“HIDARI 左”, a New Production Involving Dwarf Studio and Tecarat – Back a Stop-Motion Historical Action Film’s Crowdfunding Campaign

A crowdfunding campaign is underway over at Motion Gallery for a pilot film for a stop-motion action adventure called Hidari 左.

Set in the 17th Century, it tells the story of the legendary sculptor Hidari Jingoro, a man whose talents included sculpting, carpentry, painting, architecture, and even comedy, amongst other things. He was reputed to have carved many sculptures and artworks up and down the country, including the famous nemuri-neko (sleeping cat) carving at the Tosho-gu Shrine in Nikko. When it comes to this film, instead of art, think action as Hidari Jingoro looks set to fight with a prosthetic arm, kind of like Guts from Berserk.

Here’s a clip of it as a work-in-progress:

Synopsis: Jingoro lost his right arm, as well as his parents, teacher, and his friends, in an accident while working as a carpenter during the reconstruction of Edo Castle due to the betrayal of his friends. After this loss, he becomes known as “Hidari Jingoro” and seeks his revenge on a journey he has undertaken with his companion, Nemurai Neko. His weapons of choice are various carpentry tools and a “Karakuri prosthesis” on his right arm which allows him to pull people.

As he approaches the truth of the accident, while encountering various historical figures and fierce battles with strange villains, he finds himself unearthing a plot involving the Shogun, and uses the help of carpenters and others to save the city of Edo from Edo Castle, which has become a huge weapon.

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

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,

Azusa Hieda’s profound short film Summer Wedding uses the Covid-19 pandemic as a prompt for the self-reflection and change in its main character.

The titular summer wedding should be a happy affair but it is rife with countervailing emotions stemming from its setting. This wedding is a makeshift event held not in a church but in a suburban house due for demolition. Furthermore, its participants, a less-than-blushing bride (Rika Kurosawa) and her lover (Daiki Nunami), seem uneasy around each other. “If it weren’t for Covid, we wouldn’t be here,” says the bride wistfully as she prepares her own cake and directs the unofficiated, unattended, and, ultimately, melancholy ceremony.

Summer Wedding Film Image Rika Kurosawa Continue reading “Summer Wedding 恋がする Director: Azusa Hieda [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022] V-Cinema”

Swallow 喰之女 Director: Mai Nakanishi (2021)

Swallow

喰之女

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 23 mins.

Director: Mai Nakanishi

Writer: Mai Nakanishi (Script),

Starring: Han Ning (Mimi), Liu Dai-Ying (Xue-Lan), Vera Chan (Annie), Arrow Chih-Hsuan Peng (Waiter),

 IMDB

One woman’s greedy pursuit of movie stardom leads to a sticky end in Swallow, a 22-minute short from Mai Nakanishi. Winner of a Special Mention at the Generation XYZ competition at Tampere Film Festival 2022, Nakanishi’s film offers a grisly and gorgeous story that gives audiences a bite of body horror, a taste of surreal imagery, and some ideas to digest in a satirical take of our beauty-obsessed culture. For such a short film, there is a lot on offer to delight the senses and intellect.

Continue reading “Swallow 喰之女 Director: Mai Nakanishi (2021)”

Melting Sounds ほとぼりメルトサウンズ Director: Kahori Higashi [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Melting Sounds        Melting Sounds Film Poster

ほとぼりメルトサウンズ Hotobori Meruto Saunzu

Release Date: July 16th, 2022

Duration: 80 mins.

Director: Kahori Higashi

Writer: Kahori Higashi, Yuichi Nagatsuma (Screenplay),

Starring: xiangyu, Keiichi Suzuki, Amon Hirai, Umeno Uno, Tadashi Sakata,

Much like many of the previous films released under the aegis of MOOSIC LAB, like Dong Teng Town, Soul Music, and Sleeping Insect, Kahori Higashi’s Melting Sounds mixes music with low-key dramatic ruminations of mortality and ties everything together with a quirky character. Said quirky character is played by xiangyu, an electropop star and frequent collaborator of Suiyobi no Campanella, who offers her offbeat music and cute personality to a film that is cute and quietly devastating as it gets into the issues of losing things before offering a life-affirming way of rescue.

The story begins in Kiryu, a rural city in Gunma Prefecture, one winter when a young woman named Koto (xiangyu) arrives at her grandmother’s former home for a solo getaway trip from the city. Upon arriving she is met by the sight of a cardboard tent set up in the garden, the proprietor of which is an old man named Take (Keiichi Suzuki). Less oddball and more archivist, he has an array of analogue recording devices with which he records sounds of everyday life on cassette tapes before burying them in the ground to create “sound graves.” Koto, intrigued, joins in.

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The Residents 暮らしの残像 Director: Kahori Higashi [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

The Residents

暮らしの残像 Kurashi no Zanzo

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 16 mins.

Director: Kahori Higashi

Writer: Kahori Higashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Toma Hirose, Yukimi Soma, Rin Oka, Shinoka Mashima, Tiffany Fujimoto,

In a case of the English title being a better fit for the film, Kahori Higashi’s short film The Residents hides a powerful twist that the Japanese title gives away. What initially starts as a simple comedy of manners drawn from a deluge of quirky characters in one location turns out to be something more as viewers get to know more about the titular residents. 

The Residents Film Image

What do you get when you stick housewife, a flautist, a hostess, two lovers, and an aspiring actor in a cramped apartment on a sticky hot summer’s day? While this sounds like the set-up for a convoluted joke, it is the beginnings of a melancholy tale.

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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.

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

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.

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