Breathless Lovers 息ぎれの恋人たち Dir: Shumpei Shimizu (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Breathless Lovers

息ぎれの恋人たち Ikigire no koibito-tachi   

Running Time: 20 mins.

Director: Shumpei Shimizu

Writer: Shumpei Shimizu (Screenplay)

Starring: Kaito Yoshimura, Fusako Urabe, Daisuke Kuroda, Atsushi Shinohara

Breathless Lovers is the latest work from Shumpei Shimizu. It came into the festival with positive word of mouth, something to be expected from someone who has been educated at Tokyo University of the Arts. Indeed, his career features a directorial debut, Fuzakerun Janeeyo (2014), produced by Shinji Aoyama and work Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence. Shimizu’s short explores a pathological relationship between a man and the ghost of his lover.

The story concerns Toshiyuki, a 23-year-old guy who recently lost his boyfriend Tatsuya in a motorcycle accident. While he physically survived the accident, Toshyuki has been mentally wounded and is unable to ride or drive any vehicles. If he needs to go anywhere, he walks or runs and he does this despite having asthma. To try and connect with Tatsuya, Toshiyuki visits the boxing gym his ex-lover used to train at and performs the same emotionally and physically draining routines over and over as he follows the ghost of Tatsuya. Throughout the film, Toshiyuki is constantly breathless from his desperate attempts to connect with Tatsuya whose lifeless corpse… well, you get the picture. These are two of the breathless lovers of the title.

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Programme Housen Film Round-Up

I’m writing this the night before I age another year… Back, way back, way way back in the past, when 2014 was about to turn into 2015, I made many New Year’s resolutions. I actually hit every one of my resolutions. Except one:

  • I will investigate the Japanese indie film scene much more,

I didn’t do much in terms of indie films. In fact, reviews of films in general have been dropping to all-time lows. This year, I was gifted the chance to get involved in the Japanese indie film scene when I was at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and had access to a whole bunch of indie titles and filmmakers. However, when it came time to network, I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm and just stood in the background with a bemused expression because I was deep in thought (strange for a shallow person like me). I did make a couple of connections after film screenings and one has turned out to be a film-friend of sorts. The really indie stuff, as in the kids still in university or freshly graduated, the people who have ascended from the foothills to the slopes as they scale the mountain of a movie-making career, well, I briefly talked to a few but mostly just watched the films and sat in on a couple of Q&As. This happened at National Museum of Art in a really cool area of the city which I enjoyed walking through every day.

National Museum of Art, Osaka

The venue was pretty cool, the relaxed atmosphere of a small lecture hall in the quiet museum being conducive to thinking about a film without distraction. A decent-sized screen was enough to convey the cinematic visions of a bunch of talented creatives to a dedicated audience who seemed very interested in what they had watched (that was the impression I got from the Q&As where people asked probing questions). As was the case for every film at the festival, every screening had subtitles and the ones I saw were perfect. For my part, I sat back and wrote, laughed, and was entertained and informed by new stories of life in Japan and visions of communities and individuals that were unique. I even asked a question at a Q&A. Also, all of the screenings were totally free. Free films. I mean, what a deal!

I’ve got notes on each film and will be publishing reviews for them individually. This post is a bit like a statement of intent and a contents page. The Osaka Asian Film Festival sort of revitalised me as a film-blogger at a time when I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing except having fun. I have a direction to go in now. I’ve also rediscovered anime with Mind Game, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, and A Silent Voice and with the new Kino no Tabi series out it’s time to get hype!

So what were the indie films I saw? They were part of the Housen strand.

Hosen Cultural Foundation: Support for film study and production

What is Housen? Based in Osaka, the Housen Cultural Foundation supports film study and production in graduate schools across Japan with the aim of preserving and helping grow film culture in Japan. This year’s crop of directors came from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Kyoto University and each shot a film that was technically great or near enough. Every film screening with the exception of Icarus and the Son was a world premiere and one of the Housen-backed films – Breathless Lovers – was selected for a screening in the Indie Forum section. Two of the films later made it to festivals like Nippon Connection and Japan Cuts.

Everybody watches a film differently due to their mindset and emotional baggage and I found I got wildly different responses from other people who saw the same thing. Since I’m usually the odd man out, whatever.

Insecurities out of the way, here are a few brief thoughts before I post reviews over the next week.

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017: Short Films – Breathless Lovers, Ping Pang, Summer Night

I don’t often cover short films but they get programmed at Osaka and this year’s crop were too intriguing to miss. They were rather conveniently screened as part of one package despite being in different parts of the programme but with the filmmakers all being around the same age and the quality of the work being high, it is worth writing down a few thoughts in case these guys are part of the new wave For anyone wondering, elsewhere around the festival, women made a huge impact as feature-film directors. It seems Osaka always programmes a lot of work by women without any of the attendant fuss and controversy seen in the West and that’s a good thing.

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Programme Preview Part 3: Independent Japanese Films

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The full line-up for the 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) (March 03rd – March 12th) was revealed last month and for the 12th edition of OAFF, the number of selected films has reached an impressive 58 in total, including 16 films in Competition and they are coming from 19 countries and regions, including China, Hong Kong, Korea, the USA, and Japan. I took a look at many of those films in the two previous posts, one highlighting the competition and opening/closing films and one looking at the Thai, Hong Kong and special screening films. This preview will look at the independent Japanese films. Again, I helped write the synopses for many them only this time it was with the help of staff-members with the Housen films who would help me translate things from Japanese and discuss the exact meanings of certain words used. Thanks go out to them. Also, there are three films at the start that weren’t assigned to me so I didn’t cover them. I did write director biographies which I threw into this post. Who knows when I may call upon them.

Here’s what’s on offer from the Japanese cinema selection (you can click on any of the titles to be taken to the corresponding festival page which will have more information):

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