Reel Japan: Japanese Film Festival Preview

A new film festival called Reel Japan will take place at the end of April at The Yard Theatre, London. It is a two day event that takes place from Saturday 30th April 2016 to Sunday 1st May 2016 and its programme consists of eight films, all released in the UK by Third Window Films.

The festival is the latest event from the organisers of the Brick Lane Japan Film Festival which took place in January this year, an event that sold out quickly. Reel Japan’s artistic vision is to bring the best and most exciting Japanese cinema to the UK. This means that audiences get titles from Shinya Tsukamoto, Sion Sono, Takashi Miike and the others. The theme for this collection of films is “Twisted Love” and viewers will get the chance to explore the darker side of love and life through an exciting line-up of titles:

Continue reading “Reel Japan: Japanese Film Festival Preview”

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”

Third Window Films Release Himizu on DVD and Blu-Ray

Third Window Films are all set to release Himizu on DVD and Blu-Ray on the 6th of August. Himizu has to be one of the best films of 2012. As my review shows I found it emotionally powerful, visually stunning, and full of compelling performances. Even if I was not a hard core Sono fan (two seasons of his films and a third planned, two podcasts) I would still consider this an excellent film.

Anyway, I received information on the DVD/Blu-Ray release and as usual Third Window Films are delivering the film in a stylish case and it is packed full of excellent extras!

Here are the details.

Himizu

Himizu DVDBluRay Third Window Films

(CERT 18)

 A film by Sono Sion
(Love Exposure, Cold Fish)

 Starring rising young stars: Shota Sometani & Fumi Nikaido alongside veterans such as

Ken Mitsuishi (13 Assassins, The Pillow Book, Audition, The Eel)

Tetsu Watanabe (Fireworks, Sonatine, Madadayo, Memories of Matsuko)

DenDen (Cut, Cure, Cold Fish, Eureka)

 Japan / 2011 / 129 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / HD

 DVD/BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE:  6th August 2012

 Extra Features:

70 minute ‘Making Of’

Deleted & Extended Scenes

Interview with actor Denden

Theatrical Trailer

 

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.

 

One of the most talked about Japanese films of 2012, ‘Himizu’ is Sion Sono’s biggest box-office success to date.

Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido in Himizu

After Shota Sometani & Fumi Nikaido won the Marcello Mastroianni Award (they became the first Japanese actors to win the prestigious award) at the 68th Venice Film Festival, Himizu opened in Japanese cinemas on January 14th pulling in an astonishing 27,000 admissions over 79 screens in the first 2 days, with a per-screen average beating the big budget war film ‘My Way’ which opened the same weekend.

On March 11th, 2011, the largest earthquake in recorded history struck the coast off Japan, sending a massive tsunami causing a wave of destruction that decimated large parts of Japan’s Eastern seaboard and causing the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Power Station to explode.

This tragedy affected everyone in Japan, especially director Sion Sono who had just finished adapting the hugely popular Manga ‘Himizu’ into a screenplay. Director Sono immediately put the project on hold to help with the volunteer effort in Fukushima and during his work decided to change the setting of ‘Himizu’ story to Fukushima and film it there in order to show the world what happened.

Sion Sono’s next work ‘The Land of Hope’ will once again focus on the aftermath of March 11th, but will this time look at the nuclear situation which has become much lot worse than most people are aware of.

Third Window Films Movie Extravaganza – Tetsuo, Himizu, Love Exposure, Are Any of You Alive?

At the beginning of the week Adam Torel of Japanese film distributor Third Window Films revealed to Twitch some great news: Love Exposure on Blu-ray, Tetsuo 1 & 2 on Blu-ray, and Are Any of You Alive? will get distributed in the UK.

Love Exposure Blu-ray

Aya Koike (Ando) and Her Gang in Love ExposureWhen I reviewed the Love Exposure as part of my Sion Sono Season I revealed my love of the film. Many of the commenters were well aware that the four hour masterpiece of love and identity was missing at least an hour of footage and they were curious as to what that might hold. Well they will now get their chance to see it sinceThird Window Films is giving the film is getting the Blu-ray treatment which means way more storage space for way more movie goodness. According to Adam:

The film will be a new transfer to HD (they’re making a new HDCAMSR from the original master and definitely no upconversion or anything like that) and will put the film on 1 Blu-ray, then extras on a separate DVD. This is really going to be an amazing release

Extras are to include:

Nearly an hour of deleted and extended scenes, New exclusive interview with Sion Sono plus the 1 hour long ‘making of’ which was on our original DVD release

Anybody who owns the DVD version will know that they have to swap disks halfway through but thanks to the power of Blu-ray there is no need to do that thus we don’t need to break the spell of the film. Plus we get to see what was cut from theatrical versions on a disc dedicated to extras. Sounds awesome.

Continue reading “Third Window Films Movie Extravaganza – Tetsuo, Himizu, Love Exposure, Are Any of You Alive?”

4th Terracotta Far East Film Festival: Full Line-Up Announced

Terracotta Far East Film Festival Logo

With the 4th Terracotta Far East Film Festival kicking off next week now is the time to take a gander at the full line-up. This festival is London’s premier celebration of film from the Far East and shows a selection of the latest and most interesting titles getting on the big screen as well as bringing over the big names from the cast and crew of the films for Q&As and master-classes and parties. This year there are a selection of great titles from Taiwan, Burma, China, South Korea and Japan. On top of live action films there is even anime.

The Terracotta Far East Film Festival is also an event to socialise and a platform for Asian culture at all levels; for this purpose the organisers have organised a new FOOD PASS, giving access to a number of restaurants in Chinatown. There will be other related events such as photo exhibitions and competitions announced on social network sites.

Joey Leung, festival director says: “New look, same ethos. We worked with our creative agency, What is Bobo, to roll-out the re-brand of the festival with their ‘pixels’ concept. This lends maturity and longevity to our festival positioning, fitting now that we have passed the infancy of our festival and into our fourth edition.”

Here is the full line-up of films!

12th April Opening Film:

My WayUK premiere

Dir: Kang Je-Kyu Running Time: 137 mins. Starring: Jang Dong-gun, Joe Odagiri, Fan Bingbing

My Way Action ShotMy Way is the latest film from Kang Je-Kyu who directed the awesome action picture ‘Shiri’, and tells the story of two marathon runners, one Korean and one Japanese during Japan’s colonisation of Korea who are drafted into the Japanese army, and develop a close friendship through battles in Russia and Germany. It stars familiar actor Jo Odagiri (Bright Future, Adrift in Tokyo) and Jang Dong-gun who seems to have survived The Warrior’s Way.

Continue reading “4th Terracotta Far East Film Festival: Full Line-Up Announced”

Himizu ヒミズ (2012)

Yuichi (Sometani) and Keiko (Nikaidou) in Himizu Banner

Himizu is Sion Sono’s adaptation of Minoru Furuya’s manga of the same name. It involves tough subject matter like child abuse, murder, and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, but it is ultimately a redemptive and moving exploration of life, identity, and the will to live in an unfair world.

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.

 Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) in a Crisis in Himizu

Sion Sono’s films usually carry the tropes of bad parents, abuse, violence, and existential confusion but there is enough black humour and outlandishness to lighten the impact. The audience does not get that here. What we get is an extreme view of the dark side of a modern Japan and the existential soul searching that needs to take place to build a new future and a lesson in never giving up on life.

 “Nobody can touch my future!”

  Continue reading “Himizu ヒミズ (2012)”

Sion Sono Season

Sion Sono Season Banner

It’s a short season and it features a silly banner but I don’t care. This is a quick biography of Sion Sono and I hope to review some of his works in the coming week. I want to write about a number of directors and since this is Sion Sono Season he goes first.

Sion Sono has had a varied career starting as an avant-garde poet before ditching a course at Hosei University for a career in underground filmmaking although he never turns his back on poetry which will recur in his early films. In 1987 he won the Grand Prize at the PIA Film Festival (PFF) for his film A Man’s Hanamichi. The PFF is designed to discover and support new filmmakers and following his win he received a fellowship with PIA and wrote, directed and starred in numerous films which contained underachievers, serial killers and other outsiders. These films regularly toured the international festival circuit and helped establish his name.

It wasn’t until the 2001 film Suicide Circle when he truly became a well-known cult director. Suicide Circle (which has special effects by Tokyo Gore Police director Yoshihiro Nishimura) is a satirical film dealing with pop culture, mass suicides, and a bewildered middle aged police detective played by Ryo Ishibashi (Audition) trying to understand it all while being assailed by deviants and horrific sights that challenge his perceptions. Following this success he expanded on the film’s world by taking it into different mediums such as novels and manga and a belated sequel named Noriko’s Dinner Table which was made in 2006.

Noriko's Dinner Table

Suicide Circle was a massive success and has set the tone for the rest of his films. Despite trying a gangster film (Hazard – 2005) and comedy-drama (Into a Dream – 2005), both starring Joe Odagiri (Adrift in Tokyo, Bright Future), he has continued to explore the darker side of modern Japan with a series of extreme titles including the ero-guro film Strange Circus (2005) which features sexual and mental abuse and incest, the aforementioned Noriko’s Dinner Table which deals with alienation and suicide, Exte: Hair Extensions (2007) which stars Chiaki Kuriyama (Battle Royale, Shikoku, Kill Bill) and is a far more mainstream J-horror title and then Love Exposure (2008) which stars Hikari Mitsushima (Sawako Decides) and can only be described as a religio-psycho-sexual mindmelt.

Love Exposure's Interesting Ride

Continue reading “Sion Sono Season”

4th Terracotta Far East Film Festival

There are a plethora of exciting titles for anybody interested in far eastern films in the line-up for Terracotta Far East Film Festival next month. This festival is London’s premier celebration of the film and culture of the Far East because it selects the latest and most interesting titles from the region as well as bringing over the cast and crew of the films for Q&As and master-classes. Oh and there are parties.

One glance at the line-up shows that a lot of films that I followed in 2011 are getting a run at the festival including Himizu, Monsters Club, Poppy Hill and The Woodsman and the Rain. It’s a pretty awesome line-up featuring some of the most interesting talents from Japan that I rave about so enough from me! Here are the films!

Opening Film:

My Way

Dir: Kang Je-Kyu Running Time: 137 mins. Starring: Jang Dong-gun, Joe Odagiri, Fan Bingbing

My Way is the latest film from Kang Je-Kyu who directed the awesome action picture ‘Shiri’, and tells the story of two marathon runners, one Korean and one Japanese during Japan’s colonisation of Korea who are drafted into the Japanese army, and develop a close friendship through battles in Russia and Germany. It stars familiar actor Jo Odagiri (Bright Future, Adrift in Tokyo) and Jang Dong-gun who seems to have survived The Warrior’s Way.

Continue reading “4th Terracotta Far East Film Festival”

Third Window Films Acquires Himizu and Mitsuko Delivers and Latest Trailers

Third Window Films delivered a devastatingly brilliant one-two of news with the announcement that they have acquired Sion Sono’s Himizu and Yuya Ishii’s Mitsuko Delivers. I have been following Himizu for a while now and I am a recent convert to the school of Yuya Ishii’s humanistic comedies after watching Sawako Decides a witty and charming satire of modern Japanese society so let me put out what is known about the films so far.

Mitsuko Delivers

Japanese Theatrical Release: 5th November, 2o11

UK DVD Release Date:   May 2012

Running Time: 109 min.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Starring: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Shiro Namiki, Miyoko Inagawa, Miyako Takeuchi, Momoka Oono, Yoshimasa Kondo, Yukijiro Hotaru, Keiko Saito

I only heard about this when I did a little coverage of the BFI London Film Festival where the film was playing. It stars Ryo Ishibashi, a familiar face from many Miike Takashi works including Audition, as well as Takeshi Kitano films like the brilliant Kids Return and Brother. I’m familiar with the lead actress through her work in the anime Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time  Aoi Nakamura was one of the actors in the Third Window Films release  Quirky Guys and Gals.

 

Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) is a young woman who is nine-months pregnant, broke and alone in Tokyo. Her parents think that she’s in America with her boyfriend but she’s actually in dire straits as she is forced to move out of her apartment and yet she remains positive and believes that things will turn out alright. She doesn’t know where she will go but decides to revisit her past including a boy who had a crush on her (Aoi Nakamura).

  Continue reading “Third Window Films Acquires Himizu and Mitsuko Delivers and Latest Trailers”

Himizu Trailer and Footage From Live-Action Phoenix Wright

It has been a while since I have posted any trailers but two films I have been following, Phoenix Wright and Himizu, have footage online so here they are.

Phoenix Wright

A video is online showing a various sequences from Takashi Miike’s live-action movie adaptation of Capcom’s long-running Nintendo DS game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

Takashi Miike announced that he was working on an adaptation during a press conference in Cannes where he stated that his next film “…is a very light comedy that I am filming now, a court drama, based on a video game, the Nintendo game DS”.
PWrighActorstPhoenix Wright will be played by Narimiya Hiroki one of the stars in the ninja adventure Azumi as well as the stylish Sakuran. Phoenix Wright’s assistant, Maya Fey, will be portrayed by Kiritani Mirei who has recently worked on the live-action TV version of Arakawa Under the Bridge and Miles Edgeworth will be portrayed by Saito Takumi who starred in the awesome Thirteen Assassins.

Continue reading “Himizu Trailer and Footage From Live-Action Phoenix Wright”