Japanese Films at the Glasgow International Film Festival 2019

The Glasgow Film Festival (February 20th – March 03rd) will launch for its 15th edition in just under a month’s time and there are three Japanese films on offer and one Japan-China co-production. Two of the titles come from Third Window Films and two have not been licensed for the UK as far as I am aware so this might be your best chance to see them.

Here is what is on offer:

Vision    Vision Film Poster

ビジョン Bijon

Running Time: 110 mins.

Release Date: June 08th, 2018

Director:  Naomi Kawase

Writer: Naomi Kawase (Screenplay),

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Masatoshi Nagase, Min Tanaka, Mari Natsuki, Mirai Moriyama, Minami,

Website    IMDB

Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean) is a director who translates new age ideas to the screen with ease in her feature films and she captures the beauty of her native Nara in both documentary and fiction. This one has an okay story made better by the visuals. It follows on from Radiance (Hikari) which was released a couple of years ago. Here’s my review for Radiance and here’s my review for Vision.

Synopsis: Vision takes place in and around Nara Prefecture’s Yoshino Forest. Here we find Satoshi (Masatoshi Nagase), a reticent forest ranger who lives and works in the area along with his faithful dog Koh and a wise woman named Aki (Mari Natsuki). Aki claims to be 1000 years old and one can believe it since she is in tune with nature and knows all about the ancient environment and the plants and herbs that reside in it. Aki warns Satoshi of the transformation about to come but he, despite being aware of the stirring energy that is affecting all life in the forest, hides from it by diligently continuing with his work. Little does Satoshi know that he will be directly caught up in the winds of change.

Jeanne (Juliette Binoche) is a French writer who has travelled to Nara to find a rare medicinal plant named “vision” that grows only once every 997 years. It sounds like a legend but she is convinced it does exist and she has a hidden reason for her search. With the help of a translator named Hana (Minami) Jeanne makes her way to Yoshino Forest and runs into Satoshi who initially remains taciturn but the two form a relationship as she ropes him into her search for the plant. Life itself changes for them both as seemingly unexpected events occur but we soon discover that nothing is random as we experience the wonders of Yoshino Forest with Jeanne and Satoshi in their search for “vision”.

Legend of Stardust Brothers / Hoshikuzu kyodai no densetsu    The Legend of the Stardust Brothers Film Poster

星くず兄弟の伝説 Hoshikuzu kyodai no densetsu

Running Time: 100 mins.

Release Date: January 13th, 2018

Original Release Date: June 15th, 1985

Director: Macoto Tezuka

Writer: Macoto Tezuka (Screenplay), Haruo Chikada (Original Story)

Starring: Ryosuke Miura, Kohei Takeda, Tadanobu Aasano,, Shingo Kubota, Kan Takagi, Kyoko Togawa, Issay, Kiyohiko Ozaki, Miwako Fukushima, Mie Akatsuka, Motoko Arai,

Website IMDB

This one has been licensed by Third Window Films and it has played at a couple of festivals already. As the release dates above show, it originally comes from 1985 and got a re-release last year. It was directed by Macoto Tezuka, son of manga legend, Osamu Tezuka.

Synopsis from Third Window Films: In 1985, Macoto Tezuka met musician and TV personality Haruo Chicada who had made a soundtrack to a movie which didn’t actually exist: The Legend of the Stardust Brothers. At the time Macoto was just 22 years old, a film-student with many short experimental films under his belt, but, with Chicada as producer, Tezuka would make his feature-film debut by adapting this “fake soundtrack” into the real movie story of “The Stardust Brothers”.

With inspiration from “Phantom of the Paradise” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Tezuka assembled a cast of some of Japan’s most famous musicians of the time, including such greats as Kiyohiko Ozaki, ISSAY, Sunplaza Nakano and Hiroshi Takano, alongside many famous names in Manga such as Monkey Punch (Lupin the 3rd), Shinji Nagashima (Hanaichi Monme), Yosuke Takahashi (Mugen Shinsi) and even many upcoming film directors of the time such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Tokyo Sonata, Cure) and Daihachi Yoshida (The Kirishima Thing, The Scythian Lamb). The resulting film “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers” is the exact definition of a cult film. Despite the huge array of talent on board with a large budget, the film is totally unknown even to this day in both Japan and worldwide. More than 30 years since its release, The Stardust Brothers will finally make itself known worldwide with a new master and a brand new Director’s Cut!

Killing     Killing Film Poster

斬、 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    Zen Killing Film Poster

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. 

Synopsis: The ronin Mokunoshin Tsuzuki (Sosuke Ikematsu) is alive during the end of the Edo period where many samurai like him are finding their way of life losing its edge as the country exists in a state of peace. He lives in the suburbs of Tokyo where he helps out farmers and is acquainted with one farmer’s son named Ichisuke (Ryusei Maeda) who dreams of being a samurai. Tsuzuki spends his days farming and sparring with Ichisuke but, despite the tranquillity, Tsuzuki’s heart is in tumult because he is concerned about the questions of whether he could follow a lord’s orders and kill a man and, more importantly, passions are brewing as he is falling in love with Ichisuke’s sister Yu (Yu Aoi). Passions from further afield are also growing as the country is on the verge of a civil war when a mild-mannered and skilful ronin Jirozaemon Sawamura (Shinya Tsukamoto) arrives in town looking for warriors to take to Edo.


コンプリシティ Konpurishitei

Running Time: 116 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director: Kei Chikaura

Writer: Kei Chikaura (Screenplay),

Starring: Yulai Lu, Tatsuya Fuji, Sayo Akasaka, Kio Matsumoto, Fusako Urabe,


This China-Japan co-production seems to be a continuation of the director’s short film Signature which also stars Yulai Lu. That short featured him playing a Chinese immigrant wandering around Shibuya.

Synopsis: A Chinese man named Chen Liang (Lu Yulai) left China and his ill mother and elderly grandmother to live in Japan. He wanted to escape his responsibilities and have a new life but he finds himself experiencing the hardships that come with living illegally in Japan but it looks like things might change for the better when he takes a phone call meant for someone else and accepts a job at a traditional Japanese soba restaurant run by an elderly chef (Tatsuya Fuji). He takes to learning the art of soba-preparation, however, his illegal status could put things in jeopardy.

Here’s coverage of Glasgow from past years:

GIFF 2018

GIFF 2017

GIFF 2016

GIFF 2015

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