It’s 23:49 in Osaka and I want to go to sleep but I have important news! The Japan Film Festival Ireland has reached its ninth year and this year’s addition features anime, dramas, and mediums. There are 21 in all and each movie I would like to see. The screenings take place in Dundalk, Cork, Galway, Maynooth, Sligo, Limerick, Dublin, and Waterford and so people in Ireland will get to see really great examples of Japanese cinema.
Here’s the lowdown on the various films being screened. Click on the titles to be taken to the festival page which has more information:
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),
I have been surprised by the power of this one as it tears through UK cinemas and earns lots of critical acclaim. There are many anime movies released in Japan but this one looks far more interesting than the rest of the pack. It is a story 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 (watch Hyouka, an awesome TV anime, to get to know them) and it’s directed by Naoko Yamada, one of the most promising female directors going. It has toured the UK as part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme and it was at the Glasgow International Film Festival. I hope it’s programmed by the festival I work for.
Synopsis from the Japan Foundation 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?
劇場版 ソードアート・オンライン –オーディナル・スケール– 「Gekijouban So-doato onrain o-dinaru suke-ru」
Running Time: 119 mins.
Director: Tomohiko Ito
Writer: Reki Kawahara. Tomohiko Ito (Screenplay) Reki Kawahara (Original Creator),
Animation Production: A-1 Pictures
Starring: Yoshitsugu Matuoka (Kazuto Kirigaya/Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (Asuna Yuuki), Ayahi Takagaki (Rika Shinozaki/Lizbeth), Ayana Taketatsu (Suguha Kirigaya/Leafa),
I watched the first few episodes of this when it originally aired on Crunchyroll and dropped it so I have no real idea about what is happening with the story.
Synopsis: The year is 2026 and the popularity of Virtual Reality is in decline as people flock to games all featuring Augmented Reality (AR). A new AR machine called Augma is developed to compete against the VR machines like NerveGear and its successor, the Amusphere. The AUGMA is considered far more user-friendly than its rivals, making it an instant hit on the market and the most popular game on the system is “Ordinal Scale.” Kirito, Asuna, and their friends, having survived the experiences of VR will explore this new world and find themselves in danger when the lines between the virtual and the real begin to blur….
湯を沸かすほどの熱い愛 「Yu wo wakasuhodo no atsui ai」
Running Time: 125 mins.
Director: Ryota Nakano
Writer: Ryota Nakano (Screenplay),
Starring: Rie Miyazawa, Hana Sugisaki, Taro Suruga, Aoi Ito, Tori Matsuzaka, Joe Odagiri, Yukiko Shinohara,
This was at the Tokyo International Film Festival when I was in the city but I didn’t get the chance to see it. Truth be told, I wasn’t that interested. Reviews for it paint a picture of a great family drama (this one for example), however, and it’s down to the actors Rie Miyazawa (Pale Moon, Twilight Samurai), Joe Odagiri (Bright Future, Mushishi), and Hana Sugisaki (Pieta in the Toilet).
Synopsis: Futaba and her daughter Azumi live in a house connected to their family-run bathhouse in a small town. Their used to be three people in their family but husband and father Kazuhiro left them for another woman and since then, the bathhouse has been closed. Everything changes when Futaba is diagnosed with terminal cancer, giving her only months to live. The approach of death fires her up to make the most of her remaining time. She develops a head of steam and becomes determined to reunite her family, reopen the bathhouse, and take care of her daughter. Her journey will uncover new friends and secrets as she makes peace with the world before leaving it.
アリーテ姫 「Arete Hime」
Running Time: 105 mins.
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Writer: Sunao Katabuchi (Screenplay), Diana Coles (Original Novel, “The Clever Princess”)
Animation Production: Studio 4C
Starring: Houko Kuwashima (Arete), Tsuyoshi Koyama, Akio Suyama (Boax), Satomi Koorogi (The Witch), Minami Takayama (Ample),
Director Sunao Katabuchi is riding high on the global critical and box-office success of In this Corner of the World which, alongside A Silent Voice, has shown that anime is still a vibrant and important voice in the world of cinema. Long time fans will probably know him for his work on the TV anime Black Lagoon and Cardcaptor Sakura and the more hardcore will probably be familiar with his feature film, Mai Mai Miracle, which I absolutely adored. This particular anime is new to me but I’m excited to see that it will be released on DVD and Blu-ray across the UK in 2017 thanks to Anime Limited. Another potential pick-up for the festival I work for? Hopefully. The chance to see it in a cinema is not one to pass up so folks in Ireland should give it a shot.
Synopsis from the festival site: A curious young princess who finds herself cloistered by royal protocol usually watches the outside world from her window but sometimes she sneaks out of the palace and sometimes she escapes into the books she hides under her bed. Eager suitors, tasked with retrieving magical objects, come to court her, but do not charm her: “They will make you hate yourself if you listen to them for long enough,” warns a wise, old witch. When the princess’ father is tricked into giving her hand to a sorcerer, she is imprisoned in a tower. Will her blossoming friendship with a serving girl allow her to outfox the magician?
海炭市叙景 「Kaitanshi Jokei」
Running Time: 152 mins.
Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
Writer: Yasushi Sato (Original Novel), Takashi Ujita (Screenplay),
Starring: Mitsuki Tanimura, Pistol Takehara, Ryo Kase, Masaki Miura, Kaoru Kobayashi, Kaho Minami, Jun Murakami,
This is based on a collection of short stories by Yasushi Sato, a writer from Hakodate, Hokkaido. He is known for commiting suicide, something which may have happened because, despite being nominated for the Akutagawa prize and Mishima prize multiple times, he missed his mark and remianed relatively unknown. Not only that, he suffered autonomic ataxia, a neurological condition that causes all sorts of unwanted physical reactions. He committed suicide at the age 41 in 1990 and these short stories were collected and published posthomously. Apparently, they are set in a fictional city based on Hakodate. His name might be familiar to people in the UK and Ireland because another of his books, The Light Shines Only There, was adapted for the screen and toured the world including the British Isles.
This film was brought to the screen by the writer/director partnership of Kazuyoshi Kumakiri and Takashi Ujita (Watashi no Otoko, Blazing Famiglia) and stars a whole host of great actors and actresses.
Synopsis from the festival site: New Year’s Eve, Kaitan City. A worker is made redundant due to a downsizing of the city’s shipyard; an old woman refuses to leave her home even though it is in an area planned for redevelopment; a manager of the local planetarium suspects his wife of betrayal; a lonely tram driver tries to understand why his grown-up son never visits; the wife of a neglectful business owner directs her anger with her husband towards their son. Ordinary people, having to deal with the realities of their day-to-day lives, and taking solace in the small comforts that life presents.
プールサイドマン 「Purusaido Man」
Running Time: 117 mins.
Director: Hirobumi Watanabe
Writer: Hirobumi Watanabe (Screenplay),
Starring: Yukiko Hachisu, Misao Hirayama, Gaku Imamura, Karin, Takanori Kurosaki, Mayumi Nakayama, Hitoshi Suzuki,Mina Takeda, Kodo Toda, Hirobumi Watanabe,
This is another film that was at the Tokyo International Film Festival. I remember the evening I went to see it. I spent the day rambling around Yoyogi Park and the adjacent areas with a friend before going to get curry udon. Poolside Man was one of the hottest indie titles at the fest, getting better word of mouth than Japanese Girls Never Die. I had the pleasure of meeting and getting the autograph og Hirobumi Watanabe at Raindance a few years ago.
Synopsis from the festival site: Yusuke lives a lonely life in a suburb north of Tokyo. He eats breakfast, he drives to work at the local pool, he watches the TV news and listens to the radio. All the while, he barely says a word. Even when he is forced to drive his chatty co-worker Koji to a neighbouring pool, Yusuke just sits in total silence. Beneath this calm but cold exterior, however, there is something dark brewing within Yusuke. As he sits listening to news of atrocities from around the world, there is an anger brewing up inside this young, lonely man.
永い言い訳 「Nagai Iiwake」
Running Time: 123 mins.
Director: Miwa Nishikawa
Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel),
Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Haru Kuroki, Tamaki Shiratori, Kenshin Fujita,
Confession time. Despite being a newly-minted fan of Miwa Nishikawa (I absolutely adored Wild Berries while I really liked Dear Doctor, Sway, and Dreams for Sale), I passed on the opportunity to see this film during ts release while I lived in Tokyo because I had neither the money or the time. I was in the process of figuring out which city to move to next (Urawa, a couple of months later) and needed to save money. I regret that now because Nishikawa is one of the most interesting filmmakers in Japan and this project has scored some excellent reviews. I’ll be keeping an eye out for its release at a UK festival but it won’t be as special as seeing it in Japan (despite the presence of English subtitles…).
Synopsis from the festival site: Sachio is a very successful but arrogant writer who is cheating on his wife Natsuko. During a trip away, Natsuko and her friend Yuki are killed in a bus accident. Sachio – whose celebrity status has led to media interest in the tragedy – initially finds himself unable to grieve. Ultimately, however, his life begins to fall apart as the reality of his wife’s absence hits him. During the public inquiries into the crash, he encounters Yuki’s husband Yoichi. Yoichi’s job as a truck driver has left him in a tight spot, unable to stay at home with his two young children. Sachio cautiously agrees to look after the kids while their father is out of town.
深田晃司 「Fuchi ni Tatsu」
Running Time: 118 mins.
Director: Koji Fukada
Writer: Koji Fukada
Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Takahiro Miura, Momone Shinokawa,
Koji Fukada’s latest film stars Kanji Furutachi (au revoir l’ete, The Woodsman & the Rain) and the awesome Tadanobu Asano (Watashi no Otoko, Vital, Bright Future, Survive Style 5+) who has won awards thanks to his performance in this psychological mystery which has gripped critics from around the world.
Synopsis from IMDB: Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and their daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa) live a quiet life operating a workshop that is part of their house. Their routine is disrupted when Toshio’s old-friend Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano) shows up at the place without a home or a job. What’s the reason? He has just been released from prison. You would think that Toshio would consult Akie before hiring Yasaka and letting him stay in the place but it seems that the two men have history together and Yasaka wants something from Toshio. He begins to meddle in Toshio’s family life and threatens everything…
ぐるりのこと。 「Gururi no Koto」
Running Time: 140 mins.
Director: Ryosuke Hashiguchi
Writer: Ryosuke Hashiguchi (Screenplay),
Starring: Tae Kimura, Lily Franky, Hirofumi Arai, Ryo Kase, Tamae Ando, Mitsuko Baisho, Eri Iwamoto, Akira Emoto,
I have not seen this one and I desperately want to see it. That feeling comes from reading a review a friend of mine wrote many years ago (Alua of Otherwhere). It’s from Ryosuke Hashiguchi who has created two other dramas that are considered high quality: Hush! (2001) and Three Stories of Love (2015).
Synopsis from the festival site: Laid-back Kanao and controlling Shoko are married and have decided to start a family. Realising that his current casual job will not be sufficient to provide for a child, Kanao uses his art school background to obtain a position as a courtroom sketch artist. But just when everything seems to be falling into place for the couple, tragedy strikes. Shoko subsequently falls into a deep depression and while Kanao struggles to cope with how to help her, his career flourishes, resulting in a deepening void between the two.
アズミ・ハルコは行方不 「Azumi Haruko wa yukue fumei」
Running Time: 100 mins.
Director: Daigo Matsui
Writer: Mariko Yamauchi (Original Novel), Misaki Setoyama (Screenplay)
Starring: Yu Aoi, Mitsuki Takahata, Shono Hayama, Taiga, Kanon Hanakage, Ryo Kase, Motoki Ochiai, Tomiyuki Kunihiro, Akiko Kikuchi,
This was the hot ticket at the Tokyo International Film Festival, a couple of months ago and the reviews at Variety and The Japan Times paint a compelling film full of Japanese pop-culture tropes and cultural criticism about the position of women in society. It later showed up at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. It was directed by Daigo Matsui (How Selfish I Am!).
Synopsis: Cryptic graffiti, featuring information from a missing person poster, begin to appear all over a suburban town. Haruko Azumi (Yu Aoi) is the subject and she has gone missing. She was stuck in a dead-end job and in a one-sided romance with her neighbour but now she has vanished and her disappearance has gone viral across the news and social media thanks to the graffiti cooked up by Manabu and Yukio, two wannabe graffiti artists. They’re soon joined by the giddy 20-year-old Aina, and within days the trio have unexpectedly transformed Haruko’s image into a pop culture phenomenon. After the disappearance of Haruko, a mysterious group of high school girls begins attacking men at random. These two incidents overlap. Are they connected? Witness scenes from the lives of Japanese girls.
リップヴァンウィンクルノ花嫁 「Rippu van winkuru no hanayome 」
Running Time: 179 mins.
Director: Shunji Iwai
Writer: Shunji Iwai (Screenplay/Novel),
Starring: Haru Kuroki, Gou Ayano, Cocco, Soko Wada, Nana Natsume, Hideko Hara,
Shunji Iwai has made many films across many genres but many of them deal with loneliness and this one is little different as it details the situation of a painfully shy teacher who finds her life becomes intertwined with actors who people hire to play family and friends. It was a great character piece which I reviewed on VCinema. I had the good fortune to see Shunji Iwai at the Tokyo International Film Festival at a screening of his film, Vampire, and the Q&A that followed.
Synopsis from the Festival Site: Nanami is a shy and lonely school teacher who meets Tetsuo online. The pair decide to get married, but Nanami’s lack of friends or relatives proves a source of frustration for her husband-to-be. She is put in touch with Amuro, who runs a business which offers ‘extras’ to pose as friends and fill out crowds at social events. Even though that allows the wedding to proceed, it turns out to be a short-lived marriage, and soon Nanami finds herself alone again. She herself decides to become one of Amuro’s actors, and at one event befriends Mashiro. It’s a friendship that will open up a new world for Nanami, and she is surprised to find herself as an unexpected caretaker for a lavish but vacant mansion…
新大久保物語「Shin Ookubo Monogatari」
Running Time: 113 mins.
Director: Azuma Morisaki
Writer: Akune Tomoaki (Screenplay), Yuichi Okano (Original Manga)
Starring: Ryo Iwamatsu, Mitsuko Baisho, Naoto Takenaka, Kiwako Harada, Kensuke Owada, Toshie Negishi, Ryo Kase
I can remember writing about this back in November 2013 and not thinking much of the entertainment value but it has steadily wowed critics and earned its way onto various film festival programmes. It has turned out to be a bit of a sleeper hit and it is still going!
Synopsis: Laid-back baby boomer Yuichi (Ryo Iwamatsu) is a middle-aged manga artist and singer-songwriter when he isn’t at his salaryman day job or watching out for his elderly mother Mitsue (Harue Akagi). She is suffering from increasing dementia since her husband’s death and is a constant source of comic energy or annoyance for Yuichi but now he and his son decide to put her in a home for the elderly. The more time she spends in the place with its colourful residents, the more her memories come back. Jumping back in time, we see how Mitsue (Harada) survived the tumult of the latter half of the 20th century, being raised by her parents as one of 10 brothers and sisters, surviving the war, and having to push her alcoholic husband (Kase) along in life. We see the human behind the medical condition.
Running Time: 121 mins
Director: Jiro Sono
Writer: Teruo Abe, Yukako Shimizu (Screenplay), Keigo Higashino (Original Novel)
Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Kazue Fukiishi, Tetsuji Tamayama, Erika Sawajiri, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Mitsuko Ishii,
The film comes from the 2003 novel of the same name by the best-selling writer Keigo Higashino (his books like The Devotion of Suspect X have been published in the UK). It’s billed as a tear-jerker since its story is about two brothers, one a convicted killer and the other a student, their struggle to make better lives for themselves and the obstacles they face such as the shame of being connected to crime.
Synopsis: Tsuyoshi and Naoki are two brothers who have always looked out for each other since they lost their parents. When older brother Tsuyoshi becomes unemployed, he is driven to commit a robbery in order to help Naoki with his university tuition fees and accidently murders. Undergoing a rough life as the brother of a murderer, Naoki begins to despise his sibling for the trouble he caused.
傷物語I 鉄血篇 / 傷物語〈Ⅱ熱血篇〉 「Kizumonogatari I: Tekketsu-hen /Kizumonogatari: Part 2 Nekketsu」
Running Time: 131 mins.
Chief Director: Akiyuki Shimbo, Director: Tatsuya Oishi
Writer: N/A (Screenplay), NisiOisin (Original Creator),
Animation Production: SHAFT
I am curious about why people programme parts of the Monogatari franchise since it’s a labyrinthine story with some many different elements. I’ve watched different strands of the Monogatari anime adaptations but I need a guide to put it all in order since they were animated out of synch. I guess it’s a mark of the quality and how easy they are to understand that they can be taken out of synch and shown independently. The Kizumonogatari films are an adaptation of the third volume in NisiOisin’s Monogatari book series and it is a prequel to Bakemonogatari. Which is where people usually start with the franchise. The novel tells the story of how protagonist Koyomi encounters the female vampire that would turn him and his journey to return to his normal life.
Synopsis from the festival site: In anticipation of the final installment of the Kizumonogatari trilogy, which is premiering at JFF 2017, we present a back-to-back double bill of the acclaimed first two short anime features from the Kizumonogatari youth horror trilogy, which are based on a series of ‘light novels’ written by Nisio Isin and illustrated by Vofan. One fateful evening, second year high school student Koyomi Araragi has a shocking meeting with the mysterious Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, aka the “King of Apparitions”. Blindingly beautiful, yet chillingly terrifying, this legendary blonde and golden-eyed vampire cries out for Koyomi to help her as she lies in a pool of her own blood, all four of her limbs cut off. He must give her his blood to save her, but in doing so finds himself re-born as her vampire kin.
傷物語〈Ⅲ冷血篇〉 「Kizumonogatari III: Reiketsu」
Running Time: 131 mins.
Chief Director: Akiyuki Shimbo, Director: Tatsuya Oishi
Writer: N/A (Screenplay), NisiOisin (Original Creator),
Animation Production: SHAFT
Starring: Hiroshi Kamiya (Koyomi Araragi), Maaya Sakamoto (Shinobu Oshino), Yui
Horie (Tsubasa Hanekawa), Takahiro Sakurai (Meme Oshino),
Spoilers for the events of the first two films in the synopsis.
Synopsis from the festival site: With help of Meme Oshino, Koyomi takes back the limbs of Kiss-shot after defeating the three vampire hunters: Dramaturgy, Episode and Guillotinecutter. On seeking out Kiss-Shot, with the intention of becoming human again, she reveals to Koyomi the cold truth of what it means to be a vampire – a creature of the night. Unable to take back what he has done, Koyomi feels nothing but regret and can only deny his dreadful fate. While Koyomi is struggling to face reality, his friend Tsubasa Hanekawa comes to him with a certain plan. Following hot on its Japanese theatrical release in January 2017, the wait is finally over for fans as we present the Irish premiere of Reiketsu, the final part of the Kizumonogatari trilogy.
きみはいい子「Kimi wa iiko」
Running Time: 121 mins.
Director: Mipo O
Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Hatsue Nakawaki (Original Novel)
Starring: Kengo Kora, Machiko Ono, Chizuru Ikewaki, Michie Kita, Mei Kurokawa, Kazuya Takahashi,
Mipo O is a director/writer mentioned here, first in 2010 with Quirky Guys and Gals and The Light Shines Only There which was one of my favourite films of 2014/5 and it made its way into my top ten. Her latest film is the adaptation of the book Kimi wa ii ko (You’re a Good Kid). The book is by Hatsue Nakawaki which won the 2012 Tsubota Jōji Literature Award. The book is a collection of five stories about child abuse and people trying to prevent it, each story occurs in the same town and on the same rainy afternoon. The film adapts differet stories into one: Santa no konai ie (The House where Santa Doesn’t Come) and Beppin-san (Pretty Girl).
Synopsis: Okana (Kengo Kora) is a new primary school teacher struggling to deal with his class who is constantly on the receiving end of concerns from the children’s overly-protective parents. Despite feeling out of his depth, when he discovers that one of his pupils is being abused by their parents, he decides that he must do something to help. Akikio, an elderly woman with slight dementia who lives alone, is accused of shoplifting and finds her turned upside down but an encounter with an autistic child gives her a vital human connection that could right her world. Meanwhile in the same city, Masami (Machiko Ono), a housewife whose husband is at work all the time, appears to be a good mother but can’t help lashing out at her own child. Perhaps it is linked to her past with her own mother and the stress of single parenting…
Running Time: 317 mins.
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Writer: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Tadashi Nohara, Tomoyuki Takahashi (Screenplay)
Starring: Rira Kawamura, Hazuki Kikuchi, Maiko Mihara, Sachie Tanaka, Shuhei Shibata, Ami Kugai, Sachiko Fukunaga, Reina Shiihashi,
I saw Happy Hour at the London film festival back in 2015 and gave it a review which was full of praise is a film unlikely to get licensed in the West. It did go on to travel across the festival circuit for quite some time and that’s due to it’s quality.
It’s a five hour seventeen minute running time dedicated to showing the lives of four middle-aged women and it has split my friends between those who are absorbed in the minutiae of everyday lives and those who find it goes on too long but I found it all worked.
Fumi (Maiko Mihara), Akari (Sachie Tanaka), Sakurako (Hazuki Kikuchi), and Jun (Rira Kawamura), are four friends. These ladies are in their late 30s and are in relationships of varying sorts but not everybody is happy and so when Jun reveals that she is getting a divorce, well, this kicks off a train of dramatic events that make the women re-evaluate their lives.
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,
Destruction Babies is seemingly the anti-Happy Hour, what with its surging testosterone and predominantly male cast. It’s getting a release in the UK thanks to Third Window Films and I hope to have a review up soon. In the meantime, people in Ireland can watch it and decide what they think of it for themselves. 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).
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.
Japanese Title: 野火
Running Time: 87 mins.
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Screenplay), Shohei Ooka (Original Novel)
Starring: Shinya Tsukamoto, Lily Franky, Tatsuya Nakamura, Yuko Nakamura, Dean Newcombe,
Shinya Tsukamoto is bringing his passion project, Fires on the Plain to cinemas. It is based upon the 1951 Yomiuri Prize-winning novel of the same name which was then adapted into a film in 1959 by Kon Ichikawa. It took Tsukamoto 20 years to bring his adaptation of the film to the screen and it’s a real passion project considering he has struggled to finance it (subject matter you see in this film isn’t that popular in Japan) and was in charge of many aspects of the filming including directing and acting. Here’s my review of the film.
Synopsis: The film Fires on the Plain follows a demoralised Japanese army in the Philippines. We see how bad things are for the Japanese troops through the desperate struggle of a conscript named Tamura (Tsukamoto) who is sick with TB and forced into the field by a commander who cannot waste resources on a dying man. Tamura doesn’t want to give up so easily and clings to life but it is a struggle that will lead him down a dark path that hint at some of the atrocities carried out by soldiers…
母と暮らせば 「Haha to Kuraseba」
Running Time: 130 mins.
Director: Yoji Yamada
Writer: Yoji Yamada, Emiko Hiramatsu (Screenplay),
Starring: Sayuri Yoshinaga, Kazunari Ninomiya, Haru Kuroki, Tadanobu Asano, Kenichi Kato, Miyu Honda,
There was a period of the Second World War when many directors returning from combat gave stark and tough critiques of the atrocities that happened and a serious examination of the horror of war. That age has gone by and the Japanese film industry (like most, if we’re honest) is now in the business of producing many more tales of human tragedy such as this one. The venerable director Yoji Yamada brings a heartfelt story of a mother reuniting with her son in the ruins of Nagasaki which is sure to bring tears to the eyes of audience members regardless of politics.
Synopsis: Nobuko (Sayuri Yoshinaga) lives in post-war Nagasaki and works as a midwife. She survived the atomic bomb which killed her son Koji (Kazunari Ninomiya), a medical student, three years earlier. She lives along apart from regular visits from Koji’s fiancee Machiko but one night, Koji appears again and gives comfort to his mother and they reminiscence about pleasant times. Their meetings continue and soon they become concerned with helping Machiko move on with life.
築地ワンダーランド 「Tsukiji Wanda-rando」
Running Time: 110 mins.
Director: Naotaro Endo
The documentary and its director had a very long tour of the UK as part of this year’s Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme. There’s no mention on the website if he will attend any of the screenings so it might be worth checking out the sites of the venues themselves since it’s not impossible.
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: 99 mins.
Director: Stephen Kijak
Starring: Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Hiroshi Morie, Sugizo, Gene Simmons, Wes Borland,
This film appeared at the BFI London Film Festival last year and a lot of critics seemed to love it if the reviews I saw were anything to go by. Not only that but the BBC picked up on the band for a news report.
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 in New York. Yoshiki, leader of the band, guides us through the history.