Kokutai is roughly translatable as ‘body politic’ and it is the title of Ryushi Lindsay’s debut movie. An experimental documentary, Kokutai looks askance at the pomp and ceremony of high school baseball in Japan and, through careful and selective assemblage of footage, reveals the fascist aesthetics that are present.
Baseball is not normally thought of as a place of violent political leanings but this 10-minute montage strikes a defiantly different note as it plays out sequences from Koshien baseball tournaments and goes heavy displaying imagery drenched in fascist overtones.
I have been sitting on this film review for nearly two years. Due to the tragic death of Yuko Takeuchi, I have released it in her honour. This film is available to view for free on Amazon Prime in Japan and the UK, so please take the time to watch it and see Yuko Takeuchi in action.
Kiyoshi Kurosawahas crafted some chilling antagonists in his horror films, all based on original scripts. The amoral magnetism of the mesmerist Mamiya from Cure and the ghosts of Pulse are some of the most memorable, but they were just the symptom and not the cause of the main character’s true conflicts. Alienation caused by society was at fault for channelling these monsters into everyday settings. This sense of disconnection is something Kurosawa masterfully utilised in the family drama Tokyo Sonata where a patriarch and his clan lose their cohesion after he loses his job and the family each reformulate their sense of place in the world. With family time made unbearable by the barely suppressed anger and disappointment each character feels, it strikes a very realistic chord whilst being scarylike much of Kurosawa’s horror output.Creepy isbased on a book by Yutaka Maekawa and while Kurosawa may not have scripted the antagonist, he is one of his most odious bad guys yet.
“He gave me the creeps.”
Ex-detective KoichiTakakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) quits the Tokyo police force after a psychopath almost kills him. He ups roots and moves with his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) to the suburbs and takes up work as a university lecturer in criminal psychology. Their new life seems stable enough. He thinks his job is fun, she is busy as a housewife and their new house seems pleasant but things turn sour when they introduce themselves to their next door neighbours. One set, the Tanakas’, aren’t interested in getting to know them and then there is Mr. Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) who seems to hide his wife and daughter Mio (Ryoko Fujino) from the outside world.
Noriko Yuasa has a new project on Kickstarter and it is for a feature-length film called Performing KAORU’s Funeral. A successful campaign will help finance this film which is based on an original script that she wrote in 2017 and has been working on since last year. It is described as, “A tragic and comical story of one woman’s final days, mixed with irony and love”.
Judging from the initial teaser trailer for the film, this looks like it could be something that brings tears mixed with laughter as a dark-dark drama plays out.
The Skip City International D-Cinema Festival runs from Saturday, September 26thto Sunday, October 4th, 2020. Skip City was one of the first international competitive film festivals to exclusively feature digital cinema and in 2020 the 17th edition of the festival will be a totally difital experience as organisers take the festival online for the first time ever. There are 24 films programmed and they will be viewable over at the website Cinema Discoveries, a new streaming service that started in April this year. In terms of subtitles, Skip City provides English ones for Japanese films, so I am assuming they will do so for this year’s edition.
This is my first ever post about the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival even though I have been aware of it for many years since it is a hotbed of new film talent from Japan and its English-language information has helped me write trailer posts and festival previews in the past. The main reason I decided to write about it is because it features two works I reviewed as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival earlier this year. These two titles and the filmmakers whom I interviewed provide a bright future for the Japanese film industry and I hope more people can watch their films.
My rewrites will get rewritten eventually but, for now, I suggest that you go to the festival page to see a better synopses and more director information…
Here are the films. To find out more information about them, just click on the titles:
Kamata Prelude is the brainchild of Urara Matsubayashi (lead actress in The Hungry Lion) who produced as well as took a lead role. She gives a portrayal of a struggling actress named Machiko who lives in the Kamata area of Tokyo. A four-part omnibus film, each section revolves around her in some way and aims to depict what it means to be a “woman” and an “actress” in society, but they are done in the unique style of each of the four directors.
Two of the directors are guys you may have heard of if you follow film festivals. Book-ending the film are Ryutaro Nakamura, whose works like Plastic Love Story and Silent Rain are full of lyrical imagery, andHirobumi Watanabe, who has built a filmography based on his stories all being set in his native Tochigi prefecture and shot with distinct monochrome visuals while being shot-through with dry humour. The newer directors are two young women, Yuka Yasukawa, one of a number of emerging talents tapped to helm a section in the omnibus film 21st Century Girl, and Mayu Akiyama, whose debut work, Rent a Friend, won the MOOSIC LAB Grand Prix and was screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2018.
While Watanabe and Nakamura made sections that are delightful reveries about life and a love of movies/culture (albeit, tinged with melancholy in Nakamura’s case), Yasukawa and Akiyama provided subjects that feel more keyed in to the thorny issues of life as a young woman. Yuka Yasukawa gives a #MeToo story wherein Machiko goes to a casting call and finds herself facing a grossly exploitative panel of guys alongside a defiant fellow actress played by Kumi Takiuchi (It Feels So Good,Greatful Dead). Meanwhile, Akiyama’s section felt like a realistic depiction of a get-together of girls wherein false masks and the anxieties that women bear in society are exposed in an onsen in Kamata. This section is full of great actresses who are making waves in the entertainment world like Mayuko Fukuda (Good-Bye) and an especially acerbic Sairi Ito (Love & Other Cults).
Sat with Matsubayashi and Akiyama at a rooftop bar, I enjoyed a lively talk with two intelligent and resourceful creatives who I felt would be making big things in the future. Their film is a refreshingly hip and contemporary set of stories where its unique approach to style and subject-matter rendered their address of important issues enjoyable, nuanced, and relevant for our age.
This interview was done at the festival and via email with their help and the invaluable help of Takako Pocklington who translated and added some interesting comments.
2020 has knocked everyone sideways, not least film fests across the globe, many of which went virtual to protect audiences from Covid-19. This year’s London Film Festival follows many others in being a virtual event as well as having physical screenings in Loondon. It runs from October 07th to the 18th and viewers across the UK will be able to access all of the films wherever they are. Reflecting the other tumultuous events of this year, specifically the long-ignored issue of racial justice, there is a substantial presence of black filmmakers, a traditionally under-served demographic, that is finally getting their chance to shine.
In terms of Japanese films there are none. We get the first episode of a TV show. This lack of films is rather ironic considering 2020 is the year that the BFI is going all in on its Japanese movie coverage to leverage any and all interest in the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics but I guess it’s another sign of a Covid-19 casualty.
Here’s what is programmed (click on the title to be taken to the corresponding festival page):
The Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 (VIFF) runs from September 24th to October 07th and it is packed with over 100 feature films from around the world. This year’s fest is going to be available for people to view online so this means that viewers in British Columbia can watch from the comfort of their homes via VIFF Connect, VIFF’s new online streaming platform. There will be talks and conferences that are open the everyone around the world to tune into on top of that.
I’ve been trying to get my life in order by writing schedules down for myself with achievable goals. Normally, I just have a bunch of things I want to do and get around to them eventually but I have to push myself harder. That also means practising Japanese again.
Ryushi Lindsay is a British-Japanese filmmaker based in Japan and the UK. Even with just a couple of shorts to his name,he is beginning to carve out an interesting filmography as he works across genres and approaches subjectswith an eye forthe politics that underlie things.
Lindsay’s debut film, the experimental baseball documentary Kokutai (2019), finds uncomfortable parallels with the pomp and circumstance of fascistic events of the past and the current martial aesthetics of Japan’s popular national high school baseball tournaments. His latest, Idol, is a drama set in the world of girl groups.
Long a ubiquitous facet of Japanese entertainment, pop idols present a broad range of issues ripe for examination, from the objectification of performers to their role in the mass media in defining femininity and gender relations. These issues were looked at in Kyoko Miyake’s 2017 documentary Tokyo Idols. Idol uses it as background for a dark drama but focuses on the economic drivers that make the parents push their children to perform as we get front row seats of one parasitic parent’s extreme behaviour.
Taking place over two nights in Tokyo, the story enters at the point of crisis for a young single mother named Miyabi as her child idol daughter Kasumi is unceremoniously dropped from the line-up of a stage act just minutes before a performance and replaced by someone more popular. At first Miyabi argues against her daughters firing, then begs with the managerfor another chance, all to no avail. She won’t give up and this sets in motion a foolish plan involving another child idol named Ami that will have viewers tensing up with a sense of foreboding.