The Forest of Love 愛なき森で叫べ Dir: Sion Sono (2019)

The Forest of Love    Forest of Love Film Poster

愛なき森で叫べ  Ai naki mori de sakebe

Release Date: October 11th, 2019

Duration: 151 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Script) 

Starring: Kippei Shiina (Joe Murata), Shinnosuke Mitsushima (Shin), Kyoko Hinami (taeko), Eri Kamataki (Mitsuko), Young Dais, Natsuki Kawamura, Denden, Hiroko Yashiki,

Website IMDB

American streaming services like Netflix have given a new lease of life to Japanese creatives who have access to greater financial muscle and creative freedom and a wider audience so that means the fetters of the traditional Japanese system are off for the visionaries and the sky is the limit. That Sion Sono, simultaneous enfant terrible and wunderkind of Japanese cinema, was tapped to make a movie for Netflix was exciting news especially after his heart attack this year. What he turns in is a long and ornate tale of murder that sometimes plays like a greatest-hits of his previous work but is delivered with such aplomb and dexterity as well as some special performances it remains entertaining.

Sono channels a rather horrific series of real-life murders into a film much like he did with Cold Fish but makes the most of the budget to craft a rather rambling and highly theatrical story split into chapters.

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Third Window Films Release “Lowlife Love” on DVD/Blu-Ray on November 21st

Lowlife Love has been reported on here multiple times. I tracked it from its inception as a Kickstarter Project (which I backed) and then I wrote about it four img_0827times when it featured at a number of prestigious film festivals and got it’s theatrical release in Japan. It has been a long road and I got the chance to watch it at the Tollywood Cinema in Shinjuku after being invited by the film’s producer, the ever-cool Adam Torel. The film was an interesting ride to say the least. I was expecting a comedy but it is dark, a rather grimy expose of some of the horrible things that go on in the world of cinema in Japan. Despite having seen the director Eiji Uchida’s previous film, Greatful Dead, I was taken aback by this. It’s a must-see for anyone who wants a dose of reality. Thankfully it has a veneer of comedy and some great performances to keep it from being unbearable.

I am still in Tokyo and still writing about films and still getting press releases so here’s the information for its UK release on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Here’s the press release:

The first 100% Third Window Films production!
Third Window films team up with GREATFUL DEAD director Eiji Uchida to produce a darkly comic satire of Japan’s no-budget film industry!

Dual format bluray & dvd set out November 21st
Featuring a Making Of, Cast interviews, Deleted Scenes, Alternate ending, Music video, Theatrical Trailer

“A nasty peek at the underbelly of the Japanese independent film scene.” – Screen Anarchy
“Lowlife Love is a fantastic piece of Japanese indie cinema, and a bold offering from the talented and creative Eiji Uchida.” – Eastern Kicks
“Presents uncomfortable truths in sharp, funny ways.” – The Japan Times

Continue reading “Third Window Films Release “Lowlife Love” on DVD/Blu-Ray on November 21st”

Judge! ジャッジ!(2014)

Judge! (2014)   Judge 2014 Film Poster

Japanese Title: ジャッジ!

Romaji: Jajji!

Running Time: 105 mins.

Release Date: January 11th, 2014

Director: Akira Nagai

Writer: Yoshimitsu Sawamoto (Screenplay)

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Keiko Kitagawa, Lily Franky,
KyokaSuzuki, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoji Tanaka, Denden, Ryo Kase, Etsushi Toyokawa, Iyo Matsumoto,

What I am about to say is very important…

The final film I saw at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival 2014 was the international premiere of Judge! and it was a fantastic way to finish the event. Akira Nagai flew in to introduce the film and even took the time to talk to me.

Taking a break from an award-winning career in a Tokyo-based advertising company, director Akira Nagai makes his feature film debut with the 2014 comedy Judge! Both Akira Nagai and writer Yoshimitsu Sawamoto have careers in advertising which they both draw on to make a sleek, light-hearted, and hilarious satire on the international ad industry which made me roar with laughter.

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The Land of Hope 希望の国 (2012)

Genki The Land of Hope Review Banner

The Land of Hope                               The Land of Hope Movie Poster

Japanese: 希望 の 国

Romaji: Kibou no Kuni

Release Date: October 20th, 2012 (Japan)

UK Release Date: August 26th, 2013

UK Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 133 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Starring: Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka, Yutaka Shimizu, Hikari Kajiwara, Denden, Mariko Tsutsui, Yusuke Iseya, Mitsuru Fukikoshi,

When Sion Sono’s last film Himizu came to its stunning open ending it was clear that he was far from finished addressing the issues surrounding the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tusnami. The Land of Hope is the powerful and important follow-up which is epic in scale and drama. For daring to take on such a taboo subject in Japan, Sono had to go to foreign investors but what has resulted is a film that is a key way of seeing the effects of a disaster. At two hours it captures all sorts of aspects about the disaster but remains incredibly humane as it centres on the travails of two families.

An old couple named Yasuhiko and Chieko Ono (Natsuyagi and Otani) live on a farm with their son Yoichi (Murakami) and his wife Izumi (Kagurazaka) near Ohara town in Nagashima prefecture.

 The Land of Hope Ono and Suzuki Families

It is a peaceful place whose only claim to fame is the nearby Nagashima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Yasuhiko’s days are spent farming land owned by his family for generations, taking care of Chieko who suffers dementia and talking with the neighbouring Suzuki family made up of father Ken (Denden), mother Meiko (Tsutsui), son Mitsuru (Shimizu) and his girlfriend Yoko (Kajiwara). 

Continue reading “The Land of Hope 希望の国 (2012)”

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”

Himizu UK Theatrical Release

Third Window Films is releasing Himizu in selected cinemas across the UK today with screenings in London’s ICA, Prince Charles, Renoir and Riverside Studios cinemas. There will also be showings in Wales at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre from the 11th to the 13th of June, Ireland at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin from the 22nd of June until the 28th, and Scotland at the Eden Court Cinema in Inverness from the 31st of June to the 02nd of August. For a full list of sites and dates check the this page at Third Window Films.

Himizu        Himizu Poster

Release Date: 01st June (UK Theatrical Release), 14th January 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (script adaptation), Minoru Furuya (manga)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaidō, Tetsu Watanabe, Denden, Jun Murakami, Makiko Watanabe, Ken Mitsuishi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Asuka Kurosawa, Taro Suwa, Yosuke Kubozuka Keisuke Horibe, Takahiro Nishijima

Junior high school kid Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) wants a quiet life but his mother (Yukiko Watanabe) comes home with different men every night, and his drunken, hate-filled father (Ken Mitsuishi) only pays him visits when he needs money. Yuichi carries on running the family boat rental business and lives surrounded by homeless people who are victims of the tsunami. Meanwhile at school he is ignoring class-mate Keiko Chazawa(Fumi Nikaidō) who has a massive crush on him. Things get tough when his mother abandons him and Kaneko (Denden), a Yakuza loan-shark, shows up looking for Yuichi’s father and ¥6 million. Pushed to breaking point by his situation Yuichi finds himself unable to control his anger and a series of events leads him to the brink of madness.

Sion Sono (Cold Fish, Exte, Love Exposure) is a favourite director of mine so when Third Window Films announced that they were had acquired the rights to Himizu I was excited to say the least. Then I saw it and was blown away. This is one of the most powerful films to come out of Japan recently and so I urge anybody who has an interest in Japanese films or films in general to go and see it!

Cannes 2012 Like Someone in Love Reviews and Press Conference

Cannes-chanThe 65th Cannes Film Festival is in full swing and reviews and news are coming out fast (check Bonjour Tristesse for more coverage  – I’m going to copy his way of setting out the information here). We are midway through the festival and Japanese films get their premieres today with Like Someone in Love screening early in the day in competition and Ai to Makoto being screened later at midnight as part of the Midnight Screenings. First up is Like Somone in Love.

 

Day 6 – Like Someone in Love (In Competition)

 Like Someone in Love Poster

Director: Abbas Kiarostami, Writer: Abbas Kiarostami, Starring: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase

Like Someone in Love is Abbas Kiarostami’s follow-up to Certified Copy. It is a French/Japanese co-production and it is the only Japanese language film In Competition at Cannes. It stars Rin Takanashi (Goth – Love of Death), television and theatre actor Tadashi Okuno, Denden (Cold Fish, Himizu) and Ryo Kase (SPEC: The Movie).

In Cannes were a radiant looking Rin Takanashi, Okuno, Kase and Kiarostami and although the press conference got off to a bumpy start it was rather interesting (although not as interesting as an earlier interview, some answers from which I have included). As expected the majority of questions were directed at Kiarostami until a plucky Japanese journalist appeared at the end and asked Okuno what it was like working with Kiarostami. Amusingly it was revealed that that Okuno doesn’t have a driving licence and yet he had to perform driving scenes. Anyway, quotes here:

Kiarostami’s relation to Japanese cinema: Kiarostami: “… When I started getting interested in films I used to go to the film library in Tehran and I used to watch a lot of Ozu’s films… Once I had become a director I realised I had been heavily influenced by Japanese films…”

On watching recent Japanese films: Kiarostami: “I couldn’t perceive Japanese soul and emotion. I perceived a tremendous influence of Hollywood film and these films were a poor copy. In terms of being impacted by contemporary Japanese films, no I wasn’t influenced… Maybe I didn’t watch the right contemporary Japanese films.”

On Ella Fitzgerald’s song and how much of an influence is Jazz: Kiarostami: “I don’t think that the importance of the music is paramount in the film… Music doesn’t play that major part. We are a generation that was marked by Jazz. The actors and producers were all familiar with Like Someone in Love.”

Like Someone in Love Rin Takanashi 2

Kariostami on the ending: I felt that this can’t be the end of the film, there’s something unfinisned about it but we’ll see about it later. Time went by, more than six months elapsed but I didn’t find the end. When I sent this in for translation and I sent it to the producers I expected the producers to say your film doesn’t have an ending but then I realised that my film doesn’t have a beginning… and I realised that’s what happens in real life. No tale has a real beginning or ending.

Continue reading “Cannes 2012 Like Someone in Love Reviews and Press Conference”

Land of Hope Trailer

The Land of Hope                                 The Land of Hope Poster

Japanese: Kibou no Kuni

Release Date: Autumn 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Starring: Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka, Yutaka Shimizu, Hikari Kajiwara, Denden, Mariko Tsutsui, Yusuke Iseya, Mitsuru Fukikoshi,

There are a lot of documentaries that directly tackle the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tusnami (as the selection at the Berlin Film Festival revealed) and they far outweigh the number of fiction films. The biggest title to address the events of March 11th that I have seen has to be Sion Sono’s Himizu, a movie which went to great pains to weave elements of the disaster into its story which was made before the tragic events. Well Sono is back with another title that takes a look at the disaster and its effects on Japan and its people.

An old couple (Natsuyagi and Otani) live on a farm near a peaceful village with their son (Murakami) and his wife (Kagurazaka). When an earthquake strikes the nearby nuclear power plant explodes and the village’s residents are forced to evacuate. Things are different on the farm since only half of the farm is in the evacuation zone. The family are soon faced with a tough decision: evacuate with the rest of the village or stay on the land.

I first heard about this film when I attended a screening of Himizu organised by Third Window Films earlier this year. Judging by the content of Himizu Sono has a LOT to say and he will say it in his usual dramatic way. The cast includes many actors who crop up in Sono’s films including Denden, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Hikari Kajiwara and Sono’s own wife Megumi Kagurazaka who all starred in Cold Fish. Interestingly Third Window Films is co-producing this. Filming began earlier this year in January and concluded in April.

 

Source

Cannes Film Festival Like Someone In Love

65th Cannes Film Festival Banner

Cannes-chanLike Someone in Love

Release Date: Cannes

Running Time: N/A

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Writer: Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase

We’re getting close to the movie event of te month and so the Cannes Film Festival has started to tease the film world with media from the films that will be at the festival. Thanks to Nippon Cinema we got the heads-up for some images and a trailer for Kiarostami’s follow up to Certified Copy, Like Someone in Love. The trailer looks similar to the one I posted… last month (so I’ll use it again) but the images are new. Mostly.

A young female student named Akiko (Rin Takanashi) works as a prostitute to pay off her univeisty fees. One of her clients is an elderly academic (Tadashi Okuno) who is fond of her. Soon a relationship develops between the two.

The cast includes Rin Takanashi who starred in Goth: Love of Death, Denden who stars in Cold Fish and Himizu and Ryo Kase who is in  SPEC: The Movie which is hanging on in the Japanese charts. Kiarostami has previously won big at Cannes by taking the Palme d’Or for Taste of Cherry in 1997. Here are the pictures.

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Japanese Films at Cannes Film Festival 2012

65th Cannes Film Festival Banner

Cannes-chanThe 65th Cannes Film Festival takes place from the 16th to the 27th of May so Cannes-chan (left) is going to be following the festival. Every time you see her expect some news on the Japanese films competing. Major news came out at the end of last week when the organisers released the line-up of films that will screen at the glamorous event. There are some interesting titles taking part at this year’s festival with the likes of David Cronenberg and Brandon Cronenberg bringing projects. America has some great entries and there is a strong European presence with Ken Loach and Michael Haneke (if you want a proper run-down of the contenders then read Bonjour Tristesse’s blog). There is also a strong Asian selection but there are only four major Japanese films so here they are:

11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate

Release Date: 2nd June 2012 (Japan), Premieres atCannes11.25 Mishima Drama Poster

Running Time: N/A

Director: Koji Wakamatsu

Writer: Masayuki Kakegawa

Starring: Arata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tasuku Nagaoka, Takatsugu Iwama

Prolific 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. Taking the lead role is Arata who was in United Red Army and also appeared in Kore-eda’s wonderful film After Life.

Taking place in 1960’s Japan at a time when economic growth sky-rocketed but the nation was wracked by political turmoil and social changes from sexual liberation to student riots over individual’s rights and the US military presence in Japan, author and intellectual Yukio Mishima was a major voice, a nationalist who espoused traditional values based on the Bushido code while having a controversial private life. He and his militia will attempt a coup d’Etat by taking a military commander hostage.

 

Like Someone in Love

Release Date: Premieres atCannes

Running Time: N/A

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Writer: Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase

Like Someone in Love is Abbas Kiarostami’s follow-up to Certified Copy. A French/Japanese co-production and it is the only Japanese language film In Competition it stars Rin Takanashi (Goth: Love of Death), Denden (Cold Fish, Himizu) and Ryo Kase who starred in the recent box-office smash SPEC: The Movie. Kiarostami has form in Cannes having previously won the Palme d’Or for Taste of Cherry in 1997.

A young female student named Akiko (Rin Takanashi) works as a prostitute to pay off her university fees. One of her clients is an elderly academic (Tadashi Okuno) who is fond of her. Soon a relationship develops between the two.

  Continue reading “Japanese Films at Cannes Film Festival 2012”