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Yalta Conference Online ヤルタ会談 “オンライン化”!  Dir: Koji Fukada (2020) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

Yalta Conference Online

ヤルタ会談オンライン化“!  Yaruta Kaidan “Onrainka”!

Release Date: June 01st, 2020

Running Time: 38 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroko Matsuda, Yozo Shimada, Fumie Midorikawa 

The Yalta Conference Online is, like the title suggests, a re-imagination of the famous meeting that happened on February 04th, 1945, between Stalin (Hiroko Matsuda), Roosevelt (Fumie Midorikawa) and Churchill (Yozo Shimada). There is none of the pomp and ceremony given to these grand old men, this is a Zoom meeting and so they all get online to chat about the post-war world. Pleasantries turn into negotiations over how to finish the fighting, and who occupies where but the writing and performances are done with the flippancy and awkwardness of an online talk and the humour is shadowed with the audience’s understanding of how their plans turned out.

It is based on a Hirata Oriza stage-play which was made expressly for the We Are One Global Film Festival and it works well within the limitations. The historical figures are all played as caricatures with our manner and social mores. The fact that they wear silly costumes and that the gender of the actors doesn’t matter should be a good indication of this being a comedy and the performances ply absurd and ironic laughs from what is a cheeky adaptation of history.

The dialogue comes thick and fast with grandstanding mixed with gossiping and through their talk we see their overblown pride and prejudice and inaccurate readings of the future. Particularly biting is the casual anti-semitism, orientalism and prejudice as well as the sense of western supremacy and superiority which still exists to this day. What steers this from being offensive is that the characters are clearly parodies of the real people and the film allows audiences to critique their ideas so it is able to be viewed as mordantly funny when they are dismissively talking about liquidating a group of officers or their treatment of refugees. Also, having Japanese play these people helps in lessening any offence and adds some interesting subtext in the mocking of the imperial mindset of Japan at the time which adds an interesting dimension of self-awareness.

There are some inconsistencies in the area of dialogue such as a mention of James Bond which Ian Flemyng created after the war and the constant reference to England rather than Britain, but the dialogue is delivered with witty repartee as the actors, all part of the same acting company, have whizz-bang chemistry that gives them brilliant line delivery. Of particular note is Hiroko Matsuda who has worked with director Koji Fukada on Human Comedy Tokyo, Hospitalite, and Au revoir l’eteI believe. Everyone has perfect timing but she goes up and down the scales of hysteria at different times for added comic oomph.

This is based on a stageplay from Hirata Oriza and the actors all belong to his Seinendan group (some of whom are in The Woman of the Photographs) and they are all pitch-perfect in their parody and are fairly physical despite the limitations of online chats. Ensuring that this isn’t a visually uninteresting talkpocalypse, each person has a prop and costume that fits in with the national stereotype and they move around to fiddle with their computer’s camera, green screens, and Zoom backgrounds for some quick gags. The screens change position and size depending upon who joins the chat and text is used. The way tech is display and characters behave accurately captures the new way we communicate in this era of Covid-19 and that makes the film even funnier.

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Yan, Yan, We Are at the End of the Droste, Monster Seafood Wars, Local Peace! Illusion Driving, River Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

I hope you are all doing well.

The state of emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic has ended and cinemas have reopened across Japan and I imagine what we see in the video of this tweet sums up the new reality for going to the movies – empty seats between patrons and internet Q&As.

I know I’ll be going to the cinema to watch Christopher Nolan’s latest, Tenet. This tweet comes from the Twitter account of Tagore Songs which I wrote about on Monday’s trailer post because it was in cinemas. It’s a wonderful documentary.

For the rest of the week, I posted a review of Inabe (2013) which is being screened as part of the We Are One Global Film Festival (and is still online). I then started posting about Nippon Connection 2020 with a Highlights post, a look at the mainstream and classic movies, the indie movies and anime and I’ll continue posting about Nippon Connection with an anime post and some reviews.

I finished watching Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, almost two years after starting it. I came to love the characters in the second half of the show and got a bit emotional at the end. I also watched Inception, Yalta Conference Online, Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops and Tremble All You Want.

This is the second trailer post of the week as the industry tries to get back on its feet and films on the big screen.

What is released this weekend?

Continue reading “Yan, Yan, We Are at the End of the Droste, Monster Seafood Wars, Local Peace! Illusion Driving, River Japanese Film Trailers”

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Mini Theater Aid: A Crowdfunding Campaign to Support Japanese Independent Cinemas!

This is a quick post just to promote a crowdfunding event to support independent cinemas across Japan during the Coronavirus epidemic. 
Mini Theater Aid Logo

It’s called Mini Theater Aid and it launched earlier today and lasts until May 15th with a target amount 100,000,000 yen that is hoped to be raised. It was set up by the directors Koji Fukada (Harmonium, Au revoir l’ete) and Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) in response to the closure of small cinemas up and down Japan as the country tries to contain Coronavirus infections.

Due to the recent declaration of a state of emergency, public venues have had to close and this means they will not be able to make money. In the absence of paying customers and any support from the government in paying rent and salaries and so forth, these cinemas may find themselves struggling as the shutdown unfolds. This emergency fund will help guarantee that these establishments, all of which are important to the cinema ecosystem of Japan, can keep going. It’s these cinemas that sustain indie films since they give the movies limited runs across the year as the films tour the country. In short, without these cinemas, indie film directors, film students and audiences would struggle to screen their works and people would struggle to see these films, especially in a community setting.

Continue reading “Mini Theater Aid: A Crowdfunding Campaign to Support Japanese Independent Cinemas!”

Sayonara TV, Kappa 2 But we have to rest, Cinema Kabuki Letters to the Red-Light District, Kono yo wa arikitari Japanese Film Trailers

Welcome to the first trailer post of 2020 and the new decade!

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Film Image

I hope you are well.

My New Year’s Day was spent watching films and writing about them and eating some good home-cooked food made by my mother. Some Kon Ichikawa and Naomi Kawase to start the year! I then went back to work the very next day so that was a bit of a drag after 11 days off work relaxing. Oh well, I can’t complain about my job.

2020 might be the year when I switch.

As for this blog, business as usual. I spent the week reminiscing about the last decade with Monday’s post dedicated to my Top Ten Films of 2019 and Wednesday’s post given over to the Top 25 Films of the Decade. It’s a unique list compared to a lot of others I have seen on social media but that’s because I focus mostly on Japanese films.

Enough about the past! What about the present?

There’s a small but very diverse selection of films released this weekend, most of which look genuinely interesting. So…

What’s released this weekend?

Continue reading “Sayonara TV, Kappa 2 But we have to rest, Cinema Kabuki Letters to the Red-Light District, Kono yo wa arikitari Japanese Film Trailers”

Tora-san, Wish You Were Here, Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion: Mirai Kara Shinsoku no ALFA-X, Looking for Yutaka Ozaki, A Horse is Born Somewhere Today Japanese Film Trailers

Happy Weekend and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Shoplifters Film Image 2

I hope you are well.

Welcome to the last trailer post of 2019!

This week was spent Christmasing with my mother and sister which involved getting a new pet and eating lots of good food. I managed to start watching films again, a couple of classics and and a new one and I hope to get some reviews done.

In terms of published content, two reviews for Hirokazu Koreeda films, the first being The Third Murder and the second being Shoplifters.

What’s released this weekend?

Continue reading “Tora-san, Wish You Were Here, Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion: Mirai Kara Shinsoku no ALFA-X, Looking for Yutaka Ozaki, A Horse is Born Somewhere Today Japanese Film Trailers”

Orphan’s Blues オーファンズ・ブルース Dir: Riho Kudo (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]

Orphan’s Blues      Orphans Blues Film Poster

オーファンズ・ブルース O-fanzu Buru-su

Release Date: May 31st, 2019

Duration: 89 mins.

Director: Riho Kudo

Writer: Riho Kudo (Screenplay),

Starring: Yukino Murakami, Takuro Kamikawa, Nagiko Tsuji, Sion Sasaki, Tamaki Kubose, Yu Yoshii,

Website

Orphan’s Blues was the winner of the Grand Prize at the Pia Film Festival 2018 and was screened at last year’s Nara and Tokyo international film festivals where it earned some critical buzz. It makes its North American debut at Japan Cuts 2019 where its narrative dissonance will either capture imaginations or leave audiences bewildered.

The world seems to be ending. Grim pronouncements about rising temperatures and global warming are made on the radio and it seems to be true considering the sights and sounds of a sun-soaked stifling summer scored by cicadas provide the backdrop for a road trip taken by characters to find a missing man. Initiating this journey is a young woman named Emma (Yukino Murakami). She lives a lonely life working as a bookseller on a dusty roadside patch and she is furiously fighting against her fading memory. It is a battle she wages by creating canopies of post-it notes at home and writing in notebooks. Her present-tense thoughts are scattered around but dominated by her memories of her past in an orphanage with her best friend Yang. When she gets a painting of an elephant from Yang (elephants’ never forget), Emma decides to drop everything and search for him.

Continue reading “Orphan’s Blues オーファンズ・ブルース Dir: Riho Kudo (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]”

A Preview of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival 2019

This year’s Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival has 8 feature films packed with adventure, emotions, action and awesome animation, all of which should entertain a wide audience. Alongside the film screenings are the marketplace and raffle and we welcome two special guests from Japan.

Penguin Highway Key Image

The festival begins on October 04 at 18:00 at Chapter Arts, Cardiff, with a screening of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection, the reintroduction and continuation of the Code Geass mecha saga where giant robots and political intrigue provide the drama. This will be followed by the Reception and an Anime Song Disco hosted by DJ Ryojin at 20:00 where guests can mingle and show off their moves on the dance-floor.

Continue reading “A Preview of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival 2019”

Interview with Genta Matsugami, Director of “Demolition Girl” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

GentaMatsugamiOAFF19

Born in Hiroshima in 1981, Genta Matsugami is a film director who operates the creative production-house16 bit.inc. He graduated from Osaka University of Arts in 2005 and his graduation work won a prize in the Pia Film Festival Award of that year. Demolition Girl is his debut feature. It has already distinguished itself on the festival circuit, first at its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah in January, where lead actress Aya Kitai won an honourable mention for her performance, and then at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in March where it scooped the JAPAN CUTS award. This means it will receive a screening at the JAPAN CUTS festival in New York in July. It has easy to see how the film has impressed audiences as it presents a refreshingly honest and concise depiction of working-class life in Japan.

The story of Demolition Girl focuses on a high school student named Coco (Kitai), who seems trapped in her small-town existence because of her poor background and a family who drag her down. Despite being working-class, she aspires to go to university in Tokyo, seeing this as a way out of poverty. University is tough to enter and expensive so she needs to work hard whether by studying or dabbling in the fetish industry by making illicit “crush videos”. The audience will root for her as they see the obstacles she faces and her determination not to give up and audience engagement is hooked by a persuasive performance from Kitai in her acting debut (she had previously won the MissiD 2017 Fantasista Sakurada Prize).

Continue reading “Interview with Genta Matsugami, Director of “Demolition Girl” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019″

The Oyster Factory 牡蠣工場 Dir: Kazuhiro Soda (2016)

Oyster Factory  

Oyster Factory Film Poster
Oyster Factory Film Poster

牡蠣工場  「Kaki kouba

Release Date: February 20th, 2016

Duration: 145 mins

Director: Kazuhiro Soda

Starring: Shinsuke Hirano, Koichi Watanabe, Yukiko Watanabe

Website  IMDB

Earlier in 2018 I had the chance to see three of Kazuhiro Soda’s early films which he made as a student at New York’s School of Visual Arts in the 90s and was surprised to discover he started out making a comedy and dramatic short films with well-contained stories and acting. He is still based in New York but is now renowned for observational documentaries having produced works of the cinema vérité variety that look at communities in Japan starting with Democracy (2007). The Oyster Factory was one I first encountered in the 2015 run of the Vancouver International Film Festival. This 145 minute film looks at life inside an oyster factory and as Soda explores this environment he discovers wider issues about the generational divide through the lack of young people entering the industry and Chinese-Japanese relations as Chinese workers are brought in to help keep two oyster factories running.

Continue reading “The Oyster Factory 牡蠣工場 Dir: Kazuhiro Soda (2016)”

After the Storm 海よりもまだ深く Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda (2016)

After the Storm   

After the Storm Film Poster
After the Storm Film Poster

海よりもまだ深く 「Umi yori mo mada fukaku」

Release Date: May 21st, 2016

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Original Story, Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sosuke Ikematsu, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Isao Hashizume, Taiyo Yoshizawa

IMDB   Website

After the Storm is a story of everyday human failings and the constant hope for a better tomorrow that motivates us. Kore-eda cast a cadre of familiar actors who he had worked with in previous films including Kirin Kiki and Hiroshi Abe, both of whom were in Still Walking (2008) as mother and son Toshiko and Ryota. This family drama could be a sort of sequel to Still Walking due to similarities – Kiki’s character Toshiko (とし子) turns into Yoshiko (淑子) here while Abe’s character is named Ryota (良多) in both films – and callbacks likethe butterfly motif and it features a deceptive simpleness in its approach, a story of a family gathering made complex by tangled emotions tinged with bitter history.

Continue reading “After the Storm 海よりもまだ深く Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda (2016)”