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Hana Dir: Mai Nakanishi (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Hana    Hana Film Poster

Running Time: 13 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director: Mai Nakanishi

Writer: Mai Nakanishi (Screenplay), 

Cinematography: Jun-sang Lee 

Starring: Jeong-bi Lee, Hee-Jin Jean, Do-Eun Kim,

Website IMDB

This is a re-write of my review that was published on V-Cinema a month ago. Corrections and a bit more thoughtful analysis were made as well as references to favourite directors. I want to see more from Mai Nakanishi.

Hana is a Korea-Japan co-production from newbie director Mai Nakanishi. Originally from Tokyo, she has spent much of her career abroad working in various roles on a wide range of international projects including working as an assistant director for Eric Khoo and as producer for Sion Sono. Nakanishi has also worked as producer on the Japanese segments for the horror anthology ABCs of DEATH 2. Most tellingly, she is a founder and director of Scream Queen FilmFest Tokyo, the only female-centric genre film festival in Asia. In short, she is a horror fan, and when she was selected by the Busan International Film Festival to be a fellow at the Asian Film Academy 2016, she produced this short film under the mentorship of the world-renowned Taiwanese master Tsai Ming-Liang. The final product is very much rooted in horror, her favourite playground, and is an effective short.

A home is a reflection of who lives there and how it is decorated and lived in says a lot about a person and how they want to shape their lives (which is why it can be terrifying entering one if you stop and think about it long enough). Couple that idea with the existential one of how we can never truly know another person, pressures and desires and all, then someone seemingly normal can actually be stranger than imagined which is what happens in this neat horror short.

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The Eternity Between Seconds Dir: Alec Figuracion (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

The Eternity Between Seconds    The Eternity Between Seconds Alec Figuracion (2018) Film Poster

Running Time: 83 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Alec Figuracion

Writer: Alec Figuracion (Screenplay)

Starring: Yeng Constanino, TJ Trinidad,

Website IMDB

There is something about liminal spaces such as airports which allows the mind to wander loose from the moorings that reality keeps us grounded with. While there, free from commitments to family or work, it is possible to drift in a sea of strangers as we travel from one location to the next which is when we reassume responsibility. We can take a break from ourselves and be open, not just to a change in place but also thinking. This is an idea explored realistically and relatably in The Eternity Between Seconds, a Filipino film where two weary souls meet and offer respite from life’s worries.

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Wild Tour ワイルドツアー Dir: Sho Miyake (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Wild Tour    Wild Tour Film Poster

ワイルドツアーWairudo Tsua-

Running Time: 67 mins.

Release Date: Summer 2018

Director:  Sho Miyake

Writer: Sho Miyake (Screenplay),

Starring: Honoka Ito, Ryutaro Yasumitsu, Osuke Kuribayashi, Takamasa Yamazaki,

Website IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/if10.html

Sho Miyake made waves with his 2012 sophomore feature Playback (2012), a time slip drama shot in monochrome which was officially screened at the 65th Locarno International Film Festival and won him international attention. Since then he has refused to conform to any one genre and dabbled in a myriad of projects with no common theme. 2014 saw him make the hip-hop documentary THE COCKPIT and that was followed by a 2017 period drama, The Courier. His most recent feature, the human drama And Your Bird Can Sing (2018), based on a novel by Yasushi Sato, was played at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival and this year’s Berlinale. He has another film from 2018 and it goes somewhere else entirely as it combines a documentary about a scientific club with stories of first love.

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Sisterhood シスターフッド Dir: Takashi Nishihara (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Sisterhood    Sisterhood Film Poster

シスターフッド  Shisuta-fuddo

Running Time: 87 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director: Takashi Nishihara

Writer: Takashi Nishihara (Screenplay),

Starring: BOMI, Manami Usamaru, Nina Endo, Ryo Iwase, Mika Akizuki

Website IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/if07.html

The only constant in life is change and we are living through massive changes, not least with regard to the battle for gender equality which has been marked most recently by the #MeToo movement which has spread from America and gained traction in some of the most conservative of societies around the world. Channelling some of the momentum experienced in Japan is Takashi Nishihara, writer and director of Sisterhood. He graduated from the Department of Arts and Film at Waseda University with a focus on documentary and has created fiction films – Blue Ray (2011) and the lesbian love drama Starting Over (2014) – as well as documentaries – About My Freedom (2016) and Queer Asia, a series for GagaOOLala, Asia’s first LGBTQ streaming service. With Sisterhood, he mixes fact and fiction in a film that shows some of the voices asking for change to mainstream of Japanese society.

To capture the shifts going on in gender relations in Japan, Nishihara blurs the bounds between fiction and reality by merging footage from a documentary he has been shooting over the last few years and casting real life actors and models such as Nina Endo and Mika Akizuki (the two leads from Starting Over), SUMIRE and Manami Usamaru, as well as the musician BOMI, and making them play fictional variations of themselves. Each gives a portrayal of a young woman going about their lives. We see them modelling, studying, performing concerts, each desiring to be treated fairly as they chase their dreams and each question their role in society. These questions emerge thanks to a link character, a middle-aged male Tokyo-based documentary film director named Ikeda, played by Ryo Iwase, who interviews people for a documentary about feminism.

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Nunchaku and Soul Dir: Akiyoshi Koba (2019) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Nunchaku and Soul

ヌンチャクソウル  Nunchaku Souru

Running Time: 25 mins.

Release Date: 2019

Director: Akiyoshi Koba

Writer: Akiyoshi Koba (Screenplay),

Starring: Masahiro Kuroki, Atsushi Takahashi, Jun Bay, Anju Kurosu, Yun Hayama, Michiko Hayashi, Shinichiro Osawa,

Website IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/if03.html

Director Akiyoshi Koba is a part-time lecturer at Nagaoka Zokei University and an indie filmmaker whose works feature a mixture of everyday settings dusted with a little sci-fi and tweaked with comedy. Titles include, Slippers and  a Midsummer Moon (2015) where two sisters travel between parallel worlds to find their missing father, the tokusatsu parody short Psychics Z (2016), and Tsumugi’s Radio (2017), a gentle comedy about mental illness and mistimed romance told with a lot of flashbacks. In each of the films, mundane locations are used for out of the ordinary events. This is probably driven by budget constraints but it has resulted in an oeuvre which celebrates the possibility of fun and DIY filmmaking in small-town Japan. Nunchaku and Soul is probably Koba’s most amusing work to date and continues in this vein.

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Harmonium 深田晃司 Dir: Koji Fukada (2016)

Harmonium  harmonium-film-poster 

深田晃司 「Fuchi ni Tatsu

Release Date: October 10th, 2016

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Takahiro Miura, Momone Shinokawa,

IMDB   Website

Koji Fukada’s Harmonium took the Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and for good reason because it shows a director in precise control of his material. Story-wise, it follows in the footsteps of his debut feature Hospitalite (2011) wherein a stranger enters the lives of a family and disrupts things. While Fukada’s earlier title was light-hearted and poked fun at the social mores of Japan, this film is harsher with only a few dashes of hope beaming down in the final scenes.

Taking the lead is experienced thesp Kanji Futurachi, a familiar face from Fukada’s earlier films like Au Revoir l’ete (2015) and Human Comedy Tokyo (2012) and, crucially, Hospitalite (2011) where he was the stranger that forced a revolution on a family. In a role reversal he is the patriarch and a victim of sorts here as he plays Toshio, the owner of a small factory in the suburbs of some city or other. No location is given. It’s a nondescript and quiet place where he lives a quiet existence with his church-going wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and their daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa). It is she who plays the titular harmonium that gives the film’s soundtrack a funereal sense.

Harmonium Film Image

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Human Comedy in Tokyo 東京人間喜劇 Dir: Koji Fukada (2008)

Human Comedy in Tokyo    Human Comedy Tokyo Film Poster

東京人間喜劇 Tokyo Ningen Kigeki

Running Time: 139 mins.

Release Date: October 11th, 2008

Director:  Koji Fukada

Writer:  Koji Fukada (Screenplay),

Starring: Michitaro Mizushima, Misako Watanabe, Shoichi Ozawa, Shinsuke Ashida, Mari Shiraki, Akira Hisamatsu, Tatsuo Matsushita, Reiko Arai, Kotoe Hatsui,

IMDB

Having watched Fukada’s later works, Harmonium (2016), Sayonara (2015) and Au revoir l’ete (2013) (in that order), I was a fool to expect his feature-film debut Human Comedy Tokyo (2008) to actually be a comedy. What it has to say about human relations makes it one of the bleakest films I have seen in a while as we find that the title is super ironic because he depicts people in Tokyo as super isolated. Continue reading “Human Comedy in Tokyo 東京人間喜劇 Dir: Koji Fukada (2008)”

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Au revoir l’ete ほとりの朔子 Dir: Koji Fukada (2014)

Au revoir l’ete          

Au revoir lete Film poster
Au revoir lete Film poster

ほとりの朔子 「Hotori no Sakuko」

Running Time: 125 mins.

Release Date: January 18th, 2014

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Mayu Tsuruta, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Ena Koshino, Makiko Watanabe, Kiki Sugino

Website

Koji Fukada is a film-maker inspired by the cultures of France and Indonesia as best evidenced by him transplanting elements to his native Japan in his many works. His like of French New Wave cinema is made obvious by this film, Au Revoir l’ete, which means goodbye summer and plays like an Eric Rohmer film where relationships are unpicked in a nonchalant manner as we get to a deeper understanding of some human relationships. It’s the perfect title for a film that describes the quiet misadventures of a teenage girl who waves goodbye to her naivete and matures a little more while in the company of some childish adults.

It is late August and an eighteen-year-old Tokyoite Sakuko (Fumi Nikaido) is a ronin student who is preparing to take her university entrance exam after flunking her previous one. Studying is the perfect excuse for her to tag along with her aunt Mikie (Mayu Tsuruta) who is house-sitting for her sister, Sakuko’s mother, in a sleepy coastal town.

Au revoir l'ete Film Image 3

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Sayonara さよなら Dir: Koji Fukada (2015)

Sayonara      

Sayonara Film Poster
Sayonara Film Poster

さよなら「Sayonara

Running Time: 112 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer:  Koji Fukada, Oriza Hirata (Screenplay),

Starring: Bryerly Long, Hirofumi Arai, Geminoid F, Makiko Murata, Yuko Kibiki, Nijiro Murakami,

Website   IMDB

Koji Fukada’s (Hospitalité, Au revoir l’été) 2015 movie Sayonara is billed as the first ever film with an android as one of the stars. As intriguing as seeing an artificial life-form act seems to be, the final result is a pretty lifeless affair in both acting and story terms but it does have some emotional impact.

It is based on a collaboration between Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata (a familiar collaborator with Fukada) and a leading robotics scientist named Hiroshi Ishiguro who works at Osaka University and has been developing different models of the Geminoid androids since 2005. Their team-up resulted in a 15-minute stage-play that travelled Japan with people being able to see the actor Bryerly Long conversing with the latest in android technology. With the two actors on stage and sat down it was a largely static affair in a story where a human woman comes to terms with her impending death through talking and the recitation of poetry. The film largely adopts the stage-play from what I have read and, despite looking good, suffers from relaying the content straight in an end-of-the-world tale that takes two hours but feels longer.

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hospitalité 歓待1.1 Dir: Koji Fukada (2011)

hospitalité   Hospitalite Film Poster

歓待1.1 Kantai 1.1

Running Time: 153 mins.

Release Date: April 23rd, 2011

Director:  Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Kenji Yamauchi, Kiki Sugino, Kanji Furutachi, Bryerly Long, Eriko Ono, Naoki Sugawara, Hiroko Matsuda,

IMDB

Japan is a society where manners and decorum are everything. This is good for the most part. Politeness is the oil that makes society run smoothly. It does have its problems because it can be a nice veneer used to cover up nefarious behaviour or act as a battering ram forcing people to act certain ways. In such an environment, all sorts of negative emotions like paranoia and mistrust can run rife under the surface of individuals and social groups. Hospitalite makes this environment its playground and takes things to absurd heights as it critiques how Japanese society can use outsiders as a scapegoat for problems inside the community.

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