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.

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Japanese Foundation Event: Culinary Culture & Gastronomy in Japanese Cinema

The Japan Foundation in London recently ran an event dedicated to Japanese food as shown in films and it seems to have been super popular because there is another helping of food-based films for audiences to salivate over and it’s all free to attend (you just need to book a place). Prepare to gorge yourselves on some really delicious looking food served up amidst some great stories by a myriad of cooks!

Tampopo Film Image

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Naomi Kawase’s Film Sweat Bean (An) Gets US Theatrical Release

Sweet Bean Film Image

The American film distributor Kino Lorber has set up a series of theatrical screenings for Sweet Bean, the 2015 film from acclaimed director Naomi Kawase. It has had a long journey on the festival circuit starting at Cannes last year and heading to Rotterdam last month. The American release covers some major cities:

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Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2016

The Rotterdam International Film Festival has started and lasts from January 28th to February 07th and there is a large contingent of Japanese films programmed, quite possibly the largest I have seen in the few years I have been watching the event. There are a lot of great titles, some of which are considered the best films to be made in 2015 and there is a diverse range of stories. The festival plays host to animation from a range of artists and there are shorts from Takeshi Kitano. Some of these are red hot international premieres while some of the films have been screened at Canadian film festivals already, some in 2014 (so there’s a bit of copy and paste from previous festival trailer posts). As well as contemporary film, there is also a retrospective for the director Masao Adachi who worked during the 1960s.

Here are the films:

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Japanese Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2015

Toronto International Film Festival 2015 Banner Logo

If you are in Canada you have three film festivals with Japanese films playing a significant part. Montreal (which I am not covering) has around twenty Japanese titles while Toronto has nine programmed and Vancouver has yet to announce any. I’ll be sticking to Toronto for the most part in this post.

I think the first thing I want to say is that the website is wonderfully designed and looks stylish. The information is easy to access unlike some other festival websites which are cluttered and hard to navigate and the use of images and white space is great.

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