Featured

Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Poster

This year’s Cannes Film Festival (17th – 28th May) is the 70th edition of the event and the festival head Thierry Fremaux announced the Official Selection of films programmed last week. Critics are salivating over the fact that there are two Netflix films: the monster movie Okja by Bong Joon-ho (The Host) and The Meyerowitz Stories by Noah Baumbach (writer on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and director of Mistress America). There will be two TV series for audiences to watch: David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake and lots more familiar faces such as Sofia (Somewhere) Coppola’s The Beguiled, Michael (Code Unknown/Cache) Haneke’s Happy End (knowing Haneke, it’s probably an ironic title…). More importantly, there are also nine first-time filmmakers getting their works screened.

Why is that important?

The Cannes Film Festival comes into 2017 with a need to find fresh blood and this is seemingly strong selection because may be it. Since this is the 70th anniversary of the festival and the fact that, last year, organisers faced fierce criticism last year for their lack of female directors, commentators identified that they needed to do a couple of things: broaden out its programme so that there are filmmakers other than the old guard (Campion, Haneke, Kawase, Haynes, the Dardennes brothers etc.) and increase the number of female-centric stories and female-led films across the programme. The old guard are back but just by glancing at the lists of announced films, it is clear that the festival has achieved some of its goals and will probably avoid the criticism it faced last year – hopefully, no high-heels and breast-feeding baby incidents will crop up). Things are a bit of a mixed picture when it comes to the Japanese films.

So far, there are four Japanese films programmed, and three come from festival regulars: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Naomi Kawase, and Takashi Miike. Two of the four are adaptations while the other two are original dramas. Out of the dramas, one is made by a seasoned professional while the shorter one at 45 minutes is from a student. The presence of a fresh director is always something to cheer when it comes to Japanese films at international festivals and this director is a lady to boot: Aya Igashi. She is a graduate from Toei Gakuen Film College’s movie production department and is already working on her third film.

So, while we can all sigh and shrug our shoulders at the lack of original content, we can take comfort in the fact that Aya Igashi is on the radar of people who programme the festival.

What are the films playing this year?

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017”

Nippon Connection Film Festival 2017 – First Programme Highlights Revealed

Fans of Japanese films will know that one of the biggest and best film festivals in the world for such delights is held every May in Germany. It’s called Nippon Connection and this year’s event marks the seventeenth edition.

Nippon Connection Logo

The Nippon Connection Film Festival takes place from May 23 to 28, 2017 and it will be held in Frankfurt am Main. Exactly a month ago today, the organisers teased some of the 100+ short and feature length films that will be screened. You can count on there being a whole host of premieres and these will be shown in the presence of many directors and actors who will introduce their works to the audience for the first time. According to the organisers, this year’s focus is on documentaries but there are many great dramas that have already been announced.

Here is what has been released so far:

Continue reading “Nippon Connection Film Festival 2017 – First Programme Highlights Revealed”

CAMERA JAPAN to Screen Two Films at Shofukan in Rotterdam on April 07th

This year will be the twelfth that CAMERA JAPAN has been in operation and it is great that the festival is operating since it offers one of the most comprehensive collections of current Japanese cinema. The 2017 festival dates have already been announced:

September 21st-24th  Rotterdam
September 29th – October 01st Amsterdam

In the run-up to the festival, CAMERA JAPAN are screening a grip of films and this week’s titles are interesting. To find out more about each individual screening, click on the titles/links:

Continue reading “CAMERA JAPAN to Screen Two Films at Shofukan in Rotterdam on April 07th”

Japanese Film Festival Ireland Full Programme Line-Up

It’s 23:49 in Osaka and I want to go to sleep but I have important news! The Japan Film Festival Ireland has reached its ninth year and this year’s addition features anime, dramas, and mediums. There are 21 in all and each movie I would like to see. The screenings take place in Dundalk, Cork, Galway, Maynooth, Sligo, Limerick, Dublin, and Waterford and so people in Ireland will get to see really great examples of Japanese cinema.

Here’s the lowdown on the various films being screened. Click on the titles to be taken to the festival page which has more information:

Continue reading “Japanese Film Festival Ireland Full Programme Line-Up”

Love and Goodbye and Hawaii 恋とさよならとハワイ Dir: Shingo Matsumura (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Film Review

Love and Goodbye and Hawaii Love and Goodbye and Hawaii Film Poster

恋とさよならとハワイKoi to sayonara to Hawai

Running Time: 94 mins.

Director:  Shingo Matsumura

Writer: Shingo Matsumura (Screenplay),

Starring: Aya Ayano, Kentaro Tamura, Momoka Ayukawa, Risa Kameda, Aoi Kato

Website IMDB Eiga

This might sound like damning a film with faint praise but, Love and Goodbye and Hawaii is a nicely shot simple tale about a woman slowly coming to the realisation that a relationship with her ex-boyfriend may well and truly be dead and she faces the decision of whether to resurrect it or move on.

The aforementioned woman is Rinko (Ayu Ayano), a bespectacled twenty-something who works in an office. She has been living with her ex-boyfriend Isamu (Kentaro Tamura), a graduate student, for three years. Indeed, the two have chosen to live together even after they broke up because their situation is comfortable. Although they separate their shared bedroom with a rack of clothes and sleep in different futons on opposite sides of the room, they interact with each other like a regular couple.Love and Goodbye and Hawaii Film Image Race of Love Continue reading “Love and Goodbye and Hawaii 恋とさよならとハワイ Dir: Shingo Matsumura (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Film Review”

Japan Society New York Uncovers Underappreciated Sci-Fi with Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema

This is a quick-post for a special event (I’ve been busy eating at tonkatsu restaurants and losing time to procrastination…).

Japan Society New York have a special line-up of science-fiction films of the B-movie variety from March 24th until April 8th, 2017. The whole programme has been up for a while and tickets are on sale. A quick look shows that the films on offer run the whole gamut from humanoid aliens to kaiju and irradiated menaces and the effects are so visually amusing that just sitting in the cinema looks like an absolutely glorious prospect in terms of fun. Check out this trailer:

Here’s what the programmers have to say:

Continue reading “Japan Society New York Uncovers Underappreciated Sci-Fi with Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema”

Parks Film Review パークス Dir: Natsuki Seta (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Review

Parks        

parks-film-poster-2
parks-film-poster-2

パークス Pa-kusu

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director:  Natsuki Seta

Writer: Natsuki Seta (Screenplay),

Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Mei Nagano, Shota Sometani, Shiro Sano, Reiya Masaki, Ryu Morioka, Shizuka Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

Tokyo is home to many world famous parks such as Yoyogi and Ueno but when I lived in the mega-metropolis I developed a soft spot for Inokashira Park out in the fashionable area of Kichijoji. It may not be as big as the others but I found it an equally wonderful serene green space with lots of interesting features. It recently reached its 100th anniversary and the film “Parks” was commissioned to commemorate the special occasion. Since parks are public spaces that invite a multitude of visitors who form their own stories and memories, the challenge of making a film about the park would be paring down a huge number of ideas and interpretations of the area into a coherent narrative but writer/director Natsuki Seta and her team have managed it by creating an off-beat and charming drama with music at its heart that spans the decades and fully encompasses why parks are treasured by so many people.

Continue reading “Parks Film Review パークス Dir: Natsuki Seta (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Review”

Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017: Short Films – Breathless Lovers, Ping Pang, Summer Night

I don’t often cover short films but they get programmed at Osaka and this year’s crop were too intriguing to miss. They were rather conveniently screened as part of one package despite being in different parts of the programme but with the filmmakers all being around the same age and the quality of the work being high, it is worth writing down a few thoughts in case these guys are part of the new wave For anyone wondering, elsewhere around the festival, women made a huge impact as feature-film directors. It seems Osaka always programmes a lot of work by women without any of the attendant fuss and controversy seen in the West and that’s a good thing.

Continue reading “Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017: Short Films – Breathless Lovers, Ping Pang, Summer Night”

I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016), Dir: Xiaogang Feng, China, Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017

I Am Not Madame Bovary   i-am-not-madame-bovary-film-poster

わたしは潘金蓮じゃない Watashi ha Pan jin-lian janai   

Running Time: 139 mins.

Director: Xiaogang Feng

Writer: Zhenyun Liu (Original Novel/Screenplay)

Starring: Bingbing Fan, Lixin Zhao, Yi Zhang, Tao Guo, Ziaogang Feng, Chengpeng Dong

IMDB

I Am Not Madam Bovary” is a Chinese film adapted for the screen by Liu Zhenyun from his own 2012 novel, “I Did Not Kill My Husband.” The use of the name of Gustave Flaubert’s 19th Century novel is to make thematic connections for audiences familiar with the tragic titular adulteress (the Chinese/Japanese title features the name of another fallen woman famous throughout East Asia) but it is also quite apt since it details one woman’s determined efforts to clear her name of adultery and seek legal justice. This story starts out as a seemingly little domestic spat in a provincial town but turns into a ten-year odyssey of absurd quantities that nearly reaches the highest level of state as the film turns into a mischievous critique cheekily challenging Chinese officialdom through satirising the legal system.

Continue reading “I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016), Dir: Xiaogang Feng, China, Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017”

Birdshot (2016) Dir: Mikhail Red, Philippines, Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017

Birdshot    birdshot-film-poster

バードショット Ba-do Shotto   

Running Time: 116 mins.

Director: Mikhail Red

Writer: Mikhail Red, Rae Red,

Starring: Mary Joy Apostol, Manuel Aquino, John Arcilla, Arnold Reyes,

IMDB

“Birdshot” is the sophomore film from writer/director Mikhail Red, winner of the best new director award at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival for his debut feature, “Rekorder,” an urban crime tale in the same vein as “Blow-Up” (1966) and “Blow Out” (1981) in which a cameraman who haunts night-time cinema screenings in tech-obsessed Manila accidentally records a murder and finds himself hunted. “Birdshot” is a similar tale of people being hunted but it is set in the sunny low-tech open spaces of the Philippine countryside.

Continue reading “Birdshot (2016) Dir: Mikhail Red, Philippines, Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017”