Out of TOKYO202x Director: Akinori Ikuse [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022] V-Cinema

Out of TOKYO202x    Out of Tokyo 2020 Film Poster

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 14 mins.

Director: Akinori Ikuse

Writer: Takuya Matsuura (Screenplay),

Starring: Ucyu Imagawa, So Morozumi,

From George Pal’s classic The Time Machine (1960) to Robert Zemeckis’ crowd-pleaser Back to the Future (1985), to Shane Carruth’s puzzling low-budget indie Primer (2004) and Christopher Nolan’s epic espionage thriller Tenet (2020), time travel films come in many forms that show that the genre is truly timeless. Even now, new ideas keep emerging. Writer Takuya Matsuura and director Akinori Ikuse add to the genre with their Olympics-inspired short Out of Tokyo 202x, a hopeful story that relays romance and razzamatazz found at the Tokyo 2020 games.

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It starts with young time traveller Rika (Ucyu Imagawa) meeting mysterious young man Shin (So Morozumi) amidst a crowd of onlookers during the opening ceremonies of the summer games. Their discussion of temporal movement smoothly slips the proceedings into the realm of the sci-fi as we learn more about Rika’s novel method of traversing time via the manipulation of masses of collected data, like photos, videos, and blogs. She is from the future but it turns out that he is actually from even further forward in time. As the atmosphere of the day overtakes them, their relationship blossoms into something deeper.

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SANKA: Nomads of the Mountains 山歌 Director: Ryohei Sasatani [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Sanka: Nomads of the Mountains    Sanka Nomads of the Mountains Film Poster

山歌(サンカ) Sanka

Release Date: April 22nd, 2022

Duration: 77 mins.

Director: Ryohei Sasatani

Writer: Ryohei Sasatani (Screenplay),

Starring: Rairu Sugita, Naru Komukai, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Kisuke Iida, Shungiku Uchida, Yoko Ran,

Website

Films featuring the clash between modernisation, tradition, and the natural world are plentiful in cinema, perhaps most memorably in the magical movies of Miyazaki and Takahata of Studio Ghibli fame with Princess Mononoke (1997) and Pom Poko (1994). Documentarian Ryohei Sasatani makes his narrative feature debut with crowdfunded indie Sanka: Nomads of the Mountains and channels these themes onto the screen via the self-actualisation of the film’s young protagonist.

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Howling 遠吠え Dir: M Haris Sheikh (2022) V Cinema Show Review [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Howling    Howling Film Poster

遠吠え Toboe 

Release Date: April 16th, 2022

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: M Haris Sheikh

Writer: M Haris Sheikh (Screenplay),

Starring: Ichiro Hashimoto, Yukino Takahashi, Ryoma Ikegami, Sanae Kotani, Takahiro Ono,

Website

There is no rule stating that a film has to have a hero who is successful or likeable. There doesn’t even have to be a hero. Such is the case with Howling, a  neo-noir by writer/director M Haris Sheikh where the story’s sad-sack “hero” operates with self-aggrandising sophistry that ultimately undermines his quest to be a leading man.

Our so-called hero is Ryuji (Ichiro Hashimoto), a 40-year-old who has no woman, no stable job, and no intention of living in reality as witnessed when the film opens and he is shown sexually harassing one of the part-timers who works with him at a karaoke parlour. He claims he is “rescuing” her from another colleague but as the woman argues back, Ryuji has stalked her for quite a while. When he explains to a much younger job interviewer a couple of scenes down the line that his firing was all about appearances, he glosses over the reality.

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Bagmati River バグマティ リバー Dir: Yusaku Matsumoto (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022] vcinema review

Films about characters processing grief are common and are usually totally Bagmati River Film Posterfictional. A memorable romance between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s characters was sustained via the supernatural in Jerry Zucker’s Ghost (1990), while Charlotte Rampling’s frosty academic couldn’t shake the spectre of her missing husband in Francois Ozon’s Under the Sand (2000), and Machiko Ono’s care-home worker was taken deep into the Mourning Forest (2007) by Naomi Kawase. Are films that are made to process grief as equally plentiful? Bagmati River, a short film by Yusaku Matsumoto, is one such work and it is based on reality.

The genesis of the film lies in the friendship between Matsumoto and a mountain climber named Nobukazu Kuriki. It began when the latter supported the release of Matsumoto’s debut feature Noise (2017), then recruited the director to make a documentary about his exploits in Nepal. However, when Kuriki died during his descent from Mount Everest, Matsumoto was left with profound lessons, one being the dangers of the mountains – Matsumoto himself experienced altitude sickness while filming – and the other in gaining an appreciation of the spiritual and physical aspects of Nepal from Kuriki’s influence. With Bagmati River, Matsumoto reflects his experiences and learns to let go of his friend through the journey, both spiritual and physical, of the main character.

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Summer Wedding 恋がする Director: Azusa Hieda [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Summer Wedding    Summer Wedding Film Poster

恋がする Koigasuru

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 17 mins.

Director: Azusa Hieda

Writer: Azusa Hieda (Screenplay),

Starring: Rika Kurosawa, Daiki Nunami,

Receiving its world premiere at the 2022 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Azusa Hieda’s short Summer Wedding was the only work to directly use COVID-19 as a large part of its setting.

Like last year’s Among Four of Us by Mayu Nakamura, it is a pandemic-themed film that shows how isolation and distance prompt self-reflection and change in its characters in unexpected ways.

 

The titular summer wedding is a makeshift event involving a woman (Rika Kurosawa) and her lover (Daiki Nunami) at her family home. The ceremony is an unofficiated and imperfect affair marked not with joy but melancholy as the two are alone and awkward together. “If it weren’t for Covid, we wouldn’t be here,” says the woman wistfully.

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Far Away, Further Away 遠くへ,もっと遠くへ Director: Shinji Imaoka [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Far Away, Further Away    Far Away Further Away Film Poster

遠くへ,もっと遠くへ Toku he, motto Toku he

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 107 mins.

Director: Shinji Imaoka

Writer: Kishu Izuchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Manami Shindo, Kaito Yoshimura, Hitomi Wada, Ippei Osako, Yohta Kawase,

Website

In his latest work, Shinji Imaoka continues to put distance from his pink film origins by working with fellow prolific genre-hopping writer/director Kishu Izuchi (who also got his start in the pink film industry) to make Far Away, Further Away, an unsentimental yet humanistic drama that kindly looks upon two people discarded by their partners who pair up and go on a road-trip to Japan’s far north.

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Random Call ランダム・コール Dir: Riki Ohkanda [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Random Call    Random Call Film Poster

ランダム・コール   Randamu Ko-ru

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 83 mins.

Director: Riki Ohkanda

Writer: Riki Ohkanda (Screenplay),

Starring: Tensho Shibuya, Shin Adachi, Ako, Shunsaku Kudo, Yudai Uenishi,

Riki Ohkanda hails from Chicago but now lives in Tokyo and works in the Japanese television and film industries where she has credits on titles like Love and Peace (2016), Demekin (2017), and GI Joe: Snake Eyes (2021). From the contacts that she has made over the years, she recruited friends and colleagues (including Sion Sono!) to make Random Call, a delightful light drama/comedy about human connections as told through the prism of a struggling actor getting over himself as he gets reacquainted with people.

When we first meet our main character, Ryo Kinugawa (Tensho Shibuya), things look bleak. Quite literally, actually! The lighting is dark, sombre music plays, his face is cast in shadow, and he goes from writing a funeral contact list to leafing through a copy of The Suicide Manual (the inspiration for the same-named film) which lies on top of a stack of unopened scripts. A striking shot of him on a poster for a theatre performance of Hamlet from ten year’s prior suggests his career, once so full of potential(!), is in the doldrums and it seems to be true as in the very next scene, he’s doing a good job at acting but gets rejected because he is so talented he will outshine the rest of the cast.

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Boy, Sprouted 少年、なにかが発芽する Director: Yuko Watanabe [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Boy, Sprouted

少年、なにかが発芽する Shounen, nani ka ga hatsugasuru

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 26 mins.

Director: Yuko Watanabe

Writer: FURUKOTO, Hiroki Tawada (Screenplay),

Starring: Seitaro Hara, Kanako Higashi, Kenji Iwaya,

We have all been there. That refusal to eat a certain food as a child. For some of us, it may even include trying to get a child to eat something. Usually it is healthy food – who really likes the taste of cauliflower??? While experiences may differ, it is very rarely the ordeal that Yuko Watanabe, as director and editor, portrays it as in her funny and visually arresting short film Boy, Sprouted.

Our players are a boy (Seitaro Hara) who dislikes tomatoes and his mother (Kanako Higashi) who wants him to get over his aversion to them. Working off a script created by an AI named “FURUKOTO,” Yuko Watanabe makes the relatively harmless everyday occurrence of fussy eating into a psychological horror film by the way she simply holds attention and wraps various filmic elements around mundane things, thus turning them into the mysterious and menacing.

Boy Sprouted Film Image

Where our gaze is directed to and for how long, is key here. Looking at something makes it important, looking at something for too long creates a fixation that can turn either positive or negative and when there is too much of something, it can feel overwhelming. When it comes to tomatoes in this film, it really is too much.

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Angry Son 世界は僕らに気づかない Dir: Kashou Iizuka [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Angry Son      Angry Son Film Poster

世界は僕らに気づかない Seikatsu wa Bokura ni Kidzukanai

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: Kashou Iizuka

Writer: Kashou Iizuka (Screenplay),

Starring: Kazuki Horike, GOW, Masafumi Shinohara, Tomoka Murayama, Kenji Iwaya,

Kashou Iizuka is a transgender writer, director and cinematographer whose works, like his 2011 Pia Film Festival Special Jury Prize-winning autobiographical debut Our Future, are concerned with the existence of people who don’t fit neatly in society. In 2022, he has two films out, Futari no Sekai, a drama involving transgenderism, and Angry Son, in which he humanely and somewhat comedically tackles immigration and the mixed-race experience through the prism of a single-parent family where parent and child get on like cat and dog but for the worst reasons.

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Howling 遠吠え Dir: Sheikh M Haris (2022) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Howling    Howling Film Poster

遠吠え Toboe」 

Release Date: April 16th, 2022

Duration: 86 mins.

Director: Sheikh M Haris

Writer: Sheikh M Haris (Screenplay),

Starring: Ichiro Hashimoto, Yukino Takahashi, Ryoma Ikegami, Sanae Kotani, Takahiro Ono,

Website

There is no rule stating that a film has to have a hero who is successful or likeable. Heck, there doesn’t have to be a hero. Such is the case with Howling by Sheikh M Haris, a bleakly funny and noirish tragicomedy where disaffected and marginalised characters who seek a “hero” or to become one as they struggle to find a way out of their bleak lives.

Our main protag is Ryuji (Ichiro Hashimoto), a 40-year-old man who, when we first meet him, is sexually harassing one of the part-timers who works with him at a karaoke parlour. Appropriately, he gets fired for his actions but as he explains to a job interviewer a couple of scenes down the line, his firing was all about appearances as he glosses over the reality of his own behaviour. “The world is tough for middle-aged men,” he insists.

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