawa, Junki Tozuka, Anne Suzuki, Hirofumi Arai

Mika Ninagawa is an art/fashion photographer who made her directorial debut with the gorgeous Sakuran. This is her second film and it is based on Kyoko Okazaki’s psychological manga set in fashion industry. It was the Grand Winner of the 2004 Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize. Arisa Kaneko is the screen writer adapting the story and she has written the scripts for films like Train Man: Densha Otoko and Welcome Home, Hayabusa. Just a look at the Helter Skelter Erika Sawajiritrailer and pictures of the film reveals that it will be visually spectacular! It stars the incredibly gorgeous Erika Sawajiri (Ghost Train) who is also visually spectacular and who I like very much. As an actress. Ahem. This was one of my initial festival choices but I opted to view For Love’s Sake so I had the rest of the day free and I could do other cultural things. That and ending the festival on this note seemed a bit wrong.

 

 Ririko (Sawajiri) is a vision of perfect beauty. What the public does not know is that her beauty is derived from multiple cosmetic surgeries and a lot of medication. To maintain her beauty and position she needs to keep taking medication and getting surgery but when the clinic that performs her surgery comes under investigation for medical ethics from authorities led by Prosecutor Asada (Omori) Ririko finds her career on the brink of calamity. With pressure mounting, Ririko’s body begins to suffer and her emotions and career, and sanity begin to fall apart.

Key of Life                                                          Key of Life Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 鍵 泥棒 の メソッ

Romaji: Kagi Dorobou no Meoddo

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Kenji Uchida

Starring: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi

This film gets a glowing write up from Tony Rayns who describes it as “deliciously funny, not to mention brilliantly timed and acted with relish by the all-star cast.”  Some of that cast includes Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata), Masato Sakai (Sky High, The Samurai that Night), Ryoko Hirosue (Departures), YosiYosi Arakawa (Fine, Totally Fine, Quirky Guys & Girls), and Yoko Moriguchi (Casshern). I was sold on this from the cast and the trailer and so I will be watching this at the festival.

 

Sakurai (Kondo) is an aspiring but unsuccessful actor who has recently attempted suicide but is unsuccessful at that. He decides to head to a local bathhouse to ease his suffering and whilst there he witnesses a stranger in the neighbourhood named Kondo (Kagawa) who slips and knocks himself unconscious. Sakurai takes advantage of this and helps himself to Kondo’s locker key. He loots Kondo’s belongings and assumes his identity which is a pretty bad idea considering that Kondo is an assassin working for a yakuza. For his part Kondo wakes up in hospital minus his memory and so assumes Sakurai’s life as an actor but applies his dedicated nature to the craft while trying to recover his memory. 

 

Like Someone in Love              Like Someone in Love Poster

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Writer: Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase, Mihoko Suzuki, Kaneko Kubota, Hiroyuki Kishi, Reiko Mori, Seina Kasugai, Tomoaki Tatsumi

Abbas Kiarostami followed Certified Copy with Like Someone in Love which is set in Japan. Like Someone in Love Rin Takanashi 2It stars the beautiful Rin Takanashi who starred in the underrated hypnotic mystery Goth: Love of Death, Denden who was in CureCold Fish and Himizu and Ryo Kase who starred in Outrage and Retribution. It got mixed reviews at Cannes and those mixed reviews were enough to put me off despite my interest in it earlier this year. As much as I liked Certified Copy it was as much to do with my mood at the cinema at the time – cheap tickets, warm night and shorter travel than normal. I get the feeling that if I ventured all the way down to London and this film did not blow me away I would be very disappointed.

A young female student named Akiko (Rin Takanashi) works as a prostitute to pay off her university fees. One of her clients is an elderly academic (Tadashi Okuno) who is fond of her and merely wants to talk. Soon a grandfather/daughter relationship develops between the two which is just as well because her jealous boyfriend (Kase) assumes that is all it is and is kept in the dark.

 

The Samurai that Night                          The Samurai That Night Movie Poster

Japanese Title: その よる の 侍

Romaji: Sono Yoru no Samurai

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Masaaki Akahori

Writer: Masaaki Akahori

Starring: Masato Sakai, Takayuki Yamada, Hirofumi Arai, Gou Ayano, Maki Sakai, Tomorowo Taguchi, Haruka Kinami, Tsutomu Takahashi, Mitsuki Tanimura, Sakura Ando, Denden

This is the debut film of stage actor Masaaki Akahori who has turned one of his plays into a film. Tony Rayne on the festival website describes the film as cutting “to the quick of some very human, very dark impulses and emotions” and Akahori’s direction as having “psychological insights to match his aesthetic control.” A pretty fantastic endorsement considering this is from Tony Rayns! This also stands out as a film I have not seen screened at any western festivals. I really wanted to see this because the storyline looked interesting and it stars familiar names like Sakura Ando (Our Homeland, Love Exposure, For Love’s Sake), Denden (Cure, Cold Fish, Himizu), Hirofumi Arai (Blazing Famiglia, Helter Skelter), Takayuki Yamada (Thirteen Assassins, The Cat Returns, The Seaside Motel), Gou Ayano (Gantz, A Man with Style) and Masato Sakai who stars in Key of Life which I will be seeing!

 

Kenichi Nakamura (Masato Sakai) is the manager of a small ironworks who lost his wife (Maki Sakai) in a hit-and-run incident five years ago. Since then his life has become mundane. After the loutish driver Kijima (Yamada) who committed the crime is released from prison he receives threatening letters daily which state that both he and the anonymous writer will die on the anniversary of the incident. Kenichi’s friends and relatives try to stop him from embarking on his path of revenge but he is determined to avenge his wife. 

 

The Wolf Children             The Wolf Children Poster

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Writer: Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera

Starring: Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Yukito Nishii, Haru Kuroki, Amon Kabe, Momoka Oona, Shota Sometani, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuki Tanimura,

This is the biggest draw of the festival for me. I have been posting about this film since the earliest trailers were released in Japan and it hit the Japanese movie box office charts. I am a major fan of Mamoru Hosoda’s first film, The Girl who Leapt Through Time, but Summer Wars left me cold despite the excellent animation and assured script. The Wolf Children could be the film that reaffirms my interest in him or kill it off. Just watching the trailer I figure I will get emotional at some point and get swept up in the story and there is every possibility that this will happen because Hosoda is aided with scripting duties by Satoko Okudera who has worked on major anime movies like Summer WarsMiyori’s ForestThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and The Princess and the Pilot and legendary character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, FLCL, Evangelion) is the character designer. The voice actors are familiar from the world of live action movies. Hana is voiced by the actress Aoi Miyazaki who starred in Shinji Aoyama’s 2000 film Eureka (which I received a couple of weeks ago), Ōkami is voiced by Takao Osawa (All About Lily Chou-Chou – a film that I dread watching because I was left emotionally drained), Yuki is voiced by Haru Kuroki, and Ame is voiced by Yukito Nishii (Confessions). Other notable names include Momoka Oona (Mitsuko Deliversa film that was blah) who plays an even younger version of Yuki, Amon Kabe who plays an even younger version of Ame, Shota Sometani (HimizuSadako 3DIsn’t Anyone live?), Mitsuki Tanimura (13 Assassins), and Kumiko Aso (Pulse – an awesome J-horror!).

A story of love between parents and children that takes place over thirteen starts when a university student named Hana falls in love with Ōkami who is a “wolf man”. The two marry and have children named after the weather on the day they were born – Yuki (snow) the older sister and Ame (rain) the younger brother. The four live quietly in a city concealing the true existence of their relationship until Ōkami dies and Hana decides to move to the country.

3 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the 56th BFI London Film Festival

  1. There is a Japanese short, “Yonalure: Moment to momen”t, that is screening too (in the “Family” section). I haven’t added it yet myself (worked in the morning and now have a high school friend visiting that I haven’t seen in years so I’m even postponing the Trailer Weekly).

      1. Same. I just went through the Raindance shorts list this afternoon and have to write up a post for that too (I think there was just one Japanese and 1 and 1/2 Korean.

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