The 2016 New York Asian Film Festival takes place from June 22nd to July 09th and it is the 15th edition of the event. This year’s run features art-house and mainstream films, crime and romance, and a healthy stock of Japanese titles with guests jetting in from Japan! I’ll be reviewing a couple of these so stay tuned.
What’s on the programme?
日本で一番悪い奴ら「Nihon de Ichiban Warui Yatsura」
Running Time: 135 mins.
Director: Kazuya Shiraishi
Writer: Junya Ikegami (Screenplay), Yoshiaki Inaba (Original Non-fiction Novel)
Starring: Gou Ayano, Shido Nakamura, Young Dais, Pierre Taki, Haruna Yabuki, Munetaka Aoki,
Synopsis: Twisted Justice is based on the 2011 non-fiction novel Hajisarashi Hotsukaidoukei Akutoku Keiji no Kokuhaku by Yoshiaki Inaba, a former detective. He serves as the basis of the main character, Yoichi Moriboshi (Gou Ayano), who goes from a green detective in the 1970s to a gun-running menace in the 2000s.
The New York Asian Film Festival plays host to this film’s international premiere with the director Kazuya Shiraishi and lead actor Gou Ayano appearing at the festival on June 22nd and 28th respectively. Ayano will be awarded the Screen International Rising Star Award at his appearance.
Shunji Iwai is in town to pick up an award and three brilliant films of his will play:
A Bride of Rip Van Winkle
リップヴァンウィンクルノ花嫁 「Rippu van winkuru no hanayome 」
Running Time: 180 mins.
Director: Shunji Iwai
Writer: Shunji Iwai (Screenplay),
Starring: Haru Kuroki, Gou Ayano, Cocco, Soko Wada, Nana Natsume, Hideko Hara,
Reviews for this one have been really positive about the top quality of this film and I am looking forward to reviewing this one.
Synopsis: Nanami (Haru Kuroki) works as a part-time junior high school teacher. She lives an apathetic life, her only solace coming from connecting with others on a new social network service named “Planet”. She makes a connection with a man named Tetsuya and the two quickly become engaged but Tetsuya’s mother confronts Nanami with allegations of lying and cheating forcing Nanami to flee to a hotel where she gets a job as a maid. Nanami’s online-friend Amuro, a man who hires actors to play people’s friends, offers Nanami a housekeeping job in an old mansion, whose sole resident’s infectious spirit helps Nanami to open her heart. However, Nanami soon realizes that Amuro, the mansion, and its occupant aren’t what they seem…
The film plays on Friday, June 24th at 6:15pm and director Shunji Iwai will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
リリイ・シュシュのすべて 「Ririi Shushu no Subete」
Running Time: 146 mins.
Director: Shunji Iwai
Writer: Shunji Iwai (Screenplay),
Starring: Hayato Ichihara, Shugo Oshinari, Yu Aoi, Ayumi Ito, Takao Ohsawa, Miwako Ichikawa, Chiyo Abe,
This was the film that introduced me to Shunji Iwai and it was an intense emotional experience with beautiful cinematography and an incredible score. I think it might have been better to start with some of his older works but don’t let that musing put you off. I guarantee you will be left feeling emotionally desolate after this so take tissues and stay through the end credits and dry those tears.
Synopsis: This film is pure heartbreak as it examines loneliness, isolation, and bullying in the lives of lonely kids isolated by technology but also drawn together by the singer Lily Chou-Chou, a singer with music powerful enough to break through the emotions of these cast-away kids and summon them to her concerts. It is told from multiple perspectives as a holiday goes wrong and almost near-fatal for one character which unleashes a horrible mixture of hatred, alienation, and confusion in him that ripples out to others and causes chaos as things intensify into bullying, rape, and prostitution.
Sunday, June 26th, 2:15pm.
Running Time: 148 mins.
Director: Shunji Iwai
Writer: Shunji Iwai (Screenplay),
Starring: Hiroshi Mikami, Chara, Ayumi Ito, Yosuke Eguchi, Atsuro Watabe, Nene Ohtsuka, Kaori Momoi,
I have this on DVD but haven’t watched it yet but this sci-fi film is indicative of the way Iwai flits between genres.
Synopsis from the festival site: Near‐future sci‐fi shot with handheld cameras and edited to a twitchy rhythm, Swallowtail Butterfly posits an alternate history where an economically flush Japan has attracted millions of immigrants who live in the Yentown ghettos, working on the margins, always on the hustle, trying to score that yen. Pop star Chara plays, well, a pop star who achieves fame when her Yentown comrades co‐opt a Yakuza cash scam and become rich enough to open a nightclub and release albums.
The film plays on Saturday, June 25th at 2:45pm and it ends with a Q&A with Shunji Iwai
クリーピー偽りの隣人 「Kuri-pi- itsuwari no rinjin」
Running Time: 130 mins.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Chihiro Ikeda (Screenplay), Yutaka Maekawa (Original Novel)
Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yuko Takeuchi, Masahiro Higashide, Haruna Kawaguchi, Toru Baba, Misaki Saisho,
This can be considered a comeback for Kiyoshi Kurosawa because he has strayed away from horror films and gone into supernatural inflected dramas. This has coincided with a lull in quality from the man. Well he’s back in psychological horror and he has brought in great actors he has worked with before: Hidetoshi Nishijima (License to Live) and Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata). Early reviews from this has suggested that Kurosawa is back on form.
Synopsis: Detective Inspector Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) decides to quit the force after a psychopath almost kills him. He takes up work as a university lecturer in criminal psychology and delves into cold cases, one involving a missing family where only one person survived, Saki (Haruna Kawaguchi). Life changes when Takakura and his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) move house and introduce themselves to their next door neighbour Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) who hides his wife and daughter from the outside world. Nishino is suspicious enough as a person but when his “daughter” confronts Takakura and tells him that she has no idea who her “father” is, things get really dangerous…
The film plays on Wednesday, June 29th, 6:00pm
HK: Forbidden Super Hero the Abnormal Crisis
HK 変態仮面 アブノーマル・クライシス 「HK Hentai Kamen Abunomaru Kuraishisu」
Running Time: 118 mins.
Director: Yuichi Fukuda
Writer: Yuichi Fukuda (Screenplay), Keishu Ando (Original Manga)
Starring: Ryohei Suzuki, Fumika Shimizu, Yuya Yagira, Osamu Adachi, Hirofumi Arai, Ayame Misaki,
Synopsis: HK Kamen, real name Kyosuke (Ryohei Suzuki), lives in a city where panties are disappearing but he still wears Aiko’s (Fumika Shimizu) panties to battle evil but she takes her panties back and this leaves Kyosuke unable to transform just as a new enemy appears…
The film plays on Wednesday, July 06th at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street
Running Time: 116 mins.
Director: Hideo Sakaki
Writer: Hiroyuki Maruno (Screenplay/Original Novel)
Starring: Kenichi Endo, Susumu Terajima, Rina Takeda, Shohei Uno, Masaki Miura, Houka Karasuma, Setsuko Karasuma,
This one is apparently based on a once banned novel.
Synopsis: Shigeo Katsuura (Kenichi Endo) was once the leader of the yakuza in Kyoto but after losing his arms and legs in an act of betrayal from an underling he is forced to go around to his debtors’ homes to collect on debts and make money. He does this with the aid of his loyal henchman/nursemaid Kenta (Masaki Miura) and the sight of his body scaring people.
The film plays on Tuesday, July 05th at 6:00pm and the director Hideo Sakaki is making an appearance.
百日紅 ～Miss HOKUSAI～「Sarusuberi ～Miss HOKUSAI～」
Running Time: 93 mins.
Director: Keiichi Hara
Writer: Miho Maruo (Screenplay), Hinako Sugiura (Original Creator),
Starring: Anne Watanabe (O-Ei), Yutaka Matsushige (Tetsuzo/Katsushika Hokusai), Shion Shimizu (O-Nao), Kumiko Aso (Sayogoromo), Kengo Kora (Utagawa Kuninao), Gaku Hamada (Zenjiro/Keisai Eisen), Jun Miho (Koto),
Miss Hokusai is an award-winning film I wrote about last year in a trailer post packed with information and links. The film is directed by Keiichi Hara who has worked on the Japan Academy Prize-winner Summer Days with Coo (2007), a film about a kappa and the suburban family he lives with, and Annecy double winner (Jury’s Special Distinction and the Audience Award) Colorful (2010) , a dark but ultimately life-affirming story about suicide and the afterlife.
Synopsis: This is the story of Katsushika Hokusai’s third daughter, the outspoken 23-year-old O-Ei. It takes place in 1814 in Edo, a place which is teeming with peasants, samurai, townsmen, merchants, nobles, artists, courtesans, and perhaps even supernatural things. O-Ei helps her father with his art and very often she would paint instead of him, though uncredited. She made art of her own and this is the untold story of O-Ei, Master Hokusai’s daughter: a lively portrayal of a free-spirited woman overshadowed by her larger-than-life father, unfolding through the changing seasons.
The film plays on Sunday, July 03rd at 2:30pm
What a Wonderful Family!
家族はつらいよ「Kazoku wa tsuraiyo」
Running Time: 108 mins.
Director: Yoji Yamada
Writer: Yoji Yamada, Emiko Hiramatsu (Screenplay) halyosy (Original Novel)
Starring: Isao Hashizume, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Masahiko Nishimura, Yui Natsukawa, Shozo Hayashiya, Tomoko Nakajima, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Yu Aoi, Jun Fubuki,
Synopsis: A family is thrown into chaos when the matriarch Tomiko (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) announces to her husband Shuzo (Isao Hashizume) that she wants a divorce. Their children are shocked about the news of the separation and things spiral out of control as each member of the family opens up about their grievances.
The film plays on Sunday, June 26th at 12:00pm
Japanese Title：鉄男 「Tetsuo」
Running Time: 67 mins.
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Screenplay)
Starring: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shinya Tsukamoto, Renji Ishibashi, Nobu Kanaoka, Naomasa Musaka,
Tetsuo: the Iron Man is considered one of the defining titles in the ‘body horror’ movement and a cyberpunk classic and if you want to see a truly unique and intense film then go and see this one. Here’s my review. Here’s a bit of a biography I wrote about the director Shinya Tsukamoto.
Synopsis: A strange man known as the “metal fetishist” (Shinya Tsukamoto) is knocked over in a hit and run incident involving a salary-man (Tomorowo Taguchi) and his girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara). The next day the salary-man finds himself transforming into a half human-half metal monster….
The film plays on Saturday, June 25th, 5:15pm with an appearance by the director Michael Arias
Running Time: 110 mins.
Director: Michael Arias
Writer: Anthony Weintraub (Screenplay), Taiyo Matsumoto (Original Creator),
Starring: Kazunari Ninomiya (Kuro/Itachi), Yu Aoi (Shiro), Yusuke Iseya (Kimura), Kankuro Kudo (Sawada), Min Tanaka (Suzuki), Nao Omori (Chokora),
I bought the soundtrack to this before watching the film. There were many years in between both acts… Great soundtrack. Great film!
Synopsis from the festival site: Deep in Treasure Town, the tough, violent Black and the far more innocent White are orphans are orphans who soar through the twisted streets like pint‐sized superheroes. Black decides that he needs to rule Treasure Town and protect White and starts going after the yakuza trying to raze the place and turn it into and turn it into an amusement park. Snake, the yakuza boss, is angry at Black’s victories over his men and decides to hire three almost superhuman hit men to take him out. Soon it is up to White to save Black, and perhaps all of Treasure Town, from Black’s own dark nature.
The film plays on Sunday, June 26th at 5:15pm when the cinema will play host to director Michael Arias.
Two more Japanese films will be revealed at a later date.