All Around Us ぐるりのこと。(2008) Director: Ryosuke Hashiguchi

All Around Us    All Around Us Film Poster 2

ぐるりのこと。 Gururi no Koto.

Release Date: June 07th, 2008

Duration: 140 mins.

Director: Ryosuke Hashiguchi

Writer: Ryosuke Hashiguchi (Script),

Starring: Lily Franky, Tae Kimura, Akira Emoto, Susumu Terajima, Tamae Ando, Mitsuko Baisho, Ken Mitsuishi, Ryo Kase, Yoji Tanaka, Reiko Kataoka, Jiro Sato, Rie Minemura,

IMDB

2008 was a vintage year for Japanese cinema as a number of titles were released that have stood the test of time. The most notable are a triumvirate of slice-of-life dramas that left an indelible mark on the film world with Tokyo Sonata and Still Walking leaving a lasting impression with cinephiles while Departures had enough crossover appeal for mainstream audiences to become the first Japanese film to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Not talked about as much but equal to all three is All Around Us, a hidden gem of a marriage story that takes in an epic sweep of social history while delivering intimate character studies all told through subtle direction that respects the audience’s ability to understand and naturalistic acting that is heartfelt and compelling.

The film starts in 1993 in Tokyo and introduces us to Kanao (Lily Franky) and Shoko (Tae Kimura). We enter their lives just as she launches a campaign to get pregnant.

The two are a study in contrasts that is initially fun. She is a controlling woman who works at a small publisher and is capable of great things. He is a laid-back and louche lothario who slums it as a street-side shoe repairman. She dresses primly. He dresses sloppily. She uses diaries and calendars to orchestrate book launches in work and marital sex nights at home to maximise chances of getting pregnant. He loafs around and dutifully, if a little perturbed, goes along with her instructions after days of flirting with female customers. For her, sex is almost laughably clinical while he goes with his passions, as shown in one hilarious scene where he cheekily surprises her by trying out a new sexual position that throws her off her game. 

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The Sound of Grass 草の響き Dir: Hisashi Saito (2021)

The Sound of GrassThe Sound of Grass Film Poster

草の響きKusa no Hibiki

Release Date: October 08th, 2021

Duration: 116 mins.

Director: Hisashi Saito

Writer: Hitomi Kase (Script), Yasushi Sato (Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Higashide, Nao, Shunsuke Daito, Kaya, Yuki Mine, Shigeru Muroi, Yuta Hayashi,

Website  IMDB

The loneliness of a long-distance runner forms the basis of The Sound of Grass, a gentle film about a man striving to find peace for his mental health troubles via physical exercise while those around him fall by the wayside. It is the latest film commissioned by the Hakodate-based mini theater CINEMA IRIS in a marathon of cinematic adaptations of the works of late author Yasushi Sato, a Hakodate native, as a resurgence in interest in his output continues apace after a period of under-appreciation.

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Touching the Skin of Eeriness 不気味なものの肌に触れる (2014) Dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Touching the Skin of Eeriness  Touching the Skin of Eeriness Film Poster

不気味なものの肌に触れる  「Bukimina mono no Hada ni Fureru」 

Release Date: March 01st, 2014

Running Time: 54 mins.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writer: Tomoyuki Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Natsumi Seto, Jun Murakami, Ayumi Mizukoshi, Hoshi Ishida, Aoba Kawai,

IMDB

It’s all “show, don’t tell” in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Touching the Skin of Eeriness, a medium-length film that uses body language and interpretive dance rather than words to speak.

Made before Happy Hour (2015), his big international breakout, Touching the Skin of Eeriness was a project that Hamaguchi originally envisioned as a pilot film designed to get funding for a larger project named FLOOD. Featuring Shota Sometani (Himizu) in a lead role just as he became a big star in Japan with mainstream movies Parasyte, Wood Job!, and Bakuman, it was a departure for the actor who shines in one of Hamaguchi’s most opaque films where the focus is on the intimate physical movements of the actors and the background atmosphere to relay information.

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Mrs. Noisy ミセス・ノイズィ Dir: Chihiro Amano (2020)

Mrs. Noisy   Mrs. Noisy Film Poster

ミセス・ノイズィ  Misesu Noizi

Release Date: December 04th, 2020

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Chihiro Amano

Writer: Chihiro Amano (Screenplay), 

Starring: Yukiko Shinohara, Yoko Ootaka, Takuma Nagao, Chise Niitsu, Masanari Wada, Yoriko Doguchi, Raiki Yanemoto,

Website      IMDB 

Words develop a life of their own. Once a person releases them into the world, they travel far and wide and can change form depending upon the person interpreting them. This is why you should be careful with what you say and what you write. This something that a writer neglects to remember much to her cost in Mrs. Noisy, a domestic comedy that turns into heart-breaking drama by way of literary struggle.

Inspired by real-life events from 2005, the film follows a conflict between two neighbours in a danchi (housing complex).

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A New Wind Blows 新しい風 Dir: Yutaro Nakamura (2021) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

A New Wind Blows  A New Wind Blows Film Poster

新しい風 Atarashii Kaze

Release Date: April 29th, 2021

Duration: 66 mins.

Director: Yutaro Nakamura

Writer: Yutaro Nakamura (Screenplay)

Starring: Yutaro Nakamura, Hikaru Saiki, An Ogawa, Takaya Shibata, Yujiro Hara,

OAFF

A New Wind Blows was one of two films by Yutaro Nakamura at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021. An actor, writer and director, these films mark his ninth and tenth efforts in the director’s chair. While his other work Sweet Bitter Candy was a standard drama, A New Wind Blows presented an intriguing indie youth story that mixes the dreams and madness of teens in Tokyo in a narrative with some darkness and a lot of optimism.

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Stay (2019) Dir: Naoya Fujita

Stay    Stay Film Poster   

Release Date: September 05th, 2020

Duration: 38 mins.

Director: Naoya Fujita

Writer: Suzuyuki Kaneko (Script), 

Starring: Keita Yamashina, Ruka Ishikawa, Takaki Uda, Yumi Endo, Kenta Yamagishi, Kohei Nagano, Suzuyuki Kaneko,

Website

Stay, by director Naoya Fujita, has been screened at the Tama New Wave Festival, Skip City D-Festival and the Osaka Asian Film Festival which is where I saw it as part of the package of films supported by the Housen Cultural Foundation, an organisation which provides financial backing to students in graduate schools across Japan. The inspiration for the story comes from the time when Fujita encountered a traditional Japanese-style home and was immediately taken with it, imagining what it would be like for a community to form around it and this idea evolving into one asking the question of what constitutes a family.

Hold Your Breath Like a Lover 息を殺して Dir: Kohei Igarashi (2014)

Hold Your Breath Like a Lover   

Hold Your Breath Like a Lover Film Poster
Hold Your Breath Like a Lover Film Poster

息を殺して  「Iki wo Koroshite」

Release Date: June 20th, 2015

Running Time: 85 mins.

Director: Kohei Igarashi

Writer: Kohei Igarashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Ran Taniguchi, Goichi Mine, Yusuke Inaba, Koji Harada, Tomomitsu Adachi, Ran Arai, Rina Tanaka, Yuki Inagaki

Tumblr   IMDB

This has been a film that has haunted me ever since I first saw the trailer back in 2014 and it was one of the films I was hoping to find in 2020. Well, I did. I ended up viewing it a couple of times. My initial impressions from the trailer was that this felt like it had “shades of Pulse (2001)” and an “apocalypse angle” but it turned out to be something else entirely, a subtle, gorgeous and melancholy take on the anxiety felt on the path of adulthood and a gradual maturation of its characters. It’s story is simple, perfect for allowing the powerful atmospherics to wash over me and pull me along.

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Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory 春子超常現象研究所 Dir: Lisa Takeba (2015)

Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory    Haruko'sParanormal Laboratory Film Poster

春子超常現象研究所「 Haruko Chojo Gensho Kenkyujo」

Release Date: December 05th, 2015

Duration: 73 mins.

Director: Lisa Takeba

Writer: Lisa Takeba (Screenplay),

Starring: Aoi Nakamura, Moeka Nozaki, Fumiyo Kohinata, Sayaka Aoki, Takumi Saito, Yumiko Takahashi,

Website    IMDB

The spirit of love and youth animates everything in Lisa Takeba’s sophomore feature. With the imagination and energy of a high schooler drunk with love for B-movies, she showers the screen with handmade sets, head-spinning moments of romance, and characters set up to accentuate the giddy energy of love as Takeba crafts a colourful, creative and offbeat tale of a maladjusted girl finding romance with a TV in a film that doesn’t belabour but parodies and placates the existential angst living creatures feel as they seek a place in the world.

The story begins  with Haruko (Moeka Nozaki), a loner with a passion for the paranormal, something she has longed to encounter since childhood when she sought out an alien abduction to free her of her high school days which were fraught with betrayal and bullying. Her only company at home is her television, an old analogue set from the 1950 which, one day, transforms into a man (Aoi Nakamura) with a TV-shaped head. Haruko names him Terebi and soon falls in love with him. Their path to true love proves to be rocky and the two have to work through issues, Haruko’s being a hatred of other people and Terebi’s being an existential crisis brought on by the fact he was once an inanimate object and not human (so what are feelings and aree his real or something he learned from a TV show!?!?!).

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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.

Continue reading “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]”