This year’s Cannes Film Festival will May 16-27 and the official line-up of films has been announced. This year sees a LOT of titles from East Asia.
As with last year, Hollywood is going to be at the croissette with European film royalty and East Asian talents. Ken Loach, Wim Wenders and Pedro Almodovar are bringing their latest works, The Old Oak, Perfect Days and Strange Way of Life respectively. Meanwhile big blockbuster Indiana Jones and theDial of Destiny will also be screened. There’s also Martin Scorcese’s Killers of the Flower Moon (my mother has read the book and said it is good).
We’ve got more female filmmakers with Catherine Corsini (Leaving) bringing Le Retour, and Catherine Breillat (who makes thought-provoking but absolutely miserable films about miserable sex) screening L’ete Dernier , and Alice Rohrwacher showing La Chimera. WAIT! There’s also Jessica Hausner (Lourdes) with Club Zero!
Anyway, East Asia!!!! The names included are Vietnam’s Tran Anh Hung (Norwegian Wood, The Scent of Green Papaya), China’s Bi Gan ( Long Day’s Journey Into Night), Wang Bing and Wei Shujun and Singapore’s Anthony Chen (Ilo Ilo).
Japan and South Korea provide some heavy hitters and newbie talents. The former nation providing two of the four Ks as Kitano and Kore-eda grace the fest in the big sections while Ryutaro Ninomiya brings his latest work. Meanwhile, Korea dominates as it has provided a slate of films that sees veterans Kim Jee-woon and Hong Sang-so mix it up with lesser-known talents across a range of festival sections. Continue reading “Japanese and Korean Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2023”→
This year’s Cannes Film Festival will May 17-28 and it will be a physical event. The official line-up of films has been announced and there are some major titles from Asia. Quite interestingly, the festival will open with the French remake of One Cut of the Dead.
On to the Asian films!
There is a mix of big Hollywood titles like Tom Cruise with his Top Gun movie and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis with European films like Olivier Assayas’ remake of Irma Vepand Claire Denis with Stars at Noon.
Similarly, the Asian titles extend to big hitters competing for the Palme d’Or in the Official Competition section with a budding talent in the Un Certain Regard category, a section designed to recognise more unusual styles and film and recognise young talents. There is even a newbie directing (not acting) talent in the Midnight Screening section. Attendees will also get the chance to watch Naomi Kawase’s Tokyo 2022 Olympics documentary.
Hirokazu Kore-eda made Distance after he became interested in the disciples of Aum Shinrikyo, the group which committed the Tokyo subway sarin attack¹. He wanted to comment on how everyone in society could be responsible for it in some way. In so doing, he strikes at a universal fear surely felt by everyone which is that perhaps those who should be the closest to us are sometimes the ones furthest away.
This idea of distance is given to us through the story of a group of people who are ostensibly disconnected from each other but each has a deep personal connection to a terrorist incident described at the start of the film by a radio announcer.
Hirokazu Kore-eda is often compared to Yasujiro Ozu due to his depictions of families in Japan but he is quite political. Through various detailed tapestries of the rich and poor, nuclear and unconventional family units and different individuals, he has charted a myriad of lives all over the archipelago of his home nation and captured the changing dynamics of a country where tradition, social mores and people’s bonds are seemingly degrading as society adapts to new ways of thinking about work and family and people live atomised lives. Shoplifters tells the story of a most unconventional family by normal Japanese standards and, in so doing, it offers some quite stringent critiques of the exploitation of labour, the indifference of authorities and the resulting breakdown of relationships. It is a refreshingly open politicisation of content for a Japanese mainstream film and it feels akin to the social realist films of Ken Loach. This political bite could partly be the reason why the film went on to wow critics and net the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival but, as in all Kore-eda films, it is the performances that sway hearts and make audiences cry.
This film from Hirokazu Kore-eda feels like a departure from his usual interests of family dynamics because it is an exploration of the Japanese justice system but it still features his familiar interest in the atomisation of Japanese society.
Set in the snowy northern island of Hokkaido, this is an almost coldly analytical tale of a public defender taking on what should be an open and shut case and discovering that the truth is hard to pin down and that those who mete out justice sometimes aren’t interested in truth at all.
Shigemori (Fukuyama) is an elite lawyer who has been given the task of defending a man named Misumi Mikuma (Yakusho), an ex-con only just released from prison after serving a term for a murder he committed in 1986. Misumi has been arrested and charged with murdering the manager of the canning factory he works at. Misumi seems guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt because he was caught with the victim’s wallet and has confessed to the murder. A violent background, circumstantial evidence and confession. That is enough to warrant the death penalty. Shigemori has been drafted in to save Misumi.
After the Storm is a story of everyday human failings and the constant hope for a better tomorrow that motivates us. Kore-eda cast a cadre of familiar actors who he had worked with in previous films including Kirin Kiki and Hiroshi Abe, both of whom were in Still Walking (2008) as mother and son Toshiko and Ryota. This family drama could be a sort of sequel to Still Walking due to similarities – Kiki’s character Toshiko (とし子) turns into Yoshiko (淑子) here while Abe’s character is named Ryota (良多) in both films – and callbacks likethe butterfly motif and it features a deceptive simpleness in its approach, a story of a family gathering made complex by tangled emotions tinged with bitter history.
Quite possibly Kore-eda’s best film this is a snapshot of a family over 24 hours that, through deft storytelling reveals richly complicated and interwoven lives from different generations.
The seasons are about to change from summer to autumn and preparations are underway at the Yokoyama household for the annual commemoration of the eldest son Junpei who drowned in an accident 15 years ago. The spacious, comfortable and old-fashioned house run by Toshiko (Kirin Kiki) will welcome her middle-aged children and their young families who will be arriving soon. Meanwhile, curmudgeon father Kyohei (Yoshio Harada), a former physician, walks around their quiet neighbourhood to the beach where the tragic accident happened when not hiding in the clinic attached to their home. The daughter, Chinami (YOU), will bring her good-natured husband Nobuo (Kazuya Takahashi) and their cheerful kids Satsuki (Hotaru Nomoto) and Mutsu (Ryoga Hayashi) who will invade the house and fill it with laughter and tales from school but there is an edge to the atmosphere as they await second son Ryota (Hiroshi Abe).
It has been over a month since veteran actor Kirin Kiki passed away. Fans of Asian cinema are still mourning her passing and I’d just like to add a couple of thoughts.
Kirin Kiki was born in Tokyo in 1943 and started her acting career fresh from graduating from high school in the early 1960s. Her first steps were to become a member of the Bungakuza theatre troupe using the stage name Chiho Yuki and taking ontwo early screen roles, the first beinga TBS drama Seven Grandchildren (Shichinin no mago 七人の孫) in 1964 and then two film roles, the dramaGentlemen Beware(Tonogata Goyoujin 殿方御用心),released in June 1966 andthe comedyDrunken Doctor Continues (Zoku Yoidore hakase続・酔いどれ博士), written by Kaneto Shindo and released in September of the same year. She continued working throughout the years and showed her versatility when she collaborated with the likes of Seijun Suzuki on Zigeunerweisen (1980) and Pistol Opera (2001) and Nobuhiko Obayashi on Sabishinbo (1985), continuing on to titles like Villain and Arrietty(both from 2010) where she played grandmother types. She had a diverse range butI, and many Japanese film fans, would come into contact with her due to her work with Hirokazu Kore’eda.
An interesting life and deep experience in the world of acting gave her a quality of wisdom and endurance and also brusqueness, something she called upon when working with Kore-eda. Usually playing a grandmother or an old friend of a family with a flinty personality, she became a reassuring and welcome presence who was like a steady hand at the tiller when all around her were adrift *even if you disagreed with her) whenever she was on the screen in titles such as Kiseki (2011), Like Father, Like Son (2013), and Our Little Sister (2015), and After the Storm(2016) but her most iconic role will be Still Walking (2008).
In it, lead actor Hiroshi Abe plays Ryota Yokoyama, the unpopular second son and an art restorer who returns to his parent’s home to commemorate the death of the beloved eldest son. Everyoneis struggling with barely suppressed emotions as we find that the Yokoyama family are riven by the death and the healing process is glacial. Audiences will wonder if it will ever occur as comments and actions are full of personal slights and resentment that show a lifetime of hurt. Kirin’s character probably has the sharpest moments where her harshness is well-hidden by the jollity she brings to her performance.
That mother and son double-act she formed with Abe was brought back withAfter the Stormas the two worked together perfectly to showcase another quietly dysfunctional family but with less of a sharper and darker edge as Abe’s character tries to deal with his separation from his wife. Hope springs eternal for these characters but they eventually have to let go of the past. Kirin steals the show in a tear-inducing scene where she tries to revive her son’s happy family. A nice thematic link between the two is the butterfly...
Perhaps her best performance in recent years is to be found in the Naomi Kawase film Sweet Bean(2015) where she starred alongside granddaughter Kyara Uchida and she finds another perfect acting partner in the superb Masatoshi Nagase. While he is all stoicism and bitterness, she is the hopeful and delightful ray of light that balances him and helps the film make a point about people needing to understand the world around us.
Kirin’s death was not unexpected. She had been diagnosed with cancer back in 2004 and had undergone operations for it. In an interview with reporter Mai Yoshikawa for The Japan Times earlier this year she commented,
“My cancer has spread throughout my entire body and there’s nothing the doctors can do,” Kiki added. “There’s no point in comparing myself now to my old healthy self and feeling miserable. . . . Rather than fighting reality, I choose to accept what’s in front of me and go with the flow.”
To think that she went through cancer treatment and still put in these great performances! 2018 was the year of Kirin as she starred in Kore-eda’s latest film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and she was feted at his year’s Japan Cuts where she won the CUT ABOVE award for her services to the Japanese film industry.
This isn’t the last we have heard of her as audiences in Japan can see her in a Tatushi Omori film in October called Nichinichi Kore Kojitsu (2018).
Synopsis:Noriko (Haru Kuroki) is a 20-year-old university student who has lost her way in life. Noriko’s mother suggests that she attends a Japanese tea ceremony near her house with her cousin Michiko (Mikako Tabe). Michiko is enthusiastic about it but Noriko doesn’t seem so certain. However, once there, Noriko learns from the teacher, Takeda (Kirin Kiki) and experiences a whole new world. It stays with Noriko throughout her life, during frustrations while job hunting, moments when she suffers a broken heart, and during the death of someone important. The tea ceremony always offers her something to return to…
Kiki Kirin’sfinal screen appearance in a drama. Here is a clip from her performance, Erika 38, which is released next year:
My words don’t really do her justice but through her films, family, friends, and fans, she will live on.
Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at the 71st Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, Shoplifters.
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
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?