Japan Cuts 2014 Preview

Japan Cuts Logo

New York, New York, what a wonderful town. I have never wanted to live in New York as much as I did after reading the line-up for Japan Cuts 2014.

The Japan Society will host a series of awesome Japanese films from July 10th to July 29th with titles like Sion Sono’s ultra-violent black comedy Why Don’t You Play in Hell? coupled with crime thriller The Devil’s Path and recent (controversial) World War II blockbuster The Eternal Zero. These are just some of the headline titles, there are even more listed, many of which were released in the last few weeks and some of which are crazy and bizarre and speak to the sharp and unique sense of cinema that the curators have – respect has to be paid for the programming of the documentaries on this list. There’s definitely something for everyone! Here’s a trailer:

I am blown away by the titles and the guests that have been announced with many actors coming over for Q&As (FUMI NIKAIDO!!!). For a fan of cinema in general and Japanese cinema in particular, this is a festival rich with great films and events!

Here’s a list of the films and trailers with comments from me. Click on the title for more info such as times and buying tickets. Tickets are already on sale!


Thursday July 10th, Opening Night


6 P.M.

The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji   The Mole Song Film Poster

Japanese Title: 土竜の唄 潜入捜査官 REIJI

Romaji: Mogura no Uta Sennuu Sosakan REIJI

Running Time: 130 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Kudo Kankuro (Screenplay), Noboru Takahashi (Original Manga)

Starring: Toma Ikuta, Ren Osugi, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Riisa Naka, Takayuki Yamada, Mitsuru Fukikoshi

This is based on a comedy manga by Noboru Takahashi and directed by Takashi Miike (For Love’s Sake). The film has a great cast of characters like Shinichi Tsutsumi (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?), Ren Osugi (Exte) and Mitsuru Fukikoshi (Cold Fish). It seems like a great way to open the film festival since it looks absolutely funny.

Reiji Kikukawa (Ikuta) has a strong sense of justice but graduates at the bottom of his class from the police academy. He is so useless his superiors send him on what should be a suicide mission. First the police chief fires him for disciplinary issues and then sets him up as a mole in the Sukiyaki gang, the largest crime group in the Kanto area. His target is Shuho Todoroki, the boss, and so Reiji goes through hell to get his man!


8:30 P.M.

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

Sion Sono blew my mind with this one. After a short run of issue films like the critically lauded Himizu and The Land of Hope, he made this hilarious and blood-thirsty film which was both entertainment and a love letter to cult films and yakuza classics. I found it absolutely hilarious and one of the best films of last year.

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 which 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 as a reward for Shizue’s loyalty and kidnaps 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 recruits the help of a mad-cinephile 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.

Introduction and Q&A with actress Fumi Nikaido (I so want to be in her presence!!!)

Followed by the LET’S PLAY IN HELL Opening Night Party!

Friday July 11th,

6 P.M.

The Snow White Murder CaseThe Snow White Murder Case Fim Poster

Japanese: 白ゆき姫殺人事件

Romaji: Shira Yuki Hime Satsujin Jiken

Running Time: 126 mins.

Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura

Writer:Tamio Hayashi (Screenplay), Kanae Minato (Original Novel)

Starring: Mao Inoue, Gou Ayano, Misako Renbutsu, Nanao, Shihori Kanjiya, Nobuaki Kaneko, Erena Ono, Mitsuki Tanimura, Shota Sometani, Katsuhisa Namase, Dankan,

I reviewed this one on Monday and found it to be a gripping and blackly comic satire on contemporary Japanese media. I highly recommend it for people who want a nice twisting narrative with great performances. The crime isn’t so much the centre-piece, rather, it’s how everybody reacts to it!

The Show White Murder Case sees victim Noriko Miki (Nanao), the best looking girl at a cosmetics company, murdered and her co-worker Miki (Inoue) coming under suspicion. The media frenzy begins as television shows interview Miki’s friends, family and anybody even vaguely associated with her. Soon rumours of her being a wicked woman emerge. Are they true?


8:30 P.M.

Maruyama, The Middle SchoolerMaruyama the Middleschooler

Japanese Title: 中学生 円山

Romaji: Chuugakusei Maruyama

Running Time: 199 mins.

Director: Kankuro Kudo

Writer: Kankuro Kudo (Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroaki Takuma, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Yang Ik-June, Maki Sakai, Toru Nakamura, Nanami Nabemoto, Yuiko Kariya,You, Fumina Hara,Kenji Endo, Tomorowo Taguchi, Maho Nonami

This is a comedy for which every review I have read has been glowing with praise. It’s directed by Kankuro Kuda, actor in Memories of Matsuko and Instant Swamp.

Katsuya Maruyama (Hiraoka) is 14, an age where a boys thoughts are consumed by carnal desires. Only his are strange. He wants to “to touch his own weeny with his tongue.” Perhaps his strangeness is a result of living a mundane life in a housing complex with his mother Mizuki (sakai)), a woman obsessed with Korean dramas, his fitness obsessed father Katsuyuki (Nakamura) and sharing his room with his sister Akane (Nabemoto). There are other, stranger characters around like Tatsuo Shimoi (Kusanagi), a single father who wheels his infant son in a buggy around everywhere and prying into his neighbours lives and irritating housewives and a Korean electrician named Park Hyeon-Hun (Yang Ik-June) who attracts the attention of Mizuki. When bodies start turning up in the apartment complex Maruyama begins to draw a manga about a superhero named Captain Fruit (based on his father) who comes to the rescue. He shares his crazy tales with Shimoi and the line between fantasy and reality become blurred.


Saturday, July 12th


12:30 P.M. 

The Great PassageWe 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

Yuya Ishii is one of Japan’s new directors who is attracting attention. With titles like Sawako Decides and Mitsuko Delivers, he made an impact on the indie scene but made the leap with this comedy to the majors. I found it  warm and funny character comedy and recommend it. If my opinion doesn’t matter all that much to you (please humour me and pretend it does) then maybe the fact that it scored big at this year’s Japanese Academy Awards might!

Mitsuya Majime (Matsuda) 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 of the owner of Majime’s boarding home, how he feels about her. Meanwhile, he has to lead a team in the creation of a new dictionary!


3:00 P.M.

The Eternal ZeroThe Eternal Zero Film Poster

Japanese Title: 永遠の0

Romaji: Eien no Zero

Running Time: 144 mins.

Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Writer: Tamio Hayashi (Screenplay), Naoki Hyakuta (Original Novel)

Starring: Junichi Okada, Mao Inoue, Haruma Miura, Yuichiro Hirose, Nanaka Yagi, Hirofumi Arai, Min Tanaka, Kazue Fukiishi, Jun Fubuki, Isao Natsuyagi

It’s hard to ignore the controversy behind the author but this is supposed to be an excellent drama. The cast is certainly packed with first-rate talent.

A young man named Kentaro Saeki (Miura) has failed his bar test yet again. Confused about life he begins to research his family with his older sister Keiko (Fukiishi). They focus on their grandfather Kyuzo Miyabe (Okada) who fought in the Pacific War. He was a man scared of death and obsessed with life who volunteered to join a ‘special forces’ squad but as they encounter old colleagues of his they find a dark secret kept hidden for 60 years…


6:00 P.M.

The Devil’s PathThe Devil's Path Film Poster

Japanese Title: 凶悪

Romaji: Kyouaku

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Writer: Kazuya Shiraishi, Izumi Takahashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Pierre Taki, Lily Franky, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kazuko Shirakawa, Yu Saito, Nozomi Muraoka

Takayuki Yamada (13 Assassins), Pierre Taki (Linda, Linda, Linda) and Lily Franky (Like Father, Like Son) star in this adaptation of a nonfiction novel which looks to be a neat little thriller.

Sudo (Taki) is a former yakuza and death-row inmate who contacts Fujii (Yamada), a magazine reporter by letter to tell him that a man named Kimura (Franky) a.k.a. “teacher” has killed numerous times for insurance money. Fujii begins his investigation and through his persistence and that of Sudo, the police begin to investigate.


8: 30 P.M.

Miss Zombie
Miss Zombie Poster

Japanese Title: Miss Zombie

Romaji: Miss Zombie

Running Time: 85 mins.

Director: SABU

Writer: SABU (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayaka Komatsu, Makoto Togashi, Riku Ohnishi, Taro Suruga, Tateto Serizawa, Takaya Yamauchi, Toru Tezuka

SABU is a great filmmaker. One definitely worth checking out if you haven’t heard of him before. He made quirky gangster films in the 90’s, is back and with an original take on the zombie movie thanks to the script. Gravure idol Ayaka Komatsu plays a zombie named Sara who gets inserted into a family that is wary of her and a village that is frightened of her. Is she really that bad or are humans worse? She is cast alongside including Makoto Togashi (Cure) and Tateto Serizawa (Isn’t Anyone Alive?).

Sara (Komatsu) rocks up at a in a town in a cage wth numerous scars on her body and glazed eyes. She’s a zombie. Also in the cage is a gun and a note that reads “Do not give it meat”. The people around her are disgusted and treat her cruelly but a doctor takes her in. His son bonds with the zombie but the doctor has other plans…


10: 30 P.M.

The Pinkie

Running Time: 65 mins.

Director: Lisa Takeba

Writer: Lisa Takeba (Screenplay),

Starring: Ryota Ozawa, Miwako Wagatsuma, Haruka Suenaga, Kanji Tsuda

You people attending this festival are so fortunate… After a run of HYPE films you get this little gem from Lisa Takeba who has put together a great little indie romantic comedy which looks like so much fun.

Since they were both five, Ryosuke has been stalked by Momoko – the ugliest girl in the village. Momoko’s love for Ryosuke is so boundless that she has her face surgically altered to suit his taste – but still he wants nothing to do with her. Ryosuke is more interested in the girlfriend of a gangster boss. But when the boss finds out about their affair, he has Ryosuke’s little finger hacked off. Magically, the finger falls into Momoko’s hands, and she uses it to clone Ryosuke, so she can finally have him (or almost him) for herself – and that’s the first five minutes.


Sunday, July 12th


Wood Job!Wood Job Film Poster

Japanese Title:(ウッジョブ) 神去なあなあ日常

Romaji: (Ujjobu) kamisari nānā nichijō

Running Time: 116 mins

Director: Shinobu Yaguchi

Writer: Shinobu Yaguchi(Screenplay), Shion Miura (Original Novel)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Masami Nagasawa, Hideaki Ito, Yuka, Naomi Nishida, Makita Sports, Ken Mitsuishi, Akira Emoto

This is a comedy adapted from a novel by Shion Miura (Mahoro Eki Mae BangaichiThe Great Passage) and it’s full of great actors like Shota Sometani (Himizu), Ken Mitsuishi (Rent-a-CatNoriko’s Dinner Table).

Yuki Hirano (Sometani) is a high school grad who has failed his university entrance exams. He expects to spend the near future working a part time job but sees a brochure for a year-long forestry training scheme and soon he’s in a remote mountain village called Kamusari which has none of the amenities of Tokyo but immense beauty and warm-hearted locals and a beautiful young woman named Naoki (Nagasawa) He just has to survive his rough and ready instructors like Yoki (Ito).





MonsterzMonsterz Film Poster

Japanese Title:モンスターズ

Romaji: Monsuta-zu

Running Time: 112 mins

Director: Hideo Nakata

Writer: Yusuke Watanabe (Screenplay), Kim Min-seok (Original Script)

Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Takayuki Yamada, Satomi Ishihara, Tomorowo Taguchi, Yutaka Matsushige, Tae Kimura,

Hideo Nakata of Ringu fame is back with an adaptation of a 2010 Korean film called Haunters.  The story is about the battle between two fabulously good-looking men with special abilities that allow them to control others!

A Man (Fujiwara) possesses the ability to manipulate others with his eyes. With his ability he killed his abusive step-father but was abandoned by his mother. He now lives the life of a loner. His life changes again when he encounters a man he cannot manipulate. That man is Shuichi Tanaka (Yamada) who lives with his friends and works a dead-end job. He may not have money but his voice has special abilities…



All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona LisaAll-Round Appraiser Q The Eyes of Mona Lisa Film Poster

Japanese Title:万能鑑定士Q モナ・リザの瞳

Romaji: Bannou Kanteishi Q Monariza no Hitomi

Running Time: 119 mins

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Writer: Manabu Uda (Screenplay), Keisuke Matsuoka (Original Novel)

Starring: Haruka Ayase, Tori Matsuzaka, Eriko Hatsune, Hiroaki Murakami, Pierre Deladonchamps, Jun Hashimoto

Based on a popular mystery novel by Keisuke Matsuoka, the story follows Riko Rinda (Ayase) a sexy and cute librarian with quasi-supernatural powers of deduction who is a brilliant appraiser with an “All-Round Appraiser Q” reputation that earns the attention of The Louvre as a Mona Lisa exhibition is to be held for the first time in Japan. Accompanied by magazine editor sidekick Yuto Ogasawara (Matsuzaka), she goes to Paris and finds her judgment challenged by the shroud of mystery and threats of theft surrounding the masterpiece as well as the Mona Lisa herself. 


8: 00 P.M.

Uzumasa Limelight

Japanese Title: 太秦ライムライト

Romaji: Uzumasa Laimulaito

Running Time: 103 mins

Director: Ken Ochiai

Writer: Hiroyuki Ono (Screenplay),

Starring: Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto, Hiroki Matsukata, Masashi Goda, Hirotaro Honda, Hisako Manda.

This one is so new it hasn’t been released in Japan yet! Straight from the festival website:

 A moving, nostalgic portrait of the men behind the golden age of chanbara (sword-fighting dramas and films), Uzumasa Limelight goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre for which Japan is famous. A professional extra named Kamiyama (real-life kirare-yaku Seizo Fukumoto) has devoted 50 years of his life as a kirare-yaku in sword-fighting movies produced at Kyoto’s Uzumasa Studios. A master of the art, he lives to die–or more exactly “to be cut”–and show a beautiful, spectacular death on screen. Now an elderly man, Kamiyama lives very modestly but has earned immense respect from his peers, some of them movie stars. When the studio where he works decides to discontinue its chanbara productions, Kamiyama finds himself at a loss. Hope arrives in the form of a young girl named Satsuki, who soon becomes Kamiyama’s disciple. Will the art of dying by the sword live on?

 Introduction and Q&A with director Ken Ochiai and actress Chihiro Yamamoto


Tuesday, July 15th

6:00 P.M.

The Horses of Fukushima

Horse Festival Film Poster

Japanese: 祭の馬

Romaji: Matsuri no Uma

Running Time: 74 mins.

Director: Yoju Matsubayashi

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Japan produces many documentaries but few of the major festivals that I write about actually shows them which makes the inclusion of this and others on the list noteworthy.

Director Yoju Matsubayashi was behind the documentary  Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape which was all about the Great East Japan Earthquake. He returns with a new work based on the story of a rancher named Shinichiro Tanaka who fled his farm after the nuclear disaster and returned to find his horses dead or starving, and refused to obey the government’s orders to kill them. While many racehorses are slaughtered for horsemeat, his horses had been subjected to radiation and were inedible. Yoju Matsubayashi spent the summer of 2011 helping Tanaka take care of his horses and documenting their efforts to rehabilitate the horses.


8:30 P.M.

Unforgiven Japanese Film Poster

Japanese Title: 許されざる者

Romaji: Yurusarezaru Mono

Running Time: 135 mins.

Director: Lee Sang-Il

Writer: Lee Sang-Il (Adapted Screenplay), David Webb Peoples (Original Screenplay)

Starring: Ken Watanabe, Jun Kunimura, Eiko Koike, Yura Yagira, Koichi Sato, Akira Emoto, Shiono Kutsuna, Kenichi Takito, Youkiyoshi Ozawa, Takahiro Mirua, Sjiori Kutsuna

This is the remake of the 1992 Clint Eastwood film of the same name. It swaps out the US and cowboys for Japan in the late 1800’s and samurai and Warner Bros. rolled it out around the world for a limited time. This is another chance to see it. It is directed by Lee Sang-Il (Villainand it stars Ken Watanabe (Letters from Iwo JimaInceptionTampopo), Akira Emoto (A Woman and WarStarfish Hotel), Koichi Sato (Infection), Eiko Koike (RebirthPenanceKamikaze Girls2LDK) and Jun Kunimura (OutrageVitalAudition).

Jubei Kamata (Watanabe) was once a loyal samurai for the Edo shogunate government. Famous for being a skilled and deadly fighter he killed many and became infamous in Kyoto but disappeared during the battle of Goryoukaku. Ten years later and he is living with his child, looking after his wife’s grave in peace after vowing never to pick up his sword again but being in poverty forces him to do just that as he accepts the assignment of being a bounty hunter when an old comrade named Kingo Baba (Emoto) and young guy Goro (Yagira) turns up with a bounty for a man who mutilated a prostitute. They set off but will encounter a sadistic lawman (Sato) who has a distaste for mercenaries.


Wednesday, July 16th


6:30 P.M. 

The Extreme SukiyakiThe Extreme Sukiyaki Film Poster

Japanese: ジ、 エクストリーム、 スキヤキ

Romaji: Ji, Ekusutori-mu, Sukiyaki

Running Time: 111 mins.

Director: Shiro Maeda

Writer: Shiro Maeda (Original Novel and Screenplay),

Starring: Arata, Yosuke Kubozuka, Mikako Ichikawa, Kana Kurashima, Kengo Kora, Shuichi Okita, Daisuke Kuroda, Toru Okada

This is the directorial debut of writer Shiro Maeda (The Story of Yonosuke and Isn’t Anyone Alive?) and it stars a plethora of top acting talent including Arata and Yosuke Kubozuka, both of whom starred in the hilarious comedy Ping Pong (watch the film and then the anime! Then read the manga!). Other names include Mikako Ichikawa (Tokyo Oasis), Kana Kurashina (Dreams for Sale), Kengo Kora (The Drudgery Train), and the director Shuichi Okita (The Woodsman & the Rain, The Story of Yonosuke).

Horaguchi (Arata) is a failure. 15 years after leaving university he has achieved nothing and let time pass. Time to give up. He tries to commit suicide but even that fails. For Horaguchi his best days were at uni and so he yearns for those days. Yearns for them so much that he finds an old friend from university Ohkawa (Kubozuke). Things are a little awkward between them because of an incident in their past but they soon warm up to each other and plan a trip to the sea. Ohkawa’s girlfriend Kaeda (Kurashina) and Horaguchi’s ex Kyoko (Ichikawa) join them and bring a sukiyaki pot. They start to get along on their trip but Horaguchi has a secret reason for seeing his friend…

The director will conduct a Q&A via video streaming

Thursday, July 17th


6:30 P.M. 


Japanese Title: 0.5ミリ

Romaji: 0.5 mm

Running Time: 198 mins

Director: Momoko Ando

Writer: N/A

Starring: Sakura Ando, Junkichi Orimoto, Toshio Sakata, Masahiko Tsugawa, Akira Emoto.

5mm Image

This is a world premiere but even more intriguing than that is the fact that it is directed by Momoko Ando, the sister of super brilliant actress Sakura Ando! Alas, no trailer. Synopsis straight from the site:

Sawa, a home helper for a middle class family with an elderly infirm grandfather, is forced to stretch her morals to keep her job. As a result, she finds herself broke and out on the street. She survives her first night by striking up an ambiguous friendship with a kindly old man, gaining access to a portion of the immense wealth held by Japan’s aging population. She continues with similar encounters, and while these begin as scams or revenge on rampant sexism, they ultimately become vulnerable intergenerational exchanges.

Introduction and Q&A with director Momoko Ando

Followed by a reception with the director


Friday, July 18th

6:30 P.M. 

PassionPassion Film Poster

Japanese: 受難

Romaji: Junan

Running Time: 95 mins.

Director: Ryoko Yoshida

Writer: Ryoko Yoshida (Screenplay), Kaoruko Himeno (Novel)

Starring: Mayuko Iwasa, Yasushi Fuchikami, Kumiko Ito, Kanji Furutachi,

Things get weird with this title…

The Passion tells a story of a young woman raised in a convent named Frances-ko (Mayuko Iwasa), after Saint Francesco. Distressed by not knowing about love and sex, she calls out for a sign from above, but instead hears a voice from below. A human-faced growth speaks to her from between her legs, constantly berating her, calling out “Woman, you are worthless!” Mr. Koga, as she names it, continues the verbal abuse, yet Frances-ko somehow adapts, forming an adversarial yet symbiotic relationship. 


8:30 P.M.

Love’s WhirlpoolLove's Whirlpool Film Poster

Japanese Title: 愛の渦

Romaji: Ai no Uzu

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director: Daisuke Miura

Writer: Daisuke Miura (Script/Stage Play/Original Novel)

Starring: Yoko Mitsuya, Hirofumi Arai, Mugi Kadowaki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kenichi Takito, Ryusuke Komakime, Tokio Emoto, Eriko Nakamura, Seri Akazawa

Daisuke Miura is a filmmaker and dramatist who likes to make films and plays that are full of complicated characters in erotic situations (2013 indie film Be My Baby was based on his stage-play and a review is ready for next week). Alas, the characters can be so complicated that the eroticism takes a back-seat to some nail bitingly unpleasant situations. See him expose the mores of a group of lustful Japanese in this film. This trailer is not safe for work so you have been warned.

In a fancy split-level condo in Tokyo’s Roppongi nightlife district, four women and four men gather from midnight to 5 am. They’ve all paid to be there (men more than women), and they have only one thing in common–they seek anonymous sex. Using no names, they’re known only by their types: freeter (temp or part-time worker), mild-mannered salaryman, duplicitous OL (office lady), self-conscious working class factory worker, perfectionist teacher, veteran pervert, shy NEET (“not in education, employment or training”) and bashful college student. Together, they unravel their identities in a night of increasing debauchery


10:45 P.M. 

Greatful Dead    Greatful Dead Film Poster

Japanese Title: グレイトフル デッド

Romaji: Gureitofuru Deddo

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Eiji Uchida

Writer: Eiji Uchida, Etsuo Hiratani (Screenplay),

Starring: Kumi Takiuchi, Takashi Sasano, Kkobbi Kim

Changing gears and going back into the wild we get this little indie. While I have not seen this a fellow blogger whose opinion I value highly has and she enjoyed this one. Greatful Dead is getting a DVD release later in the year courtesy of Third Window Films.

Nami’s childhood was brutal: her mother ran away to Sri Lanka to help poor kids, her sister skipped town with her boyfriend and her father descended into despair and got himself a gothic mistress who played on this. Now that she’s grown up she takes pleasure in spying on people. Watching loners in society and enjoying seeing their pain.


Saturday, July 19th

12:0 P.M. 

Tale of a Butcher Shop

Japanese Title: ある精肉店のはな

Romaji: Aru Seinikuten no Hanashi

Running Time: 108 mins

Director: Aya Hanabusa

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

The Kitades run a butcher shop in Kaizuka City outside Osaka, raising and slaughtering cattle to sell the meat in their store. The seventh generation of their family’s business, they are descendants of the buraku people, a social minority held over from the caste system abolished in the 19th century that is still subject to discrimination. As the Kitades are forced to make the difficult decision to shut down their slaughterhouse, the question posed by the film is whether doing this will also result in the deconstruction of the prejudices imposed on them. Though primarily documenting the process of their work with meticulous detail, Aya Hanabusa also touches on the Kitades’ participation in the buraku liberation movement. Hanabusa’s heartfelt portrait expands from the story of an old-fashioned family business competing with corporate supermarkets, toward a subtle and sophisticated critique of social exclusion and the persistence of ancient prejudices.


2:15 P.M.

My Little Sweet Pea

With Mugiko Film Poster

Japanese Title: 麦子さんと

Romaji: Mugiko-san to

Running Time: 95 mins.

Director: Keisuke Yoshida

Writer: Keisuke Yoshida, Ryo Nishihara (Screenplay),

Starring: Maki Horikita, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kimiko Yo, Sayaka Tashiro, Amane Okayama, Eri Fuse, Yoichi Nukumizu

Experienced actor Ryuhei Matsuda, the pretty-boy in Gohatto and the unconventional hero in Nightmare Detective teams up with rising star Maki Horikita in this drama.

It isn’t easy to find a dream to chase when you’re young, but Mugiko (Horikita) has one: she can’t wait to become an anime voice actress. Saving up for classes while she works part time in a manga store, she lives with her older, gambler brother (Matsuda) after her father’s death. When the mother (Yo) she never knew turns up out of nowhere and moves in, it only causes irritation for the aspiring otaku. But when her mother just as quickly disappears, it leaves Mugiko (or “Sweet Pea”) searching for answers, bringing her back to her mother’s hometown to discover what happened to her mother’s own dream. 


4:30 P.M. 

Man from Reno

Japanese Title: リノから来た男

Romaji: Rino kara Kita Otoko

Running Time: 111 mins

Director: Dave Boyle

Writer: Dave Boyle, Joel Clark, Michael Lerman (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayako Fujitani, Kazuki Kitamura, Pepe Serna, Elisha Skorman, Hiroshi Watanabe.

No trailer but this one sounds interesting enough to post about anyway.

Man from Reno Image

 A Japanese bestselling crime novelist visiting San Francisco finds herself embroiled in a real life mystery after a night with a handsome stranger. The man–Japanese and supposedly from Nevada–disappears the next morning, after which increasingly strange and dangerous events begin to occur. This beautifully photographed Japanese-American co-production overturns the gender stereotypes of the mystery thriller, casting international star Kazuki Kitamura as its homme fatale. Kitamura effortlessly slides between gentle and sinister, while Ayako Fujitani fits perfectly into the role of author-turned-detective. One of this accomplished transnational film’s greatest features is a rare leading turn from Pepe Serna, veteran character actor of over 100 Hollywood films (Scarface, The Black Dahlia). Set in San Francisco, this neo-noir offers not only a compelling portrayal of gender and globalization, but a model for vibrant independent filmmaking across borders.

Introduction and Q&A with director Dave Boyle and actor Kazuki Kitamura


7:30 P.M. 

Neko SamuraiNeko Samurai Film Poster

Japanese Title: 猫侍

Romaji: Neko Samurai

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Yoshitaka Yamaguchi

Writer: Yuji Nagamori, Yoshitaka Yamaguchi

Starring: Kazuki Kitamura, Misako Renbutsu, Yasufumi Terawaki, Yosuke Asari, Kanji Tsuda, Megumi Yokoyama, Shingo Mizusawa,

Who can kill a cat? Cats rock! It seems this samurai agrees in this fun looking film which is based on a TV show. Cats rule so much that there’s going to be a CAT party afterwards…

Kyutaro (Kitamura) was once a fearsome samurai but has fallen on hard times and tries to keep a low profile. When a man named Sakichi (Mizusawa) sees an example Kyutaro’s swordsmanship he hires the samurai to kill a white cat named Tamanojoh who has bewitched his boss Yozaemon (Ito) and left him immature. Kyutaro takes the job but when he sees how lovely the white cat is he has a change of heart but still gets caught up in a war between a gang of cat lovers and a gang of dog lovers!

Introduction and Q&A with actor Kazuki 

Kitamura, with CUT ABOVE Award Ceremony

Followed by the Japan CATS Party!


11:00 P.M.

KillersKillers JPIndo Film Poster

Japanese: キラーズ


Running Time: 137 mins.

Director: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto

Writer:  Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto (Screenplay),

Starring: Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Mei Kurokawa, Denden, Ray Sahetapy

This is a co-production between Indonesia and Japan  and a review on Twitch makes it sound more like a fascinating rumination on violence, full of brutality and horror, rather than a gore fest.

Nomura (Kitamura) is a serial killer who records a murder of a woman and places it on the internet. Bayu (Antara) is a journalist in Jakarta who stumbles upon the video and becomes attracted to what he sees as the beauty in the cruel visuals. When he kills a robber in self-defence he records the robber’s dying moments and uploads his own video. Nomura sees the video and a connection is made! A competition is initiated.


Sunday, July 20th

12:30 P.M.

Pecoross’ Mother and Her Days

Pecoros and his Mother Film Poster

Japanese: 新大久保 物語

Romaji: Shin Ookubo Monogatari

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Azuma Morisaki

Writer: Akune Tomoaki (Screenplay), Yuichi Okano (Original Manga)

Starring: Ryo Iwamatsu, Mitsuko Baisho, Naoto Takenaka, Kiwako Harada, Kensuke Owada, Toshie Negishi, Ryo Kase

Hats off to the organisers for throwing this one in. It looked so small when it was released that it seemed like a film that would disappear een in Japan but it’s here at the festival.

Laid-back baby boomer Yuichi (Iwamatsu) is a middle-aged manga artist and singer-songwriter when he isn’t at his salaryman day job or watching out for his elderly mother. Suffering from increasing dementia since her husband’s death, Mitsue (Akagi) is a constant source of comic energy or annoyance for Yuichi, and he and his son must soon decide if they should put her in a home for the elderly. Jumping back in time, we see how Mitsue (Harada) tracked the tumult of the latter half of the 20th century, being raised as one of 10 brothers and sisters, surviving the war, and having to push her alcoholic husband (Kase) along in life.


3:00 P.M. 

Hello! Junichi

Hello Junichi FIlm Poster

Japanese Title: ハロー! 純一

Romaji: Hallo! Junichi

Running Time: 91 mins.

Release Date: February 15th, 2014

Director: Katsuhito Ishii, Kanoko Kawaguchi, Atsushi Yoshioka

Writer: Atsushi Yoshioka, Kanoko Kawaguchi (Screenplay), Noriko Ishii (Original Novel)

Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Amon Kabe, Ryushin Tei, Chizuru Ikewaki, Tatsuya Gashuin, Yoshiyuki Morishita

Junichi is a timid third grader who can’t muster the courage to return an eraser he borrowed from his secret crush–and turns it into a children’s rock ‘n’ roll comedy. Junichi’s world is turned upside down as apprentice teacher Anna-sensei (Mitsushima) scraps her lesson plan to show the rambunctious students about life as an adult. With Anna’s unorthodox style, Junichi and his friends are able to gain confidence and pursue their goal of putting on a big concert.


 6:00 P.M.

The Tale of Iya The Tale of Iya Film Poster

Japanese Title: 祖谷物語おくのひと

Romaji: Iya Monogatari – Oku no Hito

Running Time: 169 mins.

Director: Tetsuchiro Tsuta

Writer: Tetsuchiro Tsuta, Masayuki Ueda (Screenplay),

Starring: Rina Takeda, Shima Ohnishi, Sachi Ishimaru, Hitoshi Murakami, Min Tanaka, Reika Miwa, Takahiro Ono, Naomi Kawase, Christopher Pellegrii, Keiko Taoka, Shigeru Kimura

This one looks special and it is one I sorely miss watching but people attending the festival get the chance to experience what has been described as a film with a magical atmosphere.

It is winter. A man finds a baby girl in the snow by a freezing lake in the mountains of Tokushima and takes her in. He gives her the name Haruna and they live far away from other people. The baby grows into a caring woman (Rina Takeda) who looks after the man.

It is summer. A stranger from Tokyo arrived at “Iya”, where the riches of nature still abound. His name is Kudo, and he wants to start a new life in the country to refresh his tired soul. Unfortunately the reality was not as easy as he thought because there is a confliction between a local construction company and a group of nature conservationists.

One day, Kudo meets the old man and Haruna and finds out that they lead lives completely different from his own. The old man is a farmer who climbs up the mountain to go to the little shrine to offer Omiki (sake) to the mountain god and Haruna goes to high school an hour away from home, and after that, helps Grandpa to plow his field. Feeling his heart gradually healing, Kudo thought that he finally found what he was looking for in their calm life but a destructive winter occurs…

And that’s it! What an incredible festival. I try and write some stuff for every film but for some titles like The Man from Reno, I just copied and pasted from the site because it is so brand new. I even re-wrote some of my old synopses based on this new information. For better written explanations and nfo on how to get the tickets click on the titles and hurry because they are already selling!

6 thoughts on “Japan Cuts 2014 Preview

  1. HS

    I saw The Tale of Iya at the Pan-Asia Film Festival and loved it! (actually I wrote a more detailed review but it’s still stuck in the queue at UK-A so I’ve no idea when or if it’ll actually be published 😦 ) I thought it was a fantastically rich film though and I loved all the magical realist touches.

    Also watched The Devil’s Path a while ago but can’t remember much about it other than it was massively disappointing 😦 I think there were problems with the plotting and it maybe had a rubbish end? Shame though because it sounded really good.

    1. I was very tempted to head to the Pan-Asian Film Festival when Alua blogged about it but I decided to skip it and it’s turning into a decision I’m regretting. The film looks so good and the reviews were uniformly excellent. Let me know when your review is out. Also, Rina Takeda, how was she? I’m familiar with her as someone who kicks goons in the head and does a bit of wrestling.

      I’m going to watch The Devil’s Path later on and then maybe Shield of Straw tomorrow. I should get back to watching J-horror at some point…

      1. HS

        She’s really good actually. Without spoiling it, it could be quite a difficult role as there’s probably not an awful lot on the page and there’s quite a lot going on but she gives a very nuanced performance (imho).

      2. Wow. She’s definitely more than a pretty face. Who can break jaws. And wrestle. I thought it was a bit of interesting casting and it looks like it played off.

  2. Wow….I should give you an applause for sharing this. What an effort.
    I can only read half of them. Takayuki Yamada seems to be in every movie 😉

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