Japanese Films at the Venice Film Festival 2017

The Venice International Film Festival launches its 74th edition on August 30th and it lasts until September 09th and the line-up was announced earlier this week. I’ve missed the last couple editions of the festival because there have been few Japanese films (the last edition I covered was in 2014). Anyway, there are two Japanese films from current directors and three classics from the golden age present this year. One if the modern ones is a Hirokazu Koreeda film which is in the international competition section which has many world premieres. Takeshi Kitano has his latest film screened out of competition, a section dedicated to already-established directors. There is also on American documentary about the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

There are a couple of other Asian movies. To find out more about them, head over to Windows on Worlds.

Here are the details on the Japanese films:

The Third Murder    The Third Murder Film Poster

三度目の殺人Sandome no Satsujin

Running Time: N/A

Release Date: September 09th, 2017

Director:  Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay),

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Koji Yakusho, Suzu Hirose, Yuki Saito, Kotaro Yoshida, Mikako Ichikawa, Izumi Matsuoka,

Website IMDB

Everybody rumoured… Nobody believed… But you see, it’s true! Hirokazu Koreeda is making a murder mystery! It’s here folks and it’s at the Venice Film Festival but don’t expect thrilling chases since this is a talky character-driven drama. Judging by Koreeda’s past works, it will be brilliant (I cried at his latest one just like all of his other ones).

This one sees him bring together a great cast, some of whom he has worked with (Suzu Hirose was the eponymous little sister in Our Little Sister and Masaharu Fukuyama was the father to the son in Like Father Like Son okay, that last one was overcooked) and there’s also the masterful Koji Yakusho who has worked with most of the great modern directors like Juzo Itami (Tampopo), Takashi Miike (Thirteen Assassins), and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure) and Tetsuya Nakashima (director of the still totally mind-blowing film The World of Kanako – I met the director and had my picture taken with him, a really nice guy!!!). There is also the wonderful underused actor Mikako Ichikawa who took the lead in the utterly charming Rent-a-neko!

Synopsis: Shigemori (Fukuyama) is a hot-shot lawyer on a mean winning streak but when he is compelled to take on defending a man named Mikuma (Yakusho) he finds the first case which could cause the wheels to fall off his career.

Mikuma is accused of a murdering the president of a company and setting fire to the corpse. It looks like an open and shut case since Mikuma has confessed and he was convicted of a murder that took place 30 years ago. The death penalty is almost a certainty but the more Shigemori investigates and the more he talks to Mikuma, the less certain he becomes of the man’s guilt and the case itself.

The truth lies with the daughter of the murdered president, Sakie (Hirose)…

Outrage Coda    Outrage Code Film Poster

アウトレイジ 最終章Autoreiji Saishusho

Running Time: 104 mins.

Release Date: October 07th, 2017

Director:  Takashi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),

Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Nao Omori, Pierre Taki, Toshiyuki Nishida, Ken Mitsuishi, Hakuryu, Ren Osugi, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Yutaka Matsushige

Website IMDB

I have seen twelve of the films that Kitano has directed (there are nineteen in total according to IMDB) and I must admit that Outrage (the last one I watched) didn’t grab my attention. To be honest, I’m a big fan of his earlier films like Kids Return and Sonatine and less interested in his more recent output which packs in a lot of stars but feature stories that don’t interest me. That’s a personal thing though and I’m no expert so I need to be schooled because it seems everyone else is a fan of the Outrage trilogy which seems to be coming to an end with this one. It’s the polar opposite of the Koreeda movie because it features more violence – but there’s also plenty of old men talking as well… I’m going to watch a documentary about Japanese idol girls.

Synopsis: Otomo (Kitano) escaped Japan and his old Sanno-kai yakuza group after countless betrayals and gang wars and prison. He joined up with a South Korean gangster named Jang but he finds himself travelling back to Japan when a member of the Hanabishi-kai yakuza group named Hanada (Taki) kills a member of Jang’s gang and he has to settle some accounts. Otomo decides to reunite with his old clan and get revenge on the people who put him in prison at the end of the first film and he’s going to use his Korean connections to get the job done…

Here are reviews for Kitano’s films I actually have on this site




Getting Any?

I had planned a season of reviews of Kitano’s films five years ago after getting a box-set to go with my editions of Brother and Zatoichi and a bunch of posters for his films but my notes and hundreds of screenshots are stuck on a computer I have forgotten the password to and I don’t have the time to re-watch them…

The Night I Swam / La nuit ou j’ai nage   The Night I Swam Film Poster

泳ぎすぎた夜Oyogi Sugita Yoru

Running Time: 78 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director:  Kohei Igarashi, Damien Manivel,

Writer: Ichiro Kusuno (Screenplay), Sui Ishida (Original Manga)

Starring: Takara Kogawa, Keiki Kogawa, Chisato Kogawa, Takashi Kogawa, Yuji Kudo,

Website IMDB

Kohei Igarashi, (Hold Your Breath Like a Lover) and Damien Manivel (A Young Poet, The Park) met at Locarno earlier this year and decided to collaborate. The resulting film was unveiled at the 74th Venice Film Festival in the Orizzonti category back in August. I missed it at the time but it has turned up at Tokyo FILMeX and it looks special since it charts a magical day in the life of a little boy who takes a detour from school and explores his local area. No dialogue, just the sound of the world coupled with images that show the young character demonstrating the innocence and curiosity of a child his age.

Synopsis from the Venice Film Festival: Snow covered mountains in Japan. Every night, a fisherman makes his way to the market in town. His 6 year old son is awoken by his departure and finds it impossible to fall back to sleep. In the sleeping household, the young boy draws a picture he then slips into his satchel. On his way to school, still drowsy, he strays off the path and wanders into the snow…

There are three Japanese films in the Venezia Classici, two by Kenji Mizoguchi and one by Yasujiro Ozu. The Ozu was restored by Shochiku while Kadokawa and The Film Foundation handled the Mizoguchis.

Sansho Dayu   Sansho Dayu Film Poster

山椒大夫 Sanshou Dayuu

Running Time: 126 mins.

Release Date: March 31st, 1954

Director:  Kenji Mizoguchi

Writer: Fuji Yahiro, Yoshitaka Yoda, (Screenplay) Mori Ogai (Original Story),

Starring: Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyoko Kagawa, Eitarou Shindou,


Synopsis: I saw this in a double-bill with Ugetsu Monogatari when I was a teenager and cried my little heart out at the end. It’s a jidai-geki set in the Heian period and tells the tale of a virtuous governor who gets exiled to be the lord of a remote province. When his wife and children travel to meet him years later, they are betrayed and the mother is sold into prostitution and the children are sold into slavery. They battle to retain their humanity and will to live even under such awful circumstances.

Chikamatsu Monogatari   Chikamatsu Monogatari Film Poster

近松物語 Chikamatsu Monogatari

Running Time: 102 mins.

Release Date: November 23rd, 1954

Director:  Kenji Mizoguchi

Writer: Yoshitaka Yoda, Matsutarou Kawaguchi (Screenplay), Chikamatsu Monzaemon (Original Story),

Starring: Kazuo Hasegawa, Kyoko Kagawa, Yoko Minamida, Eitarou Shindou,


Synopsis: Ishun is a wealthy, but miserly scroll-maker in Kyoto. He is married to a beautiful young woman named Osan who is only in the relationship for money. Things go wrong for Osan when she is wrongly accused of infidelity with one of Ishun’s apprentices. Osan and the apprentice flee from Ishun who is desperate to track them down to prevent the scandal from leaking…

Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice   Ochazuke no Aji Film Poster

お茶漬けの味Ochazuke no Aji

Running Time: 104 mins.

Release Date: October 07th, 2017

Director:  Yasujiro Ozu

Writer: Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Noda (Screenplay),

Starring: Shin Saburi, Michiyo Kogure, Koji Tsuruta, Chishu Ryu, Chikage Awashima, Keiko Tsushima, Kuniko Miyake,


Synopsis: Taeko (Michiyo Kogure) is bored with her husband Mokichi Satake (Shin Saburi) who is an executive at an engineering company. This middle-aged couple in Tokyo are the unhappy result of an arranged marriage do not have kids to distract them from their differences and so when Taeko’s niece is forced to go through the arranged marriage process, she rebels…

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda 

Running Time: 100 mins.

Release Date: November 01st, 2017

Director:  Stephen Nomura Schible

Starring: Ryuichi Sakamoto


Here’s an interview from the festival.

Synopsis: We all know Ryuichi Sakamoto as a musician connected to Yellow Magic Orchestra, a composer of some of the most incredible film scores ever heard and an actor. His career is long and goes from classical music to eletro-pop but he recently had a scare with cancer and this has prompted him to become more aware of life. He has campaigned over issues such as nuclear power but there’s a new urgency to his work and this documentary captures it as well as the changes leading up to it. 



Running Time: 96 mins.

Release Date: N/A

Director:  Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Starring: N/A

IMDB Unifrance

Not a Japanese film but there is a Japanese person at the heart of this documentary, Issei Sagawa, a man infamous around the world for killing and then partially eating fellow student Renee Hartevelt at the Sorbonne in 1981. Due to his father’s intervention with a lot of money and a top lawyer, he managed to avoid jail time and was declared insane. He may have avoided one type of prison but he lives in another: having to live his life with everyone knowing he is a cannibal. Since nobody wants to work with him in a regular job, he can only get work recounting his horrific crime in manga, pink films, and magazine article. He claims that it is a terrible fate. This documentary doesn’t condone his deeds or the media-circus around him but seeks to explore his life, especially his connection with his brother Jun, who now acts as a carer of sorts. I’ve added this to various film festival posts because I read a really good review of it – very well-written.

Here is a clip and an interview with the filmmakers:

The film won the SPECIAL ORIZZONTI JURY PRIZE at the Venice Film Festival

2 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Venice Film Festival 2017

  1. Hayley Scanlon

    I watched Outrage when it came out but I can’t really remember anything about it other than not really being impressed. I can’t even remember if I watched the second one or not 🤔 I prefer his artier ones though, I think.

    1. I remember a couple of scenes from Outrage such as the girly bar and the gangsters being bumped off at the end. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the action. I haven’t even bothered with the second one. It could be that I’m missing something and I need it explained to me.

      Anything Kitano made early in his career as a director is great as far as I’m concerned.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.