This is the second part of this weekend’s trailer post. You can find the first part here.
I have been doing festival work lately and it will last for the next few months. I’m having a good time and watching a lot of films. I did manage to watch a couple of non-festival films since last weekend:
19 is a coming-of-age drama that takes place on the open roads of the Kanto region. It starts with a university student named Usami (Daijiro Kawaoka) being kidnapped in broad daylight by a trio of young men in a car and taken on a road trip with no destination in mind and no explanation on offer.
Said kidnappers are beanie-wearing Chiba (Takeo Noro) who takes photographs, tight-lipped sunglasses-wearing Kobe (Ryo Shinmyo) who does the driving, and their leader, the more garrulous Yokohama (director Kazushi Watanabe himself), a real wise-ass. Their names seem to indicate where they come from but whatever the case, the three will not permit Usami to leave their company. Pretty soon, even when the opportunity is on offer, Usami is unable to leave of his own free will because he falls under the influence of his captors. Their influence is obvious: they act less like kidnappers and more like delinquent elder brothers. Their petty crimes rely on being audacious – walking out of a supermarket without paying? Sure. Stealing a car? Yep. It escalates, however. Kidnapping more people? Can do. Anything and everything is possible on their road trip.
There is the occasional reveal of a philosophical bent to the young men, such as posing questions about life, the universe, and Einstein’s theories on the speed of light. Some of it sounds cool – if you go fast enough, time slows down, therefore driving means they can live forever. But there is much more of the mundane such as their hunt for Max Coffee. Whatever they choose to reveal, they remain mysterious. There is tension inherent in the scenario they have set up and their misadventures.
The 2023 edition of the Rotterdam International Film Festival will take place from January 25th to February 05th. This is the 52nd year of the festival and it has a special two-projector video work by Steve McQueen called Sunshine State which looks fascinating. In terms of Japanese film, there is a wealth on offer that covers experimental, documentary, drama, and more. There is a whole strand dedicated to the works of animator Masaaki Yuasa and one dedicated to experimental filmmaker Junichi Okuyama.
This year’s ticket sales start on Friday 20th January at 20:00.
Below is a list of features and shorts that have been programmed:
That long face. That thin mouth. That implacable stare. Once seen, never forgotten. Susumu Terajima, by-player. Arguably underused.
He is a familiar presence from Japanese cinema of the 90s and early 2000s, often times cast in the role of a yakuza or cop. Takeshi Kitano used him like a right-hand man like in Hana-bi and Sonatine while Takashi Ishii had him in the Black Angel and Gonin series.
Sometimes, other directors see his dramatic potential as in All Around Us.
Some directors see his comic potential to undercut his grim features as with the inglorious role of a yakuza with poop on his head in The Taste of Tea.
There’ll be blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearances like in Rampo Noir (a mirror salesman) and Still Walking (sushi delivery guy).
Sometimes, not often, he gets a lead role which is what happened with Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Hole in the Sky. In it, he shows he is an actor who can hold a film in his own right.
Terajima’s collaboration with Kumakiribegan after the director made his feature film debut with Kichiku dai enkai (1997). Finding himself riding a tide of success due to the international attention the film garnered, Kumakiri took four years out to write and shootHole in the Sky. With it he fulfilled a long-held desire to work with Terajima, a desire sparked by detecting a “complicated side” to the actor he saw when watching the Okinawa-set yakuza film Sonatine (source).
Starting with his 2011 Pia Film Festival Special Jury Prize-winning autobiographical feature debut, Our Future, Kasho Iizuka has focused on the lives of people who don’t fit neatly into Japanese society.
Iizuka’s latest feature Angry Son is his second 2022 release following his transgender relationship drama The World for the Two of Us. It tackles immigration and mixed-race experiences through the prism of a single-parent family where the titular angry son is gay Filipino-Japanese high-schooler Jungo (Kazuki Horike) who lives unhappily with his vivacious Filipina mother Reina (singer and actress GOW) in a city located in Gunma Prefecture. A search for his father forces them to face the prejudice they have experienced and reconnect in a touching, funny, and fiery drama.
Cultural faux pas, prejudice, and healing happen after a lot of patience and empathy help characters get to understand each other. Iizuka explores various social issues such as harmonising racial and sexual identities by skilfully wrapping them up in a strong family drama where the characters are sympathetically dealt with. Such was the impact of the film that it won the Most Promising Talent Award at the 2022 Osaka Asian Film Festival and it has been selected for Nippon connection and this attention is richly deserved as the film is so well made and full of substance as it presents a hopeful picture of a Japan that is becoming more diverse.
Where did the story come from? What drives director Kasho Iizuka? He took part in an interview where he explained lots of things that informed Angry Son. The interview was translated by Takako Pocklington.