The Japan Foundation in London have set up their annual Summer Explorers films season with a fun build-up of titles that feature titles from masterful directors both old – Takeshi Kitano and Seijun Suzuki – and new – Masaaki Yuasa. There is even a fun indie film thrown in. It’s really diverse and totally free! All you need to do is book your place!
Here’s some hype and information from the Japan Foundation:
“From wacky time-travel to ancient Rome (Thermae Romae) and a musical extravaganza set in feudal Japan (Princess Raccoon), to a slapstick twist on the film noir genre of the 60’s (Murder Un-Incorporated) – our annual Pre-Summer Explorers season aims to make you shake and cry with laughter while presenting the multi-faceted and unique sense of humour in Japanese cinema!”
Dates: 26 June 2019 – 30 June 2019
Screen 1, The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, W1D 3DH London
Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BY London
See the Japan Foundation website for more information or click on the links below.
What are the films?
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl
夜は短し歩けよ乙女 「Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome」
Duration: 93 mins.
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Writer: Masaaki Yuasa, Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay) Tomihiko Morimi (Original Novel),
Animation Production: Science SARU
Starring: Kana Hanazawa (Kurokami no Otome), Gen Hoshino (Senpai), Kazuya Nakai (Seitarou Higuchi), Yuuko Kaida (Ryouko Hanuki), Nobuyuki Hiyama (Johnny), Aoi Yuuki (Princess Daruma), Junichi Suwabe (Nise Jougasaki),
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the latest film from anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa and his studio Science Saru. One of two award-winning movies he released in 2017 (the other being Lu Over the Wall which took top prize at Annecy), this film is the very definition of the word exuberant in terms of story and style and should cement Yuasa as one of the best anime directors around. This is my second recommendation for the film festival. It was programmed at a fest I work for and I can say, without a doubt, that the audience has a riot of a time! Here’s my review!!!
Synopsis: The narrative is simple: a girl with black hair (voiced by the ubiquitous and super-talented Kana Hanazawa) is attending the wedding reception of a friend. As far as she is concerned the party doesn’t have to end there and she follows the Komagawa river and walks around the streets of Kyoto at night. From the alleyways and izakayas of Pontocho to the university campus, she makes detours along the way to many hidden events. She is pursued by a male admirer, Sempai (voiced by the musician Gen Hoshino who also played the hapless lover of Fumi Nikaido’s gangster girl in Why Don’t You Play in Hell?), who tries to catch her attention by appearing before her as often as possible. As this rather one-sided romantic dance unfolds they experience surreal magical-realist moments that grow increasingly absurd thanks to a cast of unique characters, all of which tests Sempai’s resolve in love and the girl’s capacity for drink and fun because all the while, everyone keeps drinking and having a good time.
福福荘の福ちゃん 「Fukufuku-sou no Fuku-chan」
Release Date: November 08th, 2014
Running Time: 111 mins.
Director: Yosuke Fujita
Writer: Yosuke Fujita (Screenplay)
Starring: Yosiyosi Arakawa, Miyuki Oshima, Yuuki Tokunaga, Asami Mizukawa, Takeshi Yamamoto, Kanji Furutachi,
Fine, Totally Fine (2008) is one of my favourite films ever. It is so funny with characters I can relate to so when I was at the Raindance Film Festival a few years ago and I went to see Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats, which is by the same director Yosuke Fujita, I was super excited. The film did not disappoint and is a real contender for my film of the year thanks in no small part to a fantastic performance from Miyuki Oshima and some classic songs. Even better is the fact that I got to talk to Yosuke Fujita and tell him how much I loved Fine, Totally Fine. I just wish I asked better questions! Anyway, this is packed with comic stars like Yosiyosi Arakawa who was in Fine, Totally Fine as well as the very funny in the 2014 comedy Judge!. Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Tatsuo is a nice guy and has the nickname ‘Fuku-Chan’. He lives and works in “FukuFuku Flats”, a run-down apartment complex where he paints kites as a hobby. Despite being such a nice fellow he finds it hard to socialise with people and, despite his friend Shimacchi trying to set him up with a girl, he refuses all attempts at romance. This is down to the fact he suffered a prank in junior high school and the reappearance of a girl named Chiho who was at the centre of the prank signals that he may change…
オペレッタ狸御殿 「Operetta Tamekigoten」
Release Date: May 28th, 2005
Duration: 111 mins.
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Writer: Yoshio Urasawa (Screenplay),
Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Joe Odagiri, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Mikijiro Hira, Taro Yamamoto, Saori Yuki, Miwako Ichikawa, Hibari Misora,
Seijun Suzuki’s charming and off-beat operetta stars Zhang Ziyi and Joe Odagiri (Mushishi) in a magical and fun romance
Synopsis: Princess Tanuki (Zhang Ziyi) and her romance with Prince Amechiyo (Joe Odagiri). They meet deep in the Sacred Mountain, where he was abandoned by his father Lord Azuchi Momoyama (Mikijiro Hira) after the man learns that his son will soon be more handsome than he. The young couple are soon madly in love but various obstacles arise, not least the differences between humans and spirits.
テルマエ・ロマエ 「Terumai Romai」
Duration: 108 mins.
Director: Hideki Takeuchi
Writer: Mari Yamazaki (manga), Shogo Muto
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Aya Ueto, Masachika Ichimura, Kai Shishido, Kazuki Kitamura
The live-action adaptation of Mari Yamazaki’s fun manga of the same name has time travel, culture clash comedy and a great set of actors. It was partly filmed in Cinecitta in Rome but features Japanese actors playing Roman characters. This looks like a lot of fun and the anime adaptation wasn’t too bad.
Synopsis: Roman bath house architect Lucius (Hiroshi Abe) is a perfectionist and traditionalist who gets fired from his architectural practice. In order to cheer him up, a friend takes him to a bathhouse but Lucius slips through a time portal and ends up in modern day Japan. Although initially bewildered Lucius takes inspiration from modern day Japanese baths and implements the designs in his Roman bathhouses. This sees him become favoured by Emperor Hadrian (Ichimura) but clash with emperor-in-waiting Antoninus (Kazuki Kitamura). Lucius soon finds himself caught up in political intrigue in between his time travel adventures but it is not all bad as he has met a beautiful aspiring manga artist named Mami (Ueto) who loves to sketch him.
みんな～やってるか！ 「Minna~ Yatteru ka」
Release Date: February 11th, 1995
Duration: 108 mins.
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),
Starring: Dankan, Moeko Ezawa, Takeshi Kitano, Susumu Terajima, Kanji Tsuda, Yurei Yanagi, Ren Osugi, Taka Guadalcanal, Hakuryu, Yojin Hino, Yoneko Matsukane,
Takeshi Kitano is an auteur known for films like Fireworks, Kikujiro and Dolls, but many fans in Japan preferred to see him as Beat Takeshi, the comedian. In response to the insistence on seeing his funny side he came up with this series of bizarre, over the top and absurd slapstick sketches full of silliness and never ending gags that stem from one guy’s quest to get laid. Getting Any? embraces the spirit of Kitano’s early stand-up and television work and as such it offers a genuine inside look into his true personality while working as a satire of Japanese society and popular cinema. Here’s my review.
Synopsis: The story follows the lazy middle-aged guy named Asao (Dankan), a professional daydreamer, whose one and only goal in life is to get laid. Asao embarks on a series of slapstick adventures in search of fulfilling his ultimate fantasy – having wild passionate sex with a woman. His quest for sex lands him in a series of absurd situations, involving armed robbery, chambara movie productions, yakuza wars and a scientific experiments with unexpected results…
大日本殺し屋伝 「Dainippon koroshiya den」
Release Date: August 25th, 1655
Running Time: 85 mins.
Director: Hiroshi Noguchi
Writer: Kobako Hanato, Akira Saiga (Screenplay),
Starring: Jo Shishido, Kon Ohmura, Kiyoshi Hitomi, Taro Hiratsune, Juro Sacho, Toru Yuri, Yoko Yamamoto, Kanbi Fujiyama, Juro Sasa,
Synopsis from the Japan Foundation: When the mysterious ‘Joe of Spades’ (Jo Shishido) assassinates one of the bosses of a powerful crime syndicate, the rest of its leadership, fearing they’ll meet a similar fate, call on the services of an assassin agency. The ragtag cadre of hired guns begin hunting down the unknown executor and employ some of the most peculiar killing tactics with mixed results… A rare opportunity to see the most famous Japanese comedians of the time on one screen.