Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2019

Cannes Film Festival 2019 Poster

The 72nd Cannes Film Festival will run from May 14th until the 25th and themain programme was announced a couple of weeks ago. There are around 47 premieres at the fest with familiar names like Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, Ghost Dog), Ken Loach (Kes) and Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In) walking on the Croisette along with a slight uptick in female directors – Jessica Hausner and Mati Diop are the names to watch – and there is a decent Asian contingent.

Prominent names for me are South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho, a masterful director with titles like Mother, Memories of Murder and The Host in his filmography. He is at Cannes with Parasite, which has a family tragi-comedy unfold as one “parasitic” family gets involved with a well-to-do one for nefarious reasons. The trailer looks brilliant. Then there is China’s Diao Yinan who made the electric neo-noir Black Coal, Thin Ice which won the Golden Bear at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival. He has a story of a biker and a desperate woman trying to escape their situations. What of Japan? Nothing much that can secure a Palm d’Or.

Hirokazu Koreeda Cannes 2018 Shoplifters Palme d'or
(Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

Following his success at last year’s Cannes, it looks like Hirokazu Kore-eda won’t be returning because his latest film, the France-set film The Truth won’t be ready in time. This is Kore-eda’s first film set outside Japan and it stars Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke and Ludivine Sagnier. Kiyoshi Kurosawa does have a film due for release this year but it doesn’t look like it will be shown at Cannes. Thankfully, there is still a Japanese presence at the festival and it comes from Takashi Miike and a classic!

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Hirokazu Kore-eda wins the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters” at Cannes 2018

Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at the 71st Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, Shoplifters.

Hirokazu Koreeda Cannes 2018 Shoplifters Palme d'or
(Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

Congratulations, Hirokazu Kore-eda!

This was his fifth time in the competition section and his win marks, to quote the critic Peter Debruge over at Variety,

“just the second time this century that an Asian film has claimed the festival’s top prize (the other being Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” in 2010).”

This latest drama features an unconventional family living happily together on the margins of Japanese society through a mixture of grit and graft. Initially a gentle and heartwarming film, the tone changes as it shines a light on the failings of society and individuals. It marks yet another film where Kore-eda has worked with child actors and got amazing results as the different reviews have pointed out (round-up of reviews post).

Cate Blanchett, the Cannes Jury president said, “We were completely bowled over by ‘Shoplifters.’ How inter-meshed the performances were with the directorial vision”.

The film has already been picked up for US distribution thanks to Magnolia Films. The company’s president, Eamon Bowles said,

“In a long career of incredible peaks, Hirokazu Kore-eda has delivered one of his best works. ‘Shoplifters’ is an incredible story that deals with familial bonds in a way I’ve never seen before”. SOURCE

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2018 Review Round-Up: Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Asako I & II”

Making his Cannes debut is Ryosuke Hamaguchi who came to the world’s attenton with his five hour film Happy Hour (2015) which took a top prize at the Locarno Film Festival. Here, he adapts

Asako I & II

Asako I and II Film Image

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival Review Round-Up: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters”

There is a small selection of Japanese films at the Cannes Film Festival 2018 with two in the Competition section. The biggest name is Hirokazu Kore-eda who has appeared at Cannes six times in the Competition and Un Certain Regard sections, picking up the Jury Prize for Like Father, Like Son (2013). Due to his focus on families in films like I Wish (2011) and Our Little Sister (2015), he is often called the Ozu of modern Japanese cinema by critics and this one features an unconventional family by normal Japanese standards since it features a group of people living happily together on the margins through a mixture of grit and graft. Initially a gentle and heartwarming film, the tone changes as it shines a light on the failings of society and individuals. So, what are the highlights of the reviews?

SHOPLIFTERS

Shoplifters Film Image 2

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Poster

This year’s Cannes Film Festival (17th – 28th May) is the 70th edition of the event and the festival head Thierry Fremaux announced the Official Selection of films programmed last week. Critics are salivating over the fact that there are two Netflix films: the monster movie Okja by Bong Joon-ho (The Host) and The Meyerowitz Stories by Noah Baumbach (writer on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and director of Mistress America). There will be two TV series for audiences to watch: David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake and lots more familiar faces such as Sofia (Somewhere) Coppola’s The Beguiled, Michael (Code Unknown/Cache) Haneke’s Happy End (knowing Haneke, it’s probably an ironic title…). More importantly, there are also nine first-time filmmakers getting their works screened.

Why is that important?

The Cannes Film Festival comes into 2017 with a need to find fresh blood and this is seemingly strong selection because may be it. Since this is the 70th anniversary of the festival and the fact that, last year, organisers faced fierce criticism last year for their lack of female directors, commentators identified that they needed to do a couple of things: broaden out its programme so that there are filmmakers other than the old guard (Campion, Haneke, Kawase, Haynes, the Dardennes brothers etc.) and increase the number of female-centric stories and female-led films across the programme. The old guard are back but just by glancing at the lists of announced films, it is clear that the festival has achieved some of its goals and will probably avoid the criticism it faced last year – hopefully, no high-heels and breast-feeding baby incidents will crop up). Things are a bit of a mixed picture when it comes to the Japanese films.

So far, there are four Japanese films programmed, and three come from festival regulars: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Naomi Kawase, and Takashi Miike. Two of the four are adaptations while the other two are original dramas. Out of the dramas, one is made by a seasoned professional while the shorter one at 45 minutes is from a student. The presence of a fresh director is always something to cheer when it comes to Japanese films at international festivals and this director is a lady to boot: Aya Igashi. She is a graduate from Toei Gakuen Film College’s movie production department and is already working on her third film.

So, while we can all sigh and shrug our shoulders at the lack of original content, we can take comfort in the fact that Aya Igashi is on the radar of people who programme the festival.

What are the films playing this year?

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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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Japanese Films at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival

Genki Japanese Films at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival

Cannes is THE film festival that everyone (even people with no interest in films) knows because of all the gossip about movie stars and the fashion stuff that newspapers report on instead of serious film business like who licenses what for distribution. For people more interested in films, we get to speculate about which directors and what films will be programmed by the selection committee. Well speculate no more! The announcements have been made… and I only care about the Japanese films that have been selected. Let’s go!

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2013 Critical Reactions and Awards

Genki Cannes Film Festival 2013 Banner

The 66th Cannes Film Festival came to an end today  and the illustrious jury lead by Steven Spielberg had a tough time picking winners. Apart from Spielberg , the jury included Cannes Film Festival 2013 Posterinteresting names like Japanese film maker Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest) who recently had some of her films screened at Rotterdam, Ang Lee (Eat Drink Man Woman), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained and, uh, Carnage), Nicole Kidman (Stoker) and the fantastic French actor Daniel Auteuil (La Reine MargotHidden).

This year’s Cannes film festival had a wide variety of films in the running for the Palme d’Or. There were a lot of American films getting excellent reviews like Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and the Coen Brothers Inside Llewyn Davis. Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra was also highly rated with Michael Douglas tipped to win the best actor award for his performance as Liberace. Then it seemed that their chances were eclipsed by a French film that was screened on Wednesday called Blue is the Warmest Colour. As a report on the BBC stated Blue is the Warmest Colour was tipped to win the Palme d’Or with many critics were singing its praises and so it proved to be the right tip since it did walk away with the Palme d’Or.

Last year brought us a few treats in terms of Japanese films but no titles in competition to win the coveted Cannes Palme d’Or but this year Japan has made a major impact with two films in competition from two very special directors, Koreeda and Miike. Review are in for their films and it has been a split between love and dismissal for each director respectively.

How did the Japanese films do?

Shield of Straw                           Shield of Straw Film Poster

Japanese Title: 藁 の 楯

Romaji: Wara no Tate

Release Date: April 26th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Kazuhiro Kiuchi (Original Novel), Tamio Hayashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Takao Osawa, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Nanako Matsushima, Kimiko Yo, Kento Nagayama, Goro Kishitani, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Hirotaro Honda, Masata Ibu

Shield of Straw Screening Cannes Film Festival 2013

Takashi Miike is no stranger to Cannes but the possibility that his latest film Shield of Straw would take the Palme d’Or looked highly unlikely before the critical reviews came in. Let’s be honest, action titles like this just don’t win festival awards regardless of their quality but the critical reaction from western critics has been surprisingly lukewarm and even dismissive.

Japanese reviewer Masaichiro Murayama of the Nihon Keizai Newspaper summed it up the way I figured the movie would perform overall, “Miike’s direction is straightforward, tailored create an enjoyable action movie.” That’s what the trailer promised. On sites like Pia there are a lot of user ratings hanging around 3/3.5 on average.

Then the Cannes reviews came in:

“Though shot in widescreen on a relatively hefty budget, the two-hour-plus thriller makes limited use of its resources, featuring far more talk than action.” Peter Debruge (Variety)

“Sleek and engrossing, though awfully drawn out and short on psychological complexity, this is a straight-up police action thriller that adheres to a very familiar Hollywood template. In fact, its chief enticement outside Japan may be as remake fodder.” David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter)

“It’s hard to immerse yourself in the film’s emotional fabric, however, when your attention is constantly being diverted by the furious pacing and glaring plot holes.” Adam Woodward (Little White Lies)

“It is put together with technical competence, but is entirely cliched and preposterous, and it implodes into its own fundamental narrative implausibility.” Peter Bradshaw (Guardian)

“The script alone could easily inspire a novella detailing all of the plot holes, gaps in logic and insanely repetitive exposition… but the real shame is that the man responsible for some of the smartest, most insane, exuberant, boundary-pushing Japanese movies of the past decade has brought the story to life with such flat, joyless direction…” Brian Clark (Twitch Film)

I wasn’t expecting it Shield of Straw get love at Cannes but I was expecting it to fare better than it did – the 1 star Guardian review is just totally outrageous and an example of what is striking about some of the reviews where more attention is focussed on the implausibility of the script – this is a high concept action film, just enjoy the ride! –  but when the reviews do focus on the action it seems to be lacking.

Overall, it looks like one of Miike’s middling movies like Ninja Kids!!!. Not as extreme as his earlier stuff like his low-budget extreme films Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer and not as accomplished as something like his more recent big-budget mainstream films 13 Assassins or For Love’s Sake. I figure I’d like this film. I did like Ninja Kids!!! more than I thought I would. If it were to get screened in the UK I would head out to see it.

Now we come to the good news. 

Like Father, Like Son                         Like Father Like Son Cannes Poster

Japanese Title: そして 父 に なる

Romaji: Soshite Chichi ni Naru

Release Date: October 05th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: N/A

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Jun Fubuki, Keita Ninomiya, Lily Franky, Jun Kunimura, Kiki Kirin, Isao Natsuyagi

Koreeda and Cast at Cannes

Like Father Like Son looked to be the favourite Japanese film to take the Palme d’Or before the explicit French lesbian relationship drama Blue is the Warmest Colour came onto the scene and wowed lots of people. Like Father Like Son ticked all of the boxes which could give it the win, great drama, great acting and it has a sentimental story which should appeal to Spielberg. Director Kore-eda is a modern day Ozu, able to capture the emotional geography of everyday Japanese people in all sorts of scenarios and Japanese family life.

The Japan Times beat me to the critical reactions round-up but here are some that stood out to me:

“It is a very decent piece of work, although not as distinctive as those two previous movies, not quite as finely observed and frankly a little schematic and formulaic, with life-lessons being learnt by the obvious people. It does however have charm and abundant human sympathy.” Peter Bradshaw (Guardian)

Not only is it the best picture to be shown in competition so far, it also prompted the loudest reactions yet from this habitually noisy crowd: rippling laughter throughout, sustained applause at the close, and a steady refrain of goosey honks as attendees cleared their tear-streaming noses. Robbie Collin (Telegraph)

Kore-eda’s “Like Father, Like Son” is a characteristically low-key but supple treatment of familial bonds, expectations and responsibilities that reverberates with heartrending impact. Maggie Lee (Variety)

With the same restraint and control over plot and the characters that he has always displayed, he leads the story carefully, avoiding unnecessary histrionics and managing to draw out of calm, carefully weighed reactions, much more than other directors would do by unchaining explosions of temper. But all these qualities are partially wasted on a plot that leaves too many issues unsolved. Dan Fainaru (Screen Daily)

A character study of a rare density and undeniable accuracy, not succumbing neither pathos nor the clinical severity, included in a spontaneous narrative, in which each player is shown a disturbing nature. Two hours, LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON leads the viewer to pests territories laughter the most outspoken of the most cathartic tears.  Aurelien Allin (Cinema Teaser)

The reaction of the critic Robbie Collin is what I hoped the film would get. I have yet to review Kore-eda’s films on this blog but I have watched quite a few of them and I feel that each of them has been a carefully crafted drama with so much emotional resonance and humanity that it means so much. They have certainly evoked emotional reactions from me.  Perhaps I’m much more sentimental than I’d like to admit but from the early reviews from critics I’m sure I would have been in floods of tears from another great drama. This one looks exactly like tear fuel to me as the trailer reveals.

Well Like Father Like Son didn’t win the Palme d’Or but it did win the Jury Prize! The success of a Japanese film at Cannes makes me happy especially when it’s by Kore-eda. This gets a release later in the year in Japan and with its subject matter and the critical reaction at Cannes it should do well and hopefully get released in the UK soon.

Koreeda Cannes 2013 Jury Prize Win

Congratulations go out to Hirokazu Kore-eda.

I would like to thank Bonjour Tristesse for doing a great job covering all of the films at the festival! I only focus on Japanese ones and so getting a round-up of what the rest of the world is doing is really great. Check out his full list of winners!

Genki Jason 2013 Festivals Banner

Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2013

Genki Cannes Film Festival 2013 Banner

The 66th Cannes Film Festival is taking place from May 15th to the 26th and its line-up of Cannes Film Festival 2013 Posterfilms was announced earlier this week and the line-up looks very promising.

The festival opens with Baz Luhrmann’s lavish looking adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and, following their major success with Drive, Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn pair up again to take the festival by storm with Only God Forgives (which also has fierce looking Kristin Scott Thomas (Leaving), a gangster thriller set in Bangkok which is In Competition and has a chance of winning the Palme d’Or. There are also two Japanese films In Competition and boy do they look so damn awesome!

Last year brought us a few treats in terms of Japanese films but this year Japan has made a major impact with two films in competition from two very special directors, Koreeda and Miike. People who watch contemporary Japanese films will know that they are two of the most talented filmmakers in Japan… heck, anywhere and if I were at Cannes I think I’d make these two films my priority.

Shield of Straw                           Shield of Straw Film Poster

Japanese Title: 藁 の 楯

Romaji: Wara no Tate

Release Date: April 26th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Kazuhiro Kiuchi (Original Novel), Tamio Hayashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Takao Osawa, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Nanako Matsushima, Kimiko Yo, KentoShield of Straw Film Poster 2 Nagayama, Goro Kishitani, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Hirotaro Honda, Masata Ibu

Oh wow, Cannes decided to get some balls and screen this action-packed film from Takashi Miike!

I find it brilliant that a chap who got his start making OTT V-cinema titles is on top of the world but it’s an indication of just how talented Takashi Miike is. He has been in fine form recently with a string of hits ranging from his exciting remake of the classic 13 Assassins, the amusing kids film Ninja Kids!!!, the cracked musical For Love’s Sake and an adaptation of a video game with Ace Attorney. His last film, Lesson of the Evil proved to be a return to violent and twisted territory similar to something like Cold Fish. Miike continues expanding into different genres and the mainstream with an all-out action title, a crime-thriller which is based on a novel by Kazuhiro Kiuchi.

Take a gander at the poster and then watch trailer and tell me you did not grin with excitement over the action!

As a fan of Miike who grew up watching his slightly older work like Audition and Visitor Q all I can say is that I love it and I hope (I really do hope) this tours the festival circuit and lands in London!

Kunihide Kiyomaru (Fujiwara) is a murderer. His victim is the granddaughter of a power-player in the political and financial world named Takaoki Ninagawa (Yamazaki).Three months elapse and Kiyomaru thinks he is in the clear until he sees that Ninagawa has placed full page ads in three of the biggest newspapers in Japan offering a 1 billion yen reward to the person who kill Kiyomaru. Fearing for his life, he turns himself in to Fukuoka Prefectural Police.

This case is potentially explosive so five elite detectives from the security section (SP) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department travel to Fukuoka to escort Kiyomaru back. The distance between Fukuoka and Tokyo is 1,200 km and there are a lot of people who want to collect that reward including rogue police officers. The pressure is on and one of the SP officers, Mekari Kazuki (Takao) begins to show doubts about whether they should protect Kiyomaru but fellow officer Atsuko Shiraiwa (Matsushima) is determined to get the job done.

I had shivers running up and down my spine just writing that! Anyway it sound a bit like the Bruce Willis film 16 Blocks only on a larger stage and I loved 16 Blocks.

It stars Takao Osawa (Aragami, Ichi), Nanako Matsushima (Reiko Asakawa in Ringu), Tatsuya Fujiwara (Battle Royale, Death Note), Tsutomu Yamazaki (The Woodsman & the Rain, Tampopo), Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), Kimiko Yo (Departures, For Love’s Sake) and Hirotaro Honda (Zero Focus).

The film is released in Japan next week!

Like Father, Like Son                         Koreeda Drama Poster

Japanese Title: そして 父 に なる

Romaji: Soshite Chichi ni Naru

Release Date: October 05th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: N/A

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Jun Fubuki, Keita Ninomiya, Like Father Like Son Cannes PosterLily Franky, Jun Kunimura, Kiki Kirin, Isao Natsuyagi

Hirokazu Koreeda is another favourite director of mine ever since I watched his film After Life back in high school. Since then he has made tremendously moving family dramas like Nobody Knows and Still Walking. I am not the only fan since Koreeda has had two films screened at Cannes with Distance (2001) and Nobody Knows (2004). There are no trailers or teasers as of yet since the film is not released until October but the story sounds like potential tear fuel.

Succesful business-man Ryota (Fukuyama) and his wife Midori (Ono) have a happy family life with their six-year-old son Keita (Nonomiya) but a phone call from the hospital informing them of the fact that their child was mixed up with another at birth shatters their happiness. Ryota and Midori must decide whether to hand over the son they have carefully raised for the last six years and take back their biological son or not.

The film stars Masaharu Fukuyama (Suspect X), Machiko Ono (Eureka, The Floating Castle), Yoko Maki (Infection, The Grudge), Lily Franky (Afro Tanaka), Jun Fubuki (SéanceRebirth) Kirin Kiki (Kiseki) and Jun Kunimura (Outrage, Vital) Isao Natsuyagi (Warm Water Under a Red Bridge).

Like last year I will try and track what the critical reception of these films was. For a full list of all of the films In Competition, check out Bonjour Tristesse who always does a great job covering all of the films at the festivals! I cannot wait to see how the Japanese films perform!

Genki Jason 2013 Festivals Banner

Cannes 2012 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate Press Reviews and Interviews

Cannes-chanWith the 65th Cannes Film Festival closing today I think it would be fair to say that based Rin Takanashi on the Red Carpeton critical reception Michael Haneke’s Amour is going to take the Palme d’Or (The Paperboy sounds so outrageous I want to see it.). How the other awards shake out is another question but I hope best actress goes to the beautiful Rin Takanashi! For a better overview of the awards handed out at the festival head over to Bonjour Tristesse. Anyway critical reception for the third and final feature-length Japanese  film has comes in and it is mixed much like Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love which leaves Ai to Makoto as the only Japanese film to receive mostly positive reviews.

 

Day 10: 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate – Un Certain Regard

 1125 The Day He Chose His Own Fate

Director: Koji Wakamatsu, Writer: Masayuki Kakegawa, Starring: Arata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tasuku Nagaoka, Takatsugu Iwama

Koji WakamatsuProlific veteran director Koji Wakamatsu tackled the violent and tough story of an extreme far left group during the turmoil of 1960’s Japan in the award winning United Red Army and now he is tackling a controversial figure on the right in the shape of Yukio Mishima, a writer, critic, and nationalist who espoused traditional values based on the Bushido code. He and his militia attempted to launch a coup d’Etat by taking a military commander hostage.

He is at Cannes with his film where he took part in a Q&A which had some interesting quotes:

What does Un Certain Regard mean to you?
It is an honour for me to be selected at “Un Certain Regard” since making film means how director express own “regard”.

Why is cinema essential to you?
Film making is my essential weapon for expression.

What about that critical reception?

“11/25: The Day He Chose His Own Fate is not as rigorous a work as it should be, but it is a complex and absorbing re-interpretation of the Mishima legend.” Simon Abrams (indiewire)

“Flat as a TV movie, Wakamatsu goes earnest with biopic, sans Schrader’s arty flamboyance & RED ARMY’s ferocious autocannibalism” Budd Wilkins (Slant Magazine)

After watching the trailer the film seemed like heavy going. Wakamatsu’s latest movie gets released in Japan next month.