Camera Japan 2017 is almost upon us. The films programmed for the Special Screenings held in Rotterdam run across decades from the 1920s to 2008. Some of these are associated with the Kyushu aspect of the festival and all are rarely screened. Indeed, the oldest film, A Page of Madness, is a recently rediscovered classic that was once thought lost. It is now getting traction globally but the process has just started and it’s slow. Imagine being able to see it with a live benshi performance like it was originally intended to be seen… It’s happening at Camera Japan! Also screened is Shinji Aoyama’s epic slow-burn drama Eureka which is both visually and emotionally beautiful.
I’ve also thrown in information on the live-action short films that will be screened at Rotterdam. You can access a page which contains an overview of the entire festival through this link.
Here is what has been programmed!
怪談昇り竜 「Kaidan Nobori Ryuu」
Running Time: 85 mins.
Release Date: June 20th, 1970
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writer: Teruo Ishii, Chusei Sone (Screenplay),
Starring: Meiko Kaji, Hoki Tokuda, Makoto Sato, Hideo Sunazuka, Shiro Otsuji, Toru Abe, Yoshi Kato, Yoko Takagi,
Teruo Ishii is a pretty famous V-cinema director and he helped make Meiko Kaji a superstar with this film. It has been released in various territories around the but seeing it on the big screen is a must (I say this with all films). This screening will be preceded by an introduction from film scholar Tom Mes, who will tell audiences more about Meiko Kaji who is the subject of his upcoming book “Unchained Melodies: The Films of Meiko Kaji.”
Synopsis: Akemi (Meiko Kaji) is leads an all-girl yakuza gang known as the Tachibana clan. This fearsome girl with a dragon tattoo slashes the eyes of an opponent whose blood is soon lapped up by a black cat appears setting in motion a supernatural curse as which leads to a trail of dead Yakuza girls, their dragon tattoos skinned from their bodies.
Running Time: 85 mins.
Release Date: February 16th, 2008
Director: Tomoyuki Furumaya
Writer: Tamio Hayashi, Tomoyuki Furumaya, Yohei Nagao (Screenplay), Nobuhiro Sakata, Yu Nakahara (Original Manga)
Starring: Juri Ueno, Osamu Kubota, Yoichi Arishige, Go Ayano, Tokio Emoto, Nanami Fujimoto, Ken Mitsuishi, Aimi Satsukawa,
This film is based on a manga of the same title, written by Nobuhiro Sakata, drawn by Nakahara Yu, and serialized for as long as nine years according to JFDB. It is supposed to be hugely popular and lives up to its title by depicting the lives of a high school track and field team, one of whom wants to take on Ekiden, a road relay race run in Kyushu. “Extensive location shooting on Iki island and in Nagasaki city, where the story takes place, has captured beautiful scenery and the excitement…” of the event.
Synopsis: An elementary school girl, Naoko suffers from severe asthma and so she is sent to the island of Kyushu to recuperate but she suffers an accident and falls into the sea. She is rescued by Yusuke’s (Haruma Miura) father, but he drowns in the process. When Naoko (Juri Ueno) is at high school, she meets Yusuke again by chance at an athletic competition and discovers that he is now a star runner in his high school athletics team and his dream is to represent the prefecture at the high school road relay race and become a road relay race runner like his father. What happens next is a story of determination and sporting excellence as they help each other and their team overcome many obstacles.
狂った一頁 「Kurutta Ippeji」
Running Time: 60 mins.
Release Date: September 24th, 1926
Director: Teinosuke Kinugasa
Writer: Yasunari Kawabata, Teinosuke Kinugasa, Minoru Inuzuka, Banko Sawada (Screenplay), Yasunari Kawabata (Original Short Story)
Starring: Masuo Inoue, Ayako Iijima, Yoshie Nakagawa, Hiroshi Nemoto, Misao Seki, Minoru Takase, Eiko Minami,
INFO FROM CAMERA JAPAN: A Page of Madness is a silent film by Teinosuke Kinugasa which was made in 1926. It was originally accompanied by a benshi performer and so people who attend the Camera Japan screening will get something similar since the film will be accompanied by a live soundtrack (bass solo + electronics) from musician/visual artist Bruno Ferro Xavier da Silva. The actual film itself was lost for forty-five years until being rediscovered by Kinugasa in his storehouse in 1971. It is based on a short story by Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata and it is rarely screened film. The film’s style has seen it compared to Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. The Wikipedia entry for this is fascinating and I highly recommend reading it!
Synopsis: The film depicts the delusions of an institutionalized woman (Yoshie Nakagawa) and her husband’s (Masao Inoue) attempts to rescue her from the mental asylum she is trapped in…
Running Time: 218 mins.
Release Date: January 20th, 2000
Director: Shinji Aoyama
Writer: Shinji Aoyama (Screenplay),
Starring: Koji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Masaru Miyazaki, Yoichiro Saito, Sayuri Kokusho, Ken Mitsuishi, Go Riju, Yutaka Matsushige,
This film is considered a classic and it’s Shinji Aoyama’s best work by far. Shot in a sepia tone and with little dialogue, it’s a deeply moving tale of overcoming a traumatic incident with great performances from Koji Yakusho and Aoi Miyazaki in the leads.
Synopsis: Two years after a gruesome bus hijacking, the three remaining survivors come together to try and cope with the traumatizing memories. Among them is bus driver Makoto, who faces suspicions over his role in the tragedy. He tries to track down the brother and sister who also survived. A deeply moving, slow-burning drama set in the countryside of Kyushu, where time moves significantly slower than in other parts of Japan.
Various directors (Japan 2017, 102 min, Colour, Eng. sub.)
A selection of shorts presented by Tokyo’s Short Shorts Film Festival introducing some of the best of the new crop of shorts produced in Japan. A wide range of styles, from animation and drama to fantasy and sci-fi by both young talents and seasoned veterans.
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