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,

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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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Zero Focus ゼロの焦店 (2009)

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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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The Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme 2013

Once Upon a Time in Japan Banner

The second film festival of the year which I am covering is a roving one! The Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme

The festival’s name and theme for this year is “Once Upon a Time in Japan: Reinventing the Past Through the Eyes of Japanese Contemporary Filmmakers”. The festival programme has works from notable directors who “all share the same aspiration to reinterpret and relive moments of times gone by through a variety of genres, styles and tones.” Said notable directors include Takashi Miike, Koji Wakamatsu, Lee Sang-il who has two films screened with Hula Girls and one of the four sections of Kaidan Horror Classics. The other two sections are directed by Hirokazu Koreeda and Shinya Tsukamoto. There will also be anime in the form of Mai Mai Miracle which is directed by Sunao Katabuchi.

Before I get into that, here are the locations:

London – Institute of Contemporary Arts: February 1-7,
Sheffield – Showroom Workstation: February 8-17,
Birmingham Mac Birmingham: February 18-27,
Belfast – Queen’s Film Theatre: February 22-28,
Edinburgh – Filmhouse: March 1-7,
Newcastle Upon Tyne – Tyneside Cinema: March 3-24,
Bristol – Watershed: March 9-16,
Nottingham – Broadway: March 22-27,

What I like about this festival is that it covers a lot of the major periods of Japanese history through different genres and it has a variety of talent in each film. I will be attending the London part of the tour and I am hyped up. Tickets have been ordered. Supplies and transport have been arranged. Where are the films???

Rebirth                                                                                   Rebirth Film Poster

Japanese Title: 八日目 の 蝉

Romaji: Youkame no Semi

Running Time: 147 mins.

Director: Izuru Narushima

Writer: Mitsuyo Kakuta (Novel), Satoko Okudera (Screenplay)

Starring: Mao Inoue, Hiromi Nagasaku, Eiko Koike, Jun Fubuki, iwako Ichikawa, Yoko Moriguchi, Kimiko Yo

This sounds like an intriguing mystery/drama and it comes from Izuru Narushima who had a hit at the end of 2011 with Admiral Yamamoto. This is totally different and much more feminine by the look of things. It has a script by Satoko Okudera (The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki, Kaidan, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and there is a strong female cast with names like Mao Inoue (Kaidan), Hiromi Nagasaku (Doppelganger), Eiko Koike (2LDK, Penance), Yoko Moriguchi (Key of Life) and Jun Fubuki (Séance).

Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust        Bubble Ficiton Boom or Bust Film Poster

Japanese Title: バブルヘ GO!! タイム マシン は ドラム 式

Romaji: Baburuhe GO!! Taimu Mashin ha Dorama Shiki

Running Time: 116 mins.

Director: Yasuo Baba

Writer: Ryoichi Kimizuka

Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Ryoko Hirosue, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Kazue Fukiishi, Yuko Ito, Naoko Jijima, Hiroko Moriguchi, Masahiro Sugisaki

Okay, this looks like the most fun at the festival and I won’t be seeing it! Darn! The film looks at Japan in the 80s at the height of its economic bubble. It was a time when it reigned supreme thanks to its mega-corporations, technology and so forth. Just before it came crashing down thanks to its poorly managed banking system which doled out huge amounts of money at low interest rates to all and sundry. I think that about sums it up in a slap-dash way (I’m probably over-simplifying things to death). Anyway this helped start a recession. The story starts out in the present day but thanks to time travel we get to see the glitz and glamour of the 80’s as one character aims to stop the recession from happening! It has a ridiculous plot and lots of physical humour and it stars a hell of a lot of actors I am love like Hiroshi Abe (Survive Style 5+), Kazue Fukiishi (Noriko’s Dinner Table) and Ryoko Hirosue (Key of Life), it is written by Ryoichi Kimizuka (Infection, Parasite Eve, Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final). I love a good time machine story like Day of the Tentacle and Back to the Future and this one looks good.

Mayumi Tanaka (Hirosue) is a debt-ridden bar hostess. Her mother Mariko (Yakushimaru) is a brilliant research scientist. When Mariko turns an ordinary washing machine into a time-machine and she disappears, the Japanese government turn to Mayumi to head back to 1990 and prevent the announcement of a landmark fiscal policy that sparked the recession. Why Mayumi? It just so happens that this ill-qualified time traveller is the only other person the machine accepts. She agrees and so hilarity should ensue, right?

The Blossoming of Etsuko Kamiya          The Blossoming of Etsuko Kamiya Film Poster

Japanese Title: 紙屋 悦子 の 青春

Romaji: Kamiya Etsuko no Seishun

Running Time: 111 mins.

Director: Kazuo Kuroki

Writer: Kazuo Kuroki, Masataka Matsuda, Hideki Yamada (Screenplay)

Starring: Tomoyo Harada, Manami Honjou, Kaoru Kobayashi, Shunsuke Matsuoka

This is the only Second World War story in the festival it was the last film of Kazuo Kuroki and received its theatrical release a few months after his death. It stars Tomoyo Harada (The Summer of Ubume, Tokyo Oasis) is a tragic romance about a navy officer who arranges a marriage between his girlfriend and a friend before taking part in a kamikaze attack.

Castle Under Fiery Skies          Castle Under Fiery Skies Film Poster

Japanese Title: 火天 の 城

Romaji: Ka Ten no Shiro

Running Time: 139 mins.

Director: Mitsutoshi Tanaka

Writer: Kenichi Yamamoto (Novel)

Starring: Kippei Shiina, Toshiyuki Nishida, Shinobu Otake, Saki Fukua, Tokuma Nishioka, Taro Yamamoto, Renji Ishibashi

A lavish costume drama with a large cast by a director who specialises in such things. It looks epic.

1575, Oda Nobunaga (Shiina) defeats Takeda Katsuyori in the Battle of Nagashino after an epic siege. 1576, Nobunaga builds a lavish new castle named Azuchi castle. It must be seen from the capital city of Kyoto and defend the city and it must symbolise the unification of various factions and intimidate rival clans. This is the story of the carpenters led by Okabe Mataemon (Nishia).  

Mai Mai Miracle                                        Mai Mai Miracle Film Poster

Japanese Title: マイマイ新子

Romaji: Mai Mai Shinko

Running Time: 93 mins.

Director: Sunao Katabuchi

Writer: Nobuko Takagi (Autobiography), Sunao Katabuchi (Screenplay)

Starring: Mayuko Fukuda (Shinko Aoki), Nako Mizusawa (Kiiko Shimatsu), Ei Morisako (Nagiko Kiyohara)

Sunao Katabuchi has quite an eclectic filmography. He directed the explosive first season of the awesome anime Black Lagoon and was assistant director of the equally awesome and magical Kiki’s Delivery Service. This is a title that comes highly recommended by Alua from Otherwhere so I made this one of my choice. Plus it’s anime and I love anime!

1955, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. One thousand years ago during the time of the Heian Period it was the site of the ancient capital Suo no Kuni (Province of Suo) and ruins are still dotted around the rural city. Shinko is a tom-boyish elementary school student from a venerable local family. She loves dayreaming about the past and wishes to travel back to the days of the Heian period. When a transfer student from Tokyo named Kiiko appears in Shinko’s class, Shinko invites her to time travel by the power of imagination and the two form a deep friendship.  

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Hana no Utame Gothicmade, The Floating Castle, A Chorus of Angels, Be My Slave, Fly with the Gold Trailers and the Japanese Movie Charts

Persona SaturdayThis week began with my excitement over some of Manga Entertainment’s 2013 releases which includes The Wolf Children and Blood-C: The Last Dark, then I watched The Pact (2012) and Zombie Apocalypse (2011). Then I posted Genkinahito and It Came From Japan, which saw me submit five Japanese horror movie reviews for a Halloween special run by The LAMB.  I then posted a review of  Sion Sono’s excellent ero-guro title Strange Circus for my Halloween review (it is proving most popular, not least a certain picture…) and another trailer for the forthcoming Evangelion movie. Still no word on Premiere Japan, which I have Googled every day this week…

What does the Japanese movie box office chart look like this week? 

  1. Smile Precure! Everyone is all Mixed Up in the Picture Book
  2. The Expendables 2
  3. Tsunagu
  4. Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final New Hope
  5. 009 Re:Cyborg
  6. Outrage Beyond
  7. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  8. The Terminal Trust
  9. The Mystical Law
  10. Resident Evil: Retribution

Well colour me unsurprised that the mega phenomena that is Precure dominates the charts. The three anime films released last week make an impressive splash. Despite opening on less than 200 screens, Precure has posted impressive figures. Also impressive is 009 Re:Cyborg, Production I.G’s 3D film. Resident Evil: Retribution sneaks in at ten. Also entering the chart is The Terminal Trust at eight (KOJI YAKUSHO!).

What films are released today (yesterday in the case of one and the day before in the case of another)?

Hana no Utame Gothicmade                                   Gothicmade Film Poster

Japanese Title: ゴテイック メード 花 の 詩女

Romaji: Goteikku Me-do Hana no Uta Me

Release Date: 01st November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Mamoru Nagano

Writer: Mamoru Nagano

Starring: Maria Kawamura, Nozomu Sasaki, Akio Ohtsuka, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Ikue Ohtani

Kadokawa initiated this anime movie to celebrate 65 years since the founding of their business. It looks like a slice of great old school anime. Gothicmade is the directorial debut of designer and manga creator Mamoru Nagano. On top of directing he also takes on other major roles such as screenwriting, storyboarding and character design. If the anime looks old school then it reflects the fact that he has been in the animation industry for quite some time, his biggest project being the manga/anime franchise Five Star Stories (1986!!!) which is also handled by Kadokawa and is still being released today. Every time I post this here it is met with indifference but on AUKN it has been a very popular news article.

Carmine is a tiny colony world under the harsh control of the ruling interplanetary league. It would be unremarkable except that this planet special is that it has a special tradition: young women known as songstresses inherit and pass down the memories of the generations that came before them. They then use this knowledge to help the people of their planet.

A 16-year-old named Berin Ajelli has been reborn as a songstress and must set out on a holy pilgrimage across the planet to the capital. After hearing rumours of a possible terrorist attack the militant Donau Empire send Prince Toriharon to protect her but he is the antithesis of everything Bellin believes in. The two are stuck together on their journey to the capital of Carmine.

The Floating Castle                                 Floating Castle Movie Poster

Japanese Title: のぼう の 城

Romaji: Nobo no Shiro

Release Date:  02nd November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 144 mins.

Director: Shinji Higuchi, Isshin Inudo

Writer:  Ryo Wada (Original Novel)

Starring: Mansai Nomura, Nana Eikura, Hiroki Narimiya, Koichi Sato, Masachika Ichimura, Takehiro Hira, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Kamiji, Tomomitsu Yamaguchi

This film was delayed from release last year due to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It looks like a complete blast and it stars Nana Eikura who will be in next year’s live-action adaptation of library war, Koichi Sato (Infection, Sukiyaki Western Django) and Takayuki Yamada (Thirteen Assassins).

The year is 1590 and the daimyo Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Ichimura) is going to unify Japan… until he comes across a floating fortress known as Oshi Castle. Well he isn’t going to let that stop him and so he sends an army of 20,000 men to lay siege to it. The only thing standing between the castle and capitulation is Nagachika Narita (Nomura) and his army of 500 men. Let battle commence.

 

A Chorus of Angels                                           Kita no Kanariatachi Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 北 の かなりあたち

Romaji: Kita no Kanariatachi

Release Date:  03rd November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 130 mins.

Director: Junji Sakamoto

Writer:  Yusuke Kishi

Starring: Sayuri Yoshinaga, Mirai Moriyama, Hikari Mitsushima, Ryo Katsuji, Aoi Miyazaki, Eiko Koike, Ryuhei Matsuda, Toru Nakamura,

A Chorus of Angels has quite the cast what with Sayuri Yoshinaga, a veteran of more than a hundred films, leading a battery of young talent like Hikari Mitsushima (Sawako Decides, Love Exposure), Aoi Miyazaki (The Wolf Children, Eureka) and Ryuhei Matsuda (Gohatto, Nightmare Detective). The film is based on a novel written by Yusuke Kishi who has had a few of his novels turned into films (Black House for one).

Haru (Yoshinaga) was once a dedicated teacher working in Hokkaido with various problems and disabilities but since retiring she has worked in a library in Tokyo. Then the police question her about a murder committed by a former student named Nobuto (Moriyama). Spurred on by her curiosity, she decides to investigate what happened to her former students like Manami (Mitsushima) a park worker, Yuka (Miyazaki) a kindergarten teacher and Isamu (Matsuda) a policeman.

Be My Slave                                          Be My Slave Movie Poster

Japanese Title: のぼう の 城

Romaji: Watashi no Dorei ni Narinasai

Release Date:  03rd November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Toru Kamei

Writer:  Takehiko Minato,Shu Satami (Original Novel)

Starring: Mitsu Dan, Akihiro Mayama, Itsuji Itao

Despite the sexy poster, this film seems to be more in the vein of a psychological piece which reveals the sexual hang-ups of three characters. There are shades of Shame and A Snake of June. Toru Kamei is the director. He is familiar from a film named Black Cat Lucy which was released a few weeks ago. This is the big-screen debut of Mitsu Dan. She is supported by Akihiro Mayama (Carved 2) and Itsuki Itao (Love Exposure, One Missed Call Final).

 

Fly with the Gold               Fly with the Gold Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 黄金 を 抱いて 翔べ

Romaji: Ougon O Daite Tobe

Release Date:  03rd November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Kazuyuki Izutsu

Writer:  Kaoru Takamura (Original Novel)

Starring:  Tadanobu Asano, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Kenta Kiritani, Shim Chang-Min, Toshiyuki Nishida, Junpei Mizobata, Munetaka Aoki, Yuri Nakamura, Tomorowo Taguchi, Shingo Tsurumi

Wow, just when I’m stock-piling crime thrillers from Japan and Korea, this comes along. Kazuyuki Izutsu makes his first film since Swing Man (2000) with this cool looking heist thriller. The cast is particularly strong what with Satoshi Tsumabuki (For Loves Sake) and Tadanobu Asano (Vital, Bright Future), taking the lead roles with support from the ever reliable Tomorowo Taguchi (Tetsuo: The Iron Man) and Toshiyuki Nishida (Outrage Beyond, The Magic Hour). Yuri Nakamura (The Grudge: Girl in Black) provides some femininity to balance things out.

Sumita Bank has a lot of gold sitting in its basement. When Kota (Tsumabuki) runs into his former college classmate Kitagawa (Asano) he hears about a heist which will take place. Helping them beat the bank’s security is a North Korean spy pretending to be a college student (Shim Chang-Min), Kitagawa’s brother Haruki (Mizobata), an elevator engineer known as Zii-chan (Nishida) and a bank employee known as Noda (Kiritani) Can they do it?