Gotō-san ゴトーさん Dir: Hiroshi Gokan (2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Gotō-san

ゴトーさん Gotō-san

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 77 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Gokan

Writer: Hiroshi Gokan (Script), 

Starring: Hirofumi Suzuki, Tomomi Fukikoshi, Seiichi Kohinata, Manaka Kinoshita, Sun Chi,

OAFF

Mild spoilers in this review

Don’t be fooled by the cute tone, Gotō-san is both dark and refreshingly substantive in its politics which it masks with off-beat characters and meet-cutes in a less-than-ordinary setting. To wit, director Hiroshi Gokan provides a deconstruction of our current capitalist climate wherein, due to factors such as economic liberalisation, cuts to welfare systems, casualisation of work, and certain so-called “efficiencies” such as My Number Cards added for control of identification, society can be quite inhospitable for those who fall off the employment treadmill. Indeed, a person can “disappear” and life can turn into a nightmare as the lead character, the titular Gotō-san finds out.

As travellers and the generally cash-strapped know, 24-hour internet cafes can be cheap and convenient places to stay. The best of them provide showers, a laundry service, a manga library, spacy-enough private booths with computers and the anonymity to live undisturbed for the price of a few thousand yen a day. This is where our titular character Gotō-san works as an assistant and also where he lives.

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Filled with Steam 湯気満ちて Dir: Rina Tanaka (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Filled with Steam

湯気満ちて Yuge michite

Running Time: 30 mins.

Release Date: 2017

Director: Rina Tanaka

Writer: Ryota Kato (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayako Mizuno, Takehito Sato, Yoko Kakegawa, Shigeru Harihara, Hisato Hayashi, Kaori Takeda,


And oh, after the love has gone

How could you lead me on

And not let me stay around?

Oh, after the love has gone

What used to be right is wrong

Can love that’s lost be found?

AFTER THE LOVE IS GONE / Earth,Wind & Fire

Filled with Steam is one of the latest works by Rina Tanaka, an up-and-coming filmmaker with a Masters from Tokyo University of the Arts, Film & New Media’s Directing course who already has a feature film to her name and is developing a distinct style. With this short, audiences at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018 got to taste her sensibility, which favours creating ambiguity through the use of clashing tones. Here we see quite a clash. Filled with Steam is a tale of love on life-support featuring a visceral undercurrent of tragedy masked by comedic elements that culminates in a powerful ending.

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Cooperation and Community [績(う)みの村] (2015) Dir: Keishiro Ikeda Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Cooperation and Community

績(う)みの村  Isao (u) minomura   

Running Time: 51 mins.

Director: Keishiro Ikeda

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

One of the more interesting trends in documentaries made in Japan over the last decade is the number that are dedicated to tracking the movement of people from the major cities back to small villages as they take up farming and find their place in smaller communities. This focus on settlers in smaller villages and on communitarianism is here in Cooperation and Community, my favourite film from the Housen strand since it gives an insight into a village undergoing a fascinating revitalisation and offers a possible answer to the much-publicised issue of the falling population and the stresses of modern life in Japan.

This particular documentary takes place in a small mountain village near Miyazu city in the Tango Peninsula which is located in Kyoto Prefecture. It is here that twelve households reside. It had been dying since most of the youngsters had left for the bigger cities but recently, more and more people disillusioned with life in capitalist society have arrived seeking a new way of living. These new settlers are only allowed in through introductions from friends and family ensuring some harmony as these newcomers and the original population of mostly elderly people must learn to get along.

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Bright Night レンコーンの夜 Dir: Yasumasa Konno (2016) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Bright Night 

レンコーンの夜   Renko-n no yoru   

Running Time: 43 mins.

Director: Yasumasa Konno

Writer: N/A

Starring: Yuji Komatsu, Toru Kizu, Hidetoshi Kawaya, Akana Ikeda, Suguru Onuma, Atsushi Yamanaka,

This one was fun and my second favourite film from the Housen strand and at only 43 minutes, it flew by with a flurry of laughs. Its story about a freshly-minted salaryman forced to join the R&D department of a failing company and given the difficult task of saving it from imminent closure through inventing some new contraption is delightfully whimsical since it features a cast of good-natured if odd characters and a script that warmly embraces them. Yasumasa Konno, already something of an experienced writer and director, further shows his skills with this.

Bright Night Film Image

The story starts with 28-year-old Shinji Hanayama visits a small company named Nakata Cyber desperate for a job. They are famous for making 3D glasses and televisions but have fallen on hard times. After a cursory interview where the boss assures himself that Shinji will just be a yes-man, he is hired and given control of the company’s R&D department to come up with a new gadget to make sure that a bank invests in the project. There’s a deadline and it’s next week or the company will go bankrupt without that financing.

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Promises 子供たち Dir: Mikihiro Endo (2015) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Promises

子供たち   Kodomotachi   

Running Time: 85 mins.

Director: Mikihiro Endo

Writer: N/A

Starring: Shugo Oshinari, Tatsuki Ishikawa,

Promises, one of three films from graduates of the film course at Tokyo University of Fine Arts, was the only film in the Housen strand at the Osaka Asian Film Festival that would qualify as feature-length in terms of duration. Much like the other entries, it was professionally shot and featured great performances from its cast and it used its extra time to ask big questions about identity. This is a somewhat intriguing but fuzzy existential tale about false masks worn in society and authenticity and the creeping madness that emerges in people when there is a gap between the two.

A young man named Masaru Fukada (Oshinari) begins working as a teacher at an English cram school. His big selling-point as a teacher is that he has lived and studied in America but it’s all a lie. He didn’t go to America to learn English, he used reference books and online tutorials. Despite this, his English is pretty good – far more natural and easy to understand than some professional teachers in state schools. He may not have the experience but he can act like he does. Thus, his employers encourage him to teach and ready the students to perform at a speech contest.

promises-film-image

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Breathless Lovers 息ぎれの恋人たち Dir: Shumpei Shimizu (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Breathless Lovers

息ぎれの恋人たち Ikigire no koibito-tachi   

Running Time: 20 mins.

Director: Shumpei Shimizu

Writer: Shumpei Shimizu (Screenplay)

Starring: Kaito Yoshimura, Fusako Urabe, Daisuke Kuroda, Atsushi Shinohara

Breathless Lovers is the latest work from Shumpei Shimizu. It came into the festival with positive word of mouth, something to be expected from someone who has been educated at Tokyo University of the Arts. Indeed, his career features a directorial debut, Fuzakerun Janeeyo (2014), produced by Shinji Aoyama and work Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence. Shimizu’s short explores a pathological relationship between a man and the ghost of his lover.

The story concerns Toshiyuki, a 23-year-old guy who recently lost his boyfriend Tatsuya in a motorcycle accident. While he physically survived the accident, Toshyuki has been mentally wounded and is unable to ride or drive any vehicles. If he needs to go anywhere, he walks or runs and he does this despite having asthma. To try and connect with Tatsuya, Toshiyuki visits the boxing gym his ex-lover used to train at and performs the same emotionally and physically draining routines over and over as he follows the ghost of Tatsuya. Throughout the film, Toshiyuki is constantly breathless from his desperate attempts to connect with Tatsuya whose lifeless corpse… well, you get the picture. These are two of the breathless lovers of the title.

IF05_breathless_ikigire_1

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Sweetest Truth スイーテスト・トゥルース (2016) Dir: Evdoxia Kyropoulou Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Sweetest Truth 

スイーテスト・トゥルース   Sui-tesuto Turu-su   

Running Time: 58 mins.

Director: Evdoxia Kyropoulou

Writer: N/A

Starring: Emiko Nakai, Efstathia Tsapareli, Ryo Tsujikura, Giota Festa,

Sweetest Truth is writer/director Evdoxia Kyropoulou’s graduation work for the Kyoto University of Art and Design graduate school’s master’s course. She has written and directed short films and documentaries in Japan, the UK and Greece on young women coping with modern, urban reality and Sweetest Truth is her most ambitious film yet since it takes place in two countries.

There are two characters at the centre of the film. The first is Sissi Nakamura (Emiko Nakai), a young model living and working in Kyoto. She tries to balance a career entering overdrive and a relationship with her difficult boyfriend, Hideo (Ryo Tsujikura), who is also a model. He has a cold attitude to her and he has financial problems but she persists in loving him.

Meanwhile, in Athens, we see Katerina (Efstathia Tsapareli), a middle-aged woman who works as a cleaner. She is drifting far away from her youthful ambitions. She lives a suffocating existence with her selfish and overbearing mother Athanasia (Giota Festa) in a small apartment. The internet is her only escape and it is how she briefly makes contact with Sissi.

Sweetest Truth Film Image 2

Kyropoulou’s script effectively balances two narratives in distinctly different locations with characters who go on similar journeys.

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