Japanese Films at L’Etrange Festival 2018

The L’Etrange Festival runs from September 05 to 16 in Paris and it continues in its L'Etrange Festival Postermission to show rare and unusual films that might be passed over by other festivals and it also shows classic films that fit that criteria. I saw a previous edition of the festival which had a special focus on Kiyoshi Kurosawa and, just for a little while, I wanted to be French. This year’s festival has a feast of 60’s and 70’s Nikkatsu movies, like whole series of films not normally shown on screen together at the same place, as well as contemporary films that have cropped up on the festival circuit this year ranging from geki-animation to live-action.

What Japanese films are programmed at L’Etrange this year?

Up first, in the International Competition section, is Shinya Tsukamoto.

Zan (Killing)     Killing Film Poster

センセイ君主 Zan

Running Time: 80 mins.

Release Date: November 24th, 2018

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Sosuke Ikematsu, Yu Aoi, Shinya Tsukamoto, Tatsuya Nakamura, Ryusei Maeda

Website    IMDB

Shinya Tsukamoto is back writing, directing, editing and producing his own films after a short spell acting in features like Shin Godzilla and Over the Fence. I’m a big fan of his works thanks to Nightmare Detective(2007), Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), Tokyo Fist (1995), and Vital (2003) and his film A Snake of June, which was given the Special Jury Prize at the 2002 Venice Film Festival. It seems like Venice has become his home away from home since he has been invited to the festival nearly ten times.

Synopsis:This is Tsukamoto’s first period piece and it concerns Sosuke Ikematsu’s character who is a ronin. He is alive during the end of the Edo period where many like him are finding their way of life dying out as the country modernises. He lives in the suburbs of Tokyo and is acquainted with a farmer’s daughter played by Yu Aoi who comes from the same farming village.

There are two films in Mondovision

Violence Voyager   Violence Voyager Film Poster

バイオレンス・ボイジャー 「Baiorensu Boijya-」               

Release Date: 2019 (Japan)

Running Time: 84 mins.

Director: Ujicha

Writer: Ujicha (Screenplay)

Starring: Aoi Yuki, Naoki Tanaka, Shigeo Takahashi, Tomorowo Taguchi, Daisuke Ono, Saki Fujita,

Kyoto Saga Art University graduate Uji Cha is a talented animator. His last work was The Burning Buddha Man (2012) which I wrote about back in 2013. It went on a festival tour because of its impressive creation. Ujicha used hand-made and painted paper cutouts, animated by hand, to tell a horror story. He has dubbed it “Geki-mation” and directs, writes, draws, edits, his own work and it is clear to see his skill is undeniable. It’s good to have him back with Violence Voyager. This played at Japan Cuts this year.

Synopsis: An American boy named Bobby and his friend Akkun head to the mountains to build a secret base but when they encounter a group of scared kids stuck in a mysterious amusement park called Violence Voyager, they soon find themselves under attack by robot-like humanoids!

Liverleaf   Liverleaf Film poster

ミスミソウ Misumisou

Running Time: 114 mins.

Release Date: April 07th, 2018

Director: Eisuke Naito

Writer: Miako Tadano (Screenplay), Rensuke Oshikiri (Original Manga)

Starring: Anna Yamada, Hiroya Shimizu, Rinka Otani, Rena Ohtsuka, Aki Morita, Kenshin Endo, Arisa Sakura, Minori Terada,

Website IMDB

Rensuke Oshikiri is the creator of the popular manga Hi Score Girl, a fun comedy. This one is decidedly more serious. A revenge drama using the theme of school bullying, it is directed by Eisuke Naito, the guy who did Puzzle .

Synopsis: Haruka Nozaki (Anna Yamada) has moved from Tokyo to a school in some backwater town. She is the victim of bullying which escalates to her house being burnt down and her family being burnt alive. She has an emotional breakdown and takes revenge…

Funeral Parade of Roses   Funeral Parade of Roses Film Poster

薔薇の葬列 Bara no Souretsu

Running Time: 105 mins.

Release Date: September 13th, 1969

Director: Toshio Matsumoto

Writer: Toshio Matsumoto (Screenplay)

Starring: Peter, Osamu Ogasawara, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Emiko Azuma,

IMDB

Synopsis from the LFF site:

Capturing the fervour of 1960s counterculture in Shinjuku, Tokyo, this representative Japanese queer film is delightfully chaotic. Bar Genet’s new star hostess is the transgender icon Eddie, whose confidence and sexuality threaten the bar’s long-time madame Leda, but attract Gonda, the bar’s owner. While Eddie becomes entangled in this love triangle, she spends her time with joint-smoking drop-outs, watches experimental films, dances to distorted rock music and occasionally gets involved in protests. Matsumoto described the film’s structure and form as like dropping a mirror on the floor and picking up the broken pieces.

8mm Hachimiri Madness: Japanese Indies from the Punk Years

This is dedicated to some of the earliest works from some of the best directors of this generation back from when they were operating in the ‘70s and ‘80s as student filmmakers wielding 8mm cameras and young indie directors. We’re talking about Sion SonoShinya Tsukamoto, Sogo Ishii and more. Few of their early films are available legally in the West and when they do appear it’s always fascinating to see the sheer amount of imagination and raw talent on display. With film archives and distributors digitising and releasing these films which have been given 2K restorations. This was at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2016 which is when I originally wrote this piece. I had the chance to see it in Japan but missed it because I was unaware it was running…

A Man's Flower Road Film Image
A Man’s Flower Road Film Image

Sion Sono is the big highlight here with two films getting screened. The first is I Am Sion Sono!!  (1984, 37 min) which was made when he was 22-years-old. It’s an uncompromising self-portrait/introduction to the man and it is described as “a disarming, sometimes funny, sometimes raunchy, hugely energetic self-portrait which became the manifesto of a wild, uncompromising, uninhibited cinema.”

The second Sono film is his first feature A Man’s Flower Road  (1986, 110 min) and it is split into two parts. The first sees him running around Tokyo in a red rain cape while being pursued by men in white before he encounters a Kappa in a park. The second is more   autobiographical as it details his family life and struggle to become an adult. He roped in his family for this part.

The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo Film Image
The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo Film Image

The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo by Shinya Tsukamoto (1988, 47 min), I have reviewed on this blog thanks to its inclusion on the Tetsuo: Iron Man/Body Hammer DVD set. It’s a great little cyberpunk time-travelling story where a schoolboy with an electricity pylon on his back must save humanity from vampire.

Isolation of 1/8800000 (1977, 43 min) is by Sogo Ishii (Angel DustIsn’t Anyone Alive?) and is a story about an isolated sexually frustrated young student burned out from his university entrance exam is on the verge of exploding in a violent mess.

UNK (1979, 15 min) is by Makoto Tezuka (grandson of legendary manga-ka Osamu Tezuka) and the short film is a remake of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He also directed High-School-Terror  (1979, 6min) which sees ghosts haunt some schoolgirls.

Akira Ogata’s cult film Tokyo Cabbageman K (1980, 59 min) imagines what happens when a young man named K wakes up one morning to find is head has been replaced by a giant cabbage.

The Rain Women (1990, 72 min) by Shinobu Yaguchi looks really interesting. It is described as a melancholy film and is split into two parts with the lives of two women on the screen, the first showing madcap adventures like racing bikes through convenience stores while the second sees the dynamic duo suffering tragedies. When the rain returns, the fun starts again.

The Rain Women Film Image
The Rain Women Film Image

Director Katsuyuki Hirano originally wanted to be a manga artist but when he picked up an 8mm camera he made Happiness Avenue (1986, 93 min) and thus began his career in films. His film is based on a manga by Katsuhiro Otomo and features fellow director Sion Sono amongst a group of friends roaring around town and rebelling against their more staid fellow citizens in a small town in Shizuoka.

Hanasareru Gang Film Image
Hanasareru Gang Film Image

Masashi Yamamoto brings a tale of violence and disillusion from 1980s Japan in Saint Terrorism (1980, 127 min) where the main character, a school girl, shoots random people and hooks up with a poisoner with whom she terrorises a building full of people in Shinjuku.
Last but not least is Hanasareru Gang (1984, 85 min) which is by Nobuhiro Suwa which looks like a substantial one since it’s inspired by French New Wave director Alain Renais’s film Hiroshima mon amour. It’s about a gang of petty criminals with a car full of cash and the tone changes from slapstick comedy to tragedy as these disengaged kids go on an adventure.

Nikkatsu Extravaganza!

Founded in 1912, Nikkatsu is the oldest Japanese film production company and it has a history of innovation and exploitation of different formulas and genres like the Roman Porno movies and b-movie crime thrillers to adapt to changing tastes audiences have in terms of entertainment. Working in this environment were some Japan’s best directors like Shohei Imamura and Seijun Suzuki who turned in some films that are astounding, even by today’s standards. Nikkatsu’s catalogue is now full of genre films that are getting new life every year thanks to adventurous labels scooping up these cult classics.

The festival has assembled some of them for audiences with a focus on Yasuhara Hasebe who learned the ropes of filmmaking as an AD with the likes of Seijun Suzuki. Influenced by French films and American B-movies, we see his works here.

Blind Woman’s Curse   Blind Woman's Curse

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,

IMDB

Teruo Ishii is a pretty famous V-cinema director and he helped make Meiko Kaji a superstar with this film.  

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.

Black Tight Killers   Black Tight Killers Film Poster

俺にさわると危ないぜ Ore ni Sawaru to Abunaize

Running Time: 86 mins.

Release Date: February 12th, 1966

Director: Yasuharu Hasebe

Writer: Ryuzo Nakanishi (Screenplay), Michio Tsuzuki (Original Novel)

Starring: Akira Kobayashi, Chieko Matsubara, Mieko Nishio, Kozue Kamo, Satoko Hamagawa, Akemi Kita,

IMDB

Synopsis: Daisuke Honda, a war photographer returning from Vietnam, gets involved with an air stewardess named Yuriko Sawanouchi who is the target of a criminal organisation who want a WWII-era treasure that was hidden on an island by her father. He has to rescue her from ninjas, gangsters and more!

STRAY CAT ROCK SAGA

Inspired by Toei’s Delinquent Boss series, Nikkatsu created a low-budget series of films based on the adventures of a girl gang. It was meant to be a star vehicle for the idol Akiko Wada but Meiko Kaji took over the later instalments of the series. Director Yasuhara Hasebe and writer Hideichi Nagahara were inspired by the protest movements springing up around the US-Japan Security Treaty and moulded the characters around the protesters. The five films are presented at the festival.

Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss    Stray Cat Rock Delinquent Girl Boss Film Poster

女番長野良猫ロック Onna banchō nora-neko rokku

Running Time: 80 mins.

Release Date: May 02nd, 1970

Director: Yasuhara Hasebe

Writer: Hideichi Nagahara (Screenplay),

Starring: Akiko Wada, Meiko Kaji, Koji Wada, Tatsuya Fuji, Bunjaku Han, Yuka Kumari, Mari Koiso, Miki Yanagi,

IMDB

Synopsis: Ako (Akiko Wada) is a biker girl in Tokyo who meets Mei (Meiko Kaji), the leader of a girl gang known as the Stray Cats. They are about to have a knife fight and helps them beat a rival girl gang and their boyfriends. Ako becomes something of a leader for the Stray Cats and gets involved with saving Mei’s boyfriend from a gang of right-wing nationalists.

Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo    Stray Cat Rock Wild Jumbo Film Poster

野良猫ロック ワイルドジャンボ Nora neko rokku wairudo janbo

Running Time: 80 mins.

Release Date: August 01st, 1970

Director: Toshiya Fujita

Writer: Shuichi Nagahara, Toshiya Fujita (Screenplay),

Starring: Akiko Wada, Meiko Kaji, Tatsuya Fuji, Bunjaku Han, Takeo Chii, Yusuke Natsu,

IMDB

Synopsis: Made three months after the first, this one tells the story of a group of wild young people having fun in a jeep who kidnap a wealthy woman who turns out to be the mistress of a cult leader. The gang decide to dig up a stash of WWII-era weapons and raid the organisation.

Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter    Stray Cat Rock Sex Hunter Film Poster

野良猫ロック セックスハンター Nora neko rokku Sekkusu Hanta-

Running Time: 93 mins.

Release Date: September 01st, 1970

Director: Yasuhara Hasebe

Writer: Yasuhara Hasebe, Atsushi Yamatoya (Screenplay), Ai Kennedy (Translation)

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Tatsuya Fuji, Rikiya Yasuoka, Jiro Okazaki, Akemi Nara, Setsuko Minami, Mie Hanabusa,

IMDB

Synopsis: Mako (Meiko Kaji) and her gang, the Alleycats, are near Yokosuka which plays host to a US naval base. They are about to fight a gang known as the Eagles who are led by Baron (Tatsuya Fuji). These guys hate mixed-race people and when a member of the Alleycats turns down one of the Eagles in favour of her half-black boyfriend, Baron attacks all mixed-race people including a guy who has attracted Mako’s attention.

Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal     Stray Cat Rock Machine Animal Film Poster

野良猫ロック マシンアニマル Nora neko rokku Mashin Animaru

Running Time: 82 mins.

Release Date: November 22nd, 1970

Director: Yasuhara Hasebe

Writer: Ryuzo Nakanishi (Screenplay),

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Tatsuya Fuji, Bunjaku Han, Eiji Go, Noriko Kurosawa, Yuka Ohashi, Sari Takano,

IMDB

Synopsis: Two Japanese guys try to help a Vietnam war deserter escape to Sweden but to do this they need to sell LSD. This attracts the attention of different gangs including the Alleycats.

Stray Cat Rock: Beat ‘71    Stray Cat Rock Beat '71 Film Poster

野良猫ロック 暴走集団’71 Nora neko rokku Boso shudan ’71

Running Time: 86 mins.

Release Date: January 03rd, 1971

Director: Toshiya Fujita

Writer: Hideichi Nagahara, Tatsuya Asai (Screenplay),

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Tatsuya Fuji, Rikiya Yasuoka, Bunjaku Han, Eiji Go, Michiko Tsukawa, Takeo Chii, Yoshio Harada,

IMDB

Synopsis: The gang have given up being delinquints and are all about peace and love as hippies. Furiko (Meiko Kaji) and her squeeze Ryumei (Takeo Chii) are especially about the good vibes but his father ends up framing her and getting her locked in the slammer. Will Furiko get out?

THE WOMAN GAMBLER TRILOGY

This trilogy was created by Haruyasu Noguchi and stars Yumiko Nogawa who was fierce in her role as Maya in Seijun Suzuki’s  Gate of Flesh. The series “mixes elements from yakuza movies, noir films, romantic comedy, revenge movies with an added erotic twist, all filmed in a superb black and white scope format.”

There’s not much information available on these films in English so pardon any mistakes.

Cat Girls Gamblers    Cat Girls Gamblers Film Poster

賭場の牝猫Toba no mesu neko

Running Time: 91 mins.

Release Date: July 28th, 1965

Director: Haruyasu Noguchi

Writer: Kenzo Asada, Haruyasu Noguchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Yumiko Noguchi, Tatsuya Fuji, Hideaki Nitani, Ichiro Sugai, Eiji Go, Hiroshi Kono, Kaku Takashina,

IMDB

Synopsis:Yukiko (Yumiko Noguchi) is the daughter of a legendary gambler who died a strange death. She’s out for revenge and the stakes are high as it looks like gangsters from the Arikawa gumi and cops are involved.

Cat Girls Gamblers: Naked Flesh Paid Into the Pot    Cat Girls Gamblers Naked Flesh Paid Into the Pot Film Poster

賭場の牝猫 素肌の壷振りToba no mesu neko: Suhada no tsubo furi

Running Time: 86 mins.

Release Date: October 23rd, 1965

Director: Haruyasu Noguchi

Writer: Kenzo Asada, Kazuo Nishida (Screenplay),

Starring: Yumiko Nogawa, Tatsuya Fuji, Hideaki Nitani, Fujio Suga, Ryuji Kita,

IMDB

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TdUwU4Usds

Synopsis:Yukiko (Yumiko Noguchi) is nursing a broken heart as Ito, the man of her dreams and the one that gave her an elaborate tattoo, died in the last film. Yukiko gets involved with a guy who has left Abashiri prison in Hokkaido and is being pursued by yakuza.

Cat Girls Gamblers: Abandoned Fangs of Triumph

賭場の牝猫 捨身の勝負Toba no mesu neko: sutemi no shobu

Running Time: 85 mins.

Release Date: March 12th, 1966

Director: Haruyasu Noguchi

Writer: Kenzo Asada, Kazuo Nishida (Screenplay),

Starring: Yumiko Nogawa, Eiji Go, Jo Shishido, Yoko Yamamoto, Juro Sasa, Toru Yuri, Itoshi Yumeji,

IMDB

Synopsis:Yukiko (Yumiko Noguchi) has travelled down to a hot-spring town to meet a priest who was a friend of her father but danger lies in wait.

In the Carte Blanche section, we have a number of Japanese shorts:

2UP: Phobia, Block (Dir: Tetsunori Tawaraya)

Sgure / Sgure ox / DJ Rainbow Ejaculation / Muscle Park (Dir: Sekitani Norihiro)

There is also the Shohei Imamura feature-film, Vengeance is Mine 

Vengeance is Mine   Vengeance is Mine Film Poster

復讐するは我にあり Fukushu suru wa ware ni ari

Running Time: 140 mins.

Release Date: April 21st, 1979

Director: Shohei Imamura

Writer: Masaru Baba, Shunsaku Ikehata (Screenplay), Ryuzo Saki (Original Novel)

Starring: Ken Ogata, Rentaro Mikuni, Chocho Miyako, Mitsuko Baisho, Mayumi Ogawa, Moeko Ezawa, Kazuko Shirakawa, Furanki Sakai,

IMDB

Synopsis: This film depicts the true story of the serial killer Akira Nishiguchi and is told in a series of flashbacks as he murders and steals his way across Japan.

I have had it on DVD for over a decade but haven’t watched it yet so the synopsis is a bit thin on details. Sorry.

 

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