Japanese Films at the Glasgow Film Festival 2015

The Glasgow Film Festival kicks off tonight and it has a selection of excellent films that any fan of cinema will love. Here’s the line-up. This is a bit of a rush post. I decided to cover this at the very last minute because I took a gander at the films and I think that there are enough quality titles to make this film festival stand out. I’m excited to see Fires on the Plain because if this is in the UK it means that it may make its way down to London. Also of note are Pale Moon and Uzumasa Limelight both of which have had excellent reviews including ones by a fellow J-film blogger who has great taste (Uzumasa Review) (Pale Moon Review)! Glasgow usually has good films (it’s how I saw Rentaneko and Museum Hours) so I’ll cover it every year from now on…

Here’s the line-up of films programmed this year:

Thursday, February 19th

Pale Moon (紙の月)   

Paper Moon Film Poster
Paper Moon Film Poster

Director: Daihachi Yoshida, Writer: Hayafune Utaeko (Screenplay), Mitsuyo Kakuta (Original Novel), Starring: Rie Miyazawa, Sosuke Ikematsu, Yuko Oshima, Seiichi Tanabe, Yoshimasa Kindo, Satomi Kobayashi, Renji Ishibashi,

Running Time: 126 mins.

This is film is based on a novel by Mitsuyo Kakuta which has been adapted into a dorama with the same cast. I am interested in the film mostly because of the rather lurid plot and the fact that the film won the audience award at the recent Tokyo International Film Festival. It stars Rie Miyazawa and I sung her praises for her performance in The Twilight Samurai and I want to see more of her acting performances and this one looks to be strong especially since it’s in a story about a character coming apart at the seams after committing a serious crime due to her boredom and lust…

Rika Umezawa (Miyazawa) lives a dull life. Despite being a highly rated employee with her clients at a bank, a seemingly loveless marriage with her husband leaves her feeling a profound sense of emptiness and this leads her to embark on an affair with a young man named Kota (Ikematsu), a university student. Spending money on him is a costly endeavour what with hotel suites and fancy restaurants and so she begins to embezzle money from her clients and neglect her husband as she becomes addicted to her illicit affair…


Friday 20th – Saturday 21st

Uzumasa Limelight    (太秦ライムライト)   

Uzumasa Limelight Film Poster
Uzumasa Limelight Film Poster

Director: Ken Ochiai, Writer: Hiroyuki Ono (Screenplay), Starring: Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto, Hiroki Matsukata, Masashi Goda, Hirotaro Honda, Hisako Manda.

Running Time: 104 mins.

 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?


Saturday 21st – Sunday 22nd 

The Light Shines Only There (そこのみにて光輝く)   

The Light Shines Only There Film Poster
The Light Shines Only There Film Poster

Director: Mipo O, Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Original Novel), Starring: Gou Ayano, Chizuru Ikewaki, Masaki Suda, Kazuya Takahashi, Shohei Hinom Hiroko Isayama

Running Time: 120 mins.

I saw this one at the Raindance Film Festival and I found it an intensely moving drama about emotionally damage people and also very beautiful. I’m tempted to see this one again because I was so impressed – I just need to finish the review. It is based on a novel published in 1989 by an author who lived a tragic life and was updated for the screen by the director Mipo O (most famous in the UK for Quirky Guys and Gals) and the writer Ryo Takada (one of the writers on the tough drama The Ravine of Goodbye). It stars Gou Ayano (Rurouni KenshinThe Story of Yonosuke) and Chizuru Ikewaki (Shokuzai). It’s a film full of despair but ends on a little bit of hope. This is Japan’s entry for the next Academy Awards.

Tatsuo Sato (Ayano) quits his job and does little with his days until he meets Takuji Oshiro (Suda), a rough around the edges kid recently released from jail, at a pachinko parlour and strikes up a friendship. Takuji invites Tatsuo back to his home where he lives with is sick father, mother and older sister Chinatsu (Ikewaki). Tatsuo becomes attracted to Chinatsu, who shines even in their difficult situation.


Sunday 22 February

Fires on the Plain (野火)   Nobi Fires on the Plain Film Image 3

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto, Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Screenplay), Shohei Ooka (Original Novel), Starring: Shinya Tsukamoto, Lily Franky, Tatsuya Nakamura, Yuko Nakamura, Dean Newcombe,

Running Time: 87 mins.

Shinya Tsukamoto is back bringing the fire to Japanese cinema audiences with his challenging films. The fire I mentioned is Fires on the Plain which is based upon the 1951 Yomiuri Prize-winning novel of the same name and that was then adapted into a film in 1959 by Kon Ichikawa. It took Tsukamoto 20 years to bring his adaptation of the film to the screen. It stars the director, Shinya Tsukamoto, who surrounds himself with interesting actors like Yuko Nakamura Kotoko (2011) and Lily Franky, Judge! (2014) and Like Father, Like Son (2013). Fires on the Plain has come away from many film festivals with critics praising it so if you’re looking for a challenge, this might be for you.

Clips from the film:

The film Fires on the Plain follows a demoralised Japanese army in the Philippines. We see how bad things are for the Japanese troops through the desperate struggle of a conscript named Tamura who is sick with TB and forced into the field by a commander who cannot waste resources on a dying man. Tamura doesn’t want to give up so easily and clings to life but it is a struggle that will lead him down a dark path that hint at some of the atrocities carried out by soldiers…


Tuesday 24th – Wednesday 25th

Still the Water (2つ目の窓)   

Still the Water JApanese Film Poster
Still the Water JApanese Film Poster

Director: Naomie Kawase, Writer: Naomie Kawase (Screenplay), Starring: Nijiro Murakami, Jun Yoshinaga, Tetta Sugimoto, Miyuki Matsuda, Makiko Watanabe, Jun Murakami, Hideo Sakaki, Fujio Tokita

Running Time: 114 mins.


Still the Water was at this year’s Cannes film festival where it got mixed reviews, some praising its beauty and atmosphere while others lamenting the heavy handed symbolism used throughout the film.

It is the full-moon night of August and on Amami-Oshima traditional dances take place. A 14-year-old boy finds a dead body floating in the sea. With the help of his girlfriend, the two set about trying to solve the mystery. As they investigate the two grow into adults by experiencing the interwoven cycles of life, death and love.


Thursday 26th – Friday 27th

Man from Reno (リノから来た男)   

Man From Reno Film Poster
Man From Reno Film Poster

Director: Dave Boyle, Writer: Dave Boyle, Joel Clark, Michael Lerman (Screenplay), Starring: Ayako Fujitani, Kazuki Kitamura, Pepe Serna, Elisha Skorman, Hiroshi Watanabe.

Running Time: 111 mins

 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.

6 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Glasgow Film Festival 2015

  1. HS

    Thank you for the shout out! 😀 I hadn’t been following this festival for some reason until it was on the Fires on the Plain twitter feed and then I noticed they had a bunch of other awesome stuff – not sure why it’s not receiving much other coverage, maybe it’s the Berlin hangover and it’ll pick up a bit once the festival gets going. Still kind of desperate to see Fires on the Plain though – really hope it turns up again somewhere (closer) soon.

    1. It wasn’t on my radar until I took a gander at the programme for Glasgow last year and was impressed by some of the titles but your positive reviews for the films I linked to prompted me to write about it so people see there’s more to Scotland’s film festival’s than just Edinburgh and Scotland Loves Anime.

      And yeah, like you, I’m hoping Fires on the Plain shows up down south… Maybe the Asia House Film Festival…

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