Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013 Part 1

Genki Rotterdam International Film Festival BannerThe 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.

Here are the films on offer!


The Charm of Others

Japanese Title: 魅力 の 人間

Romaji: Miryoku no Ningen

Running Time: 89 mins.

Director: Ryutaro Ninomiya

Writer: Ninomiya Ryutaro

Starring: Yoshitaka Hosokawa, Ryutaro Ninomiya, Kensuke Ashihara, Daisuke Udagawa, Keisuke Minakawa, Takuya Makino

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.


GFP Bunny                                                    GFP Bunny Film Poster

Japanese Title: GFP BUNNY タリウム少女のプログラム

Romaji: GFP Bunny Tariumu Shoujo no Puroguramu 

Running Time: 82 mins.

Director: Yutaka Tsuchiya

Writer: Yutaka Tsuchiya

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.


The Complex                                              The Complex Poster

Japanese Title: クロユリ 団地

Romaji: Kuroyuri Danchi

Running Time: N/A

Director: Hideo Nakata

Writer: Hideo Nakata, Junya Kato, Ryuta Miyake

Starring: Atsuka Maeda, Hiroki Narimiya

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’s Tragedy                                 Japan's Tragedy Film Poster

Japanese Title: 日本 の 悲劇

Romaji: Nihon no Higeki

Running Time: 101 mins.

Director: Masahiro Kobayashi

Writer: Masahiro Kobayashi

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Shinobu Terajima, Kazuki Kitamura, Akemi Ohmori

Japan’s Tragedy looks like the ultimate bleakie. The film’s synopsis reads like an absolute misery-fest and the black and white imagery looks gruelling as opposed to attractive. It deals with dark subject matter from disease to the March 11th earthquake and tsunami and it is directed by Masahiro Kobayashi whose last film, Women on the Edge also involved the repercussions of said disaster. He is not one to shrink from tough subject as proven with the film that allowed him a degree of international recognition Bashing which followed the homecoming of a Japanese hostage released by terrorists in Iraq. He has worked with great Japanese actors like Teruyuki Kagawa (Key of Life, Tokyo Sonata), Shinobu Terajima (The Millennial Rapture, Vibrator), Ryo Ishibashi (Audition, Suicide Club, Koroshi), Makiko Watanabe (Love Exposure) and Nene Otsuka (The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck). No trailer but shaky footage from a recent festival screening.

Fujio Murai (Nakadai) is unemployed and a widower. Although living with his son Yoshio (Ohmori) life seems bleak as he has been diagnosed with lung cancer and Yoshio’s wife and daughter have not been seen since the 2011 earthquake. Fujio decides to lock himself in his room and mummify himself. Trapped in the room, he thinks back over the course of his life.

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, Masachika Ichimura

For anybody who has not seen For Love’s Sake, they are in for a treat as it is one of the most enjoyable films released last year. Miike brings a satirical touch to the much loved and classic fighting youth/romance story Ai to Makoto, using kitschy but infectious 70’s pop and his exuberant visual style and brand of highly dark humour to make a rich treat for the senses. It is packed with brilliant performances from the entire cast with Satoshi Tsumabuki wowing as the delinquent youth Makoto and getting brilliant support from Ando, Ihara and Saito. As my review showed I was wowed by it. If you need relief from all of the serious subject matter then this is the one for you.

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.

11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate                      11.25 Mishima Drama Poster                                                  

Japanese Title: 11. 25自決の ひ 三島 由紀夫 と 若者 たち

Romaji: 11.25 Jiketsu no Hi: Mishia Yukio to Wakamono-Tachi 

Running Time: N/A

Director: Koji Wakamatsu

Writer: Masayuki Kakegawa

Starring: Arata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tasuku Nagaoka, Takatsugu Iwama

Koji Wakamatsu is one of the big figures of Japanese cinema but he tragically died last year. This is a politically charged movie which tackles the writer, critic, and nationalist Yukio Mishima. The film screened at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard category and managed to collect mixed reviews but it should be worth going to see one of the last few films from an important voice in Japanese cinema.

Taking place in 1960’s Japan at a time when economic growth sky-rocketed but the nation was wracked by political turmoil and social changes from sexual liberation to student riots over individual’s rights and the US military presence in Japan, author and intellectual Yukio Mishima was a major voice, a nationalist who espoused traditional values based on the Bushido code while having a controversial private life. He and his militia will attempt a coup d’Etat by taking a military commander hostage.


Odayaka                                                                      Odayaka Film Poster

Japanese Title: おだやか な 日常

Romaji: Odayaka na Nichijou

Running Time: 102 mins.

Director: Nobuteru Uchida

Writer: Nobuteru Uchida (Script),

Starring: Kiki Sugino, Yukiko Shinohara, Takeshi Yamamoto, Ami Watanabe, Ami Watanabe, Yu Koyanagi, Makiko Watanabe, Maho Yamada, Susumu Terajima, Maki Nishiyama, Kotaro Shiga, Kanji Furutachi, Yuko Kibiki, Yuya Matsumura, Kan Takashima, Eriko Oguchi,

This is the second film which uses the March 11th earthquake and tsunami as part of its story and was originally released at the end of last year. It follows Women on the Edge (a Masahiro Kobayashi film which also has Makiko Watanabe), The Ear Cleaner and The Land of Hope (Sion Sono). It is written and directed by Nobuteru Uchida (Love Addiction).

Saeko (Sugino) and Yukako (Shinohara) are neighbours in a Tokyo apartment complex. Following the March 11th Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami both find their lives affected by newfound fears. Saeko is undergoing a divorce and fears her daughter may get radiation exposure. Yukako also fears the radiation and asks her husband to move. When Saeko saves Yukako from suicide, the two become close.

20 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2013 Part 1

  1. Seino

    when i watched GFP Bunny in Tokyo International Film festival last year, i was surprised how fantastic documentary film! i think he challenges to old style of documentary film such as Tutimoto Noriaki, and his style is opposite of Soda style that observe particular person. it’s something like entertainment documentary film.i’m reviewing Japanese films especially Independent in blog. i want to get in touch with you after my blog completed in English if you don’t mind.

    1. Hey, great to connect with another Japanese film fan!

      My experience with Japanese documentaries is slim. I know Hirokazu Koreeda started off as a documentary maker but after that I draw a blank because I tend to watch fiction films. It has only been in the last year that I have started to write seriously about documentaries so I’ll have to start watching them by looking at the name and the documentary movement – soda style – you’ve mentioned.

      GFP Bunny looks really interesting and it has garnered great reviews that have made me want to watch it.

      Get in touch with me as soon as you can so I can link to your blog and we can discuss films!

      1. Seino

        Thank you for your replay!i’m really respect your working about review and introduce Japanese films. please follow my twitter “@SeinoMovie7” I’m writing efficient information for you!!

  2. …who specialises in “bleakies”? You have been reading my blog for too long Genki! 😀

    I would go for Miryoku no Ningen, Nihon no Higeki and Odayaka na Nichijou. And rewatching Ai to Makoto of course.

    1. I figured I must have picked up the term from you 😉

      You’ve broadened my horizons! It’s perfect for describing certain films which just so happen to be the films you would like to see at the festival which just so happen to be the films I would not… GFP Bunny looks too good to pass up.

  3. goregirl

    For Love’s Sake…already on the list to see. Will probably see The Complex at some point, but won’t be making it a priority. GFP Bunny?!!! Gimme! Gimme! I just added it to my queue.

  4. 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate looks like the most interesting one to me. I read a couple of Yukio Mishima’s novels, which are always quite twisted but interesting to read nevertheless. He died in a rather flashy and sad fashion.

    1. I have to admit that I only know about him through watching documentaries and films. This film looks like heavy going but since it’s by Koji Wakamatsu I would watch it eventually since I need to discover more of his work.

      1. If you want something twisted but uplifting, I’ll recommend The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. If you want something really twisted and soul crushing, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea.

  5. Another Hideo nakata?
    I love to see The Complex…but I think the cover looks so much like Ju-On.

    Tokorode, have you seen kenshin? My friend said it was amazing but my student said it was bad…I haven’t seen it yet, but soon.

    1. I really get a Dark Water vibe from The Complex. There is that spooky Toshio clone… I haven’t seen the Rurouni Kenshin movie adaptation yet but from what I have heard/read it’s pretty good.

      1. Koji Suzuki’s short story for Dark Water was good but I prefer the film. I really want to see the adaptation of Pleasure Cruise because that is meant to be really intense.

      2. Sorry, it’s called Dream Cruise, Essentially what happens is a young guy is invited onto a boat by a couple. The boat develops problems and the owner races around trying to fix it but the young guy senses that something weird is going on. He finds out that something really weird is going on when he jumps into the water and it just gets creepier after that. It’s a story with slow-build tension and great descriptions.

      3. Sounds like my kind of read!!
        I really should make a credit card so I can buy books easier. thanks for the recommendation, I’ll keep it in mind.

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