Genkina hito’s Best Film (and Best Anime) of the Year Part 2 – The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 was to tackle watching anime more Kill Me Baby's First Assassinationaggressively. I ended up watching and enjoying the rather light school assassin comedy Kill Me Baby, a series generally rubbished by critics and viewers alike. I then watched the supernatural school mystery Another, a series which I found to beAnother - Mei Misaki Up Close particularly involving due to its central mystery of figuring out who is the ghost (and I never saw the answer coming). It had a live-action movie released earlier this year and I ended up buying the light novels when I went to the BFI Film Festival. Among other titles that made an impact were Sword Art Online, Mysterious Girlfriend X, and the 1999 TV anime Berserk and its movie adaptation. As much as I liked them, they did not move me to the extent that my anime and film of the year moved me.

The Wolf Children

Genki Jason Anime and Film of the Year Wolf Children Banner

The Wolf Children was the first film I saw at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. The setting was good since I saw it at a wonderful cinema in Leicester Square, I had great company with a fellow cinephile and I was enjoying attending my first major film festival. I was uncertain though…

Not about writing about the film. I figured writing a review of The Wolf Children would be easy because I have been charting its progress since its inception thanks to my work as a journalist of Anime UK News. I can list the works of the script writer, character designer and music composer off the top of my head (because I am the sort of irritating person who can list filmographies and cast lists and bewilder people with them). My uncertainty stemmed from the fact that I am familiar with the director’s previous works…

Now I loved Hosoda’s first film The Girl Who Leapt through Time, which told a bitter-sweet teenage love tale but I was disappointed by Summer Wars which was pretty but felt all too familiar, simple and slight. Heck, I still have not written a review for it despite having made notes. Thankfully The Wolf Children, which tackles a coming of age tale,was complex and had detailed characters who grew and offered insights into existential changes of a family.

Wolf Children Height Check

What was spectacular was not the concept involving transforming children – Ghibli does magical realism all of the time – but the wit and intelligence used to serve it up in a coming of age tale and making something unique. That it observed the changes in the characters and family unit without the requirement of softening anything up was also welcome and added so much to the film.

The script gave granular details of life in the real world, an uncaring universe which forces people to find identities. From the believable start of the film to the enigmatic ending, I was gripped by the story and emotions it evoked. The film never offered trite answers to the challenges faced by the titular wolf children and that was an aspect that I enjoyed tremendously as it made the film gripping, so much so that during the film I (along with all of the audience) was sharing the surprise, joy and tears of the characters and willing the wolf children Ame and Yuki on to better futures. While the character arcs are not all that original the depth of detail and the unique deployment of the fantastical won me over. That it was the mother Hana, a person who is as normal as you or I, who has the most fulfilling arc came as a major surprise and became a major triumph.

This detail and rigorousness extended from the script to the animation and direction. The initial part of the film which roots the travails of the family in real, everyday problems is reflected in the use of close-ups and tight framing, cluttered sets and busy locations while believable and banal things that we tend to forget about pose obstacles and threats. That I felt a palpable relief when the film gave way to the openness of the country with visually stunning scenes of nature shows how much I had been affected and the fact that I actually thought about these things shows that the film succeeded in building a believable world.

This believability comes from the fact that every minute was packed full of detailed backgrounds and life. University noticeboards were packed with detailed leaflets and flyers, school corridors had the freshly clean sheen, raindrops plunged onto leaves and slid down. You can imagine people walking off screen and still existing including Ame and Yuki.

Wolf Children Snow Chase

I have to mention other names involved in the staff (because I am the sort of irritating person who can list filmographies and cast lists – seriously, why do people look bewildered when I do this?). The characters are designed by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto who has a knack of being able to create compelling looking leads. Witness the cast of Evangelion and Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise. It is no different here. The characters look both cute and relatable. Their changes are charted from the maturing of the children to the weight Hana puts on during pregnancy. They have stayed in my mind as vivid and real and life like when other, more stylised anime have fallen off the radar. The film’s soundtrack, composed by Joe Hisaishi who has created some of the best film scores ever, just listen to The Kids Return, Sonatine and Princess Mononoke. The scenes where Ame and Yuki tear around fields are exhilarating due, in part, to his music which, curiously, reminded me of pieces by Michael Nyman.

What also impressed was the big hearted embrace of traditional Japanese mores and ideals. It seemed a much fuller and more warmly crafted love-letter than the one in Summer Wars. A lot of anime is purely entertainment (and there is nothing wrong with that) but this felt like it was saying something and showing a familiar part of humanity but in a fresh way. It was definitely down to all of the details and the strong direction which is what made this my number one film and anime of the year.

For Love’s Sake 愛と誠 (2012)

For Love’s Sake                                              

Japanese Title: 愛と誠

Romaji: Ai to Makoto

Japanese Release Date: June 16th, 2012

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto, Masachika Ichimura

For Love’s Sake was the final film I saw during the 56th BFI London Film Festival. Despite my dislike for musicals I expected this film to be highly entertaining because it was directed by Takashi Miike.

Can he change how I view a genre? Definitely.

I love Takashi Miike’s sensibilities. Miike is the type of director who can take any genre and transform it into something uniquely his own. When he made The Happiness of the Katakuris I found a musical I could love what with its inventive designs, amusing song and dance numbers, cracked performances and black humour. For Love’s Sake is another musical I can embrace thanks to its ultra-stylish and gleefully over the top and energetic execution. 

1972, Tokyo, Ai Satome (Takei) is an angelic high school student who comes from a respectable family. She leads a charmed life until Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki), the boy who stole Ai’s heart as a child and an ultra-delinquent, arrives in Tokyo to settle a score from his past. He soon gets arrested after a rumble with some local toughs and is sent to reform school. Ai is still in love with Makoto and manages to get him released. She brings him to Aobodai Prep School where she studies. Ai’s love for Makoto inspires jealousy in Iwashimizu (Saito), the President of the Student Council, who loves Ai. Soon Makoto is sent to Hanazono Trade School where girl gang leader Ango Gumko (Ando) and Yuki, a “sad chick”, soon develop feelings for him. With Makoto in the centre of this tangled web of love things get extremely complicated and melodramatic.

Ai to Makoto will be familiar for a Japanese audience as it originates from a massively popular manga written in 1973 by Ikki Kajiwara which has been adapted for film in 1974, 75, and 76, Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation being the fourth so far and with Miike’s unique vision this is a case of adapting the classic story of bad boy meets good girl who tries to redeem him and adding a megaton of spectacle.

This missy is downright crazy

For Love’s Sake is an entertaining romp through the popular school melodrama genre. While I haven’t read the original manga this feels like a parody of said genre thanks to the excessiveness of style and the combination of the musical genre. With the knowing lines, sudden bursts of dancing and the presence of plenty of pop music from the 1970’s laced with hilarious lyrics, it is too funny, melodramatic, ironic, and openly genre savvy to be anything else.

The mise-en-scene is perfect and points to the high degree of skill in putting the whole film together. The film starts off with animation, a ski sequence gone awry which is where Makoto and Ai first meet. Then, after the titles hit us, things get a bit normal (apart from one inventive sequence set on stage with props) and we are transported into 1970’s Tokyo, a place of loud shirts, flares and bad clothing in general (except for the classic school uniforms). The look is, to my eye, as convincing as the one seen in Norwegian Wood.

The locations vary from the ostentatious and gaudily decorated home of the Satome family to the post-apocalyptic Hanazono trade school. Each location is wonderful with plenty of details to bask in. One highlight, only used for a few minutes, is a maid café which is straight from a lurid fantasy like Strange Circus. It is full of creeps and creepy solid gold dancers, a place where the cute waitresses wear pink frilly outfits and red shoes.

All of it fits the melodramatic tone of the film and the musical sequences add to the atmosphere as they perfectly illustrate the emotions of the characters in the scenes.

Continue reading “For Love’s Sake 愛と誠 (2012)”

Key of Life 鍵泥棒のメソッド (2012)

Genkina hito Jason Key Of Life Review Banner

Key of Life                                                        Key of Life Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 鍵 泥棒 の メソッド

Romaji: Kagi Dorobou no Mesoddo

Release Date:  15th September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Kenji Uchida

Starring: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi

This was the second film I saw at the 56th BFI London Film Festival after The Wolf Children. While I was familiar with the actors involved I had little knowledge about the director or his past works other than the fact that they are considered extremely funny. I selected this as one of my festival picks because I was willing to bet that with its excellent cast it was going to be extremely funny. Thankfully I was right! 

Continue reading “Key of Life 鍵泥棒のメソッド (2012)”

The Wolf Children おおかみこどもの雨と雪 (2012)

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The Wolf Children (Ame and Yuki)                    The Wolf Children Poster

Romaji: Okami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki

Japanese Title: おおかみこどもの雨と雪

Japanese Release Date: 21st July 2012

UK Release Date: 2013

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Writer: Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera

Starring: Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Yukito Nishii, Haru Kuroki, Amon Kabe, Momoka Oona, Shota Sometani, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuki Tanimura,

The Wolf Children was the first film I saw at the 56th BFI London Film Festival and a film I had been eagerly tracking all year. Despite being left cold by the director’s last film I went into this with an open mind and was soon won over.

Maybe you’ll laugh and say it’s a fairy tale. Think it too preposterous to be true. But it is a true story about my mother.

The Wolf Children is a story about identity and love between parents and children that takes place over thirteen years. It starts when a university student named Hana falls in love with Ōkami who is a “wolf man”. The two have children named after the weather on the day they were born – Yuki (Snow) the older sister and Ame (Rain) the younger brother. The four live quietly in Tokyo concealing the true nature of their existence. Then Ōkami leaves and Hana is faced with the prospect of being a single mother with two children who are half wolf.

The film’s writer and director Mamoru Hosoda is frequently compared to Hayao Miyazaki but while his work shows a similar ease at mixing the fantastical with realism there was always something forced and, in the case of Summer Wars, bland. The Wolf Children is different. Despite providing a familiar coming-of-age tale it is executed with subtlety, realism, detail and humanity, leaving the film feeling refreshingly natural and meaningful.

Till the field

The synopsis, trailers and character design suggest heart-warming fantasy fun but the film’s direction is rooted in realism which is used to underline the struggles faced by characters and depth of feelings felt by the characters. By presenting us with such detail the film defines itself and makes itself original and gripping.

We are first introduced to Hana and through a few deft details like dialogue and a family picture we understand her independent character. We then witness the courtship between Hana and Ōkami and while the idea of a wolf man and a human woman having children sounds outrageous it is handled in a subdued and naturalistic way whether it’s seeing Ōkami’s day job or Hana’s pregnancy cycle, morning sickness and all. The early quarter of the film tracks the parents who sacrifice their own identities as they build a family life. It ensures that we understand that Hana’s acceptance of Ōkami and her children is based on love.

Wolf Children Early PArenthood

When Ōkami leaves it is Hana who emerges as the hero. She exists in a universe which can be quite indifferent and must dig deep into her character to create a family life for the rambunctious and cute Ame and Yuki.

Wolf Children Transform

The wolf children are quite a handful. The script sets up many charmingly cute scenes where they are a recognisable and exhausting combination of child and puppy. They burst with energy and desire to be as mobile as possible, constantly morphing into wolves. This has genuinely amusing consequences like Ame and Yuki’s teething troubles ruining furniture and tantrums usually involving screaming, tears and sprouting whiskers and pointy ears.

Wolf Children Teething

While the situations start off as amusing it is clearly difficult to handle in a crowded place like a city and soon there is a believable undercurrent of fear faced by Hana. Walks in the park are impossible and living in an apartment with a no-pets policy becomes stifling as she restricts her children’s natural exuberance. Most menacingly the child welfare agency appear. All the while Hana is making things up as she goes along but never wavering despite exhaustion. Soon she takes the gutsy decision of moving to the country which opens the film up visually and offers a celebration of family, community and nature.

You have to be stronger

When Hana moves to the country she is initially an outsider herself with locals whispering things like “She’s going to start missing convenience stores”.

She buys a ramshackle house which is lovingly detailed in all of its disrepair. In a montage we see her fixing the place up and engaging in back-breaking farming. These activities display the beautiful animation and speak volumes on Hana’s hope, belief and determination in providing a future for her children. These sequences are most like the  Ghibli classic My Neighbour Totoro but what defines The Wolf Children is the observation on the struggles that Hana faces and the refusal to be sentimental which I appreciated immensely.

Wolf Children Height Check

Eventually Hana and her children are accepted, albeit by hiding their odd forms. While the negativity they faced in the city remains in the memory, the countryside folks exhibit all of the good qualities of Japanese society and the message of the film becomes one of community spirit, as voiced by one of the elderly characters when she says “We have to help each other”.

There is a consistent theme of nature and traditional values and it is told with no fuss. The use of montage and succinct sequences providing vignettes of daily life continue to track the change in the characters, seasons and nature.

With the change in location the film truly comes alive with brilliantly animated sequences which are truly breathtaking and capture spectacular scenes of the natural world in Japan. Mist wreathed mountains, surging waterfalls, endless fields, and dense forests are all vividly brought to life with vibrant colours and deep levels of detail. Gone are the claustrophobic close-ups of the city and in come long-shots of the terrain with the bright pink and blue of Ame and Yuki moving through it. The film moves the action onto a larger canvass as the wolf children experiment with their abilities like being a wolf up against cats and snakes, dashing through tall grass up trees and discovering which part of the natural world’s eco-system they belong to. The best sequence is an exhilarating chase over a snowy landscape as it evokes feelings of youth, discovery, freedom and joy.

Wolf Children Snow Chase

While the titular wolf children can morph between human and wolf in the blink of an eye they face the same difficulties of growing that are universal to everyone, mainly the need to be accepted and know their place in the world and define themselves in their journey to decide whether they will be human or wolf while Hana must also learn to change her character as she watches them mature. Their character arcs are not completely original but thanks to the realism, playfulness and sharp characterisation we are anchored in their struggle and root for them. Every funny use of wolf transformation draws laughter, every dangerous situation draws gasps of shock (one woman in the audience gave a gasp so loud I initially misinterpreted as being part of the soundtrack) and every moment of love and growth draws a smile and, for many in the audience, tears of happiness.

Be human or wolf

I cannot praise the visuals or script enough but on top of direction, script and images, Hosoda also gets pitch-perfect performances from the voice actors. I especially loved the performances of the younger voice actors of Ame and Yuki.

Momoka Oona who plays the youngest version of Yuki is brilliant. Her voice overflows with such tomboyish enthusiasm and energy when she does particularly unladylike things like chasing cats and bagging snakes. Every growl, shout and squeal contained a childish and admirable joy of life and the determination to face the world around them.

Amon Kabe who plays the youngest version of Ame adds such depth to the script’s characterisation with his shy voice full of searching questions and a need for certainty and reassurance. Typical childhood things like fairy tales become sources of pain as he discovers the wolf is always the bad guy. Through him you feel the precarious nature of their situation.

They have the lion’s share of the film and the comedy and they essay their characters so well they become an intrinsic part of the character and remained the way I chose to remember how the characters sounded.

The Wolf Children has to be one of the best films I have ever seen. Its intelligent script and assured direction justify Hosoda’s high critical regard and wash away any doubts about his abilities. Despite echoes of the finest of Ghibli’s output, The Wolf Children feels like its own beast thanks to a script which mixes fantasy with realism and humanity that makes the film have substance. It is a film that pays tribute to Japan and Japanese culture while remaining universal because of its trio of characters who will charm and be familiar to us all.

5/5

Wolf Children Snow Laughter

Genkina Hito’s Late Report on the BFI London Film Festival 2012

Regular followers of this blog will know that at the end of last year I resolved to cover film festivals in much greater detail in the new year and… even participate in one. At the time I figured it would be one local to me (which didn’t go ahead this year for some reason) but never did I think that I would actually attend one. I did. I attended this:

BFI LFF Poster

The 56th BFI London Film Festival was my first major film festival and I enjoyed it tremendously. It was a chance for a cinephile like me to enjoy films the year they are released and at their UK premiere and in some of the best cinemas (?) in the country. Now I live over an hour away by train from London. I very rarely venture down to the city of fog (as the Japanese know it) without a really good reason and I daren’t stay overnight. Not because I am scared I hasten to add but because I am a little conservative when it comes to spending my money on anything other than essentials like food and films…. After some planning (hardly meticulous), I ventured forth and spent two days in London watching three films which I took a gamble on being the most entertaining of the Japanese films at the festival.

BFI London Film Festival Poster Line Up

Although there were slight delays on the train into the capital, things went off without a hitch. I became quickly oriented with the city and the tube system right off the bat (thanks to previous experiences and planning) and while I misjudged distances and time on my second day (resulting in me heading too far south and having to make a breathless dash across two bloody bridges in bright sunlight amidst bewildered tourists and aggressive flower sellers) I found my way around central London fairly well. Whatever ordeals (and there were miraculously few) it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the films and for the city itself.

As far as the three screenings went… Finding the cinemas proved rather easy and transport links were efficient. Indeed, I wish I used the tube trains more on the second day. The cinemas were rather well-furnished and comfortable.

Genki Jason in London at the BFI London Film Festival

  • The Vue cinema was in a nice central location. While the outside and lobby of the cinema was hardly impressive the screening rooms were. Plush seats, nice low-lighting and big screens with clear sight lines were more than enough to please me but there was also a nice steady temperature.
  • The Ritzy in Brixton, which was three a minute walk from the tube station, was a rather low-key but comfortable cinema. It seemed to have low seating capacity but comfortable seats (although a little cramped when it came to admitting other people into the row) and the large amount of BFI paraphernalia was intoxicating. The audience seemed to be predominantly suits which meant that there was a lot of light emanating from cell-phones – which they turned off.
  • The BFI Southbank was the most impressive. I didn’t get a good look at the lobby area as I tore through to try and get to the screening but from what I saw when I glanced it looked nice. Great air conditioning meant that I cooled down after my short marathon. Again, a large screen, great seats and the staff there were very helpful.

The screenings were packed for Key of Life and For Love’s Sake although there were some notable gaps for The Wolf Children. The audience reacted to the films well. I was not the only person crying at The Wolf Children or laughing uproariously with The Key of Life. Ai to Makoto? The audience loved it. In fact, the audiences for each of these films loved them.

Overall I had a great time. I would love to live in London (and Toronto and Japan) because there are so many film events as the informative Otherwhere blog shows.

I must admit that I made some errors in my adventure… basic things. On the train back home I spent time writing notes much like Kondo the hitman in Key of Life. Review notes and notes on how to improve my next trip to London for a film festival (Premiere Japan seems to be off the cards). Indeed, inspired by him I have ditched my lackadaisical personality and become much more meticulous.

I never would have gone without the encouragement and help of another blogger who I would like to thank! ありがとう ございます!

Anyway over the next week I will post reviews for The Wolf Children, Key of Life and For Love’s Sake.

Genkina hito at the 56th London Film Festival

Getting Any Genki Film Festival Banner

Yep, after months of reporting about international film festivals like Berlin, Cannes, Venice, and Toronto and complaining about not being able to be at them and watching Japanese films, I am finally attending one myself for this is the year I try and increase my coverage by taking part in The 56th London Film Festival. The festival takes place from the 10th until the 21st of October and I will be seeing The Wolf ChildrenKey of Life, and For Love’s Sake.

 

For Love’s Sake              Ai to Makoto Film Festival

Japanese Title: 愛 と 誠

Romaji: Ai to Makoto

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto

This will be the final film I see in the festival and I am expecting this to be highly entertaining because it is directed by Takashi Miike. I hate musicals but Miike made The Happiness of the Katakuris which I loved. Tony Rayns, a highly experienced Japanese film expert states, “you can only gasp in disbelief at Miike’s inventiveness: performances, design, choice of golden-oldie hits and fight choreography are all beyond ace.”  Sounds awesome! Anyway Miike reunite with Emi Takei and Takumi Saito (13 Assassins) two stars from his previous film, Ace Attorney. It also stars Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain) and Sakura Ando (Love Exposure). Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation of Ai to Makoto is the fourth so far, the previous three being made in 1974, 75, and 76.

High school student Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki) is an ultra-delinquent who has arrived in Tokyo to avenge an incident from his past. That will have to wait as he falls in love with the angelic Ai (Takei) who comes from a respectable family. Things will get complicated as Iwashimizu (Saito) is in love with Ai while Gamuko (Ando) has feelings for Makoto.

 

 

Key of Life                                                          Key of Life Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 鍵 泥棒 の メソッ

Romaji: Kagi Dorobou no Meoddo

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Kenji Uchida

Starring: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi

This film gets a glowing write up from Tony Rayns who describes it as “deliciously funny, not to mention brilliantly timed and acted with relish by the all-star cast.”  Some of that cast includes Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata), Masato Sakai (Sky High, The Samurai that Night), Ryoko Hirosue (Departures), YosiYosi Arakawa (Fine, Totally Fine, Quirky Guys & Girls), and Yoko Moriguchi (Casshern). I was sold on this from the cast and the trailer and so I will be watching this at the festival.

 

Sakurai (Kondo) is an aspiring but unsuccessful actor who has recently attempted suicide but is unsuccessful at that. He decides to head to a local bathhouse to ease his suffering and whilst there he witnesses a stranger in the neighbourhood named Kondo (Kagawa) who slips and knocks himself unconscious. Sakurai takes advantage of this and helps himself to Kondo’s locker key. He loots Kondo’s belongings and assumes his identity which is a pretty bad idea considering that Kondo is an assassin working for a yakuza. For his part Kondo wakes up in hospital minus his memory and so assumes Sakurai’s life as an actor but applies his dedicated nature to the craft while trying to recover his memory. 

 

The Wolf Children             The Wolf Children Poster

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Writer: Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera

Starring: Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Yukito Nishii, Haru Kuroki, Amon Kabe, Momoka Oona, Shota Sometani, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuki Tanimura,

This is the biggest draw of the festival for me. I have been posting about this film since the earliest trailers were released in Japan and it hit the Japanese movie box office charts. I am a major fan of Mamoru Hosoda’s first film, The Girl who Leapt Through Time, but Summer Wars left me cold despite the excellent animation and assured script. The Wolf Children could be the film that reaffirms my interest in him or kill it off. Just watching the trailer I figure I will get emotional at some point and get swept up in the story and there is every possibility that this will happen because Hosoda is aided with scripting duties by Satoko Okudera who has worked on major anime movies like Summer WarsMiyori’s ForestThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and The Princess and the Pilot and legendary character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, FLCL, Evangelion) is the character designer. The voice actors are familiar from the world of live action movies. Hana is voiced by the actress Aoi Miyazaki who starred in Shinji Aoyama’s 2000 film Eureka (which I received a couple of weeks ago), Ōkami is voiced by Takao Osawa (All About Lily Chou-Chou – a film that I dread watching because I was left emotionally drained), Yuki is voiced by Haru Kuroki, and Ame is voiced by Yukito Nishii (Confessions). Other notable names include Momoka Oona (Mitsuko Deliversa film that was blah) who plays an even younger version of Yuki, Amon Kabe who plays an even younger version of Ame, Shota Sometani (HimizuSadako 3DIsn’t Anyone live?), Mitsuki Tanimura (13 Assassins), and Kumiko Aso (Pulse – an awesome J-horror!).

A story of love between parents and children that takes place over thirteen starts when a university student named Hana falls in love with Ōkami who is a “wolf man”. The two marry and have children named after the weather on the day they were born – Yuki (snow) the older sister and Ame (rain) the younger brother. The four live quietly in a city concealing the true existence of their relationship until Ōkami dies and Hana decides to move to the country.

Check out Alua’s post for more information on other titles worth checking out. I bet nobody will be able to guess which film the image comes from!

Japanese Films at the 56th BFI London Film Festival

Hyouka Genkina hito BFI LFF 56

Last year I started writing about film festivals – I think Venice was the first because I was following a film named Himizu. The British Film Institute’s London Film Festival is a popular post that still gets views today. This year I decided to try and increase my coverage and even take part in a festival. The 56th London Film Festival will be the first major one I will visit. It takes place from the 10th until the 21st of October and the line-up of films is spectacular. There are some great titles like Nameless Gangster, Rust and Bone, and Antiviral. There is also a strong selection of Japanese films, some of which have been at other festivals and others which have already been released in Japan. I have already written about all but one of them. They all look exciting. As for my own picks they are The Wolf Children, Key of Life, and For Love’s Sake. Very happy titles amidst the darkness. Check out Alua’s post for more information on other titles worth checking out. Maybe I’ll see you there?

What films are at the festival then?

 

Dreams for Sale                                   Dreams for Sale Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 夢 売る ふたり

Romaji: Yume Uru Futari

Running Time: 137 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa

Starring: Takako Matsu, Sadao Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Tamae Ando, Yuka Ebara,  Tsurube Shoufukutei, Tae Kimrua, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yusuke Iseya,

This film has appeared in two posts on this blog already – Toronto Film Festival and a new entry in the Japanese film charts. It is far darker comedy than I am used to seeing from Japan and this twisted relationship comedy looks deliciously immoral.  The principal cast are lead by Takako Matsu (9 Souls, Confessions, April Story), Sadao Abe (Paikaji Nankai Sakusen, After Life), Sawa Suzuki (Loft), Tae Kimura (My House, Kaidan, Starfish Hotel, Infection), and Tamae Ando (Noriko’s Dinner Table, Phone Call to the Bar). I wish I could have seen this one

 

When Kanya (Abe) and Satoko (Matsu) celebrate the fifth anniversary of their restaurant they had no idea it would end with the place burning down. This disaster forces Satoko to take on a job at a noodle shop while Kanya gets depressed and does what most movie men do in such a situation: drink and gamble. Then, one night, he returns home with cash and claims he got it by spending time with a lonely woman.  Satoko is initially angry but then realises the full potential of the scame and so the two embark on a series of sham relationships to get money together to re-open their restaurant. Surely it wont go that smoothly?

 

For Love’s Sake              Ai to Makoto Film Festival

Japanese Title: 愛 と 誠

Romaji: Ai to Makoto

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto

This will be the final film I see in the festival and I am expecting this to be highly entertaining because it is directed by Takashi Miike. I hate musicals but Miike made The Happiness of the Katakuris which I loved. Tony Rayns, a highly experienced Japanese film expert states, “you can only gasp in disbelief at Miike’s inventiveness: performances, design, choice of golden-oldie hits and fight choreography are all beyond ace.”  Sounds awesome! Anyway Miike reunite with Emi Takei and Takumi Saito (13 Assassins) two stars from his previous film, Ace Attorney. It also stars Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain) and Sakura Ando (Love Exposure). Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation of Ai to Makoto is the fourth so far, the previous three being made in 1974, 75, and 76.

High school student Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki) is an ultra-delinquent who has arrived in Tokyo to avenge an incident from his past. That will have to wait as he falls in love with the angelic Ai (Takei) who comes from a respectable family. Things will get complicated as Iwashimizu (Saito) is in love with Ai while Gamuko (Ando) has feelings for Makoto.

 

 Helter Skelter                                            Helter Skelter Poster

Japanese Title: Heruta Sukeruta

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Mika Nanigawa

Writer: Arisa Kaneko (Script), Kyoko Okazaki (manga)  

Starring: Erika Sawajiri, Nao Omori, Shinobu Terajima, Gou Ayano, Yosuke Kubozuka, Mieko Harada, Sho Aikawa, Junki Tozuka, Anne Suzuki, Hirofumi Arai

Mika Ninagawa is an art/fashion photographer who made her directorial debut with the gorgeous Sakuran. This is her second film and it is based on Kyoko Okazaki’s psychological manga set in fashion industry. It was the Grand Winner of the 2004 Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize. Arisa Kaneko is the screen writer adapting the story and she has written the scripts for films like Train Man: Densha Otoko and Welcome Home, Hayabusa. Just a look at the Helter Skelter Erika Sawajiritrailer and pictures of the film reveals that it will be visually spectacular! It stars the incredibly gorgeous Erika Sawajiri (Ghost Train) who is also visually spectacular and who I like very much. As an actress. Ahem. This was one of my initial festival choices but I opted to view For Love’s Sake so I had the rest of the day free and I could do other cultural things. That and ending the festival on this note seemed a bit wrong.

 

 Ririko (Sawajiri) is a vision of perfect beauty. What the public does not know is that her beauty is derived from multiple cosmetic surgeries and a lot of medication. To maintain her beauty and position she needs to keep taking medication and getting surgery but when the clinic that performs her surgery comes under investigation for medical ethics from authorities led by Prosecutor Asada (Omori) Ririko finds her career on the brink of calamity. With pressure mounting, Ririko’s body begins to suffer and her emotions and career, and sanity begin to fall apart.

Key of Life                                                          Key of Life Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 鍵 泥棒 の メソッ

Romaji: Kagi Dorobou no Meoddo

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Kenji Uchida

Starring: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi

This film gets a glowing write up from Tony Rayns who describes it as “deliciously funny, not to mention brilliantly timed and acted with relish by the all-star cast.”  Some of that cast includes Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata), Masato Sakai (Sky High, The Samurai that Night), Ryoko Hirosue (Departures), YosiYosi Arakawa (Fine, Totally Fine, Quirky Guys & Girls), and Yoko Moriguchi (Casshern). I was sold on this from the cast and the trailer and so I will be watching this at the festival.

 

Sakurai (Kondo) is an aspiring but unsuccessful actor who has recently attempted suicide but is unsuccessful at that. He decides to head to a local bathhouse to ease his suffering and whilst there he witnesses a stranger in the neighbourhood named Kondo (Kagawa) who slips and knocks himself unconscious. Sakurai takes advantage of this and helps himself to Kondo’s locker key. He loots Kondo’s belongings and assumes his identity which is a pretty bad idea considering that Kondo is an assassin working for a yakuza. For his part Kondo wakes up in hospital minus his memory and so assumes Sakurai’s life as an actor but applies his dedicated nature to the craft while trying to recover his memory. 

  Continue reading “Japanese Films at the 56th BFI London Film Festival”