Creepy クリーピー 偽りの隣人 Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2016)

Creepy       

Creepy Film Poster
Creepy Film Poster

クリーピー 偽りの隣人 「Kuri-pi- Itsuwari no Rinjin」 

Running Time: 130 mins.

Release Date: June 13th, 2016

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Chihiro Ikeda (Screenplay), Yutaka Maekawa (Original Novel)

Starring:  Hidetoshi Nishijima, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yuko Takeuchi, Masahiro Higashide, Haruna Kawaguchi, Ryoko Fujino, Toru Baba, Misaki Saisho,

Website IMDB

I have been sitting on this film review for nearly two years. Due to the tragic death of Yuko Takeuchi, I have released it in her honour. This film is available to view for free on Amazon Prime in Japan and the UK, so please take the time to watch it and see Yuko Takeuchi in action.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa has crafted some chilling antagonists in his horror films, all based on original scripts. The amoral magnetism of the mesmerist Mamiya from Cure and the ghosts of Pulse are some of the most memorable, but they were just the symptom and not the cause of the main character’s true conflicts. Alienation caused by society was at fault for channelling these monsters into everyday settings. This sense of disconnection is something Kurosawa masterfully utilised in the family drama Tokyo Sonata where a patriarch and his clan lose their cohesion after he loses his job and the family each reformulate their sense of place in the world. With family time made unbearable by the barely suppressed anger and disappointment each character feels, it strikes a very realistic chord whilst being scary like much of Kurosawa’s horror output. Creepy is based on a book by Yutaka Maekawa and while Kurosawa may not have scripted the antagonist, he is one of his most odious bad guys yet.

He gave me the creeps.”

Ex-detective Koichi Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) quits the Tokyo police force after a psychopath almost kills him. He ups roots and moves with his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) to the suburbs and takes up work as a university lecturer in criminal psychology. Their new life seems stable enough. He thinks his job is fun, she is busy as a housewife and their new house seems pleasant but things turn sour when they introduce themselves to their next door neighbours. One set, the Tanakas’, aren’t interested in getting to know them and then there is Mr. Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) who seems to hide his wife and daughter Mio (Ryoko Fujino) from the outside world.

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Penguin Highway  ペンギン・ハイウェイ Dir: Hiroyasu Ishida (2018) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]

Penguin Highway      Penguin Highway Film Poster

ペンギン・ハイウェイ 「Pengin Haiuei

Release Date: August 17th, 2018

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Hiroyasu Ishida

Writer: Makoto Ueda (Screenplay), Tomihiko Morimi (Original Script)

Starring: Kana Kita (Aoyama), Yuu Aoi (Mysterious Lady), Hidetoshi Nishijima (Aoyama’s Father), Megumi Han (Hamamoto), Naoto Takenaka (Hamamoto’s Father),

Animation Production: Studio Colorido

Website  ANN  MAL

Ten years since his three-minute student short film Fumiko’s Confession brought him to worldwide attention, Hiroyasu Ishida has taken the helm of his first feature, Penguin Highway, for Studio Colorido. A little more calm and controlled than his manic and comedic debut, what remains the same is his knack for telling a tale from a kid’s perspective and with a lot of heart.

Based on a same-named book by Tomihiko Morimi, the story takes a child’s-eye view of the world by following the adventures of Aoyama and his coterie of friends who live in a quiet suburban town. These bright and bubbly kids are charmers as they all display cute foibles while getting lost in their everyday squabbles and learning more about their world in a laid-back summertime atmosphere. Things take a turn for the fantastical as penguins start popping up everywhere without warning.

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Su-ki-da 「好きだ,」(2006) Dir: Hiroshi Ishikawa (4/5)

I recently landed a role as contributor to V-Cinema and I have reviewed a number of films for the website. I have been something of a fan and enjoyed listening to their podcasts when they have covered Japanese cinema so I’m pretty excited to be a part of the team and helping to highlight Japanese cinema. Writing reviews is something I enjoy doing and I hope people enjoy reading my reviews!

My second review for V-cinema was for the film Su-ki-da which is the second film from Hiroshi Ishikawa. It’s an improvement on the first film and has a great performance from Aoi Miyazaki. Ishikawa makes a slightly more conventional film in the shape of a romance but with Ishikawa’s long game way of storytelling. I’m going to write about all three of Ishikawa’s films. This is just a snippet of the review with images and links to a little research. The full review can be found through a link at the bottom just before a bunch of images:

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Tokyo.Sora 「Tokyo.Sora」(2002) Dir: Hiroshi Ishikawa (3.5/5)

I recently landed a role as contributor to V-Cinema and I have reviewed a number of films for the website. I have been something of a fan and enjoyed listening to their podcasts when they have covered Japanese cinema so I’m pretty excited to be a part of the team and helping to highlight Japanese cinema. Writing reviews is something I enjoy doing and I hope people enjoy reading my reviews!

My first review for V-Cinema is of Tokyo.Sora, a film from Hiroshi Ishihara. He has three films under his belt and this is his debut. This is just a snippet of the review with images and links to a little research. The full review can be found through a link at the bottom:

Tokyo.Sora   

Tokyo Sora Film Poster
Tokyo Sora Film Poster

Tokyo.SoraTokyo.Sora

Release Date: October 29th, 2002

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Ishikawa

Writer: Hiroshi Ishikawa

Starring: Yuka Itaya, Haruka Igawa, Manami Honjou, Ayano Nakamura, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Sun Cheng-Hwa, Keishi Nagatsuka,

IMDB

Hiroshi Ishikawa has had a long career in filmmaking but only has a few features films to his name. His work as a TV commercial and music video director stands in stark contrast to the slow moving dramas he writes and directs where not a lot is said out loud and the audience is expected to tease out just what is going on from the accretion of detail in slow-paced films. From this, his debut, to his more current film, the world of his characters inhabit is a very lonely place.

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Dolls ドールズ (2002)

Dolls   Dolls Film Poster

ドールズ 「Do-ruzu

Release Date:  2002 (Japan)

UK Release Date: March 14th, 2016

UK Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),

Starring: Miho Kanno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tatsuya Mihashi, Chieko Matsubara, Kyoko Fukada, Kanji Tsuda, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Yuko Daike,

IMDB

Dolls is a beautiful film about love, love that is betrayed and love that is lost and regained. It is a gorgeous film visually and aurally, absolutely stunning at points.

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Third Window Films Release Takeshi Kitano’s Dolls on Blu-ray on March 14th

Third Window Films are releasing a series of films by Takeshi Kitano on Blu-ray as Office Kitano updates the titles with 2K masters. Regular readers will know that I have reviewed Hana-bi and Kikujiro and next Monday I hope to review the latest film to get a release in the series, Dolls.

I was in high school when this was released and I must admit to being turned off by the obvious artiness of it, which isn’t to say that it’s bad so much as my taste ran more to his more violent gangster films. When I was in university I came to love his more sedate films like A Scene at the Sea and Kids Return. Like those two films, Dolls doesn’t feature Kitano acting on screen and it features a score by Joe Hisaishi (his last collaboration with Kitano). I suppose now is a great time to see how far my views have changed since it’s getting a release on March 14th!

Here’s some info from a press release!

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Maison de Himiko 「メゾン・ド・ヒミコ」2005

La Maison de Himiko    La Maison de Himiko Film Poster

メゾン・ドミコMezon do Himiko

Release Date: August 27th, 2005

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director: Isshin Inudo

Writer: Aya Watanabe (Screenplay),

Starring:  Kou Shibasaki, Joe Odagiri, Min Tanaka, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Hiroki Murakami, Hirokazu Inoue, Chiharu Muraishi, Kira Aoyama, Hiroshi Okochi, Shinichi Hatori,

Website IMDB

La Maison de Himiko is the title of the film and the name of the retirement home, for gay men, which is at the centre of the narrative. It is a place where people are open and accepting of others when the outside world can be judgemental and sometimes cruel and it is the place where one young woman finds herself coming to terms with the darkest of emotions that have hampered her life.

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Shindo (Wonder Child) 神童 (2007)

Shindo (Wonder Child)      

Shindo Film Poster
Shindo Film Poster

Japanese Title:  神童

Romaji: Shindou

Release Date: April 21st, 2007

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Koji Hagiuda

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay),

Starring: Riko Narumi, Kenichi Matsuyama, Satomi Tezuka, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tamae Ando, Masahiro Komoto, Shihori Kanjiya, Akira Emoto,

Japanese cinema has a unique category of film known as seishun eiga (youth films or coming-of-age films). These are a pretty common in Japan because many are made to serve as a star-vehicle for some young up and coming talent. Shindo stands out by taking the audience into the world of its main protagonist and lets us experience things as she does.

Shindo can translate into genius or prodigy and the prodigy here is Uta Naruse (Riko Narumi). Her name means song and she is a musical prodigy, a gifted pianist. She could read sheet music before she could speak and can play complex pieces from memory.

Shindo Riko Narumi as Uta Naruse

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License to Live ニンゲン合格 (1999)

Genki License to Live Film Review Header

License to Live                                     License to Live Film Poster Slightly Bigger

Japanese Title: ニンゲン 合格

Romaji: Ningen Goukaku

Release Date: January 23rdt, 1999

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Sho Aikawa, Lily, Shun Sugata, Ren Osugi, Yoriko Douguchi, Masahiro Toda, Hajime Inoue

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is better known in the west for his horror films thanks to titles like Cure, Pulse, and Retribution being more available than his dramas and crime thrillers. In fact he is adept at working in other genres and there is a large body of work from his v-cinema days during the 90’s missing to those of us outside Japan. Overall his best film is the drama Tokyo Sonata, a masterful portrait of the breakdown of a modern family. License to Live is another drama film with similar themes to Tokyo Sonata but from 1999, ten years prior, and with a lighter comic touch.

Yutaka Yoshii (Nishijima) has just awoken from a ten year coma caused when he was knocked off his bicycle by a man named Murota (Osugi). It comes as a shock to the hospital staff and Murota who can’t forget the story and paid for Yutaka’s medical bills but Yutaka is conscious and so Murota gives him 500,000 yen to put an end to it.

Yutaka’s family might be glad of his recovery but they have all separated having accepted the possibility he might never wake up. His parents are divorced and his sister is supposedly in America. The only person willing to take Yutaka in is Fujimori (Yakusho), an old college friend of his father who raises carp in a fish farm on the Yoshii’s family property.

License to Live Yutaka (Nishijima) and Fujimori (Yakusho)

 

With Fujimori’s help Yutaka begins to grow up but soon his family hear about his recovery. First to appear is his father Shinichiro (Sugata) who travels the globe and has consigned Yutaka to the past. Next is Yutaka’s sister Chizuru (Aso) who shows up on the fish farm with her fiancé Kasaki (Aikawa) but she doesn’t want to stick around. Finally Yutaka finds out about mother Sachiko (Lily) who is the only one to stick by him.

“Your new life is what counts,” others tell him but Yutaka wants to bring his family back together again, even if only for a moment.

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Zero Focus ゼロの焦店 (2009)

Genki Zero Focus Review Banner

Zero Focus                                            

Japanese Title: ゼロの焦店

Romaji: Zero no Shoten       Zero Focus Film Poster

Release Date: November 14th, 2009

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director: Isshin Inudo

Writer: Seicho Matsumoto (Novel), Isshin Inudo, Kenji Nakazono (Screenplay)

Starring: Ryoko Hirosue, Miki Nakatani, Tae Kimura, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Takeshi Kaga, Tetta Sugimoto, Hiromi Sakimoto, Toru Nomaguchi, Fukumi Kuroda, Hirotaro Honda, Hana Matsumoto, Yoshie Ichige, Shunta Watanabe, Kansai Eto

The final film I saw at the Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme was the sold out screening of Zero Focus where the film’s director Isshin Inudo was present and gave an enlightening Q&A at the end (and I had my picture taken with him!). Part of the reason for my selection is because I like a good mystery but I had no idea how popular the source novel was in Japan. Lengthy review with some slight spoilers.

Sadako (Hirosue) has just married Kenichi Ubara (Nishijma) after meeting him through a matchmaker. The two know little about each other apart from surface details like the fact that she can read and write English and adores the classic English novel Jane Eyre and he enjoys swimming, he was wounded in war and now works for Toyo Advertising and is stationed in Kanazawa in the snowy north of the country. His marriage means that he asks for a transfer back to Tokyo. Despite not knowing each other they feel comfortable together and look forward to starting a new life.

1 week later, December 01st, 1957

Zero Focus Bye Kenichi (Nishijima) Hellooo Sadako (Ryoko Hirosue)

Sadako is at Ueno Station with Kenichi. He must depart for Kanazawa to wrap up his business dealings and pass on contracts to his replacement. “It’s only a week,” he assures her but he never returns. He just vanishes.

Against the advice of her brother-in-law Sotaro (Sugimoto), Sadako heads to Kanazawa where Kenichi’s replacement Yoshio Honda (Nomaguchi) guides her around a town which undergoing tumultuous political changes thanks to a woman named Sachiko Murota (Nakatani) the wife of a powerful industrialist named Gisaku (Kaga). Zero Focus Sachiko Murota (Mikitani) and Her HusbandSachiko is helping a woman become the first female mayor of the city. With her organisational skills, money and her influence it could happen. Sadako approaches Sachiko for help when she learns that her husband once worked with Kenichi. Sachiko and her husband Gisaku comply but they seem to be hiding something.

Whilst at Murota’s company, Sadako encounters a receptionist named Hisako Tanuma (Kimura) who seems to act oddly around her and has poor secretarial skills. As Sadako meets these people she learns that they are connected to Kenichi in more ways than she could ever have imagined and she knew so little about him.

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