Commemorating the 05th Anniversary of 3/11 at Japan Society New York

In the Wake Spiral

There have been a number of programmes around the world dedicated to remembering the tragic impact of The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the subsequent recovery but the most interesting and the greatest concentration of events I have seen so far has been the Japan Society, New York’s commemoration events. There is a wide range of talks and screenings and more given over to remembering the disaster and charting the return to some kind of normality that people in the region are attempting.

Many of the events run from March and last into April and June and all are centred around how art responds to crisis. To find out more and purchase tickets, click on the links provided.

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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)”

The Ravine of Goodbye, To Cry a 100 Times, Shady, Remiges, Ghost in the Shell: Arise border 1 Ghost Pain, Movie Version BUCK-TICK Firecrackers Phenomenon II, It’s a Glass Mask But… Love of a Woman Spy!, and Other Japanese Film Trailers

HitagiWell my holiday came to an end and it was back to work and I haven’t been as busy as this week had me. I got a bit of a surprise this week as well when I collected my post and excitedly got my Bakemonogatari DVD (just released in the UK) then checked my emails and saw a press release from the UK distributor asking AUKN to report that the Bakemonogatari set has the wrong discs in thanks to a mix up with the manufacturer. I now have Shakugan no Shana II instead of Bakemonogatari. It’s pretty bland. I want my Bakemonogatari. I want Hitagi Senjougahara.

The week opened with my Summer Anime Season Picks on this blog and on Anime UK News. I feel sad about the spring season passing but the summer shows I picked look pretty good. I followed up with a post showing the auditions for Sion Sono’s latest film Tokyo Tribes and a lot of the trailers were fun rather than cringe-worthy.

What films are released today?

The Ravine of Goodbye               The Ravine of Goodbye Film Poster

Japanese Title: さよなら渓谷

Romaji: Sayonara Keikoku

Release Date: June 22nd, 2013

Running Time: 116 mins.

Director: Tatsushi Omori

Writer: Shuichi Yoshida (Novel), Tatsushi Omori (Screenplay)

Starring: Yoko Maki, Shima Onishi, Nao Omori, Arata, Hirofumi Arai, Anne Suzuki, Jyo Hyuga

Tatsushi Omori is an interesting director. He’s worked on The Whispering of the Gods and Tada’s Do-It-All House, two interesting films, the first a drama and the second a comedy. His latest flick is Bozo which stood out as being a grim take on the real life incident of a loser who goes on a murder-spree. Omori’s name should be better known amongst cinephiles. This is his latest film and he’s adapted a novel by Shuichi Yoshida, the man who wrote Villain, Parade and The Story of Yonosuke, all three of which were turned into films. As the trailer shows this is going to be an emotionally intense film full of tears and shouting. The plot sounds really melodramatic and it makes me want to see this on the big screen! I’m also interested because the acting talent is immense with the director’s brother, Nao Omori who is a bloody good actor considering his roles – Ichi the Killer, Vibrator, Mushishi,  Rampo Noir – Yoko Maki (Infection, The Grudge) Anne Suzuki (she had a bit-part as a waitress in Himizu but was so beautiful I remember her clearly!) and Arata (After Life).

In a valley dense with trees a baby is killed and it’s mother, Satomi Tachibana (Suzuki) is the primes suspect. As the police are investigating the murder they are informed that Satomi is romantically involved with her next door neighbour Shunsuke Ozaki (Onishi), a man who seems to be happily married to his wife Kanako (Maki). Magazine reporter Watanabe (Omori) digs into the case to find out the real story and discovers that a strange connection exists between Kanako and Shunsuke which changes his perception of the truth.

To Cry a 100 Times                               To Cry a 100 Times Film Poster

Japanese Title: 100 回 泣くこと

Romaji: 100 Kai Naku Koto

Release Date: June 22nd, 2013

Running Time: 116 mins.

Director: Ryuichi Hirok

Writer: Shuichi Yoshida (Novel), Ko Nakamura, Izumi Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Tadayoshi Okra, Mirei Kiritani, Rie Tomosaka, Shugo Oshinari, Haru, Ren Osugi, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Jun Murakami

And now for something completely different. This looks incredibland to me, a person who has grown up on horror and action. I guess regular dorama viewers will fit in perfectly but the trailer and plot put me off. The central couple looks so cute. The settings are picture perfect. The music is a cheesy ballad. The strange thing is that fact that it’s directed by Ryuichi Hiroki (River, April Bride) who usually makes more interesting dangerous films so forgive me if I say that this looks like a project designed to buy him a new boat. But maybe I’m wrong. There are great actors here like Jun Murakami (Land of Hope), and Ren Osugi (Exte) and recent discoveries like Haru (See You Tomorrow, Everyone) and Yoshiko Miyaaki (Detroit Metal City)… This could be secretly great and another look at the trailer will convince me… Or maybe they all want boats as well. Perhaps they all have memberships at the same yacht club. I’m not convinced. The next trailer better be an awesome action movie.

Shichichi (Okura) had a motorcycle accident 4 years ago and slost a year from his memory. While at a friend’s wedding, Shuichi meets Yoshimi (Kiritani) and the two fall for each other. Shuichi even considers trying to wife Yoshimi until she becomes sick and reveals a sad truth lost in Shuichi’s memory…

No action movies. I just checked the rest of the releases and it’s all dramas and documentaries. They look good.

 

Shady                                                                            Shady Film Poster

Japanese Title: かしこい狗は、吠えずに笑う

Romaji: Kashikoi Inu wa, Hoezu ni Warau

Release Date: June 22nd, 2013

Running Time: 94 mins.

Director: Ryohei Watanabe

Writer: Ryohei Watanabe (Screenplay)

Starring: mimpi * β, Izumi Okamura, Isao Nakazawa, Gota Ishida, Ayumi Seko

The first post Alua made for 2013 contained the trailer for this film and I commented on it stating that:

“I liked the trailer for Shady. It reminds me of the K-horror Memento Mori. I’ll make Gifs out of that…” Genki Jason 

Ah, the things I promise to do. Well I have made a Gif which is at the bottom of this post. What? You want to know about the film that reminded me of Memento Mori?

Okay, this is an award winning youth drama about Misa Kumada (mimpi * β), an outcast at her school who hates the place but would like to get closer to Izumi Kiyose (Okamura). The two develop bonds of friendship but the seemingly angelic Kiyose has quite a dark side. Do I still want to see it? Yes. Thankfully Third Window Films have acquired it for UK distribution!

 

Remiges                                                  Remiges Film Poster

Japanese Title: 風切羽 かざきりば

Romaji: Kazekiribane ka Zakiriba

Release Date: June 22nd, 2013

Running Time: 88 mins.

Director: Masato Ozawa

Writer: Masato Ozawa (Screenplay)

Starring: Mika Akzuki, Junki Tozuka, Maiko Kawakami, Osamu Shigematu, Yuki Terada, Futoshi Sato, Nobuyuk Ishida, Michiko Godai

Remiges? A flight of feathers of a bird’s wing. A bleakie road movie… I have to invoke the name of Alua again because this is her type of film. Abuse, bullying, horrible parents and the trauma that has created in lead character Sayako which leads to an interesting character study. It looks to get even more interesting when Sayako hooks up with another outcast named Kenta. The film actually gets a bit of a playful tone when he enters but such things don’t last in the real world. With its outsider pair it reminds me of Aku no Hana only Kenta isn’t a spineless nothing like Kasuga. Damn, I want to Gif this as well. Lead actress Mika Akizuki starred in Another while lead actor Junki Tozuka appeared in Helter Skelter. Those two look really good (especially when compared to that film about crying 100’s of times or whatever…)

Sayako (Akizuk) was abused by her mother as a young child and has lived in a foster care facility with the emotional scars since then. She’s now a senior in high school and wants to attend a ballet school but she needs her parents to pay the tuition fees and so she turns to her father but he betrays her and pushes Sayako over the edge. She skips out on the foster care facility to search for her mother and sister but runs into another lost soul named Kenta (Tozuka) who cycles through town asking random people if they know him.

Continue reading “The Ravine of Goodbye, To Cry a 100 Times, Shady, Remiges, Ghost in the Shell: Arise border 1 Ghost Pain, Movie Version BUCK-TICK Firecrackers Phenomenon II, It’s a Glass Mask But… Love of a Woman Spy!, and Other Japanese Film Trailers”

Great East Japan Earthquake Aftermath on Film

311 Film ImageI remember the morning of the Great East Japan Earthquake quite vividly. I finished work early and watched the unfolding disaster online. It was terrifying and it was bewildering and it seemed so overwhelming. I also remember the (ani)blogging community coming together quick sharp to relay news and to set up charity appeals. The charity appeals are still needed as rebuilding is moving slowly and people are still displaced which is why I posted about a Japan Foundation film event on the anniversary earlier this week. It is strange to think that the disaster was two years ago because it seems closer and I suspect that the reason it still seems so close is because of the many films that have use it as subject matter.

One of the things I do on my blog is write up trailer posts for most of the Japanese films released in cinemas and for the films touring the festival circuit. Through doing this I have seen that Japanese filmmakers are intensely interested. Not a month goes by without two or three titles and with the recent anniversary the number of films has intensified. The range of filmmakers covers documentarians, directors who are better known for horror films and bleak dramas (bleakies as fellow film-blogger Alua calls them), veterans and directors making their debuts. It stands in complete contrast to other disasters and countries. How many films are there directly or indirectly about Hurricane Katrina (a handy wikipedia list)? There are probably more because The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans isn’t present in that list but still it just does not compare to the efforts that the Japanese filmmaking community has made to highlight document disaster and the continuing problems. Whatever the case, I present this list to you. I can’t claim that it’s exhaustive but it’s somewhere to start. It is shows how unique cinema can be and it is something we can use to remember the event and the impact it had on people’s lives and hopefully chart the recovery of the region.

Here are some of the films:

 

A Gentle Rain Falls for FukushimaA Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima

Director: Atsushi Kokatsu, Writer: Atsushi Kokatsu, Uichiro Kitazato

Starring: Kosuke Toyohara, Chieko Matsubara, Jurina, Shono Hayama, Gitan Otsuru, Hitomi Sato

This was the directorial debut of Kokatsu. When preproduction of the film was finished in early 2011 and funding was secured from the Fukushima government the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami struck. After initially suspending the film the filmmakers continued with production and donated some of the profits to charity. The film is a mix of heartfelt drama and light comedy that comes with the role-swapping like finding out a girl younger than you used to be your mother in a past life. It centres around a diverse group of people who are all lonely and struggling in life. They meet in Fukushima where they discover that they were a family in a previous life. At first uneasy with each other, the more they talk the better they feel about their problems and their bond grows but their time together remains short as they must soon leave.

 

Himizu PosterHimizu

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,

Himizu is Sion Sono’s adaptation of Minoru Furuya’s manga of the same name and the only film on this list I have seen. I was in tears at the end. Sono takes a manga already full of anger and tough subject matter like child abuse and murder, and weaves in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami to create a film which is ultimately a moving exploration of life, identity, redemption and the will to live. I’m quoting my review now. Here are more quotes “Sono hammers the references home with scenes of actors wandering around the disaster hit areas complete with the skeletal remains of buildings and mounds of rubble surrounding them. The sight of the destruction is a terrifying testament to the power of the disaster. The scenes are accompanied by the sound of Geiger counters and a menacing rumbling reminding us the events even more. It feels like a natural part of the film and added to the theme of enduring whatever life throws at you.” I would consider Himizu to be one of the best films I saw last year.

Junior high school kid Yuichi Sumida (Sometani) wants a quiet life but his mother (Watanabe) comes home with different men every night, and his drunken, hate-filled father (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 (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.

Women on the Edge Movie PosterWomen on the Edge                                         

Director: Masahiro Kobayashi, Writer: Masahiro Kobayashi

Starring: Miho Fujima, Yuko Nakamura, Makiko Watanabe

Masahiro Kobayashi, writer and director of grim films like Bashing is back with Women on the Edge which stars Miho Fujima (Ju-On: The GrudgeTajomaru), Yuko Nakamura (Blood and Bones), and Makiko Watanabe (Himizu, Love Exposure).

The three Onodera sisters return to the home of their deceased parents’ in Kesennuma, Miyagi, a place affected by the Tohoku Earthquake. The house has survived the earthquake and tsunami and the three are looking to claim an inheritance. Nobuko (Nakamura) moved to Tokyo and is a divorcee, Takako (Watanabe) moved to New York and works as a butoh dancer. Third sister Satomi (Fujima) stayed behind. There are deep resentments and over the course of the film they will come out.

 

Odayaka Film PosterOdayaka                                                                      

Director: Nobuteru Uchida, Writer: Nobuteru Uchida (Script),

Starring: Kiki Sugino, Yukiko Shinohara, Takeshi Yamamoto, Ami Watanabe, Ami Watanabe, Yu Koyanagi, Makiko Watanabe, Maho Yamada, Susumu Terajima, Maki Nishiyama, Kotaro Shiga, Kanji Furutachi, Yuko Kibiki, Yuya Matsumura,

This is a film which covers the March 11th earthquakes. This is another fiction film addressing the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami following Women on the EdgeThe Ear Cleaner and The Land of Hope. It is written and directed by Nobuteru Uchida (Love Addiction).

Saeko (Sugino) and Yukako (Shinohara) are neighbours in a Tokyo apartment complex. Following the March 11th Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami both find their lives affected by newfound fears. Saeko is undergoing a divorce and fears her daughter may get radiation exposure. Yukako also fears the radiation and asks her husband to move. When Saeko saves Yukako from suicide, the two become close.

The Intermission Film PosterThe Intermission                 

Director: Naofumi Higuchi, Writer: Naofumi Higuchi, Minato Takehiko (Screenplay),

Starring: Kumiko Akiyoshi, Shota Sometani, Kyoko Kagawa, Akiko Koyama, Kumi Mizuno, Naoto Takenaka, Shiro Sano,

An indie film which deals indirectly with the effects of March 11th as we get the real life story of an old movie theatre in Ginza, Tokyo was closed in March. It stars Shota Sometani (Himizu), Kumiko Akiyoshi (Deep River), Kyoko Kagawa (Shall We Dance?) and Kumi Mizuno (Godzilla Final Wars).

Kumiko (Akiyoshi) is the manager of the Ginza Shinepatosu and she has a younger husband named Shota (Sometani). The movie theatre faces closure following the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 due to safety fears. As the final day approaches, Kumiko’s anxieties over earthquakes and radiation grow.

Continue reading “Great East Japan Earthquake Aftermath on Film”