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.

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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.

Genkina hito’s Top Ten Films of 2017

Welcome to my top ten films of 2017.

The Long Excuse Mistress

LAst year was dominated by work/fun at two festivals. There was the Osaka Asian Film Festival at the start of the year while I was in Japan and the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2017 during the autumn when I returned to the UK. Both experiences were great because I got to do what I love the most, writing about films. I also got to work with some really great people and made friends. I have to say thank you to all of them. I hope these people stay with me. As far as I’m concerned, they have my loyalty for what it’s worth. Once I got back from Japan, I made sure to take my family to see as many films as possible. Going to the cinema was something we already did as a family but spending more time together is important. As a result of all this activity, I saw lots of films this year. Due to the type of films I cover or circumstances or pure choice, I flit between years so not everything has been released in 2017. Here’s an article on VCinema I contributed to about a year in cinema and here are my top ten for 2017:

I hope you discover something in this list that interests you.

I’ve updated my Top Ten Films page for these entries.

FINAL JUSTICE

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Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2017

It’s a grey day in Osaka and pretty cold but I’m staying indoors for most of it since I am cleaning video game consoles. Anyway, The Rotterdam International Film Festival starts later this month and it features a plethora films from Japan that range from the familiar to the new, plus there’s some interesting little shorts. It’s a programme packed with Japanese films but actually using the website to find them was irritating due to the search options, the way information was hidden and the overall look. I’m not a fan. I searched for it so you don’t have to.

Enough of my whining, there are many great films on offer from Roman Porno to yakuza comedy and this is another great year for Rotterdam.

Here’s what’s on offer (click on the titles to be taken to pages with more information):

haruneko-film-imag

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Japanese Films at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival LogoThe BFI London Film Festival (LFF) has reached 60 years of age and this year’s edition launches on October 05th and ends on October 16th. There are 274 films and Japanese filmmakers have contributed six to that number. Festival favourites Hirokazu Koreeda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa are in town with two features while there are a couple of documentaries, an anime and an anime short named Achoo to make up the rest of the numbers. Some of these have been previewed already for the Vancouver International Film Festival, Cannes, and Berlin and this is a decent line-up for cinephiles who love Japan and those who want to get into a Japanese film or two.

Here’s the line-up!
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Japanese Films at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival

Vancouver International Film FestivalThe Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) launches soon and lasts from September 29th to October 14th and, as is usually the case, there are a heck of a lot of great films from East Asia with some top-notch Japanese content programmed. There is a strong line-up of films for the Japanese cinema specialist with titles new and old, some seen at festivals like Cannes and Nippon Connection and others that got their premiere at Toronto.

The VIFF website has had a facelift and you can track down the titles with a quick search or by selecting the relevant stream from the myriad of cool-sounding options.

Thanks go out to the programmers of the VIFF for picking a good selection of films and I hope you, dear reader, can find something that interests you!

Here’s the line-up!

GATEWAY

This strand, better known as Dragons & Tigers, has feature-films and shorts from East Asia and the Japanese contingent is made up of titles that have been at Berlin and Cannes with festival favourites Koreeda and Fukada showing up. As is usually the case there are a number of short films from Japan and they play with the features. To find out more head to the festival site.

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After the Storm, Garm Wars: The Last Druid, Distraction Babies, Zebra, She and Her Cat – Everything Flows, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin III Dawn of Rebellion, Garo: Divine Flame, Midori The Camellia Girl and other Japanese Film Trailers

Hello dear readers!

The Lost Village Image

This has been a bit of a quiet week for me. I reviewed two films and I watched two films this week: Petal Dance (2013) and Florence Foster Jenkins (2016). I started watching the TV anime The Lost Village (Mayoiga 迷家). I am on episode three and I think it’s the funniest thing I have seen since Osomatsu-san. It is filled with characters and so over the top it has become absurd. I’m also watching Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2 because I find the Best Friends funny and because I’m a big Silent Hill 2 fan.

Two posts this week, the first for the Japanese Films at the Annecy International Film Festival. The second post is for the screening of Love Exposure at Japan Society New York.

What’s released this weekend?

Continue reading “After the Storm, Garm Wars: The Last Druid, Distraction Babies, Zebra, She and Her Cat – Everything Flows, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin III Dawn of Rebellion, Garo: Divine Flame, Midori The Camellia Girl and other Japanese Film Trailers”

Japanese Films at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival

Cannes FIlm Festival 2016 Poster
Cannes FIlm Festival 2016 Poster

This year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival takes place from May 11th to the 22nd and it’s the 69th edition of the event. The festival’s main programme (every title in competition and Un Certain Regard) has been announced. This year’s line-up looks like its lumbering under the weight of major American films like Steven Spielberg’s The BFG and two Jim Jarmusch films. There are films from European stalwarts such as the Dardenne brothers, Andrea Arnold and Nicolas Winding Refn and there are two familiar Japanese names in the mix but both are in Un Certain Regard… Plus there are two Japanese films in Cannes Classics. It’s a good line-up and continues an upward trend following on from a similarly packed 2015. The only person missing from the party is Takashi Miike!

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