The Japan Foundation have announced their Touring Film Programme for 2014 and it goes under the name of East Side Stories Japanese Cinema Depicting the Lives of Youth. It aims to offer ‘an enlightening and expansive introduction to Japanese cinema through showing features that focus on ‘youth’ and a variety of films which show a “vast variety of styles ad tones” and take “a broad look at how the adults of tomorrow have been portrayed in Japanese cinema over the years.”
The festival runs from January 31st to March 27th 2014. The festival starts in London at the ICA and then heads out to various regions including Belfast (Queens Film Theatre), Bristol (Watershed), Dundee (Dundee Contemporary Arts), Edinburgh (Filmhouse), Newcastle Upon Tyne (Tyneside Cinema), Nottingham (Broadway), and Sheffield (Showroom Workstation).
The line-up of films for the opening week at the ICA looks awesome and I intend to head to London and the ICA for weekend of February 01st,02nd when most of them are screened. I’m particularly psyched for Love Strikes! Because it has gorgeous Japanese actresses… Uh, I mean great comedy… Shindo and Parade for the great acting.
Here are the films (the English titles are the links to the pages):
Japanese Title: 苦役 列車
Romaji: Kueki Ressha
Release Date: July 14th, 2012
Running Time: 114 mins.
Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
Writer: Shinji Imaoka (Screenplay), Kenta Nishimura (Original Work)
Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Kengo Kora, Atsuko Maeda, Makita Sports, Tomorowo Taguchi, Mamiko Ito, Miwako Wagatsuma, Shohei Uno, Hiroshi Sato, Asuka Ishii, Kouji Tsujimoto
I reviewed this film back in September and it was released last year. I enjoyed it a lot, finding it a rewarding watch what with its tough to like character. Drudgery Train comes from Nobuhiro Yamashita (Linda, Linda, Linda), and is based on Kenta Nishimura’s Akutagawa Prize-winning novel Kueki Ressha which is based on his own experiences. This character-study stars Mirai Moriyama (Fish on Land, Fish Story), Kengo Kora (The Woodsman and the Rain, Norwegian Wood), and former AKB 48 leader Atsuko Maeda (Tamako in Moratorium, The Suicide Song).
Kanta Kitamichi (Moriyama) is a 19-year-old junior high drop out with a love for alcohol and peep shows. He works as a labourer in a warehouse and he has no friends and wastes his days doing very little apart from reading mystery novels and getting drunk. Then he meets Shoji Kusakabe (Kora), a new hire at the warehouse. The two become friends and Kanta reveals he has a crush on a girl named Yasuko (Maeda) who works in a book store. She takes a shine for the two guys but as the three live their lives differences appear… Can Kanta’s new-found friendships last?
Japanese Title: 横道世余之介
Romaji: Yokomichi Yonosuke
Release Date: February 23rd, 2013 (Japan)
UK Release Date: N/A
UK Distributor: Third Window Films
Running Time: 160 mins.
Director: Shuichi Okita
Writer: Shiro Maeda (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Original Novel)
Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ayumi Ito, Gou Ayano, Arata, Kimiko Yo, Aki Asakura, Mei Kurokawa, Tasuku Emoto, Aimi Satsukawa, Keiko Horiuchi, Noriko Eguchi,
I reviewed this after watching it at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival and it was the best thing I saw there. It is directed by Shuichi Okita, director of my favourite film of the year (The Woodsman & the Rain) and adapted for the screen by Shiro Maeda (Isn’t Anyone Alive?) from a novel by Shuichi Yoshida (Villain). It is equal parts heart-warming, funny and bittersweet and stars great actors including Kengo Kora (The Drudgery Train) and a bunch of favourite actors of mine like Yuriko Yoshitaka (Adrift in Tokyo, Noriko’s Dinner Table), Jun Kunimura (Vital, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?) and Kimiko Yo (For Love’s Sake, Suicide Circle).
It is the 1980’s and Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kora) has left the port city of Nagasaki and travelled to Tokyo to attend university. He finds that his life is about to change in assive ways makes plenty of friends and even a girlfriend in the shape of Shoko (Yoshitaka), the daughter of a company president.
Japanese Title: きみ の 友だち
Romaji: Kimi no Tomodachi
Release Date: July 26th, 2008
Running Time: 125 mins.
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki
Writer: Hiroshi Saito (Screenplay), Kiyoshi Shigematsu (Original Work)
Starring: Anna Ishibashi, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Ayu Kitaura, Seiji Fukushi, Naoyuki Morita, Nao Omori, Akira Emoto, Tomorowo Taguchi
I haven’t heard of this one but Ryuichi Hiroki is pretty famous for his films like Vibrator (2003), April Bride (2009), River (2012). It stars a great actresses like Anna Ishibashi Yume no Kayoji (released last week), Fuan no Tane (2013) and Yuriko Yoshitaka who starred in The Story of Yonosuke (2013) and Noriko’s Dinner Table (2005) and Adrift in Tokyo (2007). No trailer.
Two schoolgirls, Emi and Yuka, form a friendship strengthened by their disabilities that their classmates can neither understand nor share. Years on, Emi recalls her unique relationship with Yuka to Nakahara, a photojournalist.
Japanese Title: ごめん
Release Date: October 12th, 2002
Running Time: 103 mins.
Director: Shin Togashi
Writer: Kota Yamada (Screenplay),
Starring: Masahiro Hisano, Yukika Sakuratani, Shoichi Sato, Jun Kunimura, Michiko Kawai, Ayumu Saito, Megumi Komaki, Takuya Kurihara
Being a teenage boy is hard and we see a comic take on it from Shin Togashi, director of Angel’s Egg (2006) and Oshin (2013).
12-year-old Sei (Hisano) is a sixth grader who lives in Osaka and is going through puberty. Things get out of control when he discovers the beautiful and elusive, Nao (Sakuratani), a girl one year his senior. Falling head-over-heels, Sei tries to find a way to confess his love to Nao,
Japanese Title: 神童
Release Date: April 21st, 2007
Running Time: 120 mins.
Director: Koji Hagiuda
Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay),
Starring: Riko Narumi, Kenichi Matsuyama, Satomi Tezuka, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tamae Ando, Masahiro Komoto, Shihori Kanjiya
The name that jumps out at me from the staff is the writer Kosuke Mukai because he is a frequent collaborator with Nobuhiro Yamashita. He has written the scripts for Tamako in Moratorium, Linda, Linda, Linda and other titles. The film stars some great male actors like Kenichi Matsuyama (Bright Future, Detroit Metal City, Norwegian Wood) and Hidetoshi Nishijima (License to Live, Loft, Zero Focus). Riko Narumi, the genius at the centre of the story is unknown to me but a lot of people praise her performance.
Child prodigy and gifted pianist Uta (Narumi) could read sheet music before she could speak. She is the daughter of a piano virtuoso who disappeared from her life at an early age and now she has no life other than playing the piano and hates it. Facing various doubts and problems, and haunted by her father’s disappearance, Uta forms an unlikely friendship with the older Wao (Matsuyama), the son of a grocer and an aspiring musician, but lacks the drive to succeed. That is until Uta comes into his life…
Japanese Title: パレード
Release Date: February 20th, 2010
Running Time: 118 mins.
Director: Isao Yukisada
Writer: Isao Yukisada (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Original Novel)
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Karina, Shihori Kanjiya, Kento Hayashi, Keisuke Koide, Maho Nonami, Terunosuke Takezai, Renji Ishibashi, Natsumi Seto, Midoriko Kimura,
I’ve long been interested in this film ever since I saw a review of it over at Sadako’s Movie Shack. The set-up is great with a mixture of characters who live close to each other and harbour differing levels of affection for each other who are suddenly plunged into chaos. It stars Tatsuya Fujiwara (Battle Royale).
The film follows group of young flatmates sharing a 2LDK apartment in Tokyo. Their number includes a salaryman named Naoki (Fujiwara) who works for a film distribution company, Satoru (Hayashi), a male prostitute, Kotomi (Kanjiya), an aspiring actress, and Miki (Karina), a heavy-drinking female illustrator. They live together and may even have feelings for each other but find their lives thrown into hazard when a mysterious golden-haired stranger takes residence on their sofa, just when a number of brutal murders have been committed in a nearby park.
Japanese Title: チチを撮りに
Romaji: Chichi o Tori ni
Release Date: February 16th, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: 74 mins.
Director: Ryota Nakano
Starring: Makiko Watanabe, Nanoka Matsubara, Erisa Yanagi, Kenichi Takito, Satoshi Nikaido, Tomokoi Kimura
Ryota Nakano’s award winning film Capturing Dad was at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and was then released a week later in Japan. It took the award for best film and best director at the 09th Skip City International D-Cinema Festival in Kawaguchi city. It is a family drama that mixes a little light comedy and a lot of drama in a film about the absence of a father and the creation of relationships from that loss. The film stars Makiko Watanabe (Love Exposure), Erisa Yanagi (A Gentle Breeze in the Village), Kenichi Takito (Fish Story, Fish on Land), Satoshi Nikaido (Guilty of Romance) amongst others.
Koharu (Matsubara) and Hazuki (Yanagi) are sisters who live in a rural town with their mother Sawa (Watanabe). The father abandoned the family for a new woman fourteen years ago which has caused huge resentment in Sawa but when she discovers that he has terminal cancer she sends Koharu and Hazuki to the hospital with a camera to take a picture of him. When they arrive at the hospital he s dead and his new family are in mourning. Koharu and Hazuki both discover things about their father and their step-family.
Japanese Title: 恋の門
Romaji: Koi no Mon
Release Date: October 20th, 2004
Running Time: 114 mins.
Director: Suzuki Matsuo
Writer: Suzuki Matsuo, Jun Hanyunyuu (Screenplay),
Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Wakana Sakai, Suzuki Matsuo, Kiyoshiro Iawano, Hideaki Anno, Moyoco Anno, Junko Emoto, George Asakura, Noboru Iguchi, Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto
Suzuki Matsuo (Welcome to the Quiet Room) directs a movie I am desperate to see because it’s all about otaku culture. As a writer for anime and J-film websites this film is my type of thing with anime and film luminaries like Hideaki (Evangelion) Anno, Shinya (Tetsuo) Tsukamoto, and Takashi (Audition) Miike making appearances. It stars the great Ryuhei Matsuda (The Great Passage, Nightmare Detective) and looks like a hyper-stylised treat and I’m ready to devour it.
Two social misfits – artist Mon Aoki (Matsuda) who uses rocks as his canvas to create manga, and cosplay-obsessed, manga artist Koino (Sakai) – literally collide when her high heel stabs his hand as he’s about to pick up a manga-worthy rock. Mon finds it hard to hold down a job due to his hobo-like appearance but manages to score a position at Koino’s company, Tsugino Happy Inc. for a few hours before he’s fired. After a night of drinks they wake up together and their love of otaku culture begins to have a real effect on their relationship.
Japanese Title: モテキ
Release Date: September 23rd, 2011
Running Time: 118 mins.
Director: Hitoshi One
Writer: Hitoshi One (Screenplay), Mitsuro Kubo (Original Manga)
Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Masami Nagasawa, Kumiko Aso, Riisa Naka, Yoko Maki, Hirofumi Arai, Nobuaki Kaneko, Liy Franky, Hikai Mitsushima, Maho Nonami,
This is based on the drama series Moteki that starred Mirai Moriyama (The Drudgery Train) and the synopsis is pretty much my dream – a guy who writes for a news site suddenly becomes popular with hot women. I’m currently writing for news sites. I’m waiting to “suddenly” become popular with hot women. Hot women who look like Masami Nagasawa (Kiseki), Kumiko Aso (Pulse, License to Live), Riisa Naka (Mitsuko Delivers) and the super-foxy Yoko Maki (Infection, The Grudge, Like Father, Like Son, The Ravine of Goodbye). Apparently the girls behind Perfume are in this. I want this to happen to me! It’s not too much to ask, surely? I’ll settle for one woman! Yoko Maki! I’ll chant moteki every day to make it happen!
31-year-old Yukiyo Fujimoto (Moriyama) is broke and lacks a girlfriend. After leaving his job at a staffing firm and is attempting to start a new life by working as a writer for a news site. One day Yukiyo experience “moteki” – a period when a man suddenly becomes popular with women. Said women include a shop assistant named Ai (Naka), Cute magazine editor Miyuki (Nagasawa), pure and naïve office worker Rumiko (Aso) and tough nut Motoko (Maki). Can Yukiyo manage all of the attention?
Japanese Title: 嵐 を 呼ぶ 十八人
Romaji: Arashi o Yobu Juhachi-nin
Release Date: September 11th, 1963
Running Time: 108 mins.
Director: Yoshishige Yoshida
Writer: Yoshishige Yoshida (Screenplay),
Starring: Tamotsu Hayakawa, Yoshiko Kayama, Eiji Matsui, Takenobu Wakamoto, Katsuyoshi Nishimura, Yoko Mihara
I don’t really know too much about this film or the staff/cast and I couldn’t find a trailer so here’s the info on the webpage:
A worker in a shipbuilding yard is offered the chance to boost his wages by managing a dormitory inhabited by a pack of 18 adolescent ruffians. This early film by Yoshishige Yoshida (Eros Plus Massacre) is a neo-realist account of the conditions for Japanese temporary workers in the 1960s, and rare to see outside Japan.
Japanese Title: カラフル
Release Date: August 21st, 2010
Running Time: 126 mins.
Director: Keiichi Hara
Writer: Miho Maruo (Screenplay), Eto Mori (Original Creator)
Starring: Kazato Tomizawa (Makoto Kobayashi), Akina Minami (Hiroaki Kuwabara), Kumiko Aso (Makoto’s Mother), Katsumi Takahashi (Makoto’s Father), Aoi Miyazaki (Shoko Sano) Michael (Purapura)
During the introduction to Mai Mai Miracle at last year’s Japan Foundation Touring Film Festival the idea was floated that if Mai Mai Miracle was popular enough then the festival would programme more anime. Looks like it was popular because we get Colorful. I’m happy to see anime get exposure.
Synopsis from Anime News Network:
Upon reaching the train station to death, a dejected soul is informed that he is ‘lucky’ and will have another chance at life and is placed in the body of a 14-year-old boy named Makoto Kobayashi, who has just committed suicide. Watched over by a neutral spirit named Purapura, the soul must figure out what his greatest sin and mistake in his former life was before his time limit in Makoto’s body runs out. He also has a number of other lesser duties he must complete, such as understanding what led Makoto to commit suicide in the first place and learning how to enjoy his second chance at life.