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It Feels So Good 火口のふたり (2019) Dir: Haruhiko Arai

It Feels So Good  Kakou no Futari Film Poster

火口のふたりKakou no Futari

Release Date: August 23rd, 2019

Duration: 115 mins.

Director: Haruhiko Arai

Writer: Haruhiko Arai (Script), Kazufumi Shiraishi (Novel),

Starring: Tasuku Emoto, Kumi Takiuchi,

Website   IMDB

The story is simple. Two 30-something friends meet in Akita on the eve of one’s wedding and they rekindle the flames of passion they shared for each other when they were younger. An agreed one night stand becomes five nights of sex and, in the moments between intercourse, they confess their less than stellar present lives and rake over their history to find some way to face an uncertain future.

It Feels So Good is the third film from veteran writer Haruhiko Arai. His last one was a rather staid drama called This Country’s Sky (2015) but he got his start writing Roman Porno titles like Woman with Red Hair (1979). He worked with Ryuichi Hiroki and adapted books for films in Vibrator (2003) and It’s Only Talk (2005). He adapts another book, this one by Kazufumi Shiraishi, but, like his work with Hiroki, he brings about another film full of complex adults having adult relationships.  

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On the Edge of Their Seats アルプススタンドのはしの方 Dir: Hideo Jojo (2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

On the Edge of Their Seats    On the Edge of Their Seats Film Poster

アルプススタンドのはしの方Arupusu sutando no hashi no hou

Release Date: June 19th, 2020

Duration: 89 mins.

Director: Hideo Jojo

Writer: Tetsuya Okumura (Script), Hiroaki Yabu Hyogo Prefectural Higashiharima High School Drama Club (Original Stageplay)

Starring: Rina Ono, Amon Hirai, Marin Nishimoto, Shuri Nakamura, Rikki Metsugi,

OAFF Website

Journeyman director Hideo Jojo has made everything from pink films to V-Cinema so finding him at the helm an earnest high school drama full of fresh-faced teens shouldn’t be a surprise. On the Edge of Their Seats is a meticulously made movie that, at 75 minutes, flies by with sharp dialogue and performances allowing audiences to get to know the disappointments and desires of a selection of high school students watching a baseball game.

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The Graceful Brute しとやかな獣 Dir: Yuzo Kawashima (1962)

The Graceful Brute   The Graceful Brute Film Poster

しとやかな獣  Shitoyakana kedamono

Release Date: December 26th, 1962

Duration: 96 mins.

Director:  Yuzo Kawashima

Writer:  Kaneto Shindo (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayako Wakao, Yunosuke Ito, Hisano Yamaoka, Manamitsu Kawabata, Yuko Hamada, Eiji Funakoshi, Kyu Sazanka, Chocho Miyako, Hideo Takamatsu,

IMDB

A possible tag line for this film could be, “a family that embezzles together, stays together”, such is the content of this film which shows a day in the life of a greedy family as they swindle from subjects in their social circle. Ten actors, one location, and a narrative that takes place over 24 hours, Graceful Brute (1962) is a masterful black comedy that critiques the changing morals of Japanese people during the economic miracle of the post-war years.

The film almost exclusively takes place in the fifth floor apartment of the Maeda’s. They live in a danchi (housing complex) designed by Kunio Maekawa¹, the sort of forward-thinking utilitarian building that was meant to serve every need of its residents and promote community and harmony but the values of the Maeda’s are far from these ideals. They seem to be a stable family unit of two conservative parents (who wear kimono and listen to traditional music) and their hip son and daughter (out on the town in Ginza’s bars) but as the narrative unfolds we see the depth of their duplicity, selfishness, and materialistic behaviour which unites them. They are a product of the age.

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5 Million Dollar Life 五億円のじんせい Dir: Moon Sung-Ho [New York Asian Film Festival 2019]

5 Million Dollar Life    5 Million Dollar Life Film Poster

五億円のじんせい  Gooku Yen no Jinsei

Release Date: July 20th, 2019

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: Moon Sung-Ho

Writer: Naomi Hiruta (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayumu Mochizuki, Anna Yamada, Ryu Morioka, Satoru Matsuo, Sumire Ashina, Junko Emoto, Naomi Nishida, Taro Suwa,

Website IMDB

Moon Sung-Ho was first mentioned on this blog in 2014 with his NDJC film Michizure. Originally from Hiroshima, after graduating from high school, he studied film-making in South Korea and then returned to Japan to shoot commercials and short films according to the NYAFF biography. This is his debut feature based on an original screenplay by veteran writer Naomi Hiruta and it has a weird energy thanks to its dark heart, a story so concerned with death and exploitation, and a light delivery in terms of direction and the script/actor’s as well the sunny daytime action.

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Melancholic メランコリック Dir: Seiji Tanaka (2018)

Melancholic      Melancholic Film Poster

メランコリック  Merankorikku

Running Time: 113 mins.

Release Date: N/A

Director: Seiji Tanaka

Writer: Seiji Tanaka (Screenplay),

Starring: Yoji Minagawa, Yoshitomo Isozaki, Mebuki Yoshida, Makoto Hada, Hiroko Shinkai, Keiji Yamashita, Takanori Minagawa

Website IMDB

Seiji Tanaka’s debut feature Melancholic won him a share of the best director prize in the Japanese Cinema Splash section at last years Tokyo International Film Festival (Masaharu Take also won for his film, The Gun (2018)) and one can see why as it manages to combine a number of tones and genres to create a film that feels fresh and original as well as socially conscious. Its tone has a litheness that makes it unpredictable. When I thought I had it figured as something along the lines of a hard-boiled crime film like Ken and Kazu (2016) after its opening, it switched up its style and continued to be unpredictable until the end.

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Sayonara さよなら Dir: Koji Fukada (2015)

Sayonara      

Sayonara Film Poster
Sayonara Film Poster

さよなら「Sayonara

Running Time: 112 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer:  Koji Fukada, Oriza Hirata (Screenplay),

Starring: Bryerly Long, Hirofumi Arai, Geminoid F, Makiko Murata, Yuko Kibiki, Nijiro Murakami,

Website   IMDB

Koji Fukada’s (Hospitalité, Au revoir l’été) 2015 movie Sayonara is billed as the first ever film with an android as one of the stars. As intriguing as seeing an artificial life-form act seems to be, the final result is a pretty lifeless affair in both acting and story terms but it does have some emotional impact.

It is based on a collaboration between Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata (a familiar collaborator with Fukada) and a leading robotics scientist named Hiroshi Ishiguro who works at Osaka University and has been developing different models of the Geminoid androids since 2005. Their team-up resulted in a 15-minute stage-play that travelled Japan with people being able to see the actor Bryerly Long conversing with the latest in android technology. With the two actors on stage and sat down it was a largely static affair in a story where a human woman comes to terms with her impending death through talking and the recitation of poetry. The film largely adopts the stage-play from what I have read and, despite looking good, suffers from relaying the content straight in an end-of-the-world tale that takes two hours but feels longer.

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Genkinahito’s Top 10 Films of 2018

Columbus Film Image 2

2018 was the year of “I haven’t achieved my dream yet but I do what I want”. I travelled back to Japan for a second time and spent a month in the country, visiting places from Kawagoe to Onomichi and some things in between and I worked at the Osaka Asian Film Festival again. I’ve become involved in more than just Kotatsu, I have become part of other festivals in Europe and America which is so much fun and such an honour because I love films. I have also continued to contribute to V-Cinema and Anime UK News, typically highlighting indie gems, many of which form my top ten titles of the year.

To summarise what I have experienced in terms of cinema, I have contributed to V-Cinema’s end of year post which will be out soon. 

Now here is my Top Ten Films of 2018, starting with number one…

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Daguerrotype ダゲレオタイプの女  (2016) Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Daguerrotype   Daguerrotype Film Poster

ダゲレオタイプの女 Dagereotaipu no onna

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Cattherine Paille (adaptation) Eleonore Mahmoudian,

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet, Mathieu Amalric,

Website IMDB

Daguerreotype is the first film Kurosawa has shot outside Japan but the story fits easily into his horror oeuvre which consists of tales where supernatural beings impinge on the vistas of protagonists who we watch undergo crises, their minds unable to correlate events that, once pieced together, provide a shocking revelation for the viewer as we see the main characters are actually morally compromised. The French setting, cast, and crew ably deliver this type of tale in a chilling ghost story light on jump scares and heavy on melancholy and dread as an ordinary man finds himself sucked into a supernatural tale of love and betrayal.

Jean (Tahar Rahim) is a working-class guy with a vague interest in photography. Desperate for a job he applies for many each day and finally stumbles into one as a photographer’s assistant. He heads to a crumbling manor on the outskirts of Paris to work as the assistant for the reclusive photographer named Stephane (Gourmet).

Daguerrotype Film Image

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Neko Atsume House  ねこあつめの家 (2017) Dir: Masatoshi Kurakata

Neko Atsume House  Neko Atsume House Film Poster

ねこあつめの家 「Neko Atsume Ie

Running Time: 92 mins

Release Date: April 08th, 2017

Director:  Masatoshi Kurakata

Writer: Yuji Nagamori (Screenplay)

Starring: Atsushi Ito, Shiori Kutsuna, Tomoro Taguchi, Tae Kimura, Kayoko Okubo, Masahiro Toda,

Film adaptations of video games are usually bad. Filmmakers face the choice of trying to faithfully transfer a source choked with awfully written lore like Assassins Creed or depart from the source entirely like Super Mario where the platform jumping turtle stomping plumber fights property developers in New York. What to make out of a casual mobile video game where there’s no real story and the sole aim of the experience is collecting cats and purchasing toys to keep them content?

Neko Atsume House, when translated into English, means Cat Collector’s House. As delightful as this sounds, the narrative eschews producing a Rent-a-neko (2012) style quirky protagonist and gives audiences an every-man struggling in a real situation and shows the help he derives from cats in a gentle comedy.

The character we follow is novelist Masaru Sakumoto (Atsushi Ito). He was once a celebrated hotshot in the literary world but a severe case of writer’s block means he is now forced to churn out a zombie-themed serial novel to earn money. Panicked by feelings of failure, he retreats to an old house in the countryside in a place called Tako town. It is here he aims to find inspiration and jump-start his creativity.

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Snow Woman 雪女 (2017) Dir: Kiki Sugino

My yearly Halloween post is back! Last year, when I was in Tokyo, I reviewed Hideo Nakata’s mid-90s chiller, Don’t Look Up! (soon to be released in the US with a sparkly update thanks to Tidepoint Pictures). That very same week, I went to see Snow Woman at the Tokyo International Film Festival thanks to a friend. Here’s my review!

 

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