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Still Walking 歩いても 歩いても Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda (2008)

Still Walking   Still Walking Film Poster

歩いても 歩いても Aruitemo Aruitemo

Running Time: 114 mins.

Release Date: June 28th, 2008

Director:  Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay/Original Story),

Starring: Kiki Kirin, Hiroshi Abe, You, Yui Natsukawa, Kazuya Takahashi, Yoshio Harada, Shohei Tanaka, Haruko Kato, Susumu Terajima,

IMDB

Quite possibly Kore-eda’s best film this is a snapshot of a family over 24 hours that, through deft storytelling reveals richly complicated and interwoven lives from different generations.

The seasons are about to change from summer to autumn and preparations are underway at the Yokoyama household for the annual commemoration of the eldest son Junpei who drowned in an accident 15 years ago. The spacious, comfortable and old-fashioned house run by Toshiko (Kirin Kiki) will welcome her middle-aged children and their young families who will be arriving soon. Meanwhile, curmudgeon father Kyohei (Yoshio Harada), a former physician, walks around their quiet neighbourhood to the beach where the tragic accident happened when not hiding in the clinic attached to their home. The daughter, Chinami (YOU), will bring her good-natured husband Nobuo (Kazuya Takahashi) and their cheerful kids Satsuki (Hotaru Nomoto) and Mutsu (Ryoga Hayashi) who will invade the house and fill it with laughter and tales from school but there is an edge to the atmosphere as they await second son Ryota (Hiroshi Abe).

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Hanagatami 花筐 Dir: Nobuhiko Obayashi (2017)

Hanagatami    Hanagatami Film Poster

花筐 「Hanagatami

Running Time: 169 mins.

Release Date: December 16th, 2017

Director:  Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi, Chiho Katsura(Screenplay), Kazuo Dan (Original Novel)

Starring: Shunsuke Kubozuka, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Keishi Nagatsuka, Tokio Emoto, Mugi Kadowaki, Tetsuya Takeda, Takako Tokiwa, Hirona Yamazaki,

IMDB Website

Is there subject-matter that film as a medium is better than others at capturing? Perhaps it is emotions. Or maybe memories. Filmmakers can examine them in many expressive ways and with an incredible arsenal of technical tools open to the cast and crew, imagination really is the limit. Enter the adventurous Nobuhiko Obayashi, a man not shy of being creative as proven in his career which stretches back to the 1950s and features a long filmography that trades in fantasy, experimentalism, and surrealism. He is best known for the haunted-house musical House (1977) but nothing will prepare those familiar solely with that fun film for Hanagatami! Obayashi’s limiters are off in this deep-dive into the precious memories of a man who lived through an age of emotional turbulence as Japan hurtled headlong into the chaos of World War II.

Hanagatami Image 4

It is the summer of 1941 in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. 17-year-old Toshihiko Sakakiyama (Shunsuke Kubozuka) has just travelled from his parents’ home in Amsterdam to stay with his wealthy aunt Keiko Ema (Takako Tokiwa) in her large manor. He will share it with his sickly cousin Mina (Honoka Yahagi) who suffers from tuberculosis. While there, he is attending a school where falls under the influence of the grim and philosophical Kira (Keishi Nagatsuka) who is physically infirm, and Ukai (Shinnosuke Mitsushima), a boy both strong in body and mind and with a pure soul that attracts Toshihiko. There are girls his age, too. Kira’s cousin, the melancholy Chitose (Mugi Kadowaki) who carries a camera she loves to use to capture people’s existence and the more playful and positive Akine (Hirona Yamazaki) whose mischievous grin and compassion for others lights up all occasions.

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Toward a Common Tenderness あの優しさへ Dir: Kaori Oda (2017)

Toward a Common Tenderness

あの優しさへ Ano Yasashi-sa e

Running Time: 63 mins.

Release Date: N/A

Director:  Kaori Oda

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Director Kaori Oda uses her film Towards A Common Tenderness to explore the way that cinema can be used to depict the space and feelings between people, how the camera has the power to understand and destroy what is recorded, the ethics of film-making, and her own personal journey as a film-maker.

Originally from Osaka, Oda moved to Virginia where she studied film at Hollins University. She made her debut with the short Thus a Noise Speaks (2010), a self-documentary about her coming out as gay to her family which won the Audience Award at the Nara International Film Festival. Following this came a period where she faced a creative and personal impasse which resulted in her travelling to Sarajevo to study at Béla Tarr’s film.factory film workshop from 2013 to 2016. Whilst studying she made a few shorts and then created her first feature-length film Aragane (2015) which depicted work inside a coal mine. It made waves at documentary festivals around the world due to its impressionistic form which Oda created by focussing on using the senses to convey the space in the mine rather than approaching the subject solely through more conventional means such as an analysis of class. Her time in Bosnia proved to be beneficial as a way of overcoming personal and professional questions over using her family as the subject of her debut film. With a wealth of experience and footage to root through, Oda dives into this issue, sinuously and seamlessly pulling together many threads to create a smooth stream of images and sounds in an exploration of her own character and creative urges as she makes herself the subject.

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Amiko  あみこ Dir: Yoko Yamanaka (2017)

Amiko     Amiko Film Poster

あみこ Amiko

Running Time: 66 mins.

Release Date: September 14th, 2018

Director: Yoko Yamanaka

Writer: Yoko Yamanaka (Screenplay),

Starring: Ai Sunohara, Hiroshi Oshita, Mineo Maiko,

Amiko is the directorial debut from Yoko Yamanaka, a twenty-year-old from Nagano whose indie film won the Audience Award and Hikari TV Award at the Pia Film Festival 2017 for it’s originality and entertainment and was featured at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, Fantasia and Japan Cuts, which is how I saw it. Its tale of a girl’s experience in love is a universal one but unique because of its central character, a firecracker of a person who is effortlessly entertaining.

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Born Bone Born 洗骨 (2018) Dir: Toshiyuki Teruya

Born Bone Born

洗骨 Senkotsu

Running Time: 111 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director:  Toshiyuki Teruya

Writer: Toshiyuki Teruya (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayame Misaki, Eiji Okuda, Michitaka Tsutsui, Yoko Oshima, Akira Sakamoto, Kyutaro Suzuki, Mariko Tsutsui,

There is diversity to Japan that would surprise people but when one considers it is an archipelago which consists of over 6000 islands, of which 430 are inhabited with a diverse mix of people, most famously the Ainu in Hokkaido and the Ryukyu of Okinawa, it makes sense. Each region in Japan has its own unique custom, culinary dish, and colloquialisms and some places can be so cut-off from the mainland or under-explored that they have traditions that are unheard of even to Japanese which is what this film uses to give new life to the dysfunctional family reunion narrative.

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The Hungry Lion 飢えたライオン Dir: Takaomi Ogata (2017)

The Hungry Lion    The Hungry Lion Film Poster   

飢えたライオン Ueta Raion

Running Time: 78 mins.

Release Date: N/A

Director:  Takaomi Ogata

Writer: Takaomi Ogata, Fujio Ikeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Urara Matsubayashi, Atomu Mizuishi, Mariko Tsutsui,

This was at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and Rotterdam and the New York Asian Film Festival this year.

The Hungry Lion is the fourth feature from Fukuoka-born indie filmmaker Takaomi Ogata. Each of his films address pressing social issues faced by modern Japan. Never Ending Blue (2011) shows a teenage girl enduring child abuse and self-abuse and was potent enough to win the Runner-up Grand Prix at the 2010 Okinawa Motion Picture Festival. Body Temperature (2011) featured the story of an intensely lonely man too focussed on a life-sized doll to make a connection with other humans. Sunk Into the Womb (2013) features a Nobody Knows type of story about a single-mother who abandons her children. The Hungry Lion has the harrowing story of an innocent person having their reputation murdered by liars, gossip-mongers, and the media.

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Of Love and Law 愛と法 (2017) Dir: Hikaru Toda

Of Love & Law     Of Love and Law Film Poster

愛と法 「Ai to hou」    

Running Time: 94 mins.

Release Date: September 2018

Director:  Hikaru Toda

Writer: N/A

Starring: Kazuyuki Minami, Masafumi Yoshida, Yae Minami, Kazumi Tsujitani, Rokudenashiko, Hiroko Tsujitani, Masae Ido, Natsuo Yamamoto,

Website     IMDB    JFDB

Documentarian and visual anthropologist Hikaru Toda is based in London and Osaka and has worked on many films to explore the differences between people and society. Love Hotel, a 2014 film she co-directed, was a look at the lives of the customers of a love hotel in Osaka. It eschewed going down the cheap route of titillating and alternative sex to look at the pressures, inner-desires, and memories that drive the people who escape to such a private place. The film also offered a look at the creeping draconian politics of Japan’s government which is shutting down love hotels whilst also taking away personal freedoms as it re-militarises the country. Two of the customers were gay lawyers Kazu and Fumi who lived out their love behind closed doors and reappear in this documentary out in the open.

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The Scythian Lamb 羊の木 Dir: Daihachi Yoshida (2018)

The Scythian Lamb   The Scythian Lamb Film Poster

羊の木 Hitsuji no ki

Running Time: 126 mins.

Release Date: February 03rd, 2018

Director: Daihachi Yoshida

Writer: Masato Kagawa (Screenplay), Tatsuhiko Yamagami, Mikio Igarashi (Original Manga),

Starring: Ryo Nishikido, Fumino Kimura, Kazuki Kitamura, Yuka, Mikako Ichikawa, Shingo Mizusawa, Min Tanaka, Ryuhei Matsuda, Tamae Ando,

Website IMDB

You can never truly know another person, the old existentialist saying goes. It’s not necessarily that people hide various aspects of their character and history, it’s also that people change all of the time. With that in mind, Daihachi Yoshida’s movies dwell in that gap between the fixed persona and the shadows his characters hide and we see the sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic actions that barely repressed desires and fears make people perform. The Kirishima Thing looked at the politics of high school life with longed-for and thwarted romances between members of various cliques while Pale Moon looked at the weight of expectation from society through the tale of a normal woman and her desire to escape into fantasy in order to feel desired. They all operate with varying tones of drama and comedy and it is much the same in The Scythian Lamb where tight-knit community is asked to accept a group of outsiders with troublesome pasts and hidden intentions.

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Penguin Highway, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion, Gintama 2, Angel in the Closet, Kare no nichijō, The Shape of Happiness, The Seven Deadly Sins the Movie: Prisoners of the Sky, Miraculous Chat Lady, Chotto no ame nara ga man, Far East Babies Japanese Film Trailers    

Happy weekend, people!

Shiawase no katachi Film Image

I hope you are all well!

I’m pushed for time. I have to write. I have to practice Japanese. I have to work every day. I’m happy. I need to improve in all areas and so I’m going back to Japanese language classes in September. I’m going to study before then. Also, I’ve got a lot of films to watch as part of Donation Theater since the site went live with the films for people who donated. Friends and the families of friends in western Japan are safe but for those who had to be evacuated or lost their old lives, Donation Theater is providing assistance. Why not donate something and help out?

There are a lot of films I’m watching outside of Donation Theater but that is a long-term thing. I posted reviews for Dynamite Graffiti and The Blood of Wolves this week. 

What is released in Japan this weekend?

Continue reading “Penguin Highway, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion, Gintama 2, Angel in the Closet, Kare no nichijō, The Shape of Happiness, The Seven Deadly Sins the Movie: Prisoners of the Sky, Miraculous Chat Lady, Chotto no ame nara ga man, Far East Babies Japanese Film Trailers    “

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The Blood of Wolves 孤狼の血 Dir: Kazuya Shiraishi (2018)

The Blood of Wolves      The Blood of Wolves Film Poster

孤狼の血 Korou no chi

Running Time: 126 mins.

Release Date: May 12th, 2018

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Writer: Junya Ikegami (Screenplay), Yuko Yuzuki (Original Novel)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Tori Matsuzaka, Yoko Maki, Tomoya Nakamura, Pierre Taki, Shido Nakamura, Yosuke Eguchi, Renji Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

Director Kazuya Shiraishi follows his Roman Porno, Dawn of the Felines with this blistering film.

Hiroshima is a prefecture with lots of natural beauty but filmmakers do like to find drama in the dark underbelly of the place, perhaps most famously with Kinji Fukasaku’s 1970s crime film series Battles without Honour and Humanity which was based on the experiences of a post-war yakuza boss from Hiroshima. Kazuya Shiraishi takes audiences into the same world with The Blood of Wolves, a film which feels like a throwback to an earlier time due to its raw violence, emotions, and the character archetypes in play. Shiraishi is no stranger to the crime genre thanks to his previous films The Devil’s Path (2013) and Twisted Justice (2016) but this is his best crime film yet and it is all down to a magnetic performance from lead actor Koji Yakusho and his character’s no-holds barred attitude to policing.

The Blood of Wolves Film Image 6

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