Japanese Films at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival

Cannes FIlm Festival 2016 Poster
Cannes FIlm Festival 2016 Poster

This year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival takes place from May 11th to the 22nd and it’s the 69th edition of the event. The festival’s main programme (every title in competition and Un Certain Regard) has been announced. This year’s line-up looks like its lumbering under the weight of major American films like Steven Spielberg’s The BFG and two Jim Jarmusch films. There are films from European stalwarts such as the Dardenne brothers, Andrea Arnold and Nicolas Winding Refn and there are two familiar Japanese names in the mix but both are in Un Certain Regard… Plus there are two Japanese films in Cannes Classics. It’s a good line-up and continues an upward trend following on from a similarly packed 2015. The only person missing from the party is Takashi Miike!

After the Storm   

After the Storm Film Poster
After the Storm Film Poster

海よりもまだ深く 「Umi yori mo mada fukaku」

Release Date: May 21st, 2016

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Original Story, Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sosuke Ikematsu, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Isao Hashizume, Taiyo Yoshizawa

IMDB   Website

Cannes wouldn’t be complete without Hirokazu Koreeda (Kiseki) and when it comes to his films, well, you can’t go wrong. I’ve watched nearly everything made by the man from Maborosi (1995) and he is consistently brilliant. He reunites with familiar actors like Hiroshi Abe and Kirin Kiki (both of whom were in Still Walking), Yoko Maki and Lily Franky (who were in Like Father, Like Son) as well as new actors like Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!). Stay tuned for a review of Our Little Sister (2015) which was at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Synopsis from IMDB: Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) wastes the money he makes as a private detective on gambling and can barely pay child support. After the death of his father, his aging mother (Kirin Kiki) and beautiful ex-wife (Yoko Make) seem to be moving on with their lives. Renewing contact with his initially distrusting family, Ryota struggles to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son (Taiyo Yoshizawa) – until a stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again.



深田晃司 Fuchi ni Tatsu

Release Date: 2016

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Takahiro Miura, Momone Shinokawa,

IMDB   Website

Koji Fukada is a Japanese director inspired by French cinema and his films have travelled outside of his native country. Indeed, Hotori no Sakuko (Au revoir l‘ete) was released in the UK last year. He is working with actors from that film again – Taiga, Kanji Furutachi – and he’s working with the awesome Tadanobu Asano (Watashi no Otoko, Vital, Bright Future, Survive Style 5+).

Harmonium Film Image

Synopsis from IMDB: Toshio hires Yasaka in his workshop. This old acquaintance, who has just been released from prison, begins to meddle in Toshio’s family life.


Ugetsu Monogatari   

Ugetsu Monogatari Film Poster
Ugetsu Monogatari Film Poster

雨月物語 Ugetsu Monogatari

Release Date: March 26th, 1953

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

Writer: Akinari Ueda (Original Story), Hisakazu Tsuji (Idea), Matsutaro Kawaguchi (Adaptation), Yoshitaka Yoda (Screenplay)

Starring: Machiko Kyo, Mitsuko Mito, Kinuyo Tanaka, Masayuki Mori, Eitaro Ozawa, Kikue Mori, Shozo Nanbu


Kadokawa and Cineric Laboratories worked together to restore this classic Jidaigeki from Kenji Mizoguchi. This is considered one of the best Japanese films from the Golden Age period of filmmaking (and ever as far as I’m concerned). It won Ugetsu the Silver Lion Award for Best Direction at the Venice Film Festival in 1953 and audiences get to see a version which has restored visuals. Martin Scorcese and cameraman/cinematographer Masahiro Miyajima (Ran) acted as consultants. Here’s a trailer from the Masters of Cinema release put out by Eureka in 2012.

Synopsis: The story is set in the Sengoku period and follows a potter named Genjuro and his brother-in-law who leave their loyal wives to become famous samurai only for tragedy to strike Genjuro when he comes under the spell of Lady Wakasa and the ghosts she is surrounded by.


Momotaro, Sacred Sailors

桃太郎 海の神兵 Momotaro Umi no Shinpei

Release Date: April 12th, 1945

Running Time: 74 mins.

Director: Mitsuyo Seo

Writer: Mitsuyo Seo (Original Story/Screenplay)

Starring: Machiko Kyo, Mitsuko Mito, Kinuyo Tanaka, Masayuki Mori, Eitaro Ozawa, Kikue Mori, Shozo Nanbu


Mitsuyo Seo was a Japanese animator, screenwriter and director of animated films and helped make anime a major force. During World War II he made propaganda films for the Japanese government and Momotaro, Umi no shinpei (Momotaro, Sacred Sailors) is one of his most famous. The film influenced the next-generation animators including Osamu Tezuka and others. After the war American forces confiscated and destroyed many propaganda films but a negative copy of this film was found in Shochiku’s Ofuna warehouse in 1983 and was re-released in 1984. It is now being shown at Cannes.

桃太郎 海の神兵

Synopsis: A propaganda animated feature film made during WWII with the funding by the Ministry of Navy. This is an updated take on the Japanese fairy-tale, Momotaro (the guy born from a peach who rolled with a monkey, dog and pheasant killing ogres). Here he is depicted fighting for the Imperial Japanese Navy defeating European colonisers and taking the fight to America.

A prequel was made for the film (Momotaro’s Sea Eagles) but no sequel because, well, this was made in 1945.

There’s also a Studio Ghibli co-production called The Red Turtle and it is the work of an award-winning Dutch animator and director named Michael Dudok de Wit (“The Monk and the Fish,” “Father & Daughter” animated shorts). According to Anime News Network:

Director de Wit temporarily moved to Koganei in Tokyo (where Studio Ghibli is headquartered) to work on the film, completing the film’s storyboards and the scenario in his time there, while Studio Ghibli director Isao Takahata checked them. Takahata also serves as the “artistic producer” for the film.


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