The 2017 edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from June 21st until July 02nd and the films have been announced. There is a mix of titles that give a good indication of what is happening with the Japanese film industry – the best film is an anime, all the rest are adaptations of books and familiar stories.
Here’s what’s on offer.
Running Time: 110 mins.
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Writer: Sunao Katabuchi (Screenplay), Fumiyo Kono (Original Creator)
Animation Production: MAPPA
Starring: Rena Nounen (Suzu Urano), Daisuke Ono (Akira), Mayumi Shintani (San), Shigeru Ushiyama (Entaro), Megumi Han (Sumi), Minori Omi (Michiko), Natsuki Inaba (Harumi), Yoshimasa Hosoya (Shuusaku),
This is the UK premiere of an award-winning film that I had the pleasure of seeing in Hiroshima, the setting for part of the film, a couple of months ago. It took the Animation of the Year award at the 40th annual Japan Academy and I am not surprised since it is a beautiful and stately film about an absent-minded artistic young woman trying to survive the hardship of war. I wasn’t the only one impressed since the film won the Hiroshima Peace Film Award at the Hiroshima International Film Festival in November last year and the film magazine Kinema Jump named it the best Japanese movie of 2016 and it awarded Katabuchi the Best Director Award.
The film was orchestrated by Sunao Katabuchi who directed the awesome Mai Mai Miracle and the TV anime Black Lagoon. It was animated by the studio MAPPA (Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, Terror in Resonance).
Synopsis: Suzu Urano is a Hiroshima girl from a close-knit family but when she marries a naval officer, she has to move from Hiroshima City to Kure, the city which launched the battleship Yamato and the site of one of Japan’s largest naval bases. As a new housewife, she encounters uncertainty in her new family, her new city, and her new world but she perseveres and finds happiness even as the war grinds on and comes closer to home.
土竜の唄 香港狂騒曲 「Mogura no Uta Hong Kong Kyousoukyoku」
Running Time: 128 mins.
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Tomma Ikuta, Eita, Riisa Naka, Tsubasa Honda, Nanao, Shinichi Tsutsumi Yusuke Kamiji,
I remember being sat in a cinema in Urawa talking to a friend while the trailer for this played on a loop. I wasn’t particularly interested in the first one and the sequel looked dire but the reviews for it have been pretty good as seen in this one from Variety.
Synopsis: Reiji is back for a second film and finds himself re-infiltrating the yakuza gang from the first movie and acting as a bodyguard for the boss and his sexy wife and daughter. Reiji has to watch his rampant libido but he also has to watch out for the police who think he has turned traitor and a girlfriend who suspects he’s not being faithful. Worse still are the Chinese syndicate trying to take over the gang’s territory. Reiji will find his priorities split as he heads to Hong Kong for a showdown.
雪女 「Yuki Onna」
Running Time: 95 mins
Director: Kiki Sugino
Writer: Kiki Sugino, Mitsuo Shigeta, Seigan Tominomori, (Screenplay), Lafcadio Hearn (Original Story)
Starring: Kiki Sugino, Munetaka Aoki, Kumi Mizuno, Shiro Sano, Mayu Yamaguchi,
This is an updated and atmospheric retelling of an ancient Japanese ghost story which was collected by Lafcardio Ahern about the titular Snow Woman. Rising star Kiki Sugino (a luminous presence in the flesh – I was dazzled by her (and her sparkly dress)! – , much like the titular Snow Woman of her film), wrote and produced and directed this film and also takes on the lead role as the ghostly snow woman. The writing process started while she was in hospital after a car accident and she showed the resulting film a year later in the Tokyo International Film Festival. I had the good fortune to watch it and found it interesting but not terribly gripping. I started to review it while I lived in Asagaya but I never finished the review due to a lack of time and motivation. Perhaps I shall do so this week.
Synopsis: The story sees a hunter (Munetaka Aoki) and his mentor encounter the snow woman (Kiki Sugino) during a snowstorm, with her frostbite-inducing breath killing the mentor, but sparing the hunter. He later meets the mysterious Suki (also Sugino), who resembles the snow woman and marries her. But the supernatural world haunts them, and spirits and superstition eventually impact on their rural idyll.
Running Time: 142 mins
Director: Sang-il Lee
Writer: Sang-il Lee (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Novel),
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Hikari Mitsushima, Mirai Moriyama, Aoi Miyazaki, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Gou Ayano, Suzu Hirose, Hideko Hara, Pierre Taki, Takahiro Miura, Mitsuki Takahata, Chizuru Ikewaki, Akira Emoto, Eri Fukatsu, Kirin Kiki, Kenichi Matsuyama,
When I first arrived in Tokyo, posters for this film were everywhere:
I never watched it because I didn’t have time but it definitely looks really good, a dark dive into the recesses of the human soul. Viewers better brace themselves for some negative feelings as the worst of humanity is said to be explored and it will probably be powerful. The reason I say this is because the film is based on a novel by Shuichi Yoshida and he has had many of his books (many of which are fascinated with the idea of evil and people hiding their true identities) turned into films and they are almost all available in the UK thanks to Third Window Films: A Story of Yonosuke (2013), Villain (2010), Parade (2010) The Ravine of Goodbye (2013) isn’t one of them but it was at the London Film Festival. Sang-il Lee handled the big-screen adaptation of Villain (2010) and crafted a good drama. Rage looks to be on a par. It contains a stellar cast who have been in many films.
Synopsis: A a married couple is brutally murdered by someone. The only clues are that the murderer is a man and he wrote the word “Ikari” (“Anger”) with the blood of the couple. The killer undergoes plastic surgery and flees and Japan is gripped by the crime and whenever a male stranger appears in a community, the people there suspect that the stranger might be the murderer.
People such as Yohei Maki (Ken Watanabe) who works at a harbour in Chiba. He is concerned that the man his daughter Aiko (Aoi Miyazaki) is dating, Tetsuya Tashiro (Kenichi Matsuyama), might be the killer, because Tetsuya is not his real name.
An advertising executive named Yuma Fujita (Satoshi Tsumabuki) falls for a man named Naoto Onishi (Gou Ayano) and they begin to live together but Yuma soon develops suspicions that Naoto is the killer.
Izumi Komiya (Suzu Hirose) and her mother (Urara Awata) move to an isolated island in Okinawa and Izumi meets a backpacker named Shingo Tanaka (Mirai Moriyama) who is hiding a secret.
Three different communities across Japan, three different stories involving different people, all linked by one murder.
There are a number of short films and anime in various sections like:
Ylion and Callysia (Dir: Takashi Nakamura, 2017, 7 mins)
Negative Space (Dir: Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata, 2017, 6 mins)
Both of which are in the International Animation section.
Camouflage (Dir: Yuka Sato, 2017, 8 mins) is a short film in the Black Box strand dedicated to ideas surrounding movement and how it is captured on camera and displayed on screen. The festival’s page for this film has the following description:
Movements frozen, moments stilled: the mysterious presence of a female dancer is the focus of this understated and sensitively observed film.
Also in the same section is Soramimi (Dirs: Julia Laird, Daisy Dickinson, 2016, 4 mins), a UK-Japan co-production that was shot on Super 8 deep in the forests on a mountain in Japan. The focus of the film is how dance and costume are used to channel different energies.
Dog in the Shade (Dir: Ei Toshinari, 2016, 11 mins) is another short and it’s in the Waking Dream section which is a collection of shorts that thrust the audience deep into the darker realms of the human consciousness. Dog in Shade is a collection of “episodes and conversations almost forgotten”, that are dredged up and excavated in an “attempt to make the absent, tangible”.
Update (an hour after posting): Thanks to film programmer Irene Silvera, one of my film friends on Twitter, for alerting me to this British documentary directed by a Japanese woman named Kyoko Miyake!
Running Time: 89 mins
Director: Kyoko Miyake
Writer: Kyoko Miyake (Screenplay),
Synopsis from the filmmaker’s website: “IDOLS” has fast become a phenomenon in Japan as girl bands and pop music permeate Japanese life. Tokyo Idols – an eye-opening film gets at the heart of a cultural phenomenon driven by an obsession with young female sexuality and internet popularity.
This ever growing phenom is told through Rio, a bona fide “Tokyo Idol” who takes us on her journey toward fame. Now meet her “brothers”: a group of adult middle aged male super fans (ages 35 – 50) who devote their lives to following her—in the virtual world and in real life. Once considered to be on the fringes of society, the “brothers” who gave up salaried jobs to pursue an interest in female idol culture have since blown up and have now become mainstream via the internet, illuminating the growing disconnect between men and women in hypermodern societies.
With her provocative look into the Japanese pop music industry and its focus on traditional beauty ideals, filmmaker Kyoko Miyake confronts the nature of gender power dynamics at work. As the female idols become younger and younger, Miyake offers a critique on the veil of internet fame and the new terms of engagement that are now playing out IRL around the globe.
Here’s an interview with the director:
That’s a decent line-up. Tickets are already on sale and selling fast!