Japanese Films at the 2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival

EIFF Logo 2016

The 2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place in June and it runs from the 15th to the 26th. The programme was revealed today and there is an interesting line-up that mixes classic and contemporary films. Highlights include Satoko Yokohama’s latest, The Actor and indie crime film Ken and Kazu.

What’s on the programme:

The Actor      

The Actor Film Poster
The Actor Film Poster

俳優亀岡拓次 「Haiyuu Kameoka Takuji

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director: Satoko Yokohama

Writer: Satoko Yokohama (Screenplay), Akito Inui (Original Novel)

Starring: Ken Yasuda, Kumiko Aso, Shohei Uno, Yoshiko Mita, Shota Sometani, Hirofumi Arai, Youki Kudoh,

Website    IMDB

This small character-driven drama was one of the more interesting looking films from last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. It’s directed by Satoko Yokohama and it’s her second feature film after a career of shorts which has taken her to film festivals around the world. The film stars Ken Yasuda a man who many Japanese will recognise as a character actor with a colourful career but now he is coming into his own as a lead actor. The film has earned good reviews.

Synopsis from the Tokyo International Film FestivalTakuji Kameoka (Ken Yasuda) is a 37-year-old bachelor whose occupation is a “miscellaneous actor”. His only interest is drinking. One day he falls in love with a bar owner (Kumiko Aso) and his boring life begins to change. The film is based on the book “Actor, Takuji Kameoka” by Akito Inui, a five-time nominee for Japan’s most prestigious literary prize, the Akutagawa Prize. Satoko Yokohama, a much-admired up-and-coming newcomer, directs the film and we can immediately tell that she is a special talent, with a unique understanding that flows through to her actors and crew.



Belladonna of Sadness     Belladonna of Sadness Film Poster

哀しみのベラドンナ  Kanashimi no Beradonna

Running Time: 89 mins.

Director: Eiichi Yamamoto, 

Writer: Jules Michelet (Original Novel) Eiichi Yamamoto, Yoshiyuki Fukuda (Script)

Starring: Aiko Nagayama, Katsutaka Ito, Tatsuya Nakadai, Chinatsu Nakayama,
This is an animation dating back from 1973 and it has returned to the world having has undergone a 4K restoration based on the original negatives. It is an erotic anime, the third and last of the adult-oriented Animerama trilogy produced by the “Godfather of Manga” Osamu Tezuka and directed by his long-time collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (Astro Boy). It is based on the book Satanism and Witchcraft by French writer Jules Michelet and it features a psychedelic folk rock soundtrack.

Synopsis: Young and innocent Jeanne is ravaged by the local lord and makes a pact with the Devil himself. The Devil–voiced by legendary actor Tatsuya Nakadai (RanThe Human Condition)–appears in phallic forms and, through Jeanne, incites the village into a sexual frenzy.


Lowlife Love   

Lowlife Love Film Poster
Lowlife Love Film Poster

下衆の愛Gesu no Ai

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Eiji Uchida

Writer: Eiji Uchida (Screenplay),

Starring: Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Denden. Masahiko Arai, Masato Arai, Kanji Furutachi, Yumi Goto, Aki Hiraoka, Nanami Kawakami,

Website  IMDB

Lowlife Love has finally come to Britain after touring world film festivals from Tokyo to Rotterdam to Nippon Connection and reviews are positively glowing.

Synopsis from IMDB: Tetsuo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) is a lowlife. A film director with a small indie hit many years back, yet he has never gotten any further as he refuses to go against his ‘artistic integrity’. He’s a real loser. Despite being in his late 30s, he still lives with his mother and sister, borrowing money off them and scrounging from all he comes in contact with. This includes his best friend Mamoru (Yoshihiko Hosoda), who makes porn films with him for dodgy characters in order to make money, as well as the film actors’ school they’ve setup to exploit their students as well as for him to sleep with wannabe actresses. He’s a real jerk. Then one day two new students come to his school: Minami (Maya Okano), a naive and fresh girl from the countryside who wants to be an actress and Ken (Shugo Oshinari), a scriptwriter who has been living overseas. Tetsuo sees something in Minami and feels she has what it takes to be a real star and Ken has a brilliant script which could be the fantastic new project…


Ken and Kazu    

Ken and Kazu Film Poster
Ken and Kazu Film Poster

ケンとカズ 「Ken to Kazu

Running Time: 98 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Shoji

Writer:  Hiroshi Shoji (Screenplay),

Starring: Shinsuke Kato, Katsuya Maiguma, Kisetsu Fujiwara, Shuna Iijima, Haruki Takano

Website   IMDB    JFDB

Search for this drama and you will find old entries dating back to 2011 and that is because the director Shoji Hiroshi made a short film of the same name and it travelled to different film festivals. From that short came this feature about two friends who deal in drugs. This has been picked up by Third Window Films for world sales.

Synopsis from JFDB: Ken (Kato Shinsuke) and Kazu (Maiguma Katsuya) are partners in crime who use a car repair shop as their front for dealing stimulants. Ken tries to make a clean break after his girlfriend Saki (Iijima Shuna) gets pregnant, but Kazu has a secret…


Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence    Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence Poster

戦場のメリークリスマス 「Senjou no Meri- Kurisumasu

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director: Nagisa Oshima

Writer: Nagisa Oshima, Paul Mayersberg (Screenplay), Laurens van der Post (Original Story)

Starring: David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Tom Conti, Jack Thompson, Yuya Uchida,


Originally released in 1983, this UK/Japanese co-production is most famous for Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack. It’s a relationship drama played out between four men, two of them portrayed by great actors and one by Ryuichi Sakamoto! Takeshi Kitano (Hana-bi, Kikujiro, Battle Royale) plays a brutal and jovial cam guard while David Bowie proves he can be a great actor as well as a great musician. It’s one of Oshima’s more famous films and more readily available. The British producer of the film, Jeremy Thomas will be present to discuss the film.




Synopsis: Major Jack Celliers (Bowie) was captured on a chindit raid and is now a POW. Captain Yonoi (Sakamoto) is the camp commandant. The two feel drawn to each other as kindred spirits because they both carry guilt from past incidents they were/weren’t involved in. Lieutenant Colonel John Lawrence (Conti) and Sergeant Hara (Kitano) both witness and question the bond of the two men. All four find themselves caught up in the vagaries of a cruel war.


Dersu Uzala    Dersu Uzala Film Poster 2

戦場のメリークリスマス 「Senjou no Meri- Kurisumasu

Running Time: 144 mins.

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Writer: Akira Kurosawa, Yuriy Nagibin (Screenplay), Vladimir Arsenev (Original Novel)

Starring: Yuriy Solomin, Maksim Munzuk, Mikhail Bychkov, Vladimir Khrulev, V. Lastochkin, Stanislav Marin,


This screened on British television in the early 2000s and it bowled me over. I would love to see it again in a cinema. Here’s more from the festival website:



Synopsis: Based on the memoirs of Vladimir Arsenievan, the early 20th century explorer who mapped much of the territory of the Russian Far East, Akira Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala tells the story of an unusual friendship between Arseniev (Yuri Solomin) and the nomadic tribal hunter for whom the film is named (Maksim Munzuk). The unspoiled vastness of the Siberian wilderness, so utterly unlike the modern Japanese landscape with its cultivated forests, offered a radically new canvas for Kurosawa. Always a powerful visual stylist with a flair for action, the director crafted some of his most striking imagery for this breath-taking drama.


The Virgin Psychics        

The Virgin Psychics Film Poster
The Virgin Psychics Film Poster

映画みんな!エスパーだよ 「Eiga Minna! Esupa- Dayo!

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director: Sion Sono,

Writer: Sion Sono, Shinichi Tanaka (Screenplay), Kiminori Wakasugi (Original Manga),

Starring:  Shota Sometani, Elaiza Ikea, Erina Mano, Makita Sports, Anna Konno, Motoki Fukami, Ai Shinozaki, Tokio Emoto, Megumi Kagurazaka,

Website    IMDB

This is directed by Sion Sono (Suicide CircleStrange CircusNoriko’s Dinner Table) one of the world’s great contemporary directors and it is based on a TV dorama that is based on a manga written by Kiminori Wakasugi, creator of the hilarious Detroit Metal City.


Synopsis: Yoshiro “Yocchan” Kamogawa (Sometani) is an ordinary (virgin) high school boy who finds his life literally changes overnight when he wakes up with the ability to read other people’s minds. Sounds awesome! But he uses it for trivial things. He’s not alone in gaining weird powers as a café worker named Teru-oichan (Sports) gains telekinetic powers. Sounds really awesome! But he uses them for sex toys. Yosuke Enomoto (Fukami), a fellow school-pupil of Kamogawa and a basketball player, also gains a power, the ability to teleport. Sounds super-awesome! But it only works while he is naked. Get ready to see how they use their powers when they battle rival espers!


Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance    Lone Wolf and Cub Sword of Vengeance Film Poster

子連れ狼 子を貸し腕貸しつかまつる 「Kozure ookami: Ko wo kashi ude kashi tsukamatsuru

Running Time: 83 mins.

Director: Kenji Misumi

Writer:  Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima (Screenplay/Manga),

Starring: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Tomoko Mayama, Fumio Watanabe, Keiko Fujita,


Screened as part of the POW!!! Live Action Comic Strip Adaptations: The First Generation.

The classic Lone Wolf & Cub manga was adapted into a long-running movie series that went on to become a cult classic especially when the five films were re-edited into one called Shogun Assassin. This is the first entry in the film series and it is a brilliant title that will leave you craving for more. The manga is brilliant so give that a try as well.

Synopsis: Ogami Itto is the shogun’s special executioner. He has taken the heads of hundreds of men. However the shogun is scared of him and when the Yagyu Clan frame him for treason the shogun orders his death. Ogami’s family is attacked by three ninjas, his wife Asami is killed but his son Daigo lives and both father and son wander Japan, father pushing the baby cart as he heads from town to town working as an assassin for hire as he treads the path of vengeance…



Golgo 13    Golgo 13 1973 Live Action Film Poster

ゴルゴ13「Gorugo 13

Running Time: 104 mins.

Director: Junya Sato

Writer:  Takao Sato, K. Motomitsu (Screenplay),  Takao Sato (Original Manga)

Starring: Ken Takakura, Mohsen Sohrabi, Michiko Arai, Kazuo Harada,


Screened as part of the POW!!! Live Action Comic Strip Adaptations: The First Generation.

Synopsis: Readers in the UK will know about Golgo 13 through the anime that screened late at night on the Sci-Fi Channel. There have been a number of live-action films about this unstoppable hitman and they were made at a time when genre cinema was churning out OTT action films and men were men etc. etc. Ken Takakura takes the lead role and he has to go to Iran to eliminate a bad guy.

6 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the 2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival

    1. I went through high school watching stuff like Lone Wolf and Cub and Lady Snowblood and enjoying them and yeah, Tarantino is the only filmmaker willing to go to similar areas in aesthetics and themes. At least the only one I can think of right now. It would have been nice to get the whole series of films. I’m going to have to dig the DVDs out.

      Also, the GZA album Liquid Swords samples Shogun Assassin pretty heavily. When I first heard the snippets of the films I went bananas. I still get a thrill hearing them sampled.

  1. Lone wolf manga is fantastic. Now I need to see that film from manga author of Detroit Metal City! Loved the manga and anime for that! Did you know Hiroshi Nagahama, director of Mushishi and Flowers of Evil directed the anime adaptation? He’s amazing at creating atmosphere. Curious about this film.

    1. I agree, the Lone Wolf and Cub manga is awesome. It stands up after all these years. As far as The Virgin Psychics, I haven’t read many positive reviews. It might still be worth a shot.

      I had to look up Hiroshi Nagahama and saw his filmography. It’s packed with a nice and diverse bunch of titles. He has a broad range!

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