The good folks at The Japan Foundation announced the titles that will be screened across the UK in their Touring Film Programme for 2017 and it’s an eclectic bunch of films connected by the theme of odd obsessions! The idea is to look at Japan through movies that depict desires, hopes and impulses and these cinematic delights stretch across many mediums and genres from anime romances to a documentary on a fish market.
Audiences across England, Scotland, and Ireland will get the chance to see all of this at various points from February 03rd to March 29th as the tour takes in fifteen cities with events kicking off in London at the ICA (see below for the full list of venues).
The programme is stacked with interesting titles which I will detail below:
ビリギャル 「Biri Gyaru」
Running Time: 117 mins.
Director: Nobuhiro Doi
Writer: Hiroshi Hashimoto (Screenplay), Nobutaka Tsubota (Original Novel),
Starring: Kasumi Arimura, Atsushi Ito, Shuhei Nomura, Rie Minemura, Ken Yasuda, Airi Matsui, Yo Yoshida, Tetsushi Tanaka,
The film is based on the bestselling book “Gakunen Biri no Gyaru ga 1 nen de Hensachi o 40 Agete Keio Daigaku ni Geneki Gokaku Shita Hanashi” (How a Teen Girl Went From Academic Absurdity to an Elite University in One Amazing Year) by Nobutaka Tsubota, this is the true story of how the author Nobutaka Tsubota, who runs a cram school, helped his student Sayaka Kobayashi go from academic zero to hero in the space of a year. This is a fun and revealing look at the Japanese education system with characters you come to love!
Synopsis: Blonde-haired “gyaru” Sayaka has always been more interested in fashion than her studies and as a result she is bottom of her second-year high school class. In a last ditch effort to improve her standing she visits a cram school where an unconventional lecturer named Mr. Tsubota recognizes her innate intelligence. After an informal discussion, and with the support of her family, Sayaka becomes determined not only to improve her grades, but to spend her final year of high school working hard toward getting accepted into prestigious Keio University.
モヒカン故郷に帰る 「Mohikan kokyo ni kaeru」
Running Time: 124 mins.
Director: Shuichi Okita
Writer: Shuichi Okita (Screenplay)
Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Akira Emoto, Jun Miho, Miu Tomita, Yudai Chiba, Masako Motai,
I have written about this one extensively due to its multiple festival appearances but I have not seen it yet. What I do know is that it has a great cast which includes Atsuko Maeda (Seventh Code) and Ryuhei Matsuda (The Great Passage, My Little Sweet Pea) and it’s directed by Shuichi Okita (The Story of Yonosuke, The Woodsman and the Rain).
Shuichi Okita is attending the festival so this will be a screening to get to!
Synopsis: Eikichi Tamura (Ryuhei Matsuda) left his hometown of Hiroshima and headed for the bright lights of Tokyo in the hopes of being a rock musician. While he made it as the lead singer of a death metal band, fame didn’t happen. Eikichi returns home several years later and tells his mother Haruko (Masako Motai) and his old-rocker father Osamu (Akira Emoto), that his girlfriend Yuka (Atsuko Maeda) is pregnant and they are getting married. His parents are simultaneously upset over the lack of preparation and excited about having a wedding and a grandchild but things get difficult when Osamu collapses and is taken to hospital where a serious problem is revealed for the old man…
トイレノピエタ 「Toire no Pieta」
Running Time: 120 mins.
Director: Daishi Matsunaga
Writer: Daishi Matsunaga (Screenplay), Osamu Tezuka (Part of an Original Manga that inspired script),
Starring: Yojiro Noda, Hana Sugisaki, Lily Franky, Saya Ichikawa, Shinobu Otake, Rie Miyazawa,
The story about the dying young artist is based on the last diary entry by the famous comic manga artist Tezuka Osamu (creator of Astro Boy) just before he died of stomach cancer at the age of 61.
Synopsis: Hiroshi (Yojira Noda) once had ambitions of being a painter but has given up and now works cleaning office windows. That’s not the worst thing that has happened to him because he has found out that he has three months left to live because he has stomach cancer. It is during these final months that he meets a bold and outspoken high school student named Mai (Hana Sugisaki) who believes in him and his art and because of her inspiration he refuses to give up on life…
さよなら 歌舞伎町 「Sayonara Kabukicho」
Running Time: 135 mins.
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki
Writer: Haruhiko Arai (Screenplay)
Starring: Shota Sometani, Atsuko Maeda, Kaho Minami, Nao Omori, Yutaka Matsushige, Jun Murakami, Tomorowo Taguchi, Miwako Wagatsuma,
Ryuichi Hiroki is a director who has flitted between pink films and dramas. Kimi no Tomodachi (2010) is an example of the latter. It’s a film with a large ensemble cast, something Hiroki likes to return to as seen with Kabukicho Love Hotel, a film which also has a large ensemble cast full of talented people. This one takes place in one of the seedier areas of Tokyo, a place where beautiful men and women work in yakuza-run clubs and fleece customers of their money.
Synopsis: A group of people are all connected by the fact that they are staying in a love hotel in Kabukicho. These people include Toru (Sometani), the manager of the love hotel, and his lover, a musician named Saya (Maeda), a cleaning woman named Satomi (Minami) and her husband Yasuo (Matsushige), a salaryman named Kagehisa (Murakami), a music producer, a prostitute scout named Masaya (Oshinari) and call girl business manager named Masashi (Taguchi). Their lives intersect and crash together in the titular hotel.
紙の月 「Kami no Tsuki」
Running Time: 126 mins.
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,
Paper Moon is based on a novel by Mitsuyo Kakuta which was then adapted into a dorama. The film is directed by Daihachi Yoshida who was last reviewed in this blog for brilliantly bringing The Kirishima Thing (2012) to life. It stars Rie Miyazawa as an adulterous housewife/bank employee involved with a student and I sung her praises for her performance in The Twilight Samurai.
Synopsis: Set in 1990s Japan, just after the economic bubble has burst. 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…
舞妓はレデイ 「Maiko wa Redei」
Running Time: 135 mins.
Director: Masayuki Suo
Writer: Masayuki Suo (Screenplay),
Starring: Mone Kamishiraishi, Hiroki Hasegawa, Jurina Matsui, Sumiko Fuji, Eri Watanabe, Tamiyo Kusakari, Tomoko Tabata, Naoto Takenaka, Sakurako Ohara, Gaku Hamada, Tou Muto,
Apparently, this is the Japanese-version of My Fair Lady, replacing high society London with Kyoto geisha.
Synopsis: Haruko Saigo (Kamshiraishi) is a country-bumpkin from Kagoshima with dreams of becoming a geisha. She heads to Kyoto and starts life as a maiko (apprentice geisha) but finds that learning the traditions and coping with the different way of life is a little bit harder than expected as she overcomes her rough manners and learns how to be a classy geisha.
ディストラクション・ベイビーズ 「Deisutorakushon Beibi-zu」
Running Time: 108 mins.
Director: Tetsuya Mariko
Writer: Tetsuya Mariko, Kohei Kiyasu (Screenplay),
Starring: Yuya Yagira, Masaki Suda, Nana Komatsu, Nijiro Murakami, Sosuke Ikematsu, Denden,
I have been out of the loop with Japanese films since moving to Japan (how ironic) but I have heard people talk this indie title up. It has a cast worth watching since it stars award-winning actors Yuya Yagira (Nobody Knows), Nana Komatsu (The World of Kanako), Denden (Cold Fish), Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!) and Masaki Suda (The Light Shines Only There, Princess Jellyfish). This film is being billed as the best performances from some of them in Japanese cinema this year. Head to the cinema to see if the hype is real. This one is getting a release in the UK thanks to Third Window Films but the cinema is always a lot of fun.
Synopsis from Third Window Films: Taira, an unnervingly quiet delinquent teen, mysteriously leaves town right before the coming of age festival. His disappearance doesn’t worry anyone except for younger brother Shota, his only remaining family, who sets off to look for him amidst the faded downtown neon lights.
Taira aimlessly wanders through a nearby city, provoking fights with random bystanders. His violent streak intrigues high schooler Yuya who rallies him to beat up more people. As the night progresses, street-side scuffles soon turn into a sinister game, becoming even more mindless and indiscriminate. The two leave behind a trail of blood and mass confusion.
だれかの木琴 「Dareka no Mokkin」
Running Time: 112 mins.
Director: Yoichi Higashi
Writer: Yoichi Higashi (Screenplay), Areno Inoue (Original Novel)
Starring: Takako Tokiwa, Sosuke Ikematsu, Mikoto Kimura, Takahito Hosoyamada, Masanobu Katsumura, Aoba Kawai, Yukino Kishii, Mantaro Koichi, Yukijiro Hotaru,
I remember seeing this on the Tokyo International Film Festival programme and not giving it a second look due to its story – a woman falls in love with a hairdresser. The write-up at the Japan Times makes it sound interesting, an intimate character study of a woman embracing love. These are the sorts of films I should watch more of after my experiences in Tokyo (plus I recently had a haircut in a salon so I’ve got the experience to appreciate it, haha).
Synopsis: Sayoko (Takako Tokiwa) is a middle-aged housewife with a happy family. Her husband is a salaryman who loves her and she has a sweet-natured daughter. Yet, somehow, Sayoko finds herself becoming hopelessly infatuated with a young curly-haired hairdresser Kaito (Sosuke Ikematsu), an infatuation that may go too far…
繕い裁つ人 「Tsukuroi Tatsu Hito」
Running Time: 104 mins.
Director: Yukiko Mishima
Writer: Aoi Ikebe (Original Manga), Tamio Hayashi (Screenplay)
Starring: Miki Nakatani, Takahiro Miura, Kimiko Yo, Haru Kuroki, Masato Ibu, Hana Sugisaki, Mie Nakao,
Featuring the original clothing created by acclaimed designer Sachiko Ito (who also designed costumes for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Airdoll), this film artfully depicts the beauty of clothing and a long-forgotten way of life.
Synopsis: Ichie (Nakatani) takes over her grandmother’s dressmaking shop but instead of making changes to her new business she follows the old ways by using old fashioned sewing machines and lots of care and attention. This makes the clothes she creates very popular and soon people from far and wide come to visit and she gets involved in their lives…
Running Time: 81 mins.
Director: Bunji Sotoyama
Writer: Bunji Sotoyama (Screenplay)
Starring: Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Akira Takarada, Gaku Yamamoto, Natsue Hyakumoto, Michiyo Miyata, Kanami Tagawa,
Japan’s ageing population is pretty fertile ground for stories as seen in Takeshi Kitano’s comedy Ryuzo and his Seven Henchmen (2015). This one may not have a big-budget or a star-studded cast but it proved to be a hit. Filmed on location in Saitama prefecture, this will give you an idea of what places outside of glamorous and famous areas like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hokkaido are really like.
Synopsis: Tae is a 77-year-old widow who wants to inject a ‘spark’ into her life by finding a new person to love and be loved by. She signs up with a matchmaking service to find that love but faces resistance from friends and family who can only think of social mores. Despite this, Tae embarks upon her search.
砂の上の植物群 「Suna no ue no shokubutsugun」
Running Time: 95 mins.
Director: Ko Nakahira
Writer: Ichiro Ikeda, Akira Kato, Ko Nakahira, (Script), Jonnosuke Yoshiyuki (Original Novel),
Starring: Noboru Nakaya, Kazuko Inano, Mieko Nishio, Yukiko Shimazaki, Asao Koike, Kinzo Shin, Kaori Taniguchi, Reiko Tanigawa,
This is an erotic experimental film based on a novel which was inspired by a painting by Paul Klee. The painting is modern art so you have been warned. More interestingly, this film, which is distributed by Nikkatsu, is said to have foreshadowed the “Roman Porno” genre which saved the studio from bankruptcy.
Synopsis: Ichiro Iki is a cosmetics salesman who is disturbed by the idea that his recently deceased father slept with his wife when she modelled for him. He searches for the truth and during this mental turmoil he finds himself drawn into conversation with an unfamiliar young lady Akiko who invites Ichiro back to a hotel where they make love without exchanging details.
A week later, they have a second chance encounter and what starts is his entry into Akiko’s turbulent relationship with her sister Kyoko, a bar hostess. Akiko asks him to give her absolute hell…
築地ワンダーランド 「Tsukiji Wanda-rando」
Running Time: 110 mins.
Director: Naotaro Endo
Synopsis: Tsukiji fish market is famous around the world. It is the largest fish market around with 700 wholesalers selling a huge amount of high quality fish. It has been like this for 80 years. When it was announced that the market was to be closed back in 2014, director Naotaro Endo started shooting and he spent a year capturing the daily operations of the place.
Running Time: 107 mins.
Director: Kon Ichikawa
Writer: Keiji Hasebe, Kon Ichikawa, Natto Wada (Script), Junichiro Tanizaki (Original Novel),
Starring: Machiko Kyo, Ganjiro Nakamura, Junko Kano, Tatsuya Nakadai, Saburo Date, Tanie Kitabayashi, Mayumi Kurata,
This is another film about a dysfunctional family torn asunder by sex and obsession but it comes from 1960 and it’s a film by Kon Ichikawa, so don’t expect anything too scandalous to be shown on screen. The story still packs erotic punch and it proved to be a hit at the Cannes film festival in 1960 where it won the Special Jury Prize.
Synopsis: Kenmochi is an elderly man with a young wife and no libido. He attempts to sexually satisfy her by engineering an affair between his wife and future son-in-law in order to inflame his jealousy and restore his sexual virility. Kenmochi’s cunning plan however, has tragic consequences.
声の形 「Koe no Katachi」
Running Time: 129 mins.
Director: Naoko Yamada
Writer: Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay), Yoshitoki Ooima (Original Manga)
Starring: Miyu Irino (Shouya Ishida/Mayu Matsuoka), Saori Hayami (Shouko Nishimiya), Aoi Yuuki (Yuzuru Nishimiya),
Since arriving in Japan I have been out of the loop when it comes to anime and so the only thing I know is that Kimi no na wa. has been the massive hit (because most people I speak to have seen it or want to see it). This one looks far more interesting, a slice-of-life about a bully who tries to redeem himself by asking for forgiveness from his target, a girl who is deaf. This comes from Kyoto Animation and it’s directed by Naoko Yamada, one of the most promising female directors going.
Synopsis from the festival site: Shoko, a young Deaf student, transfers to a new school where she is bullied by Shoya for her hearing impairment. While Shoya originally leads the class in bullying Shoko, the class soon turn on him for his lack of compassion. When they leave elementary school, Shoko and Shoya do not speak to each other again, but Shoya, tormented by his past behaviour, decides he must see Shoko once more to atone for his sins – but is it already too late?
Here’s the list of venues with links to each website where you can
– ICA, London
– Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
– Watershed, Bristol
– Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT), Belfast
– QUAD, Derby
– mac birmingham, Birmingham
– Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), Dundee
– Filmhouse, Edinburgh
– Showroom Workstation, Sheffield
– Phoenix, Leicester
– HOME, Manchester
– Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling
– Eden Court, Inverness
– Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, Cumbria
– Broadway Cinema, Nottingham
The list of venues has grown since I began reporting this with more venues in Scotland hosting the tour but Wales is not covered at all. Perhaps there will be a venue brave enough to host the touring film programme next year. As for me? I’m in Japan so I can’t attend since I am in Osaka.