Genkina hito at the 56th London Film Festival

Getting Any Genki Film Festival Banner

Yep, after months of reporting about international film festivals like Berlin, Cannes, Venice, and Toronto and complaining about not being able to be at them and watching Japanese films, I am finally attending one myself for this is the year I try and increase my coverage by taking part in The 56th London Film Festival. The festival takes place from the 10th until the 21st of October and I will be seeing The Wolf ChildrenKey of Life, and For Love’s Sake.


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.



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. 


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.

Check out Alua’s post for more information on other titles worth checking out. I bet nobody will be able to guess which film the image comes from!

17 thoughts on “Genkina hito at the 56th London Film Festival

  1. HS

    I saw Ai to Makoto today and I really, REALLY, loved it! It’s a lot of fun, kind of Crows Zero meets Katakuris with a smattering of Yatterman thrown in. I really wanted to see Wolf Children and Key of Life but couldn’t fit them in. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the festival – it’s always interesting even if part way through you start realising you’ve picked a dud!

    1. We were probably at the same screening of Ai to Makoto! I agree with your take on it. Miike brought his visual insanity to this film and I recognised a lot of references. The Wolf Children and Key of Life were brilliant. I think I saw three of the best Japanese films at the festival since I know I’m going to score them all a 5… That’s happening a lot but Japan makes great films.

  2. Captain Banana

    I watched The Samurai That Night, Key of Life, Ai to Makoto, Helter Skelter and Dreams for Sale at LFF.

    The Samurai That Night – Overly Melodramatic, some scenes dragged and a certain answer machine message was like nails on a chalk board at the end (director will improve if he makes more movies)

    Key of Life – Quirky, funny, good twists and turns but 10 mins too long (I can imagine a Hollywood remake)

    Ai to Makoto – Had little expectation aside from it being a Miike, I enjoyed it but thought it was too long.

    Helter Skelter – Too long but liked it better than Sakuran, hearing that during filming Erika Sawajiri behaved in a similar manner (diva like) to the character she portrayed kind of took me out of the story. Surprised by the appearance of Mika Ninagawa (I saw her outside the BFI before the screening and thought it was her)

    Dreams for Sale – Enjoyed this, could have been tightened up a bit, I like her earlier work more (particularly Sway) again good to see the director attend but would have been nice to have some advanced notice of her attending. Loved spotting Nobuhiro Yamashita!

    Most of the films felt too long though…….wanted something with a real spark but for me I didn’t get that this year.

    Good that the BFI are making more of an effort to bring asian directors over………..first Q&A’s I’ve been to at the London Film Festival and I’ve gone since 2008!

    Come on Premiere Japan don’t disappoint!

    1. Helter Skelter, Dreams for Sale and The Samurai That Night intrigued me but I went for titles I was sure I would get the most from – not even Erika Sawajiri on the big screen was enough of a draw. I agree with the reviews although I didn’t have a problem with the length of the films because I enjoyed them so much.

      Funny you should mention a Hollywood remake of Key of Life, I was making a dream cast for a Hollywood remake yesterday – Colin Farrell as Sakurai, Gwyneth Paltrow as Mizushima and Christopher Walken/Samuel L Jackson as Kondo just to make things really weird.

      I wish I was there when you saw Mika Ninagawa and Nobuhiro Yamashita. I would have been a rude gaikokujin and asked for a photo 😉 Or is that going too far?

      Premiere Japan… Another reason to go to London? I must investigate!

      I look forward to seeing your new name!

      1. Tired Paul

        Nobuhiro Yamashita wasn’t present, he was in a background shot in the movie, I’ve also seen him in the background of a few tv shows too.

        If a Hollywood remake happened for Key of Life I wouldn’t be surprised if Richard Gere has a role in it, he’s starred in two Japanese movie remakes already!

        I’m sure you could ask for a photo…………I wouldn’t though!

        I’m itching to find out what will be at Premiere Japan, I’m being really optimistic and feel like they are going to expand the selection to be more like Japan Cuts in New York……both have involvement from Japan Society so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, assuming it’s held at the same venue as last year I can see more movies being shown because the Barbican has added two extra screens since then!

        …………and this is my new name!

      2. Genki Jason

        Ah, I see. I get excited whenever I spot Kiyoshi Kurosawa popping up in films! Not Takashi Shimizu for some reason…

        I cannot picture Richard Gere as Kondo… To remakes… He was in Hachi and the only other title I can think of is the Kurosawa film where he’s the gaijin boyfriend.

        Enigmatic new name! Tired? Of what?

  3. Tired Paul

    The other remake is of one starring your favourite…..Koji Yakusho!

    Shall We Dance? aka Shall we dansu?

    Recently watched some earlier Masayuki Suo movies, Fancy Dance and Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t………both are highly recommended!

    I’m always tired so the name really works.

    1. Oh yeah! I forgot about Shall We Dance! I recently wrote the title in a preview because Koji Yakusho has a movie coming out later this month – A Terminal Trust.

      I’ll check out Masayuki Suo’s works. I’ll have to review something other than horror which is what I’ve been doing a lot of.

      1. Tired Paul

        Masayuki Suo releases movies so infrequently that for the most part I can’t wait to check them out.

        You can’t really go wrong with any of his movies.

        “I’ll have to review something other than horror which is what I’ve been doing a lot of.”

        So am I right in thinking that you started with J-horror?

      2. Started this blog with J-horror or first Japanese film ever? I think my first non-anime Japanese film may have been… Onibaba back in the mid 90’s on Channel 4.

        I started a season of regular reviews of J-horror last August and only intended for it to last a couple of months with season features on Shimizu and Nakata but I just kept going and going and going…

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