Japanese Films at the BFI London Film Festival 2013

Genki BFI London Film Festival 2013 Banner

The 57th BFI London Film Festival is running from Wednesday 09th October to Sunday 20th October, a mere week after the end of the Raindance Film Festival. The London Film Festival programme was announced earlier today and the Japanese selection is rather good. The big news for me is that Sion Sono’s latest film, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? has been selected to play! Other entries include Yuya Ishii’s Great Passage and Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father, Like Son. The latter was probably the most obvious choie for inclusion but it’s great to see Ishii getting noticed.

Here are the films (click on the titles for more info like dates and times):

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?           Why Don't You Play In Hell Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄 で なぜ 悪い Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Romaji: Jigoku de Naze Warui Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Running Time: 126 mins

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kotou Lorena, Gen Hoshino, Tak Sakaguchi

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is coming to the UK? OHMYGOD! YES! SONOOOOOO is here and the day is won. So does this prove that if I cry loud enough and often enough about something, some big festival will pick it up? Because I posted about three different versions of the trailer before it was screened at Venice and then Toronto and finally London. I’m a Sion Sono fan and while I may not be the most eloquent, handsome or talented, I at least try to keep track of what he’s doing and covering his titles so it’s gratifying to see that in the year of release I get to see it and on the big screen.  I get to see the blood slide on screen!

Genki-Why-Don't-You-Play-in-Hell-Blood-Slide-with-Mitsuko-(Nikaidou)

He has had a short run of issue films. The critically lauded Himizu and The Land of Hope are serious dramas that look at the after-effects of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami and radiation in Japan. Now he’s back making entertainment films like Love Exposure and Strange Circus , films that play with cinematic techniques, genre tropes, the audience and are bloody fun. The festival page has this descriptive line: “ingenious slice of high-octane insanity that is both a fresh take on the yakuza film and an affectionate tribute to the death of celluloid.” It forgot to mention the blood slide and the fact it’s probably God-tier entertainment as other reviewers have noted. Check out Bonjour Tristesse’s coverage of the critical reaction from the Venice Film Festival for more. Let’s go!

Muto (Kunimura) and Ikegami (Tsutsumi) are rival gangsters who despise each other especially since Muto’s wife Shizue (Tomochika) butchered a boss in Ikegami’s gang. She gets sent to prison and jeopardises her daughter’s acting career. Ten years later and days before Shizue is due to be released, Muto is desperate to make his daughter a big-screen star and recruits Koji (Hoshino), a timid passer-by who is mistaken for being a film director.

When dealing with gangsters you don’t mess about so Koji gets a cinephile friend named Hirata (Hasegawa) who dreams of being a movie director and has a ragtag film crew named The Fuck Bombers. Hirata seizes his chance and loses his mind as he casts Mitsuko in a fictional gang war but it soon goes wrong when it turns real.

 

Like Father, Like Son                          Like Father Like Son Cannes Poster

Japanese Title: そして 父 に なる

Romaji: Soshite Chichi ni Naru

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Jun Fubuki, Keita Ninomiya, Lily Franky, Jun Kunimura, Kiki Kirin, Isao Natsuyagi

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father Like Son won an award for Cannes and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and it’s here in the UK in the month of its Japanese release. Awesome. Koreeda is a director I picked up on after watching After Life on BBC Four back in 200… and something. I taped it on VHS and it’s hidden away. Anyway, when I say Koreeda is a great filmmaker I mean it. I know I’m prone to bouts of hyperbole in reviews but watch After Life, Still Walking, and Nobody Knows and you’ll agree. I’m pretty excited at the prospect of seeing a film of his on the big screen. The film stars Masaharu Fukuyama (Suspect X), Machiko Ono (EurekaThe Floating Castle), Yoko Maki (InfectionThe Grudge), Lily Franky (Afro Tanaka), Jun Fubuki (SéanceRebirth) Kirin Kiki (Kiseki) and Jun Kunimura (Outrage, Vital) and Isao Natsuyagi (The Land of HopeWarm Water Under a Red Bridge).

Successful architect Ryota (Fukuyama) and his wife Midori (Ono) have a happy family life with their six-year-old son Keita (Nonomiya) but a phone call from the hospital informing them of the fact that their child was mixed up with another at birth shatters their happiness. Their birth-son Ryusei has been raised by a poorer but more easy-going family run by Yudai (Franky) and Yukari (Maki) Saiki. Ryota and Midori must decide whether to hand over the son they have carefully raised for the last six years and take back their biological son or not.

The Great Passage                We Knit Ship Film Poster

Japanese Title: 舟を編む

Romaji: Fune wo Amu

Running Time: 133 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Shion Miura (Original Novel), Kensaku Watanabe (Screenplay),

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri, Haru Kuroki, Misako Watanabe, Kumiko Aso, Shingo Tsurumi, Chizuru Ikewaki, Hiroko Isayama, Kaouru Kobayashi, Go Kato, Kaoru Yachigusa, Ryu Morioka, Shohei Uno, Kazuki Namioka

This is a surprise entry since it hasn’t appeared at any other major festivals but from what the film offers it totally fits in with the festival. I’m a fan of Yuya Ishii based on Sawako Decides  and this looks like more of the same, namely a film full of smart observations and intellectual humour and warmth for its characters. It has a cast list which is full of stars: Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare Detective), Aoi Miyazaki (Eureka), Joe Odagiri (MushishiAdrift in Tokyo), Haru Kuroki (The Wolf Children), Kumiko Aso (Pulse, License to Live), Kazuki Namioka (Thirteen Assassins), Chizuru Ikewaki (Josee, the Tiger and the FishThe Cat Returns) and Shohei Uno (The Drudgery Train).

The eminent critic Tony Rayns describes this as “entertainment on a Dickensian scale, crammed with interesting characters and amusing details. Ishii delivers!” I said I wanted to see this when I placed it in a trailer post and I’m going to watch this at the festival.

Mitsuya Majime (Matsuda) is has the talent to comprehend different languages and is the most important member of the editorial team of a dictionary but he struggles to tell Kaguya Hayashi (Miyazaki), a cook and the granddaughter o the owner of Majime’s boarding home, how he feels about her.

The Ravine of Goodbye             The Ravine of Goodbye Film Poster

Japanese Title: さよなら渓谷

Romaji: Sayonara Keikoku

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Tatsushi Omori

Writer: Shuichi Yoshida (Novel), Tatsushi Omori (Screenplay)

Starring: Yoko Maki, Shima Onishi, Nao Omori, Arata, Hirofumi Arai, Anne Suzuki, Jyo Hyuga

This was another film I said I wanted to see. It was released on a weekend packed full of great dramas actually (two of which I’ll see at Raindance) but this… This is a drama! The trailer screams it out loud. It comes from a novel by Shuichi Yoshida, the man who wrote Villain and The Story of Yonosuke. It is directed by Tatsushi Omori, brother of the actor Nao Omori (Mushishi) who stars n this. Tony Rayns describes it as a “superbly acted mystery turns on female empowerment and male guilt.”

In a valley dense with trees a baby is killed and it’s mother, Satomi Tachibana (Suzuki) is the primes suspect. As the police are investigating the murder they are informed that Satomi is romantically involved with her next door neighbour Shunsuke Ozaki (Onishi), a man who seems to be happily married to his wife Kanako (Maki). Magazine reporter Watanabe (Omori) digs into the case to find out the real story and discovers that a strange connection exists between Kanako and Shunsuke which changes his perception of the truth.

 

Short Film Collections:

Contained Movement

This is described as exploring Juxtapositions, interpretations, interpolations, modulations. The films are all about how form and content “merge to create natural forms from dots, make substance from absence, speed up natural processes, make the abstract concrete, play with observation, challenge perception and – ultimately – vanish.”

Sounds groovy. The Japanese entry is called Between Regularity and Irregularity and it is directed by Masahiro Tsutani and it lasts eight minutes.

Between Regularity and Irregularity Film Image

Love Will Conquer All

This is a collection of eight short films examining “an assortment of expressions of affection, from first love to unrequited love to unconditional love. With additional heartbreak, lust and resentment thrown in for good measure.” The Japanese entry is…

Kick-Heart

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Running Time: 13 mins

The Japanese entry is Kick Heart by Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, The Tatami Galaxy) and animated by Production I.G (Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell). This was big news in the anime world last year because it was successfully funded by the public via Kickstarter, a first for an anime title since the traditional route is to use corporate investors.

Romeo is a successful pro-wrestler. Juliet is a nun who lives a secret double-life as a female pro-wrestler. Romeo’s secret is that he enjoys taking a beating in the ring, while Juliet feels invigorated when facing her opponents as a wrestler. When the two meet in the ring, the fireworks fly.

There will also be seven experimental films by the highly regarded film rebel Stom Sogo.

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2 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the BFI London Film Festival 2013

    1. Has the programme for VIFF been announced already??? You have my sympathy over the absence of Sono but as you probably know, Koreeda is a master of drama so that should be good. Also, Yuya Ishii made a really good comedy in Sawako Decides and this one looks to be even better so you should check that one out!

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