Following her directorial debut, “Spring-ing”, an entry in the omnibus film 21st Century Girl (2019), Aimi Natsuto graduates to features with Jeux de Plage, which received its world premiere in the Competition section of the 2019 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival. With her feature, Natsuto brings back two of the stars from her 21st Century Girl entry, Haruna Hori and Juri Fukushima. Having only read a synopsis, I cannot really comment on her earlier work but Jeux de Plage feels familiar, a Nouvelle Vague inspired comedy, which is par for the course for her collaborators here.
Natsuto’s past film experience comes, most notably, from collaborating with Kiki Sugino having acted alongside her in Chigasaki Story (2015) and worked as a script editor on Snow Woman (2017). Jeux de plage was produced under the auspices of Sugino’s production company, Wa Entertainment, and shares the outfit’s internationalism in terms of it being a co-production between Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Korea, having a somewhat international cast, and of course its reverence of French cinema. While watching the film, I was reminded of Koji Fukada’s Au revoir l’ete(2013), also made by Wa Entertainment. However, I was much more entertained by Jeux de plage. While the two films share passions for various things Gallic, similar themes, a coastal setting and scripts with deconstructions of character and romance very reminiscent of Eric Rohmer’s oeuvre, Natsuto’s work is more focused and lively compared to the languid experience turned in by Fukada.
I think I’ve survived but I’m still on the move. It’s day 6 of my work week and I’m exhausted after running around every day at my day job. The upside is my hyperactivity has made people happy and one couple thanked me for being cheerful when leaving a gallery. Work tomorrow. Outside of my regular job, I’ve been ploughing on with exercise every morning and the interviews from the Osaka Asian Film Festival with a friend and we’ve got a lot done with one published this week – Akiyoshi Koba, director of Nunchaku and Soul. Also from OAFF was my post about Maggie (2018) and I’ve completed three out of four reviews for another film festival. I also posted about a Kickstarter campaign for a stop-motion horror anime. I’ve got a fresh new interview conducted with the director of that project waiting to be translated. So, yeah, this trailer post has been knocked together at short notice.
In terms of what I have watched this week, everything takes on a distinctly American indie bent with Patterson, The Limits of Control, Funny Haha, Mutual Appreciation. I also re-watched the Sono film Tag and the Hosoda film The Boy and the Beast.
I recently had a news tip about an interesting Kickstarter for a stop-motion indie horror film from Japan called “The Depth if Yagen” by animator and author Shigeru Okada, an animator and educator who has a YouTube channel dedicated to the art of stop-motion animation. I reported it on Anime UK News (AUKN) and V Cinema. It looks like something really unique due to the style of animation and the story it tells. Here is the Kickstarter campaign trailer:
The story draws upon Japanese history and mythology and mixes in themes of family and betrayal:
Once upon a time in Japan, there was a poor couple living with their only daughter. One day, the father, an avid gambler, sells his daughter to human traffickers in order to settle his gambling debts. The traffickers, on their way back to the village with the man’s daughter, decide to take a shortcut by entering the forbidden mountain. The girl’s mother pursues the traffickers into the mountain in a bid to reclaim her daughter. The mother begins a terrifying transformation as the curse of the mountain settles on her. Yet, she continues her pursuit to save her daughter…
As can be seen in the video, the transformation is really creepy and you can expect the model work to be exquisite in order to deliver the body-horror, a transformation that would make Junji Ito proud. What is the depth of a “yagen”, you may be wondering? Well the yagen is the mortar which the creature is seen using. How this plays into the story will have to be discovered.
Stop-motion animation is expensive and time consuming so a Kickstarter campaign will be needed to help finance everything and funds will need to be raised by June 10th. The money raised will be used on the production but will also be used to create a set of “making-of” materials ranging from a book to a film. This film will detail the fabrication of puppets and props, lighting, animation and editing processes, all of which Okada is doing. Both the film and the materials are something Okada hopes to use to inspire aspiring animators and he will do so by putting them online for people to access. There’s actually a demonstration video online to give people a taste of how in-depth it will be:
The anime Okada is working on will be split into five episodes. It will be animated in 2019 and released in 2020 in two versions, one a shorter, atmospheric version that forgoes any graphic images – each episode lasting three minutes and released for free on Okada’s YouTube channel NARIOMARUDARKSIDE – and the other version will be completely uncut and last 7-8 minutes. This one will be made availableon payable video viewing sites, such as VIMEO (One episode: 300JPY. All five episodes: 1,500JPY). Subtitles will be available in Japanese. English and Spanish.
Anybody who backs this project will get the chance to own it (either digitally or on DVD depending upon the tier you select) and, if you pledge enough, you can appear in the film as a model. This is a great way for Okada to use his skills as an animator to teach and get people involved in the project.
The minimum Kickstarter pledge is £3 and that gives a person access to all five episodes. After that, rewards keep increasing including access to a PDF version of the “Making-ofBook”, a physical version of the “Making-of Book” and a DVD copy of the anime and the higher tiers include an invitation to the film’s cinema screening and the aforementioned model.
Now, anime on Kickstarter tends to have a good reputation (at least, better than video games) and my experience with it is with Under the Dog and Mai Mai Miracle, both of which I got a film at the end of the process so I’m fairly confident you’re guaranteed to get a product and this guarantee is good because Okada is an experienced animator and is actually currently involved in the Netflix production of Rilakkuma which is making waves around the internet. He has a YouTube channel (NARIOMARUDARKSIDE) which shows examples of his works so you get an idea of what the end product will be like and, judging by the work.., he has the skills to deliver.
As I stated in the AUKN report, stop-motion isn’t as common as 2D animation and horror stories told by stop-motion are even rarer. The last time I saw something like this was Junkhead which played at the Raindance Film Festival a few years ago.
This sounds good to me so I plan on contributing. There are 46 days left to help out so if you like the look of the work and want to get involved, head to the Kickstarter page.
Winner of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019’s Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) as well as Busan International Film Festival 2018’s CGV Art House Award and Citizens’ Critic Award, Maggie heralds a new directing talent in Yi Ok-Seop, someone who brings a lively verve to her examination of how doubt can infect everything and how such an infection should be cured by seeking the truth. It’s a large topic tackled with a disparate range of elements from a talking catfish to mysterious seismic activities and audiences will be forgiven for having doubts of their own as to how everything links up and if it will be satisfying but it works in the end.
This is my first trailer post since being in Japan, travelling to Himeji and other cities in Hyogo Prefecture as well as places like Nara and Kyoto, working at the Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) and then travelling to Kamakura, Tokyo and places in central Japan that I will probably never visit again because I like Tokyo and Kansai more and time is always short.
Apologies for the radio silence in terms of trailers but I have cranked out reviews from OAFF and I’m still working on interviews with a friend. When it’s all done, it will come to 24 or 25 pieces, which isn’t bad. I’m most pleased that I will be able to get everything released by mid-May. Most of it came out during the festival period back in March. It has been quick. I can see where further improvements can be made so if I get another shot at this, it’ll be better.
You can see the current reviews and one interview over at V-Cinema by clicking on this link.
The Udine Far East Film Festival 2019 runs from April 26th to May 4th and has a lot to offer audiences eager for the latest in Asian cinema. This year’s edition has a special on retrospective on Korean cinema entitled ‘100 Years Of Korean Cinema’, which has 23 films programmed, and organisers are also going to hand Hong Kong star Anthony Wong the Golden Mulberry Award for Outstanding Achievement. Two of his film, Wong’s debut My Name Ain’t Suzie (1985) and the recent Still Human (2018), will also be screened.
Indeed, there are a few films I’ve already seen as part of work in Osaka with The Crossing and Still Human being my absolute must-recommends. From Japan, there are nine films in total, a few from the festival circuit such as a collection of political dystopian tales, Ten Years Japan, and Melancholic, an acerbic workplace comedy involving onsen and contract killers.
On top of film screenings, there’s also the industry side of things and Focus Asia 2019, a section where 15 projects are mainlined for international co-productions by a group of judges, has selected two Japanese projects, the first an offshoot of Ten Years Japan, Plan 75, by Chie Hayakawa and produced by Eiko Mizuno-Gray, and the second looks totally new. The Convenience Store features the film critic Mark Schilling (Japan Times), producer Emi Ueyama (Wasted Eggs, At the Terrace) and director Satoshi Miki (Adrift in Tokyo).
That was an unwieldy paragraph. On to the trailers!
The Crossing is a coming-of-age film set to the background of a smuggling ring operating between Hong Kong and mainland China. It is a remarkably confident debut from writer/director Bai Xue and captures a new form of living what with the vagaries of living a transnational life and the opportunities travel affords.
Sixteen-year-old Peipei (Huang Yao) is a kid who lives in Shenzhen with her mother (Ni Hongjie) butattends a high school in Hong Kong, a privilege granted by her father (Kai Chi Liu) who comes from the island. As a result of her parent’s former union, Peipei can catch a train between cities, effectively crossing a border every day. Customs officials pay her little mind because of her school uniform, innocent face and quiet demeanour.
The city state of Hong Kong has been the setting for big emotions found in heroic bloodshed actioners, crime thrillers, romantic dramas, and martial arts extravaganzas. However, one of the most satisfying films to come out of the place in recent years is a small-scale drama about the friendship between a disabled man and his carer. Still Human is the debut feature film from Oliver Siu Kuen Chan and it has won accolades such as Best New Director at the 2019 Asian Film Awards, the Netpac Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival 2018 and the Audience Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019. With a mixture of assured storytelling and great acting, it provides a moving drama that is sure to win over anyone who watches it. Just keep a hanky ready.
This is a re-write of my review that was published on V-Cinema a month ago. Corrections and a bit more thoughtful analysis were made as well as references to favourite directors. I want to see more from Mai Nakanishi.
Hana is a Korea-Japan co-production from newbie director Mai Nakanishi. Originally from Tokyo, she has spent much of her career abroad working in various roles on a wide range of international projects including working as an assistant director for Eric Khoo and as producer for Sion Sono. Nakanishi has also worked as producer on the Japanese segments for the horror anthology ABCs of DEATH 2. Most tellingly, she is a founder and director of Scream Queen FilmFest Tokyo, the only female-centric genre film festival in Asia. In short, she is a horror fan, and when she was selected by the Busan International Film Festival to be a fellow at the Asian Film Academy 2016, she produced this short film under the mentorship of the world-renowned Taiwanese master Tsai Ming-Liang. The final product is very much rooted in horror, her favourite playground, and is an effective short.
A home is a reflection of who lives there and how it is decorated and lived in says a lot about a person and how they want to shape their lives (which is why it can be terrifying entering one if you stop and think about it long enough). Couple that idea with the existential one of how we can never truly know another person, pressures and desires and all, then someone seemingly normal can actually be stranger than imagined which is what happens in this neat horror short.
Ireland will get a slew of the latest cinematic delights from Japan when theJapanese Film Festival Ireland gears up for its latest run. It all starts on April 6th and last until the 20th with screenings of a selection of films at venues in Dublin, Galway, Tipperary, Limerick, Cork, Sligo, Waterford and Dundalk.
There are many highlights, many of which have set screens ablaze at the likes of Japan Cuts 2018, three of the biggest titles to get a release in 2019 from Third Windows Films and the latest anime to be licensed Anime Limited. There is also a slew of indie films, only a couple of which have been screened at something like the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019.
As is always the case, whether new or old, whether confirmed for a home format release or not, seeing these films on the big screen and sharing it with others is an exciting proposition and I hope you can find something that sparks your imagination.