The BFI London Film Festival (LFF) has reached 60 years of age and this year’s edition launches on October 05th and ends on October 16th. There are 274 films and Japanese filmmakers have contributed six to that number. Festival favourites Hirokazu Koreeda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa are in town with two features while there are a couple of documentaries, an anime and an anime short named Achoo to make up the rest of the numbers. Some of these have been previewed already for the Vancouver International Film Festival, Cannes, and Berlin and this is a decent line-up for cinephiles who love Japan and those who want to get into a Japanese film or two.
Here’s the line-up!
海よりもまだ深く 「Umi yori mo mada fukaku」
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
Hirokazu Koreeda (Kiseki) is one of the most consistently brilliant storytellers in modern Japanese cinema. His last film, Our Little Sister (2015) proved very popular and earned a worldwide release and followed up the also equally adored Like Father, Like Son.
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 Maki) 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.
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 is Kiyoshi Kurosawa best film this year out of the two he has made (the other is Daguerrotype and reviews are mixed). He has worked on great films with lead actors Hidetoshi Nishijima (License to Live) and Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata) separately and the two actors have collaborated on great doramas together (Mozu, Double Face). There’s also Masahiro Higashide (The Kirishima Thing) and Haruna Kawaguchi (POV: A Cursed Film). Reviews for this one have been excellent.
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…
君の名は。 「Kimi no Na wa.」
Running Time: 106 mins.
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Writer: Makoto Shinkai (Screenplay/Original Story)
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki (Taki Tachibana), Mone Kamishiraishi (Mitsuha Miyamizu), Kana Hanazawa (Yukari Yukino), Masami Nagasawa (Miki Okudera), Kanon Tani (Yotsuha Miyamizu)
Makoto Shinkai is an anime auteur that everyone bills as the next Miyazaki despite the two men having different styles and Shinkai’s films all focussing on the pain of loneliness and relationships. This one is blazing the charts in Japan and people tell me that it’s excellent. It has attracted so much attention that even the BBC reported on it. As soon as I started roaming around Tokyo I saw ads for these and took some posters from a JR station. I aim to see it at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
Synopsis from the festival site: Two teenagers’ lives are changed forever when the first visible comet for a thousand years approaches Japan. Mitsuha lives in a rural area and longs to leave, whilst Taki waits tables in Tokyo when he’s not studying. Despite never having met, they both begin to dream about each other, imagining that somehow they have exchanged bodies and are existing in parallel lives. As this phenomenon continues, they start communicating with each other via messages left on smartphones and resolve to meet to make sense of what is happening to them. Despite the fun body-swap vibe that our heroes initially experience, a dark journey lies ahead.
We are X
Running Time: 99 mins.
Director: Stephen Kijak
Starring: Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Hiroshi Morie, Sugizo, Gene Simmons, Wes Borland,
Synopsis: This is a rock documentary about X-Japan, one of the biggest bands working today. The group started out as childhood friends who formed a musical unit in 1982 and survived over thirty years of hard rock, death, cults, and stratospheric fame to continue today. With a worldwide fan-base, their rock music has captivated audiences worldwide thanks to the awesome music and their stylish costumes and stage sets and the doc ends with a show at Madison Square Garden. Yoshiki, leader of the band, guides us through the history.
Running Time: 80 mins.
Director: Steven Ozaki
Writers: Stuart Galbraith IV, Steven Okazaki
Starring: Keanu Reeves (Narrator), Toshiro Mifune, Kyoko Kagawa, Haruo Nakajima, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Koji Yakusho, Shiro Mifune,
Synopsis: Keanu Reeves narrates a documentary about one of the most famous, if not the most famous Japanese actor in the history of cinema: Toshiro Mifune. People who have watched him in Yojimbo and Throne of Blood will attest that he is a massive screen presence and we get to see what made him special through archive footage as well as enjoying the reminisces of collaborators and fans inspired by the man. The story starts with his childhood through his military service and his career as an actor.
We’ll end on an image from the short anime Achoo which is in a section of animation dedicated to children. It’s directed by Yuki Hirakawa and looks delightful.