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Sweet Bean あん Dir: Naomi Kawase (2015)

Sweet Bean

An Sweet Red Bean Paste Film Poster
An Sweet Red Bean Paste Film Poster

あん 「An」

Release Date: May 30th, 2015

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Naomi Kawase,

Writer: Naomi Kawase (Screenplay), Tetsuya Akikawa (Original Novel),

Starring:  Masatoshi Nagase, Kirin Kiki, Kyara Uchida, Etsuko Ichihara, Miki Mizuno, Taiga, Wakato Kanematsu, Miyoko Asada.

Website   IMDB

Travelling through Japan is an amazing culinary experience because of the sheer amount of restaurants, stores and street food available in shotengai, yokocho and main streets. Everything from big chains to small stores selling a variety of things from tasteless but healthy jelly-like konyaku to the pastry-like manju (the greatest delicacy!!!) all cooked up and served by a variety of people. The most memorable encounters I had were usually old ladies with crooked backs bent from a lifetime of hard work. While they were cooking they would impart some of their experiences and what the food means and these experiences and informed how they cooked and made the food seem more meaningful and tasty than store-bought goods. It is this sort of thing that Naomi Kawase channels in her drama Sweet Bean which is based on a novel by Durian Sukegawa. It tells the tale of a melancholy cake shop owner who rediscovers his joie de vivre after meeting an exceptional person. It marries Kawase’s visual lyricism and penchant for making connections between humans and nature to a simple tale and works well.

Sweet beans, known as an in Japanese, is a wonderfully sweet-tasting thick substance made from adzuki beans and is a filling usually found in confections from doughnuts to the dorayaki as seen in this film. Dorayaki are like pancakes where the batter is poured onto a metal griddle and flipped with a spatula before the sweet bean filling is added.

Continue reading “Sweet Bean あん Dir: Naomi Kawase (2015)”

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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)”

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It’s Boring Here, Pick Me Up, Hanalei Bay, Million Dollar Man, Love’s Water Drop, Gokko, Usuke Boys, Their Nuclear Power Plant, Karera no Genpatsu, Idol SKE48, Obo no Koe, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Detonation, Haikara-san ga Tooru Movie 2: Hana no Tokyo Dai Roman, Workers Arise in Disaster Areas, Last Wedding Dress, Take 8, Neapolitan, Tamae no supa harawata, Mimikaki Randebu, Bunbuku chagama Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, people!

Still Walking Film Image 2

I hope you are all well!

It is time for another weekend trailer post and it has come after a somewhat productive week film-wise. I watched a couple of Japanese films from the 1960s and continued my role as social media/writer guy for a film festival and I managed to write three reviews. I’ve set aside time to watch three classic Japanese films tomorrow after exercise and Japanese practice. I published an article about Kiki Kirin who passed away last month and a review for Still Walking (2008) this week. At least I’m not overworking myself in my day job.

I hope all of you are managing to be productive.

What is released this weekend?

Continue reading “It’s Boring Here, Pick Me Up, Hanalei Bay, Million Dollar Man, Love’s Water Drop, Gokko, Usuke Boys, Their Nuclear Power Plant, Karera no Genpatsu, Idol SKE48, Obo no Koe, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Detonation, Haikara-san ga Tooru Movie 2: Hana no Tokyo Dai Roman, Workers Arise in Disaster Areas, Last Wedding Dress, Take 8, Neapolitan, Tamae no supa harawata, Mimikaki Randebu, Bunbuku chagama Japanese Film Trailers”

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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).

Continue reading “Still Walking 歩いても 歩いても Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda (2008)”

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Kirin Kiki (January 15, 1943 – September 15, 2018)

It has been over a month since veteran actor Kirin Kiki passed away. Fans of Asian cinema are still mourning her passing and I’d just like to add a couple of thoughts.

Kirin Kiki 1960s

Kirin Kiki was born in Tokyo in 1943 and started her acting career fresh from graduating from high school in the early 1960s. Her first steps were to become a member of the Bungakuza theatre troupe using the stage name Chiho Yuki and taking on two early screen roles, the first being a TBS drama Seven Grandchildren (Shichinin no mago 七人の孫) in 1964 and then two film roles, the drama Gentlemen Beware (Tonogata Goyoujin 殿方御用心), released in June 1966 and the comedy Drunken Doctor Continues (Zoku Yoidore hakase 続・酔いどれ博士), written by Kaneto Shindo and released in September of the same year. She continued working throughout the years and showed her versatility when she collaborated with the likes of Seijun Suzuki on Zigeunerweisen (1980) and Pistol Opera (2001) and Nobuhiko Obayashi on Sabishinbo (1985), continuing on to titles like Villain and Arrietty (both from 2010) where she played grandmother types. She had a diverse range but I, and many Japanese film fans, would come into contact with her due to her work with Hirokazu Kore’eda.

Koreeda and Kirin Together

An interesting life and deep experience in the world of acting gave her a quality of wisdom and endurance and also brusqueness, something she called upon when working with Kore-eda. Usually playing a grandmother or an old friend of a family with a flinty personality, she became a reassuring and welcome presence who was like a steady hand at the tiller when all around her were adrift *even if you disagreed with her) whenever she was on the screen in titles such as Kiseki (2011), Like Father, Like Son (2013), and Our Little Sister (2015), and After the Storm (2016) but her most iconic role will be Still Walking (2008).

In it, lead actor Hiroshi Abe plays Ryota Yokoyama, the unpopular second son and an art restorer who returns to his parent’s home to commemorate the death of the beloved eldest son. Everyone is struggling with barely suppressed emotions as we find that the Yokoyama family are riven by the death and the healing process is glacial. Audiences will wonder if it will ever occur as comments and actions are full of personal slights and resentment that show a lifetime of hurt. Kirin’s character probably has the sharpest moments where her harshness is well-hidden by the jollity she brings to her performance. 

That mother and son double-act she formed with Abe was brought back with After the Storm as the two worked together perfectly to showcase another quietly dysfunctional family but with less of a sharper and darker edge as Abe’s character tries to deal with his separation from his wife. Hope springs eternal for these characters but they eventually have to let go of the past. Kirin steals the show in a tear-inducing scene where she tries to revive her son’s happy family. A nice thematic link between the two is the butterfly...

After the Storm Koreeda Kirin Abe

Perhaps her best performance in recent years is to be found in the Naomi Kawase film Sweet Bean (2015) where she starred alongside granddaughter Kyara Uchida and she finds another perfect acting partner in the superb Masatoshi Nagase. While he is all stoicism and bitterness, she is the hopeful and delightful ray of light that balances him and helps the film make a point about people needing to understand the world around us. 

Kirin’s death was not unexpected. She had been diagnosed with cancer back in 2004 and had undergone operations for it. In an interview with reporter Mai Yoshikawa for The Japan Times earlier this year she commented,

My cancer has spread throughout my entire body and there’s nothing the doctors can do,” Kiki added. “There’s no point in comparing myself now to my old healthy self and feeling miserable. . . . Rather than fighting reality, I choose to accept what’s in front of me and go with the flow.”

To think that she went through cancer treatment and still put in these great performances! 2018 was the year of Kirin as she starred in Kore-eda’s latest film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and she was feted at his year’s Japan Cuts where she won the CUT ABOVE award for her services to the Japanese film industry.

This isn’t the last we have heard of her as audiences in Japan can see her in a Tatushi Omori film in October called Nichinichi Kore Kojitsu (2018).

Every Day A Good Day   Every Day A Good Day Film Poster

日日是好日 Nichinichi Kore Kojitsu

Running Time: 100 mins.

Release Date: October 13th, 2018

Director: Tatsushi Ohmori

Writer: Tatsushi Ohmori (Screenplay), Noriko Morishita (essay)

Starring: Haru Kruoki, Mikako Tabe, Kirin Kiki, Shingo Tsurumi, Mayu Tsuruta, Mayu Harada, Saya Kawamura, Chihiro Okamoto,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Noriko (Haru Kuroki) is a 20-year-old university student who has lost her way in life. Noriko’s mother suggests that she attends a Japanese tea ceremony near her house with her cousin Michiko (Mikako Tabe). Michiko is enthusiastic about it but Noriko doesn’t seem so certain. However, once there, Noriko learns from the teacher, Takeda (Kirin Kiki) and experiences a whole new world. It stays with Noriko throughout her life, during frustrations while job hunting, moments when she suffers a broken heart, and during the death of someone important. The tea ceremony always offers her something to return to…

Kiki Kirin’s final screen appearance in a drama. Here is a clip from her performance, Erika 38, which is released next year:

My words don’t really do her justice but through her films, family, friends, and fans, she will live on.

Kirin Kiki, Rest in Peace.

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Louder!: Can’t Hear What You’re Singin’, Wimp!, Every Day a Good Day, Dare to Stop Us, The Laws of the Universe: Part 1, Asia Sanmenkyo 2016 Reflections, Saint Young Men, Lock-On Love, BD Akechi tantei jimusho, Blood-Club Dolls 1, Please Be My Slave Chapter 3 Depending On You., Mutafukaz Japanese Film Trailers

Happy Weekend, people!

LOUDER I CAN'T HEAR WHAT YOU ARE SINGING

I hope you are all well!

I’ve had a busy week of constant travelling between cities and trying to get back into reading books. I reviewed two Edmund Yeo films, River of Exploding Durians and Aqerat. I watched some Italian horror movies and posted reviews for the documentary Towards A Common Tenderness and the Nobuhiko Obayashi drama Hanagatami. Also, the lead picture is awesome.

I hope you had a good week.

What is released this weekend in Japan?

Continue reading “Louder!: Can’t Hear What You’re Singin’, Wimp!, Every Day a Good Day, Dare to Stop Us, The Laws of the Universe: Part 1, Asia Sanmenkyo 2016 Reflections, Saint Young Men, Lock-On Love, BD Akechi tantei jimusho, Blood-Club Dolls 1, Please Be My Slave Chapter 3 Depending On You., Mutafukaz Japanese Film Trailers”

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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.

Continue reading “Hanagatami 花筐 Dir: Nobuhiko Obayashi (2017)”

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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.

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

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Anoko no Toriko, Perfect World, You Are the Apple of My Eye, Kyoukaishi, Morgen, Ashita, Monster Strike The Movie: Sora no Kanata, Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Memory Snow, Usuzumizakura -Garo-, K SEVEN STORIES Episode3, Heartbeat, Single Mom Yasashii Kazoku。 a sweet family, Charlotte-Susabi Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

I hope you are well!

I’ve got past the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival work, I’m between otome games, and I’m not doing as much overtime in my regular job at the minute but I still don’t have much time to watch films or do much else. I’m trying to jam in as much writing, English/Japanese/French practice and films as possible and I’m also looking to try and sneak in some video games – Tactics Ogre in Japanese? One of the Persona games?

I am currently working on a review for a Malaysian film at the moment and considering purchasing some Thai cinema classics from the mid-00s since I’ve only got one or two.

This week, I posted reviews for Amiko and Born Bone Born which I reviewed a couple of months ago.

What is released this weekend in Japanese cinemas?

Continue reading “Anoko no Toriko, Perfect World, You Are the Apple of My Eye, Kyoukaishi, Morgen, Ashita, Monster Strike The Movie: Sora no Kanata, Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Memory Snow, Usuzumizakura -Garo-, K SEVEN STORIES Episode3, Heartbeat, Single Mom Yasashii Kazoku。 a sweet family, Charlotte-Susabi Japanese Film Trailers”

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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.

Continue reading “Amiko  あみこ Dir: Yoko Yamanaka (2017)”