Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2021

Following last year’s Covid-19-forced cancellation, the Cannes Film Festival will return as a physical event and run from July 06-17. Although we are still in the middle of a pandemic, screenings will be allowed to operate at full capacity. One safeguard in place is that people present a vaccination certificate or a valid health pass via a PCR test.

Genki Cannes Film Festival Logo

As for the festival and its films, the event features over 63 films from around the world, with Oliver Stone’s JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass getting it’s premiere alongside In Front Of Your Face by Hong Sang-soo and Jane Par Charlotte by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

In the Official Competition section, made up of 24 titles, there is a wealth of talent which will get its world premiere – Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch and Leos Carax’s Annette (the opening films of the fest) are early standouts. We have one title from Japan.

Drive My Car    Drive My Car Film Poster

ドライブ・マイ・カー Doraibu Mai Ka-

Release Date: August 20th 2021

Duration: 179 mins.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writer: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Ooe (Script), Haruki Murakami (Original Novel)

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima,

Website IMDB

Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) returns to Cannes following his 2018 film Asako I & II with an adaptation of the Haruki Murakami short story Drive My Car (from his collection of short stories Men Without Women). Earlier this year, Hamaguchi won the Silver Bear Award at Berlinale with Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy.

The lead actor is Hidetoshi Nishijima (License to Live) who is paired with Reika Kirishima (Permanent Nobara, Norwegian Wood) as a husband and wife separated by death and a secret.

Synopsis: Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a stage actor and a stage director who is happily married to his playwright wife Fukaku (Reika Kirishima). Two years later, Yusuke lives with a sense of loss and the vague knowledge that she had a secret, When he takes a directing gig at a theatre festival in Hiroshima, he drives down in his beloved Saab where he meets Misaki (Toko Miura) who has been assigned as his exclusive chauffeur. She’s a taciturn person but while Yusuke spends time with her, he becomes aware of things which he had turned a blind eye to until then…

In the Director’s Fortnight section, there is one short film by a familiar name from the Japanese animation world:

Anxious Body (Dir: Yoriko Mizushiri, 6 mins. website)

This is a Japan-France co-production which was commissioned work for the exhibition “Inter+Play at the Towada Art Center and was on display from January to May this year.

Synopsis (from the website): Living things, artificial things, geometry shapes, and lines. When these different things encounter, a new direction is born. Desiring it as the sense of touch, things keep chasing it forever. Animation of tactility you only can let yourself go with the streaming of the images.

Onoda – 10 000 Nights In The Jungle    Onoda - 10 000 Nights in the Jungle Film Poster

Release Date: July 21st 2021 (France)

Duration: 165 mins.

Director: Arthur Harari

Writer: Arthur Harari, Vincent Poymiro (Script)

Starring: Yuya Endo, Kanji Tsuda, Yuya Matsuura, Tetsuya Chiba, Shinsuke Kato, Issei Ogata,


This is an international co-production directed by French filmmaker Arthur Harari. It opens the Un Certain Regard section and retells a true story.

Synopsis from the Website: Japan, 1944. Trained for intelligence work, Hiroo Onoda, 22 years old, discovers a philosophy contrary to the official line : no suicide, stay alive whatever happens, the mission is more important than anything else.

Sent to Lubang, a small island in the Philippines where the Americans are about to land, his role will be to wage a guerilla war until the return of the Japanese troops.

The Empire will surrender soon after, Onoda 10.000 days later.

Update: July 09th

Cannes Classics

Demon Pond  4K RestorationDemon Pond Film Poster

夜叉ヶ池 Yasha-ga-ike

Release Date: October 20th, 1972

Duration: 124 mins.

Director: Masahiro Shinoda

Writer: Yudai Uenishi, Haruhiko Mimura, Tsutomu Tamura (Script), Izumi Kyoka (Original Play)

Starring: Tamasaburo Bando, Go Kato, Tsutomu Yamazaki,Yatsuko Tanami, Koji Nanbara,

Website IMDB

This film was shot on location in Brazil and Hawaii and stars kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando who brings his onnagatta skills to play two roles. Not a trailer but an 11-minute long video showing scenes from the film. I haven’t watched it all of the way through because of potential spoilers. This plays at Cannes in the classics section.

Synopsis: The titular Demon Pond is a real place located in Fukui prefecture in the mountains of Mikuni Pass. Legend has it that a Dragon God is sealed in the pond and a bell near the pond must be rung three times every day to calm the Dragon God lest it emerges and goes on a wild rampage and destroy a nearby village. A young scholar from Tokyo gets personally involved in this local legend and encounters supernatural beings…

The Moon Has Risen 

Tsuki wa Noburino Film Poster

月は上りぬ Tsuki wa Noborinu

Release Date: January 08th, 1955

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Kinuyo Tanaka

Writer: Yasujiro Ozu, Ryosuke Saito (Script),

Starring: Chishu Ryu, Hisako Yamane, Yoko Sugi, Mie Kitahara, Shuji Sano, Ko Mishiima, Kinuyo Tanaka, Miki Odagiri,

Website IMDB

This is Kinuyo Tanaka’s second film and it has been restored by Nikkatsu as part of a season of her works that will be presented to the world.

Synopsis: Mokichi is the widowed head of the wealthy Asai family in Nara. With three daughters, a comic and dramatic relationship drama unfolds as Setsuko, the youngest, tries to marry her shy elder sister off to a family friend who has long harboured feelings for her only to fall in love with the friend she is carrying out the plot with.


Nikkatsu announced that they were adding this to their marketplace roster just before the festival started.

Hiruko the Goblin    Hiruko the Goblin Film Poster

ヒルコ 妖怪ハンター Hiruko Youkai Hanta-

Release Date: July 09th, 1991

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Script), Daijiro Morohoshi, Koji Tsutsumi, (Original Manga)

Starring: Kenji Sawada, Masaki Kudou, Naoto Takenaka, Ken Mitsuishi, Kimiko Yo, Hideo Murota, Megumi Ueno,

Website IMDB

Following on from his debut, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Shinya Tsukamoto made a live-action adaptation of Daijiro Morohoshi manga, Hiruko the Goblin Hunter. On the 30th anniversary of its release, it gets a 2K remaster and re-release and features at the Cannes Film Festival.

Synopsis: Reijiro Hieda is an archaeology professor who has been discredited due to his wild theories. They don’t seem so wild after his brother-in-law Yabe, a junior high school teacher, tells of his discovery of an ancient tomb that was built to appease evil spirits but when Hieda goes to investigate he discovers that Yabe has mysteriously disappeared along with one of his students, Reiko Tsukishima. Yabe’s son Masao has been searching for them and teams up with Hieda which is when they encounter Hiruko, the goblin…

Belle    Belle (2021) Film Poster

竜とそばかすの姫 Ryuu to Sobakasu no Hime

Release Date: July 16th 2021

Duration: 122 mins.

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Writer: Mamoru Hosoda (Script), 

Starring: Kaho Nakamura (Suzu Naito/Belle), Takeru Satoh (The Dragon), Koji Yakusho (Suzu’s Father), Rira Ikuta (Hiroka “Hiro-chan” Betsuyaku), Mamoru Miyano (Muitarou Hitokawa / Tokoraemru),

Animation Production: Studio Chizu

Website MAL ANN

This will get its world premiere at Cannes on July 15th. It marks the 10th anniversary of Studio Chizu’s founding.

Synopsis: Suzu is a 17-year-old high school student living in a rural village with her father. The place is scarce of people but abundant in nature. Since the death of her mother she has closed herself off to the world and one activity that she loved doing with her mother, singing, has been impossible for her. When she enters “U,” a virtual world with five billion members, she takes part in a singing contest through her avatar, “Belle.” She becomes a world-famous singer and soon meets with a mysterious creature that will help her rediscover herself.

Here’s past coverage of the film festival:

Cannes 2012 Preview

Round-up – Like Someone in Love

Round-up – Ai to Makoto

Round-up – 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate

Cannes 2013 Preview

Cannes 2013 Press Round-up

Cannes 2014 Preview

Cannes 2015 Preview

Cannes 2016 Preview

Cannes 2017 Preview

Round-up – Blade of the Immortal

Round-up – Before We Vanish

Round-up – Radiance

Round-up – Oh Lucy!

Cannes 2018 Preview

Round-up – Shoplifters

Round-up – Asako I & II

Round-up – Mirai

Kore-eda wins the Palme d’Or in 2018

Cannes 2019

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