In this film, Japanese girls are mad. Justifiably so if you look at reality. Despite Japan being a country on the bleeding edge of culture and cool, the way women are treated leaves a lot to be desired. Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan (I’m dating this review with a reference to him), has pledged to make Japan’s economy boom again and one of his methods is to get more women into the workplace and not just in menial positions but in leadership roles – womenomics. Rather contradictorily, he wants this whilst also trying to persuade women to boost the birthrate of a country with workplace environments that often penalise people for taking time off to look after family matters. Unfortunately, his grand plans have faltered and women still find themselves trapped in lowly positions never mind other issues such as stalkers and whatnot. Japanese Girls Never Die, based on the novel Haruko Azumi Is Missing by Misaki Setoyama, manages to tackle many issues of that women face in a bright neon blaze of righteous anger and anime-inspired visuals that will drive home the injustices that women endure.
Third Window Films will add Shinya Tsukamoto’s last film, Fires on the Plain to their catalogue of titles further making their releases the definitive editions! Fires on the Plain is an astonishing war film because of its relentlessly dwells on death and destruction and shows the pointlessness of war and the way it dehumanises people through a series of gruelling actions (gory battle scenes, murder, suicide, and worse) broken up by suspenseful periods of non-action in the beautiful jungle environs of the Philippines.
The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Shohei Ooka and Kon Ichikawa’s seminal 1959 war film and for director Shinya Tsukamoto it was a passion project he spent ten years bringing to life. It may be a war film but it fits in perfectly with his oeuvre since he has made films full of body-horror and he loves to explore the psychologically twisted aspects of human nature. Just watch his hyper-violent horror films like Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and dark dramas like Vital (2003) and A Snake of June (2003) and lets not forget Ichi the Killer and Nightmare Detective. Despite the fearsome reputation of the films… well…
I met Shinya Tsukamoto before this movie was screened and he was remarkably laid back. I didn’t get the chance to interview him but I did get my picture taken with him and an autograph which lies safely in a DVD case… I have reviewed a lot of his films and you can see which ones be looking at my profile of the director. I pulled this information from my review of the film and information from Third Window Films. I hope this helps!
The film Fires on the Plain takes place during the closing stages of the war. The Americans are invading Leyte Island in the Philippines and are hot on the heels of demoralised soldiers of the Japanese army, all of whom are looking to evacuate from the island. We see their increasingly desperate struggle from the perspective of an army conscript named Tamura (Shinya Tsukamoto) who is sick with tuberculosis.
He is forced into the field with a grenade by a commander who cannot waste resources on keeping a dying man alive and suggests Tamura blows himself up. Tamura doesn’t want to give up so easily and clings to life. He wanders around the jungle and bounces between broken platoons and brutal battles as everybody heads to the port at Palompon to be evacuated to Cebu but it is a journey that will lead him down a dark path where he will have to hold on to his humanity as he encounters betrayal, extreme violence, and worse…
Japan / 2015 / 87 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / HD / Colour
Out as a DUAL FORMAT DVD & BLURAY September 11th, 2017
Special Features: Dual format DVD & BLURAY
1 hour extensive making of
Audio commentary by Tom Mes, author of “Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto”
First 1000 copies come with LIMITED EDITION slipcase illustrated by Mathieu Bablet
While attending the Osaka Asian Film Festival I saw a whole host of indie films from directors making their debuts or sophomore titles. The festival provided the perfect platform for these new directors to showcase their work, many of which were funded by grants from the Housen Cultural Foundation or the Cineastes Organization Osaka (CO2), or through crowdfunding sites like Motion Gallery. One particular project, Visualised Hearts caught my attention. This film and its director Akiko Igarashi are, in filmic terms, the very definition of the idiom, “a diamond in the rough” but there’s enough potential here to warrant viewing the film and supporting Igarashi, allowing her to polish her talent and shine as a new voice in Japanese science fiction.
Visualised Hearts is Igarashi’s debut feature-length film. She based it on her short film, Kokoro wo Kashikasuru Kikaiwhich was developed as she studied at film school while holding down her company job. Her feature was made on a tiny budget with limited resourcesand actors recruited from the CO2 Actor Scholarship Project and yet its ideas are big: the benefits and complications of being able to visualise what the human heart feels.
Seeing someone suffer is rarely fun but this film all about a Buddhist priest who is cursed to be sexually irresistible to all around him is sure to amuse audiences.
Ninko (Masato Tsujioka) is a novice Buddhist monk living during the Edo period. He is based at Enmei-ji, a temple in the mountains. He is, in fact, a paragon of a monk, adhering to asceticism to learn his religion, dutifully cooking, cleaning, and praying every day.
Summer Lights comes from the award-winning French filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot. His past work has focussed on non-fiction short films about war, human rights and political struggle. He continues to explore these issues here in his first fiction film about a documentary filmmaker in the company of a capricious young woman who guides him around the city of Hiroshima, the two discovering some of the stories and traumas of the past whilst life blooms around them.
Aroused by Gymnopedies is one of the five films commissioned by Nikkatsu to be part of its reboot of the Roman Porno genre. Isao Yukisada directs and co-writes a self-reflexive story about the craft of filmmaking involving a once-great director who finds himself on skid-row and carrying a sadness that seemingly not even sex with a series of beautiful women can relieve.
The has-been director is fifty-something Shinji Furuya (Itsuji Itao). He was once a rising star in arthouse cinema capable of making great works that won awards at places like the Venice Film Festival but over the course of time his taste for womanising ballooned and something happened to him that made him fall from the heavens of the film industry and into a hellish landscape of melancholy and self-pity. He is now reduced to directing pink films for money, a stony-faced chain-smoking presence on set and a silent solitary man juggling debts in private. His latest production has turned into a disaster because his lead actress Anri (Izumi Okamura) has dropped out and he’s going to lose a desperately-needed paycheck.
Thrown deeper into his mire of depression and with bills to pay he shambles around Tokyo over the course of seven days he alternately looking for money and slumps from one female acquaintance’s bed to another. Alas, he seems to get no joy from the sex he has with beautiful woman and he even rejects their offers of comfort. He soldiers on in being miserable because he carries an emotional burden too great for others to solve and it seems to be connected to a woman who plays the Erik Satie piano piece Gymnopedies in flashbacks he experiences…
The Roman Porno label is back for a series of five films to celebrate 45 years since the Nikkatsu film studio launched the originals.
Over the last year or so this specific sub-genre of soft-core porn films has been resurrected and they have cropped up at various festivals such as International Film Festival Rotterdam and Nippon Connection. Audiences have been able to see these newer entries in the series celebrate their antecedents by following the same rules of creation laid out by their predecessors – a short shoot of about a week to create somethinglasting 80 minutes with sex scenes every ten minutes or so. Writers and directors were free to explore various themes and settings whether it be sexual politics to historical tales to self-reflexive comedies based on the film world.
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.
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.
Jun Tanaka’s film, “Bamy” (2017) plays with the myth of the red string of fate – an unbreakable bond that ties people destined to be together – but posits that instead of this being something romantic or joyful, it is nothing but a curse because it reveals that people have no control over their own lives. The string is forced upon individuals who cannot escape what has been preordained by some larger transcendental entity. The film follows this thread of an idea to its natural and almost absurd conclusion in a film that raises itself from being a semi-pastiche of Kurosawa’s modern-day horror classic, “Pulse” (2001), to an entertaining jaunt into a twisted set of romances where not even horrifying ghosts can sever predestined connections between people.