Over the Town 街の上で Dir: Rikiya Imaizumi [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Over the Town    Over the Town Film Poster

街の上で Machi no Ue de

Release Date: April 10th, 2021

Duration: 130 mins.

Director: Rikiya Imaizumi

Writer: Rikiya Imaizumi, Hiroyuki Ohashi (Script), 

Starring: Ryuya Wakaba, Moeka Hoshi, Kotone Furukawa, Minori Hagiwara, Seina Nakata, Ryo Narita, Hirobumi Watanabe,

OAFF Website IMDB

Very rarely the setting of a film, Shimokitazawa is a trendy little district in western Tokyo that lies in the shadow of Shibuya and Shinjuku. Home to independent shops, theatres, cinemas, live music venues, bars, and restaurants, the place vibes with youthful energy as students, actors, second-hand booksellers, and bar owners, all with a seemingly average age of 20-something, engage in artistic revelry and nights of frolicking. It is also a place constantly changing as commercial redevelopment is ongoing – when I last visited, a new station and an adjacent department store were being constructed – and it has its quiet parts. It is a slice of Tokyo different from everywhere else in the city.

Using Shimokitazawa as his sandbox, director Rikiya Imaizumi brings us Over the Town, his latest film and his second in 2021, which is full of characters and locations you would encounter in real life.

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Green Jail 緑の牢獄 Dir: Huang Yin-yu [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Green Jail   Green Jail Film Poster 2

緑の牢獄 Midori no Rogoku

Release Date: March 27th, 2021

Duration: 101 mins.

Director: Huang Yin-yu

Writer: N/A

Starring: Yoshiko Hashima, Louis Leslie Kimura,

Website IMDB

Getting its world premiere in the Indie Forum section at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021, Green Jail sees Okinawa-based Taiwanese documentarian Huang Yin-yu continue to trace the flow of people between Taiwan and Japan by using personal stories to illustrate a wider historical picture. 

In some ways, it bears a strong resemblance to his 2016 work After Spring, the Tamaki Family in that it touches upon issues of immigration and discrimination, and it also features an elderly woman as the central figure but the tone in Green Jail is markedly different due to the tragic history it uncovers.

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POP! Director: Masashi Komura (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

POP!    Pop Film Poster

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: Masashi Komura

Writer: Masashi Komura (Script), 

Starring: Rina Ono, Yugo Mikawa, Katsuya Kobayashi, Masumi Nomura, Kenta Kiguchi,

Website

POP! is part of the line-up of MOOSIC LAB 2020-2021. Like entries in the film festival’s previous editions, it pairs together up-and-coming movie and music talents so that they can create a film where music plays a large part in the proceedings, whether through being performed on screen or through a soundtrack that is a very prominent part of the film. In practice, while the fest may feature a slate of films that share similar themes or story set-ups, since each work is coming from different combinations of creatives, the results tend to be unique and a good showcase of the strengths of all involved.

While many of the last round of MOOSIC LAB releases pondered mortality, they each did it in a completely different way, from a laugh-out-loud supernatural mockumentary to a hip-hop infused family comedy, a heart-breaking time-slip movie done through cassette tapes to a gentle post-rock Lynchian adventure. Some are simply music videos stretched out to 30 minutes. A glance at MOOSIC LAB 2020-2021 shows that it is no different as each film looks tonally different with dramas and comedies, some pushing into the experimental and surreal, words which could be used for POP!.

Making his debut feature with this POP! is Masashi Komura, a relatively new filmmaker who has worked on a number of projects including co-writing the screenplay for The Man Who Was Eaten, which was featured at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016, writing and directing the 2017 film LEO, and appearing in Ken Ninomiya’s The Matsumoto Tribe (2017). His script and direction for POP! create a quirky coming-of-age tale of a young woman experiencing existential drift as she stands on the cusp of adulthood. The final result is a mixed bag of ideas and one that requires patience but it certainly has an atmosphere.

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Ito いとみち Director: Satoko Yokohama (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Ito    Itomichi Film Poster

いとみち Itomichi

Release Date: June 25th, 2021

Duration: 92 mins.

Director: Satoko Yokohama

Writer: Satoko Yokohama (Script), Osamu Koshigaya (Original Novel)

Starring: Ren Komai, Etsushi Toyokawa, Mei Kurokawa, Yoko Nishikawa, Mayuu Yokota, Ayumu Nakajima, Daimaou Kosaka, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB OAFF

Winner of the Grand Prix and Audience Award at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021, Ito is the first solo feature film from director Satoko Yokohama since her 2015 drama The Actor. Her cinematic return, following a stint in TV, is an adaptation of the first of Osamu Koshigaya’s series of three youth novels that were serialised and published between 2011 to 2016. His novels find their setting in Aomori Prefecture, the birthplace of Yokohama and also of the film’s lead actress Ren Komai.

There must have been an attraction to working on a project that is so close to home and it feels as if their intimate knowledge of Aomori’s way of life helps make more unique and meaningful its heart-warming comedy drama about a teenage girl who finds her voice through maid cafes and shamisen.

Itomichi Film Ren Komai and Mei Kurokawa

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Gotō-san ゴトーさん Dir: Hiroshi Gokan (2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Gotō-san

ゴトーさん Gotō-san

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 77 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Gokan

Writer: Hiroshi Gokan (Script), 

Starring: Hirofumi Suzuki, Tomomi Fukikoshi, Seiichi Kohinata, Manaka Kinoshita, Sun Chi,

OAFF

Mild spoilers in this review

Don’t be fooled by the cute tone, Gotō-san is both dark and refreshingly substantive in its politics which it masks with off-beat characters and meet-cutes in a less-than-ordinary setting. To wit, director Hiroshi Gokan provides a deconstruction of our current capitalist climate wherein, due to factors such as economic liberalisation, cuts to welfare systems, casualisation of work, and certain so-called “efficiencies” such as My Number Cards added for control of identification, society can be quite inhospitable for those who fall off the employment treadmill. Indeed, a person can “disappear” and life can turn into a nightmare as the lead character, the titular Gotō-san finds out.

As travellers and the generally cash-strapped know, 24-hour internet cafes can be cheap and convenient places to stay. The best of them provide showers, a laundry service, a manga library, spacy-enough private booths with computers and the anonymity to live undisturbed for the price of a few thousand yen a day. This is where our titular character Gotō-san works as an assistant and also where he lives.

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yes, yes, yes Director: Akihiko Yano (2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

yes, yes, yes

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 74 mins.

Director: Akihiko Yano

Writer: Akihiko Yano, (Script), 

Starring: Kazuma Uesugi, Kazunari Uryu, Minami Inoue, Nahoko Kawasumi,

OAFF

Sometimes, the meaning of something can be found in the destruction of something else. So it goes in writer and director Akihiko Yano’s original work yes, yes, yes which powerfully depicts a family being reborn after all of the anguish and confusion that comes with facing death.

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Joint ジョイント Director: Oudai Kojima (2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Joint      Joint film Poster 2

ジョイント Jointo

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 118 mins.

Director: Oudai Kojima

Writer: HAM-R (Script),

Starring: Ikken Yamamoto, Kim Jin-cheol, Kim Chang-bak, Keisuke Mitsui, Sogen Higuchi,

OAFF Link

Joint is the debut feature of director Oudai Kojima. While it doesn’t do anything new with its iteration of a story of gangsters, loyalty and betrayal, he makes it memorable and very much worth watching through imbuing it with an atmosphere so strong it will feel like you are plunged into the crime world alongside a charismatic main character whose arc allows you to see every aspect of it.

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colorless 猿楽町で会いましょう Dir: Takashi Koyama (2020)

colorless  colorless Film Poster

猿楽町で会いましょう  Sarugakuchou de aimashou

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 122 mins.

Director: Takashi Koyama

Writer: Takashi Koyama, Yu Shibuya (Screenplay), 

Starring: Ruka Ishikawa, Daichi Kaneko, Shuntaro Yanagi, Sakurako Konishi, Ikuma Nagatomo, Hitoe Ookubo,

Website IMDB

colorless is the directorial debut of Takashi Koyama. He adapted the winner of 2018’s Unfinished Movie Trailer Grand Prix MI-CAN, a competition where filmmaker’s can win a cash prize based on a trailer around 3 minutes. He makes a tragic love story involving two people who are drawn to Shibuya’s fashion culture. The resulting story is cynical, slightly cliched but lifted by the performers while the technicals convey the glitz and glamour of the district.    

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Under Your Bed アンダー・ユア・ベッド (2019) Dir: Mari Asato

Under Your Bed   Under Your Bed Film Poster

アンダー・ユア・ベッド Anda- Yua Beddo

Release Date: July 19th, 2019

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: MarAsato

Writer: Tatsuya Ishii (Screenplay), Kei Ohishi (Novel)

Starring: Kengo Kora, Kanako Nishikawa, Kenichi Abe, Ryosuke Miyake, Yugo Mikawa,

Website IMDB

Handsome leading man Kengo Kora takes on a daring role in this film as he portrays a stalker who, when we first meet him, is living the dream the title suggests as he is under a bed. Not yours, but his target’s bed. However this movie directed by horror specialist Mari Asato subverts the idea of who the threat is as the peeping tom who prowls around a young woman’s home is the least frightening person lurking there.

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Body Remember (2020)

Body Remember    Body Remember Film Poster

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 85 mins.

Director: Keita Yamashina

Writer: Ippei Miyake, Keita Yamashina (Script), 

Starring: Yume Tanaka, Yohei Okuda, Ryuta Furuya,
Takaya Shibata, Momoka Ayukawa, Keita Yamashina,

Website IMDB

A trend in recent Japanese indie films is the use of self-reflexive stories that prompt both the characters and the audience to constantly interrogate what is real. Body Remember, the directorial debut by actor Keita Yamashina, is one such example as it blurs the lines between dream, reality, and fantasy from start to finish in a playful adventure in interpretation as experienced by an artist and writer committing to the page a sultry woman’s murky past.

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