Camera Japan 2017 Preview: Feature Films

Same Old Same Old Film Image 1

Camera Japan 2017 starts in just under a months time in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and there is plenty to dig into so having the festival programme is a must. You can also read about the various films and events here on this site where I will have this guide which acts as an overview and comes complete with addresses and links. There are other, more detailed posts covering

Feature Films  |  Anime and Short Anime Films |  Documentaries

Special Screenings and Short Films   |   Workshops and Events

This particular post covers feature-length films which will be shown in Rotterdam (21st– 24th September) at LantarenVenster and Amsterdam from (29th September 01st October) and there will be lots to see.

Parks        

parks-film-poster-2
parks-film-poster-2

パークス Pa-kusu

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director:  Natsuki Seta

Writer: Natsuki Seta (Screenplay),

Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Mei Nagano, Shota Sometani, Shiro Sano, Reiya Masaki, Ryu Morioka, Shizuka Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

Tokyo is home to many world famous parks such as Yoyogi and Ueno but when I lived in the mega-metropolis I developed a soft spot for Inokashira Park out in the fashionable area of Kichijoji. It may not be as big as the others but I found it an equally wonderful serene green space with lots of interesting features. It recently reached its 100th anniversary and the film “Parks” was commissioned to commemorate the special occasion.The film is as charming as the locale. A little unwieldy in structure but fizzing with fun performances and song and dance numbers. I still have positive memories of the screening so I hope people go and see this and feel similarly!

Here’s my review.

 Synopsis: Divided into chapters, the story follows three friends trying to recover a love song recorded at Inokashira Park in the ‘60s. It all begins with a university student named Jun (Ai Hashimoto) who lives near Inokashira Park. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend and struggling to find the creativity to complete her university course, she muddles her way through life. When a high-spirited high school girl named Haru (Mei Nagano) knocks on her door, it seems things may change. Haru may be a stranger but she hasn’t appeared at random. She was searching through her late father’s personal effects when she discovered a letter from and photograph of an ex-girlfriend who lived in the exact same apartment that Jun lives in and, in the name of preserving her father in her memory, Haru wants to find out more about him from the ex-girlfriend.

NoiseNoise 2017 Akihabara Film Poster

Running Time: 124 mins

Director:  Yusaku Matsumoto (松本優作)

Writer:  Yusaku Matsumoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Kokoro Shinozaki, Urana Anjo, Kohsuke Suzuki, Kentaro Kishi,

IMDB Website

Like looking at videos from home since I spent so much time in and around Akihabara. Minus the violence of course. This looks like a heartfelt drama from newbie director Yusaku Matsumoto who has a credit on a horror movie as an editor. The screening a Q & A with the cast and crew. Director Yusaku Matsumoto is attending Raindance so he is likely to show up.

Synopsis from IMDB: Eight years have passed from the Akihabara massacre. A pop star whose mother was killed in the incident, a teenager who left her home to Akihabara, a delivery boy who turns his directionless anger to the city. This is a story about the characters striving to grasp the string of hope within the darkness surrounding the city, the incident, and the people.

Her Love Boils Bathwater   Her Love Boils Bathwater Film Poster

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,

Website IMDB JFDB

This was at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and reviews like this one paint a picture of a great family drama thanks 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.

Hello, Goodbye

ハローグッバイHaro- Gubbai」   Hello Goodbye Film Poster

Running Time: 80 mins.

Director:  Takeo Kikuchi

Writer: Ayako Kato (Screenplay),

Starring: Minori Hagiwara, Sayu Kubota, Masako Motai, Shunsuke Watanabe, Makiko Watanabe, Hana Kino, Natsumi Okamoto, Kai Ogawara, Michiru Matsunaga,

IMDB Website

This one was at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and it earned good reviews. It’s a dramedy about ageing and loneliess from writer Ayako Kato and director Takeo Kikuchi. He previously worked on Dear Deer (2016) which toured international festivals.

Synopsis: High school student Aoi (Sayu Kubota) is top of the class when it comes to grades but fails when it comes to friendship. She’s lonely because of this and her busy parents not spending time with her. To forget her loneliness she steals things and one day, she decides to steal something from her classmate Hazuka (Minori Hagiwara) in revenge for some slight bullying. Aoi discovers that Hazuka is worried about whether she is pregnant by her ex-boyfriend. During a confrontation, the two girls meet an elderly woman named Etsuko (Masako Motai) with Alzheimer’s disease. She asks the girls for help in giving a love letter to her first love. Hazuka and Aoi decide to help out and maybe, in so doing, they will help each other…

Journey of the Tortoise

トータスの旅To-tasu no Tabi」   Journey of the Tortoise Film Poster

Running Time: 82 mins.

Director:  Tadashi Nagayama

Writer: Tadashi Nagayama, Yuriko Suzuki (Screenplay),

Starring: Tomoki Kimura, Mizuki Suwa, Yota Kawase, Spica Yufune, Yukiko Takenaka, Kazunari Yanagitani, Shoji Omiya,

Website

From what I can tell, Tadashi Nagayama and Yuriko Suzuki are both new to the movie-making world but their debut feature-film won the Grand Prix at the 2017 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. Apparently, the story is based on Nagayama’s experiences with his own father!

Synopsis: A boy, his father and their pet turtle join their reckless uncle and his fiancée on a crazy road trip that quickly escalates, leaving traces everywhere they stop.

Kuro

Running Time: 84 mins.   Kuro 2017 Film Poster

Director:  Tujiko Noriko, Joji Koyama

Writer: Tujiko Noriko, Joji Koyama (Screenplay),

Starring: Tujiko Noriko, Jackie

IMDB Website

Tujiko Noriko is a musician who has been operating for quite some time. Her music mixes all sorts of instruments and electronic sounds with breathless vocals that tumble over each other. She is described as being like Bjork and that’s pretty accurate. She has made a film with the artist Joji Koyama and she will be performing a concert and conducting a Q&A before it is screened at Camera Japan!

Kuro 2017 Film Image

Synopsis from the website: Romi, a Japanese woman living in Paris, works in a karaoke bar. At home in the suburbs, she tends to her paraplegic lover Milou. To pass the time she recounts to him a story alluding to a period they once spent together in Japan. Soon, the mystery of a man named Mr. Ono begins to unsettle everything. Weaving together personal history, anecdotes and myths, the story takes a dark turn.

Life and Death on the Shore

海辺の生と死Umibe no Sei to She」   Life and Death on the Shore Film Poster

Running Time: 155 mins.

Director:  Michio Koshikawa

Writer: Michio Koshikawa (Screenplay), Miho Shimao, Toshio Shimao (Original Essay)

Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Kento Nagayama, Yota Kawase, Kai Inowaki, Masane Tsukayama,

Website JFDB

This is Michio Koshikawa’s sophomore film but he has an extensive filmography as a producer with titles like The Wife of Gegege, Sketches of Kaitan City (both 2010), Our Homeland (2012) and “A Band Rabbit” and a Boy (2013), and Asleep (2015). This is a war movie and it was the second film made by Hikari Mitsushima in 2017 (the other is Trace of Sin) who has worked with Koshikawa on one of his films. She is paired up with Kento Nagayama in this romantic war-time melodrama.

Synopsis: It is 1945 and World War II is about to reach its end. Saku (Kento Nagayama) arrives on the island of Kakerojima, just south-west of the coast of Kyushu, to take command of navy special forces. His entry enlivens the place as the children on the island admire him and he sets the pulse of the elementary school teacher Toe (Hikari Mitsushima) racing. As the war winds down, she develops feelings for him until, one day, Toe receives a letter from Saku with a simple message, “please come to the beach around 9PM tonight.”

Meatball Machine Kodoku

蠱毒 ミートボールマシン 「Kodoku: Mi-tobo-ru MashinMeatball Machine Kodoku Film Poster

Running Time: 84 mins.

Director:  Yoshihiro Nishimura

Writer: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Sakichi Sato (Screenplay),

Starring: Yoji Tanaka, Miyuki Torii, Yuri Kijima, Goki, Yota Kawase, Riri Koda, Takumi Saito, Eihi Shiina,

IMDB Website

Yoshihiro Nishimura… Get ready for some gore from the master of blood and guts!

I did a summer of splatter films a couple of years back and found his films with their extreme effects were initially fun but so full-on with goopy special effects and action that they became exhausting. That written, his body of work as a director is still impressive: Tokyo Gore Police (2008), Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009), Mutant Girls Squad (2010), Helldriver (2010). His body of work as a special effects/make-up artist is even more impressive Attack on Titan (live-action) and Cold Fish are just two titles he has worked on and he is in demand internationally.

This one is a sequel to Meatball Machine (2005) so it will be interesting to see what those evil little aliens get up to in this new film. Nishimura brings back his favourite actors such as Takumi Saito (For Love’s Sake) and Eihi Shiina (Audition). Yoji Tanaka takes the lead and he has been in so many films, one of which, Getting Any? Is released in the UK in a month’s time. What about the trailer?

Yep, just as insane as his other works but with even better special effects!!! Watching this was like a shot of nostalgia from a time when I first started writing about his works. Also, Miyuki Torii was in Fine, Totally Fine (2008) which is more nostalgia.

Synopsis: On the day a debt collector hears he has terminal cancer, aliens attack Tokyo. With death approaching whatever he does, he takes his life into his own hands and fights back!

Neko Ninja

猫忍Nekonin」   Neko Ninja Film Poster

Running Time: 95 mins.

Director:  Takeshi Watanabe

Writer: Hisakatsu Kuroki, Yuji Nagamori, Masao Ikegaya (Screenplay),

Starring: Takuro Ono, Akira Emoto, Eri Fuse, Eriko Sato, Fuku Suzuki, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Toshiya Nagasawa,

Website IMDB

Cats are awesome. I suppose that if you liked the Neko Samurai films then you’ll be sure to like this since it is made by the same crew.

Synopsis from the festival site: Kagerota is a young ninja who embarks on his first mission: stealing the goldfish from a wealthy samurai. He succeeds, but then a mysterious fat cat starts following him. His distinctive red nose leads Kagerota to believe that the feline stalker is actually the reincarnation of his long last father, a legendary ninja who left him when he was ten years old.

Neko Ninja Film Image 2

Same Old, Same Old

退屈な日々にさようならをTaikutsuna hibi ni sayonara woSame Old Same Old Film Poster

Running Time: 142 mins.

Director:  Rikiya Imaizumi

Writer: Rikiya Imaizumi (Screenplay),

Starring: Mitsuki Akiba, Kento Hikita, Ayano Kaneko, Ayaka Kawashima, Tomohiko Kiyota, Mari Koike, Marika Matsumoto, Ririka, Mao Yasuda,

IMDB Website JFDB

This is an ensemble dramedy from Rikiya Imazumi (Sad Tea, Their Distance) that premiered at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. It’s set in Fukushima and Tokyo and uses the world of filmmaking to explore the meaning of death through religion and romance.

Synopsis from JFDB: Film director Kajiwara (Yahagi Masaru) does music videos to make ends meet but has been stuck in a rut for quite a while. Aspiring actress Aoba (Matsumoto Marika) witnesses the suicide of her film director boyfriend and tries to cover things uo. Landscape company owner Taro (Uchibori Taro) gets a call from a woman claiming to be the girlfriend of his younger twin brother Jiro, who has been missing for a while…These three tales join together in unexpected ways.

Seto & Utsumi

セトウツミSetoutsumi」   Seto & Utsumi Film Poster

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director:  Tatsushi Ohmori

Writer: Dai Miyazaki, Tatsushi Ohmori (Screenplay), Kazuya Konomoto (Original Manga)

Starring: Sosuke Ikematsu, Masaki Suda, Shohei Uno, Amane Okayama, Ayami Nakajo, Motomi Makiguchi, Eiki Narita, Isao Okumura, Kumi Ryu,

Website IMDB

Look at the name of the director. Tatsushi Ohmori. He made, The Whispering of the Gods, The Ravine of Goodbye, and Bozo. Three emotionally brutal films. Harsh. Unflinching in their depiction of people causing others misery and feeling misery. Traumatising… Then he makes this light-hearted comedy! Woo! Seto & Utsumi is a slice-of-life tale of two friends that is sure to please a wide audience thanks to the chemistry between Masaki Suda (The Light Shines Only There) and Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!)!

Here’s a taste of the film:

Synopsis from the festival site: High school buddies Seto and Utsumi spend their days hanging out by a dry riverbed in Osaka, chatting about girls, cram school and their annoying parents.

The Long Excuse   The Long Excuse Film Poster

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,

Website IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa is the truth. She is one of the best directors working in Japan. Look at her filmography and you will find stand-out films like Wild Berries, Dear Doctor, Sway, and Dreams for Sale. This one is brilliant. Quite possibly my film of the year. I have watched it three times and cried and learned something each time. It is based on a novel she wrote which is considerably darker and brought to life by a fine cast. I’d say this is my recommendation of the festival. If you want further convincing, this film was winner of the Audience Award at Nippon Connection in Frankfurt.

Here’s my long-winded review!

Synopsis: 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.

 

Eriko, Pretended   Eriko, Pretended Film Poster

見栄を張るMie wo haru

Running Time: 93 mins.

Director: Akiyo Fujimura

Writer: Yusuke Moriguchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Mei Kanami, Keiko Koyanagi, Yoka Kubo, Miki Nitori, Atsuya Okada, Masahiro Saito, Masami Shinozaki, Nagiko Tsuji, Yoko Tsuji,

Website  IMDB

Eriko, Pretended is part of the 12th CO2 Grant-recipient Film section of the 2016 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival and has since gone on to tour the international film festival circuit. It was the subject of an international crowd funding campaign and it features a group of experienced crew who have worked on other films. I’m getting desperate to see this one because I have yet to watch it despite having worked in Osaka this year!!!

Synopsis: Eriko (Haruka Kubo) moved to Tokyo to become an actor but after ten years of trying she hasn’t quite made it. When her sister dies, Eriko returns home to attend the funeral where she delivers a eulogy. After the event she has to answer awkward questions about her acting career but, more importantly, she states that she will care for her sister’s ten-year-old son Kazuma…

Poolsideman Poolside Man Film Poster

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,

Website IMDB

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.

RageRage Film Poster

怒り 「Ikari

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,

Website IMDB

When I first arrived in Tokyo, posters for this film were everywhere:

A shot of the posters for "Nanimono" and "Ikari" taken at Shinjuku Station
A shot of the posters for “Nanimono” and “Ikari” taken at Shinjuku Station

Shuichi Yoshida is a novelist who explores the darker side of human psychology 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. A Story of Yonosuke (2013), Villain (2010), Parade (2010) and The Ravine of Goodbye (2013) have all either graced festival screens in Europe or are available to purchase from European distributors like Third Window Films. Sang-il Lee handled the big-screen adaptation of Villain (2010) and crafted a good drama. Rage is even grander in scale as it takes in many different locations and a huge and starry cast who give great performances, Satoshi Tsumabuki in particular. If you want a big and meaty drama then watch this film! Here’s my review!

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.

Oh Lucy!   Oh Lucy Film Poster

Running Time: 95 mins

Release Date: N/A

Director:  Atsuko Hirayanagi

Writer: Atsuko Hirayanagi, Boris Frumin (Screenplay),

Starring: Shinobu Terajima, Josh Hartnett, Kaho Minami, Koji Yakusho, Reiko Aylesworth, Casey J. Adler, Megan Mullally, Calvin C. Winbush, Kayano, Kimie Tanaka, Leni Ito,

Website IMDB

Atsuko Hirayanagi attended NYU Tisch School of Arts in Asia and holds a black belt in karate. She came out with a number of short films including the award-winning short Oh Lucy! (2014) which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and was developed into this project that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Critics gave the film praise. Now, it’s travelling the festival circuit and it’s the opening film for this year’s Raindance. You can read more here but it’s an inspiring story and the resulting film looks great. Here are two clips and the trailer:

Synopsis from the filmmakers: The drama-comedy tells the story of Setsuko Kawashima (Terajima), a lonely, chain-smoking office lady in Tokyo who is past her prime. After deciding to take an English class, she discovers a new identity in her American alter ego, ‘Lucy,’ and falls for her instructor, John (Hartnett). When John suddenly disappears, Setsuko earnestly sets out on a quest to find him, eventually leading her to the outskirts of Southern California.

 

Love and Other Cults   Love and Other Cults Film Poster

獣道 「Kemonomichi

Running Time: 95 mins

Director:  Eiji Uchida

Writer: Eiji Uchida (Screenplay),

Starring: Sairi Ito, Kenta Suga, Kaito Yoshimura, Hidenobu Abera, Antony, Denden, Hanae Kan, Leona Hirota, Tomoko Hayakawa,

Website IMDB

This is the latest film from Eiji Uchida, director of Greatful Dead (2014) and Lowlife Love (2016). It was produced by Adam Torel of Third Window Films, a person who did a lot to build up the profile of Japanese films in the UK and he has made another cracking title with this twisted romantic saga. This review by Elizabeth Kerr from The Hollywood Reporter makes it sound like a worthwhile watch full of great performances from its young cast:

…Love and Other Cults packs a boggling amount of narrative into its lean 95 minutes. At times it can feel like too much, but Uchida juggles his characters’ various arcs efficiently, making every frame and line of dialogue count. An energetic pop-punk sensibility keeps the film moving at a breezy clip…

The film is very accessible and not as abrasive as Eiji Uchida’s earlier works but it still gets dark. Sairi Itoh gives a loveable performance as a lost lamb looking for love in all the wrong places and she is sure to charm audiences.

Synopsis: Ai’s (Sairi Itoh) has never had a stable home. Her religious mother stuck her in a cult and then she lands with a gang of drug-users and dropouts, a traditional nuclear family and worse. While she bounces around different environments, her classmate Ryota (Kenta Suga) follows a similar path as he falls in with a gang of wannabe yakuza. They harbour feelings for each other but will they be able to express them? It turns out that the two are star-crossed lovers of sorts, destined to meet each other in unsavoury circumstances

Bangkok Nites   Bangkok Nites Film Poster

バンコクナイツ 「Bankoku Naitsu

Running Time: 182 mins.

Director: Katsuya Tomita

Writer: Toranosuke Aizawa, Katsuya Tomita (Screenplay),

Starring: Subenja Pongkorn, Katsuya Tomita, Sunun Phuwiset, Chutlpha Promplang, Tanyarat Kongphu,

IMDB Website

Writer/director Katsuya Tomita has been busy working on the indie scene making a couple of films with Saudade (2011) being an award-winner (here’s an interesting review over at the Hollywood Reporter. He has a fascination with Thailand considering the influences the country and its people seem to exert on the story of that film and this current one which gets a German premiere involving the associate producer Terutaro Osanai.

Synopsis: Deep in Bangkok’s red-light district is a woman named Luck. She lives a lavish and luxurious lifestyle while also providing for her family in a rural province. One day she meets Ozawa, a Japanese ex-soldier with whom she once was in love and their worlds intersect again.

 

Going the Distance

かぞくへ 「Kazoku he」  Going the Distance Film Poster

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Yujiro Harumoto

Writer: Yujiro Harumoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Shinichiro Matsuura, Masahiro Umeda, Yumi Endo, Nobu Morimoto, Koji Mitsumizo,

IMDB Website

The reviews for this one generally seem good. German premiere with the director/writer Yujiro Harumoto and one of the lead actors, Masahiro Umeda.

Synopsis: Asahi is a boxing trainer in Tokyo. He grew up in an orphanage but now he is going to start a family with Kaori because they plan to marry soon despite the fact that Kaori’s mother looks down on her prospective son-in-law because of his background and job. When Asahi’s best friend Hiroto is scammed by a shady businessman he has to make a difficult choice between the two closest people in his life. 

At the Terrace   At The Terrace Film Poster

Terasu ni te テラスにて

Running Time: 95 mins.

Director: Kenji Yamauchi

Writer: Kenji Yamauchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Kei Ishibashi, Kami Hiraiwa, Ryuta Furuta, Kenji Iwaya, Hiroaki Morooka, Takashi Okabe, Atsushi Hashimoto,

JFDB   IMDB  Website

Playwright and director Kenji Yamauchi premiered his film At the Terrace during the 2016 edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival where it garnered positive buzz from critics for its mix of sensuous and caustic comedy of manners. Based on one of his plays, Trois Grotesques, Yamauchi refuses to cleave away too far from his source and keeps things simple with a film shot in a single location with a cast of seven actors, all of whom were players in the preceding play itself which explains why their comic performances are so perfect. Here’s my review.

Synopsis: The film takes place at a lavish house somewhere in the suburbs of Tokyo. The house is owned by Mr Soejima (Kenji Iwaya), the director of a company, and his wife Kazumi (Kei Ishibashi), both of whom are hosting a night-time party which drags on for a small group of guests because the more they drink the more they feel the need to linger behind and explore some bitter feelings and bad behaviour bubbling away underneath their polite Japanese exteriors.

Close-Knit   karera-ga-honki-de-amu-toki-wa-film-poster

彼らが本気で編むときは、  Karera ga Honki de Amu toki wa   

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Naoko Ogigami

Writer: Naoko Ogigami (Screenplay),

Starring: Rinka Kakihara, Toma Ikuta, Kenta Kiritani, Mimura, Eiko Koike, Mugi Kadowaki, Lily, Kaito Komie, Shuji Kashiwabara, Misako Tanako,

Website   IMDB

Naoko Ogigami is one of Japan’s interesting female directors, quietly working away making good films and many people are familiar with them. Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2004), Kamome Diner (2006), Glasses (2007), and Rent-a-Cat (2012) could be described as quirky dramas that pack a powerful emotional punch but Close-Knit is a lot more serious as Ogigami looks at LGBTQ issues in Japan, a country that is still conservative in some ways.Close Knit Film Image 2

Close-Knit may be serious but it features many well-rounded characters that will suck you into the world of the characters and show you that love is everything when it comes to family and through this you will definitely get you to understand the issues. Here’s an interview involving Naoko Ogigami which goes through the film a bit more. Expect a review soon.

SynopsisEleven-year-old Tomo is pretty much left to her own devices by a mother who is flighty, to say the least. Unwashed dishes are piling up in the sink and supermarket onigiri are all there is to eat again. Tomo’s single mother usually comes home late, and drunk. When she leaves her daughter for good one day the girl has to rely on help from her uncle, who takes in Tomo to live with him and his girlfriend Rinko. At their first meeting Tomo is flabbergasted to discover that Rinko is a transsexual. Rinko immediately sets about taking care of Tomo; not only does she lovingly prepare meals but she also succeeds in creating a new home for the girl. But before long cracks appear in their perfect nest.

Death Note – Light Up the New World

 デスノート Light up the NEW world 「Desu No-to Light up the NEW world」Death Note Light Up the New World Film Poster

Running Time: 135 mins. 

Dir: Shinsuke Sato,

Writer: Katsunari Mano (Screenplay), Takeshi Obata, Tsugumi Oba (Original Manga)

Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama, Erika Toda, Shido Nakamura, Sosuke Ikematsu, Masahiro Higashide, Masaki Suda.

 Website IMDB 

The Death Note franchise continues ten years after the original when a new Death Note has been found on Earth and it has been used to orchestrate mass murders in New York and Japan. Its emergence coincides with mysterious cyber terrorist attacks. A new generation of detectives led by Tsukuru (Higashide) and Ryuzaki (Ikematsu) will have to use their deduction skills to stop the person behind this new threat.

Survival Family   Survival Family Film Poster

サバイバルファミリ  Sabaibaru Famiri   

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Shinobu Yaguchi

Writer: Shinobu Yaguchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Fumiyo Kohinata, Eri Fukatsu, Yuki Izumisawa, Wakana Aoi, Masashi Arifuku, Mickey Curtis, Norika Fujiwara

Website   IMDB

Synopsis from the festival siteFrom one moment to another the world goes dark in a catastrophic power outage. The Suzuki family decides to leave the struggling megalopolis of Tokyo and learns to survive in the Japanese countryside. Shinobu YAGUCHI’s charming film effortlessly mixes comedy, drama, and adventure genres while at the same time asking serious questions about the way we live.

The Sower

種をまく人  Tane o maku hito」    

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Yosuke Takeuchi

Writer: Yosuke Takeuchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Kentaro Kishi, Suzuno Takenaka, Tomomitsu Adachi, Arisa Nakajima, Ichika Takeuchi,

IMDB

Synopsis: Mitsuo was one of those brave souls who answered the call for volunteers to clear out the debris left behind by the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. The strain of the task proved to be too much and he spent three years in psychiatric care. Upon his release, Mitsuo finds solace in reuniting with his brother and his nieces Chie and Itsuki. But a tragic accident soon disrupts the newly found happiness when the two girls are left in his care and Itsuki is killed. Though he had no direct involvement in the incident, Mitsuo is blamed and he must deal with the burden of guilt and the struggle for atonement.

Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow

聖の青春  Satoshi no Seishun」       Satoshi A Move for Tomorrow Film Poster

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Yoshitaka Mori

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Yoshio Osaki (Original Novel),

Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Masahiro Higashide, Shota Sometani, Lily Franky, Tokio Emoto,

Website IMDB

Synopsis from the film festival site: This film tells the true story of Satoshi Murayama, who devoted his life to his two greatest struggles: against shogi (Japanese chess) master Yoshiharu Habu and against an incurable disease. Through his love of shogi he developed an astonishing strength of will, but ultimately, it cost him his life. 

Over the Fence    Over the Fence Film Poster

オーバー・フェンス  O-ba- fensu」    

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Original Novel),

Starring: Joe Odagiri, Yu Aoi, Shota Matsuda, Yukiya Kitamura, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Shinya Tsukamoto, Yuka,

Website IMDB

I have heard nothing but good things about this drama and it is only to be expected since it is based on a novel by Yasushi Sato (The Light Shines Only There, Sketches of Kaitan City) and directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita (The Drudgery Train) and stars Joe Odagiri (Mushishi), Yu Aoi (Japanese Girls Never Die), and Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Tokyo Fist, Fires on the Plain). A friend of mine who saw it during the Tokyo International Film Festival came back super excited and regaled me with the film so it is on my to-watch list.

Synopsis: Shiraiwa (Odagiri) is a recently divorced man and newly arrived in Hakodate, Hokkaido. He attends a vocational college to learn carpentry to continue receiving unemployment benefits. He is trapped in a routine and he is not along as there are other students who are in the same boat as he. This connection leads his classmates to invite him to join them at a hostess club where Shiraiwa meets a strange woman who is passionately imitating the courtship dance of an ostrich. It turns out that she likes Shiraiwa and although he is irritated with her at first, he begins to like him. Her name is Satoshi (Aoi) and the two fall in love.

Before We Vanish (English Title) / Strolling Invader (Literal Title)   Before We Vanish Film Poster

散歩する侵略者 Sanpo suru Shinryakusha

Running Time: 129 mins.

Release Date: September 09th , 2017

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Tomohiro Maekawa (Original Stageplay),

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mahiro Takasugi, Yuri Tsunematsu, Hiroki Hasegawa,

Website IMDB

In between teaching the next generation of filmmakers at Tokyo University of Fine Arts, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has regularly been making films himself and his latest is based on a stage-play by Tomohiro Maekawa which was first performed in 2005. Its story has the feel of something like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It stars Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare DetectiveThe Great PassageMy Little Sweet Pea), Masami Nagasawa (Our Little Sister) and Hiroki Hasegawa (priceless as the mad director in Why Don’t You Play in Hell?). 

Synopsis: Narumi (Masami Nagasawa) and her husband Shinji Kase (Ryuhei Matsuda) are having problems of the marital sort. Things may be bad but are they bad enough to justify Shinji disappearing for seven days? Masami is left wondering, especially because after his disappearance and return he seems like a totally different person, a kinder and gentler man who likes to go for a walk every day. This just happens to coincide with strange events in town and the brutal murder of a family. Masami begins to piece things together but Shinji surprises her again by telling her that he came to Earth to invade.

Neko Atsume House / Cat Collector’s House   Neko Atsume House Film Poster

ねこあつめの家 「Neko Atsume Ie

Running Time: 92 mins

Director:  Masatoshi Kurakata

Writer: Yuji Nagamori (Screenplay)

Starring: Atsushi Ito, Shiori Kutsuna, Tomoro Taguchi, Tae Kimura, Kayoko Okubo, Masahiro Toda,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Novelist Masaru Sakumoto (Atsushi Ito) was once a celebrated hotshot in the literary world but a severe case of writer’s block means he is now forced to churn out a zombie-themed serial novel to make ends meet. Panicked by feelings of failure, he seeks out an old house in the countryside to find inspiration and jumpstart his creativity. He thought he was the only person in the premises but he isn’t alone. One by one, neighbourhood cats start showing up and despite his desire for solitude to work in, well, who can resist cute cats?

The Sun    

The Sun Film Poster
The Sun Film Poster

太陽 Taiyou

Release Date: April 23rd, 2016

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: Yu Irie

Writer: Yu Irie (Screenplay), Tomohiro Maekawa (Original Play)

Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mugi Kadowaki, Yuki Furukawa, Toshiki Ayata, Kouki Mizuta, Shingo Tsurumi, Yoko Nakamura, Jun Murakami,

Website    IMDB

Synopsis: Biological terrorism has almost wiped humanity out but there are survivors and they are split into two different kinds of human survivors. There are the Nokusu who were infected with the virus but survived and now they carry an antibody. These are a unique breed of human because most of them are young, healthy and have high intelligence, but they are sensitive to ultraviolet rays and so they are active mostly during the night. The other group are the Kyurio, people who have survived by never having been infected by the virus. The Kyurio are discriminated against and live in pverty. One such Kyurio is Tetsuhiko Okudera (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and he wishes he could be a Nokusu. Yui Ikuta (Mugi Kadowaki) is Tetsuhiko’s childhood friend.

Camera Japan Logo

Camera Japan 2017 starts in just under a months time in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and there is plenty to dig into so having the festival programme is a must. You can also read about the various films and events here on this site where I will have this guide complete with addresses and links to other, more detailed posts covering

Overview | Feature Films  |  Anime and Short Anime Films |  Documentaries    |   Special Screenings and Short Films   |  Workshops and Events

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