Ever since writing about this film last year I had been eagerly anticipating it, principally because it stars Koji Yakusho, a wonderful actor who has won my admiration through a series of performances in films by KiyoshiKurosawa. I was also impressed by the festival awards buzz it had acquired as it took the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival and the Audience Award at Nippon Connection. The awards are richly deserved.
The Woodsman & the Rain opens in a dense forest outside Yamamura village. A lumberjack named Katsuhiko (Yakusho) is busy sawing a tree with a chainsaw. This short sequence reveals a gruff and pragmatic small town man who is comfortable working the land. He can even read the weather and predict when it will rain hence the title. He is soon distracted by the arrival of Torii (Furutachi), the assistant director of a film. Torii asks him to stop. “We’re in the middle of a take.” Katsuhiko does not quite understand movie jargon and he is not one easily swayed from his craft so Torii says, “We’re shooting a movie over there.” Katsuhiko understands now and asks “Can I prune?” Torii replies “If it isn’t noisy, sure.” Katsuhiko climbs a tree and starts cutting branches. From this vantage point both Katsuhiko and the audience see the town in distance with movie vans parked around.
Yamamura has been invaded by a small crew shooting a low-budget zombie film named Utopia. Katsuhiko is not concerned with any of this and goes about his work day routine and living very uneasily with his unemployed and directionless son Koichi (Kora) but a chance encounter with Torii on the road leads to Katsuhiko meeting the film’s director who is also named Koichi (Oguri), a man barely out of university and on his first major project. Pressure is getting to him and he suffers from severe lack of confidence which leaves Torii taking command and trying to make use of Katsuhiko’s local knowledge for some location scouting. This is just the first of many requests that the film crew ask of Katsuhiko.
Despite being initially unimpressed with what he sees (especially Koichi) Katsuhiko is soon sucked into the film and even gets to act as a zombie. He even strikes up an unlikely friendship with Koichi as he falls in love with the story of the movie and the experience of making it. The more deeply he becomes involved with the film the more enthusiastic he is and discovers that the director, despite lacking in confidence and finding the demands of movie-making a little too much, is extremely talented. The two forms an unlikely friendship and help each other overcome personal problems.
Starring: Yun Jung-Hee, Lee Da-Wit, Kim Hui-Ra, Ahn Nae-Sang, Kim Yong-Taek, Park Myeong-Sin, Min Bok-Gi, Kim Hye-Jung, Hong Gyung-Yun, Kang Eun-Jin, Kim Min-Jae, Park Hyun-Woo, Kim Jong-Goo, Jang Hye-Jin
There are no direct spoilers (well, maybe one in the footnotes) but you will be far more moved if you go in with zero expectations.
Poetry is a film by Lee Chang-Dong, a man known for tackling hard subjects in films like Peppermint Candy and Oasis. It won the prize for best script at the 2010 Cannes film festival. It stars Yun Jung-Hee, the most celebrated actress in Korean cinema, who came out of a fifteen year retirement to play the role.It is a mesmerising and beautiful contemplative film with a searing ending that displays the brilliance of the director and the lead actress.
Poetry begins with a shot of fast-flowing water and a bridge. We hear children’s voices in distance. Cut to a body floating down a river. It is a girl in a school uniform.
Cut to a hospital waiting room, a woman in her 60’s named Mi-Ja (Yun Jung-Hee) is visiting a doctor with complaints about her right arm feeling prickly. What seems like a routine check-up ends with her finding out that she has Alzheimer’s. Mi-Ja leaves the hospital and sees a woman (Park Myeong-Sin) walking around stunned at the death of her daughter but she cannot stop and watch as she has to go to her part-time job as a carer for a stroke victim named Mr. Kang (Kim Hui-Ra). After work Mi-Ja hears about a young girl jumping off a bridge from Kang’s daughter-in-law but ignores it as she heads home to care for her teenage grandson Jong-Wook (Lee Da-Wit) who she raises alone and finds an unresponsive and inconsiderate person.
Her life is a quiet and contained one which ignores the troubles of the world by adopting numbing simple routines that has deadened her appreciation of the world. This deadness is removed by the very real spectre of Alzheimer’s which will tear away her understanding of everything from the abstract beauty of the world to the concrete details of life. It is this that prompts Mi-Ja to join a literary class for the public and pursue her long-held dream of becoming a poet. The goal for the pupils is that at the end of a one month class (two lessons a week), the pupils must have written one poem. Easy, right? Not for Mi-Ja who cannot find her poetic voice.
Worse is to come when she finds out that Jong-Wook may have been involved with the girl who was seen floating down the river at the beginning. We will witness Mi-Ja’s awakening to all that is ugly, hurtful and ultimately all that is beautiful in life.
Starring: Mamoru Miyano (Takuto), Saori Hayami (Wako Agemaki), Jun Fukuyama (Sugata), Ami Koshimizu (Keito)
Here is a trailer for the film adaptation of the anime Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto. This was announced at the beginning of last year and with the release date of February 09th approaching we are starting to see a deluge of promotional videos including a region-locked music video of the girl idol group 9nine’s theme song ‘colorful’ and this trailer.
South of Japan is a tropical island resting under brilliant blue skies named Southern Cross Isle. This is the island that a boy name Takuto Tsunashi has washed up on after swimming from the mainland alone and without any possessions. After enrolling in the local senior high school he makes a positive impact due to his happy-go-lucky personality and scores some friends in Wako Agemaki and Sugata Shindou. What he does not know is that beneath the school sleep giants named “Cybodies” and Takuto will find himself caught up in this secret as an epic story unfolds as a secret organisation named The Glittering Crux plans on activating giant mobile suits which have been sealed away on the island. Known as cybodies, these suits can only be controlled by pilots identified as Star Drivers and to unleash their full power a seal put in place by the island’s four shrine maidens must be broken. It just so happens that Wako Agemaki is a shrine maiden and so Takuto resolves to protect her. It should help that he is the Galactic Pretty Boy, gifted star driver of Taubrun, the 22nd cybody.
The anime movie is touted as a retelling of the TV series with some new content added. It is directed by Takuya Igarashi (Mushi-Shi, Soul Eater) and it is animated by studio Bones (Un-Go, Fullmetal Alchemist). The script comes from Yoji Enokido, a familiar figure from the industry who has written the scripts for the anime movie Redline and who was in charge of the composition of the TV series for titles like Nodame Cantabile, Revolutionary Girl Utena and , more importantly, Star Driver the TV series. So this movie is in good hands then! Seiyuu from the TV anime take their roles again with Mamoru Miyano (Taihi in Chihayafuru) taking the lead as Takuto, Saori Hayami (Miho in Bakuman) voicing Wako and Jun Fukuyama (Yukio in Blue Exorcist) voicing Sugata.
Ah, after the snow of last week it is all over and the only thing left is ice. I did not miss a day of work. I spent the week watching anime in the form of Cuticle Detective Inaba which is actually pretty funny in a surreal Bobobo-bobobo/Excel Saga sort of way. In blogging terms… this week I posted an obituary for Nagisa Oshima and then rounded up my preview of the Japanese films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival (lots of short films and two television shows) and coverage of the Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme which I will be attending in its London run next month. I’ll have two reviews lined up for next week.
What does the Japanese film chart look like for this week (January 19/2o)
One Piece Film Z
Gekijouban Hunter x Hunter
Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters vs. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: The Movie
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The chart is dominated by a lot of western films this week with the likes of Ted, Looper and Skyfall but two of the Japanese films released last week enter the top ten with Tokyo Family and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters vs. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.
What is released in Japan this week? Lots of films!
Writer/Actor/director Tsuyoshi Toshishige (Vital, SPEC: The Movie, Eureka) adapts Shichiri Nakayama’s Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! Prize winning novel Goodbye Debussy! Rising star Ai Hashimoto (Another, Control Tower) takes the lead role of a girl scarred by a mysterious crime. She had a busy 2012 and there looks to be no let up in 2013 with plenty of projects waiting to get screened. She acts opposite pianist Shinya Kiyozuka who makes his film debut here. They are supported by Yu Yoshizawa (One Missed Call 2, Sunshine Ahead), Keiko Toda (Angel’s Egg, The Magic Hour, A Wind Named Amnesia, Kiki’s Delivery Service)
16-year-old Haruka (Hashimoto) lost her parents, grandfather and cousin in a fire that left her emotionally and physically scarred. Despite this she holds on to her dream of becoming a pianist and win a contest. However, when a string of ominous events occur around her, music student Yosuke (Kiyozuka) who teaches piano to Haruka tries to solve the problems.
Tetsuya Honda’s popular police novel series had a TV adaptation that has spawned a movie. Both the TV series and this movie are directed by Yuichi Sato who was the chap who helmed Waterboys back in 2003. Yuko Takeuchi (A Ghost of a Chance, Tomoko from Ringu? My how you’ve grown!) is acting alongside her Midnight Eagle co-star Takao Osawa who was a voice in The Wolf Children and will be seen in Takashi Miike’s next film Straw Shield. There is a lot of talent in the support with the likes of Tomokazu Miura (Adrift in Tokyo, Outrage) and Hidetoshi Nishijima (Zero Focus, Licence to Live) and Kenichi Endo (The Happiness of the Katakuri’s, Azumi, One Missed Call).
Reiko Himekawa (Takeuchi) has worked her way through to the homicide squad and is investigating the murder of a gangster. Reiko believes the killing was gang related but there is little evidence and so the case grinds to a halt but when a phone call is received with the caller claiming to know who the killer is, Reiko’s superior officer tells her not to investigate. Not that this stops Reiko who continues investigating and meets a high ranking gangster named Isao Makita (Osawa) who is also investigating. The two join forces and their attraction to one another grows.
Japanese Title: つやのよる ある 愛 に かかわった、 女たちの物語
Romaji: Tsuya no Yoru Aru Ai no Kakawatta, Onna-tachi no Monogatari
Oh my God… Look at all of those hot Japanese actresses on that poster… Er. I mean… Ahem. All joking aside it is based on Areno Inoue’s 2010 novel Tsuya’s Night and despite the synopsis the trailer makes it look like it could be very entertaining. The cast is full of big names which is another draw.
Taking the lead role as the perfect man who is handsome, sensitive and ready to forgive his wife everything is the brilliant Hiroshi Abe (Thermae Romae, Still Walking, Summer of Ubume, Survive Style 5+). He is joined by Kyoko Koizumi (Tokyo Sonata, Adrift in Tokyo), Jun Fubuki (Séance, Rebirth), Maho Nonami (Scarecrow, 2LDK), Yoko Maki (The Grudge, one of the foxy nurses in Infection), Shinobu Otake (Welcome to the Quiet Room) and the totally foxy Tomoko Tabata (The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky, The Hidden Blade).
Matsuoi (Abe) is married to Tsuya and they live in Oshima City. He is a devoted husband. She is a woman who has numerous affairs. When Tsuya is diagnosed with cancer and falls into a coma Matsuoi informs the men she had affairs with about her condition. The women in the lives of these men are shocked and begin to re-examine their relationships.
Starring: Gaku Hamada, Kana Kurashina, Kento Nagayama, Kei Tanaka, Nene Otsuka, Bengal, Haru
The director of The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck & God in a Coin Lockerreunites with Gaku Hamada, one of the leads from that film. This is their fifth time working together and, as stated in my preview of releases for 2013, Third Window Films will release it later this year. Gaku Hamada acts alongside Kana Kurashina (Dreams for Sale), Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), Kei Tanaka (one of the school pupils on the roof in Suicide Club), Bengal (Boiling Point) and Nene Otsuka (Film Noir, Bashing). This is yet another adaptation of a book and it is written by Takehiko Kubodera. It deals with loneliness and change. If this were a British film it would most likely be directed by Mike Leigh or Ken Loach and have sections which are totally miserable but there looks to be a decent amount of well-observed comedy with a serious aspect behind it in this film. And some crying.
Satoru Watari (Hamada) lives in an apartment complex. After graduating from elementary school he decides to stay in the complex for the rest of his life. True to his word he stays at home instead of going to middle school and gets a job in a cake shop in the complex and gets engaged to a friend. His other friends have other ideas and one by one they leave.
The Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013 starts today! The festival takes place from January 23rd to February 03rd and the schedule is out. There is a fair-sized contingent of Japanese films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival which is why I have split this post into two parts. In the first part I looked at some of the highlights of the feature-length films (and missed three out すみません！) while in this part there are more outré titles, international co-productions, television series and short films.
I tend to ignore short films in my festival reporting but this selection looks really good.
Here are the rest of the films programmed for the festival!
Takashi Miike (For Love’s Sake, Thirteen Assassins) had a major hit at the end of 2012 with this film which audiences flocked to and critics praised. It looks like the type of film I would love. The film is based on a novel written by Yusuke Kishi who has twice won the Japan Horror Associated Award. It stars Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaidou who blew me away in Himizu.
Seiji Hasumi (Ito) is a popular teacher at a high school. His attractive smile and friendly demeanour masks the beating heart of a psychopath. A psychopath who will stop at nothing to make his school perfect including killing his students.
Number 10 Blues/Goodbye Saigonsounds like one of those films rescued from obscurity. A road movie/Vietnam war film about a Japanese businessman who decides to flee the country with his lover, this is a genre action film shot in Vietnam and it was to be the directorial debut of Norio Osada, a scriptwriter who had worked with Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honour or Humanity, Battle Royale) but when funding dried up the film was never finished and sat in the National Film Centre of Japan. It was rediscovered recently and the film was completed. Now cinephiles can see it at the festival.
Inoriis directed by Pedro González-Rubio and is a documentary about a mountain village which looks to be on the set of collapse. Despite being located in a beautiful mountainous area the lack of work has driven young people away ad only a few old people remain. The village will soon be reclaimed by nature and this documentary records the area, the few old people remaining and their thoughts.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa followed the magnificent Tokyo Sonata with this five-episode TV drama based on Kanae Minato’s novel of the same name (Minato also wrote the novel which the film Confessions is based on). It stars a collection of some of the best actresses in Japan including Kyoko Koizumi (Tokyo Sonata, Adrift in Tokyo), Sakura Ando (Love Exposure, Crime or Punishment?!?), Yu Aoi (Memories of Matsuko, All About Lily Chou-Chou), Eiko Koike (Kamikaze Girls, 2LDK) and Chizuru Ikewaki (Haru in The Cat Returns). It has appeared at Toronto and Venice film festivals.
When a girl named Emiri moves from Tokyo to Ueda she makes friends with four girls named Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuka. One day when the five girls are playing volleyball at school they are approached by a man dressed in work clothes who asks for their help in repairing the ventilation system. He picks Emiri. The two head towards the gym. When there is no sign of Emiri returning her friends head in the same direction and discover her dead. When questioned by the police they cannot describe the man which means leads to the investigation grinding to a halt. Several months later, Emiri’s mother Asako (Koizumi) invites the four girls to her house on Emiri’s birthday. It is there that she tells them that they will have to atone for their inability to describe the man and help in his capture. Fifteen years later, Sae (Aoi), Maki (Koike), Akiko (Ando) and Yuka (Ikewaki) are leading troubled lives and live in fear of the penance expected of them.
The second film festival of the year which I am covering is a roving one! The Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme
The festival’s name and theme for this year is “Once Upon a Time in Japan: Reinventing the Past Through the Eyes of Japanese Contemporary Filmmakers”. The festival programme has works from notable directors who “all share the same aspiration to reinterpret and relive moments of times gone by through a variety of genres, styles and tones.” Said notable directors include Takashi Miike, Koji Wakamatsu, Lee Sang-il who has two films screened with Hula Girls and one of the four sections of Kaidan Horror Classics. The other two sections are directed by Hirokazu Koreeda and Shinya Tsukamoto. There will also be anime in the form of Mai Mai Miracle which is directed by Sunao Katabuchi.
What I like about this festival is that it covers a lot of the major periods of Japanese history through different genres and it has a variety of talent in each film. I will be attending the London part of the tour and I am hyped up. Tickets have been ordered. Supplies and transport have been arranged. Where are the films???
Starring: Mao Inoue, Hiromi Nagasaku, Eiko Koike, Jun Fubuki, iwako Ichikawa, Yoko Moriguchi, Kimiko Yo
This sounds like an intriguing mystery/drama and it comes from Izuru Narushima who had a hit at the end of 2011 with Admiral Yamamoto. This is totally different and much more feminine by the look of things. It has a script by Satoko Okudera (The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki, Kaidan, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and there is a strong female cast with names like Mao Inoue (Kaidan), Hiromi Nagasaku (Doppelganger), Eiko Koike (2LDK, Penance), Yoko Moriguchi (Key of Life) and Jun Fubuki (Séance).
Okay, this looks like the most fun at the festival and I won’t be seeing it! Darn! The film looks at Japan in the 80s at the height of its economic bubble. It was a time when it reigned supreme thanks to its mega-corporations, technology and so forth. Just before it came crashing down thanks to its poorly managed banking system which doled out huge amounts of money at low interest rates to all and sundry. I think that about sums it up in a slap-dash way (I’m probably over-simplifying things to death). Anyway this helped start a recession. The story starts out in the present day but thanks to time travel we get to see the glitz and glamour of the 80’s as one character aims to stop the recession from happening! It has a ridiculous plot and lots of physical humour and it stars a hell of a lot of actors I am love like Hiroshi Abe (Survive Style 5+), Kazue Fukiishi (Noriko’s Dinner Table) and Ryoko Hirosue (Key of Life), it is written by Ryoichi Kimizuka (Infection, Parasite Eve, Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final). I love a good time machine story like Day of the Tentacle and Back to the Future and this one looks good.
Mayumi Tanaka (Hirosue) is a debt-ridden bar hostess. Her mother Mariko (Yakushimaru) is a brilliant research scientist. When Mariko turns an ordinary washing machine into a time-machine and she disappears, the Japanese government turn to Mayumi to head back to 1990 and prevent the announcement of a landmark fiscal policy that sparked the recession. Why Mayumi? It just so happens that this ill-qualified time traveller is the only other person the machine accepts. She agrees and so hilarity should ensue, right?
This is the only Second World War story in the festival it was the last film of Kazuo Kuroki and received its theatrical release a few months after his death. It stars Tomoyo Harada (The Summer of Ubume, Tokyo Oasis) is a tragic romance about a navy officer who arranges a marriage between his girlfriend and a friend before taking part in a kamikaze attack.
A lavish costume drama with a large cast by a director who specialises in such things. It looks epic.
1575, Oda Nobunaga (Shiina) defeats Takeda Katsuyori in the Battle of Nagashino after an epic siege. 1576, Nobunaga builds a lavish new castle named Azuchi castle. It must be seen from the capital city of Kyoto and defend the city and it must symbolise the unification of various factions and intimidate rival clans. This is the story of the carpenters led by Okabe Mataemon (Nishia).
Sunao Katabuchi has quite an eclectic filmography. He directed the explosive first season of the awesome anime Black Lagoon and was assistant director of the equally awesome and magical Kiki’s Delivery Service. This is a title that comes highly recommended by Alua from Otherwhere so I made this one of my choice. Plus it’s anime and I love anime!
1955, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. One thousand years ago during the time of the Heian Period it was the site of the ancient capital Suo no Kuni (Province of Suo) and ruins are still dotted around the rural city. Shinko is a tom-boyish elementary school student from a venerable local family. She loves dayreaming about the past and wishes to travel back to the days of the Heian period. When a transfer student from Tokyo named Kiiko appears in Shinko’s class, Shinko invites her to time travel by the power of imagination and the two form a deep friendship.
Nagisa Oshima, one of the great figures to emerge from the Japanese New Wave, passed away from pneumonia on January 15th 2013 at the age of 80.
Oshima was born on March 31 1932 in Kyoto into a family of samurai decent. Following the death of his father his mother worked to support him and his sister. He enrolled at Kyoto law school in an era of great upheaval and student protests following the war. It was the place which moulded his political leanings as he became a socialist and highly critical of the Japanese establishment and sought to explore the way people repress themselves. His politics would be reflected in the themes of his future works which tackled social issues and taboos ranging from sex, homosexuality, capital punishment and racism.
Following his studies he thought film would be the best way to get his message out and so applied for the position of assistant director at Shochiku studio where he worked on films like Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba and Kuroneko from 1954-59. Not that being an assistant director was his only job as he wrote scripts and developed a body of film criticism that attacked the Japanese film industry.
His ascent reflects a mixture of the traditional path for Japanese filmmakers, following a sort of apprenticeship with a more experienced director and what was happening with the French new wave where film critics like Alain Resnais, FrançoisTruffaut, Jean-luc Godard and Claude Chabrol branched out into film attacked “Papa’s Cinema”, films that adapted safe literary works in a staid way, and branched out into making films themselves, films that threw away the formulaic ways of making films, the staginess and respectability of the past and engaged in telling stories in a much more visual an inventive way.
Indeed, he is one of a number of directors including Shohei Imamura, Seijun Suzuki and Hiroshi Teshigahara to emerge from the Japanese New Wave from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Their generation followed the likes of Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, masters of Japanese cinema who have cast long shadows that some modern directors still feel the need to challenge.
Oshima’s efforts at writing brought him to the attention of producers and executives but it was actually a canny move on the part of the Japanese studious to let him directors create their works since Godard et al were making a lot of money for their producers. Oshima’s first script to be filmed was The Boy Who Sold His Pigeon (1959) which as renamed A Town of Love and Hope. The titular boy lives with a disabled sister and sick mother. To support them he shines shoes and sells pigeons. A bourgeois schoolgirl buys one of the pigeons in sympathy a homing pigeon keeps coming back. It was a film about the gap between rich and poor and it portrayed it with great realism.
This week was marked with the tragic news that Nagisa Oshima has passed away. You can be sure I’ll post an obituary about him tomorrow. I watched a few films – Alien, Cello, Oranges and Sunshine and posted about the releases for The King of Pigs, The Woodsman & the Rain and the Japanese Films screening at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The last post was the most fun as the films screening are exciting and it sparked interesting conversations with fellow cinephiles. My lack of film activity can be pinned to trying to complete a Japanese essay and preparing for a blizzard at the end of the week which would disrupt my commute to work. Said snow materialised on Friday morning. Snow covered everything and yet my train was on time (yay). I was not the only one on time as most of my colleagues managed to get in. The morning was spent shuttling around doing important tasks in preparation for the possibility that we might close early and talking to others about the weather and then I got to finish work early. I spent the rest of the day enjoying the snow and taking pictures (I had packed my camera in my backpack the night before), listening to classic スーパーカー and writing my Japanese essay which is just happens to be about Ghibli films.
What does the Japanese Movie Box Office (January 12-13) look like this week?
Gekijouban Hunter x Hunter
One Piece Film Z
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Love for Beginners
Humanoid Monster Bem
Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
And at number one is… Huh? One Piece has dropped to number 3? What’s number 1? Hunter x Hunter? I didn’t see that one coming but then I don’t know how popular the show actually is. Anyway it is the only Japanese film released last week to break into the top 10.
Director Tetsuaki Matsue has made a number of documentaries including the award winning Tokyo Drifter (2009). For 2013 he has two film released this very month. The first is about the didgeridoo musician GOMA who was involved in a car accident which resulted in mild traumatic brain injury. Mild traumatic? Nothing sounds mild about trauma when it can lead to lasting psychological damage and apparently it has resulted in memory loss for GOMA. In this music documentary we hear his account of the car accident, his near-death experience, see the damage done to the brain through prismatic 3D recreations and his subsequent recovery and how he copes with the loss of a fully functioning memory and his new take on life. We are also allowed to listen to his music and view past performances dating back to the 1990’s. I probably made it sound much more boring than it actually is. The trailer looks really good.
Noboru Iguchi is a name known to cult film fans for his work on splatter titles like Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead and The Machine Girl. He has also adapted Junji Ito’s Tomie manga onto the big screen with the gruesome Tomie Unlimited. Well he is back in the cinemas of Japan with a film which looks downright silly and funny. Dead Sushi. When I first saw the trailer last year I thought it was awful but he specialises in the fun type of awful and not the normal awful awful… Anyway it stars the beautiful and deadly Rina Takeda of High Kick Girl! And Karate Girl fame. One of her more recent titles, The Kunoichi was recently released in the UK.
Keiko (Takeda) dreams of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a master sushi chef (She’ll need cold hands!) but when she applies for a role at a countryside hot-spa restaurant (onsen ryokan) she is only offered the role of waitress with only the friendship of sushi chef Sawada (Matsuzaki) on offer. Then, one day, a suspicious man visits the inn and injects drugs into sushi turning the food item into bloodthirsty monsters that attack the diners!
Western cinephiles interested in Japanese cinema hold Yasujiro Ozu’s works in high regard and rightly so because his films are brilliant. At least every film I have seen has been excellent. So you may forgive me for my almost Pavlovian response to seeing the title Tokyo Family and immediately thinking of Ozu’s 1953 drama Tokyo Story… That’s a lie. I immediately thought Tokyo Sonata and then had a look at the smiling faces on the poster and thought they looked too happy to be in a Kurosawa film and going with Tokyo Story. Anyway, Tokyo Family is based on Ozu’s classic title and looks to be one of those films august directors come out with. Said respected director is Yoji Yamada who is a very familiar name having helmed The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade and Love and Honour. The film clocks in at over two hours and is packed with a variety of names like Yu Aoi (All About Lily Chou-Chou, Mushishi, Hula Girls), Jun Fubuki (Séance, A Road Stained Crimson), Yui Natsukawa (Shikoku, Still Walking), Satoshi Tsumabuki (For Love’s Sake, Villain) and Chika Arakawa (Apartment 1303)… always listen to her.
Shukichi Hirayama (Hashizume) and Tomiko (Yoshiyuki)are an old married couple who live on a small island in the Inland Sea. When they visit their children in Tokyo they see the successful lives the have built for themselves. Eldest son Koichi (Nishimura) runs a hospital, Shigeko (Nakajima) runs a beauty salon and Shuji (Tsumabuki) works in the theatre and plans to marry Noriko (Aoi). The parents find that life in Tokyo is not for them and want to go home but a medical emergency strikes when Tomiko collapses.
The Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013 takes place from January 23rd to February 03rd. There is a fair-sized contingent of Japanese films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Some look absolutely brilliant (particularly GFP Bunny) and others look rather challenging!
Some, if not all but one of these have already been released in Japan and some have already had their European premieres (For Love’s Sake, 11:25) but overall it is a good line-up with a mixture of enjoyable titles and we get to see the latest titles from filmmakers like Hideo Nakata of Ringu fame and Masahiro Kobayashi who specialises in bleakies.
There is no common thread in the subject matter although two do deal directly with the March 11th disaster. The festival has proven to be the place where titles and filmmakers from Asia break out on the international stage. Will Ryutaro Ninomiya gain anything like the prominence of Kiyoshi Kurosawa? Is Yutaka Tsuchiya the next Sion Sono? Are these comparisons glib? Yes to all of them because there is a new generation of indie talent on display alongside some familiar names and it is too early to make any comparisons. So early, there are trailers and posters missing because nobody has thought to make one easily available!
Of all of the films on offer I know I’d want to see all but Japan’s Tragedy. If I had a choice of three I would settle for GFP Bunny, The Complex and 11:25 because I have not seen them and they appeal to me the most.
This indie film premiered at last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. I am really not all that familiar with it and used the wrong Kanji when typing the title! The film deals with the loneliness felt by people in their day-to-day lives. No poster but an excerpt from the film.
The action takes place at a vending machine repair workshop in Yokohama. Yoda (Hosokawa) is the outsider there and doesn’t fit in with the other guys. As a result he gets picked on by some of the knuckleheads. The only person who goes out of his way to befriend Yoda is Sakata (Ninomiya) but this causes Yoda a degree of discomfort.
Starring: Kanji Furutachi, Makiko Watanabe, Takahashi, Yuka Kuramochi
Yutaka Tsuchiya is considered one of the more interesting names amongst indie film makers in Japan and scored major kudos with his film Peep “TV” Show. He has been largely silent since then but now he has released this interestingly titled film which stars Kanji Furutachi who has appeared in trashy genre pieces like Dead Waves and Joker Game and has appeared in major titles like My Back Page and indie films like Being Mitsuko, The Woodsman and the Rain, Dreams for Sale and Odayaka. He is supported by Odayaka co-star and Sion Sono regular Makiko Watanabe (Himizu, Love Exposure). Here is the Trailer.
Apparently based on a true story (with some key facts changed), we follow the actions of Thallium Girl (Kuramochi) who is slowly poisoning her mother with thallium and records her detached world view in her diary. It is clear she has some mental problems which are exacerbated by bullying at school. This just causes her to retreat from reality into a darker place.
It might be fair to say that Hideo Nakata has never been able to capture the same success that he had with Ringu. He has tried his hand at other genres like thrillers but he keeps returning to horror with mixed results. The only other title in his filmography that can compare to Ringu is Dark Water. The Complex sounds a bit like that film in so far as it takes place in a haunted apartment building but what else does it offer? It stars the beautiful Atsuka Maeda who is a former member of AKB48 and starred in The Drudgery Train, one of the more interesting titles released in Japan last year. Here is a CM/trailer fresh from Japanese television.
Asuka (Maeda) has moved into the Kuroyuri apartment complex. It is a place with a chequered history as mysterious deaths occurred there 13 years ago. It isn’t long before she starts hearing the sound “garigarigari” from the apartment next door where an old man lives and it isn’t long before he is found dead! This is the start of a series of horrifying events that strike the apartment. Asuka calls upon Sasahara (Narimiya), a man who cleans up the homes of the recently deceased, to help solve the mystery.
Japan / 2011 / 129 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / 35mm
Out on DVDJanuary 28th, 2013
DVD Special Features:
Interviews with the Cast & Crew, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Katsu (Yakusho) is a 60 year-old lumberjack who lives in a small, tranquil village in the mountains. When a film crew suddenly arrives to shoot a zombie movie, Katsu finds himself unwittingly roped into assisting the production and becomes increasingly frustrated with the pushy crew, especially the young, seemingly spineless director Koichi (Oguri).
However, an improbable friendship soon develops between Katsu and Koichi, as Katsu comes to see joy in the filmmaking process, and gradually helps Koichi to recover his sense of self. Soon, their bond inspires an unusual collaboration between the villagers and the film crew.