2012 was an extraordinarily great year for Japanese film fans in the UK what with the film festivals getting awesome titles like Ai to Makoto and Key of Life as well as Third Window Films releasing a plethora of classic and new titles like the Tetsuo boxed set and Kotoko(which turned out to be a group of very popular posts for this blog) and supporting Sion Sono’s latest releases. That was just on the live-action front because Kaze have shown some gumption in acquiring the rights to the Berserk movie trilogy and even going as far as giving them a theatrical release!
What are the films we should be looking forward to in the next year? Well this is hardly an exhaustive list but I hope to give a heads up as to when some great titles are about to drop!
Third Window Films
Third Window Films (TWF) have built up an impressive catalogue of titles, turning away from big-budget flicks (apart from Villain) and focussing on indie titles. There are a great selection of Sion Sono films like Cold Fish and Himizu available from them as well as titles like Kamikaze Girls and Fine, Totally Fine and I have not mentioned some of the Korean films they released like Guns and Talks, No Blood, No Tears (expect another Korean movie season with reviews for them!). Quite frankly, if Third Window Films did not exist Asian movie fans in the UK would be quite bereft of sources for some of the best and up to date films coming out of the Far East.
What is on the cards for 2013?
The first two major titles that have caught my eye (and got a post) are Eyes of the Spider and Serpent’s Path (released on June 24th) from the genius that is Kiyoshi Kurosawa. I would like to think that a brief post-Himizu screening chat with Adam about Kurosawa’s films prompted him to pick up the rights to the films but that would be too fanciful. Anyway these two films were low-budget gangster revenge films films that Kurosawa made two weeks with the same cast. Both films feature notable actors Sho Aikawa, Teruyuki Kagawa, Dankan and Yurei Yanaga, all three of whom would pop up in later Kurosawa films (Aikawa had a cameo as a priest in Séance Dankan appeared in Pulse while Kagawa provided a stunning lead performance in Tokyo Sonata.
I still cannot find a trailer for either Serpent’s Path or Eyes of the Spider despite searching in English and Japanese. I will have to emigrate to Niconico. Anyway, I keep threatening to purchase Kurosawa’s unerotic pink-film and I might just as it is available…
The other major release for 2013 is…
For Love’s Sake
This announcement caught me off-guard. I would have thought the film was too big for TWF but maybe nobody else had the guts to take this on. Great move. The fact is, this film is so good it has the chance to catch a bigger audience for TWF than Love Exposure did especially with Miike’s name attached. As my review shows, I love it and it gets released on April 29th so now I get to own it!
1972, Tokyo, Ai Satome(Takei) is an angelic high school student who comes from a respectable family. She leads a charmed life until Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki), the boy who stole Ai’s heart as a child and an ultra-delinquent, arrives in Tokyo to settle a score from his past. He soon gets arrested after a rumble with some local toughs and is sent to reform school. Ai is still in love with Makoto and manages to get him released. She brings him to Aobodai Prep School where she studies. Ai’s love for Makoto inspires jealousy in Iwashimizu (Saito), the President of the Student Council, who loves Ai. Soon Makoto is sent to Hanazono Trade School where girl gang leader Ango Gumko (Ando) and Yuki, a “sad chick”, soon develop feelings for him. With Makoto in the centre of this tangled web of love things get extremely complicated and melodramatic.
Now I am over the moon about this announcement but I have reservations… the DVD cover is hideous piece of pop-art. I also prefer the Japanese title Ai to Makoto… Forget it, I love this movie! I gave this film a perfect score and described it as one of the best of the year as it landed high in my Top Ten. I am not alone in loving this film, check out Alua’s review!
The other title, released in Japan all the way back on February 11th, 2012 is The Woodsman & The Rain, which will be released in the UK on January 28th. It is directed by Shuichi Okita and stars a wealth of Japanese film talent like Koji Yakusho, Shun Oguri and Kengo Kora. I have been excited about this film since February (because I am a Koji Yakusho fan as I state in reviews) and Alua’s review over at Otherwhere just confirms suspicions about how great it is. It also has a better DVD cover. Or at least one I would not hide in shame. Here is the trailer.
Koichi (Oguri) is a shy movie director working on his first project. It is a big task as it involves filming in a mountain village named Yamamura but the cast and crew find themselves helped by the villagers including a reluctant volunteer, gruff lumber-jack Katsuhiko (Yakusho) who is in a rocky relationship with his son. Koichi and Katsuhiko find themselves learning from each other and changing their characters.
There will also be another Shinya Tsukamoto double-dvd set containing his mid-period films Bullet Ballet/Tokyo Fist. I was pretty much blown away by Tokyo Fist and gave it an excellent review. I have not seen Bullet Ballet but reviews for it are intriguing and I will probably end up picking this set up especially if the lavish extras and involvement of Shinya Tsukamoto are present as they were with the Tetsuo set.
Now we come to unfamiliar territory. The next three films I have heard very little about due to the fact that they are not that big but the distribution of little known filmmakers is part of the reason why TWF exists so here they are.
The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck, & God in the Coin Locker will get a release on January 14th. It is a film from Yoshihiro Nakamura and writer Kotaro Isaka (the team behind Fish Story and is described as a “multi-stranded and complex plot brings in many characters and back-stories to an highly engrossing tale of revenge and identity.”
It will be presented on DVD with an anamorphic widescreen transfer with a 35 minute Making Of, Deleted Scenes and Theatrical Trailer
See You Tomorrow, Everyone! Is the second Yoshihiro Nakamura release of 2013 and is his latest film (it will be released in Japanese cinemas in February 2013. Nakamura regular Gaku Hamada (Fish Story, Foreign Duck..) returns to play the role of a teenage boy who throughout his life cannot leave the projects he was born into. This sounds serious, what about the trailer?
The Story of Yonosuke (which will be released some time in September)Adam Torel of TWF selected it as his Best Japanese Film of 2012. Why? I’ll let him tell you all about The Story of Yonosuke “[it is] a dream-team pairing of The Woodsman and the Rain director Shuichi Okita (proving once again how talented he his), author Shuichi Yoshida, the writer of the novel ‘Akunin’ (Villain) with a script adapted by famous theatre playwright Shiro Maeda (who wrote the original play of Isn’t Anyone Alive?) and starring one of our favourite newcomers of the Japanese film industry in Kengo Kora (Fish Story, The Woodsman and the Rain). What might seem like a very simple tale, plus a run-time of 160 minutes might put people off, but let us assure you, the brilliance of the film beauty is that such a simple tale and a long running time keep you engrossed for every single second!” I remain to be convinced but here is the trailer.
Eureka: Masters of Cinema
Eureka’s Masters of Cinema strand are always releasing great classic films in general and great classic Japanese films in particular and giving them the best possible treatment. 2012 was a stellar year considering we got two absolute classic (I’ll refrain from using that word for the rest of the article) titles in the form of Ugetsu Monogatari and Sansho Dayu (Kenji Mizoguchi) which are landmarks of cinema. In the final month of the year we saw Gate of Hell (Kinugasa Teiosuke) and Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu). Gate of Hell is the only one I have not seen, the others are brilliant.
Anyway, the first half of 2013 has some exciting announcement starting in February with a Blu-ray release for Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba which is an atmospheric historical horror film. To give you an indication of how good it is, Goregirl really loved and named it her best horror film of 1964.
April sees the release of The Complete (Existing) Films of Sadao Yamanaka. Complete Existing films? How old are these? We are talking about the 30’s.
Sadao Yamanaka is a name I am familiar with because I bought Humanity and Paper Balloons when it was released by Masters of Cinema years ago. According to Wikipedia he directed 24 films during his brief life (which ended in Manchuria) and was one of the primary figures in the development of jidaigeki (historical film) but he was different in the sense that he chose to focus on average people, something that Humanity and Paper Balloons did magnificently.
Another release in April is a little more recent (50’s) and it is Yuzo Kawashima’s Bakumatsu Taiyoden (Last Days of the Shogunate). This comedy takes place in the politically turbulent end days of the Shogunate and involves a colourful cast of characters in a brothel. According to Wikipedia “it was voted the fifth best Japanese film of all time in a poll of 140 Japanese critics and filmmakers conducted by the magazine Kinema Junpo in 1999.” I was unaware of that but I was aware that Kawashima made a major impact with his films at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Perhaps Masters of Cinema picked it up because Shohei Imamura helped to write the screenplay and they love releasing Shohei Imamura films.
Other films getting a release include Jiro Dreams of Sushi from Soda Pictures (who released Norwegian Wood – thank you for putting it in cinemas!) in January which looks like a documentary focussing on an elite tiny sushi restaurant tucked away in Tokyo.
And those are some of the major releases in 2013.