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The Whispering Star  ひそひそ星 Dir: Sion Sono (2016)

The Whispering Star    

The Whispering Star Film Poster
The Whispering Star Film Poster

ひそひそ星「Hiso Hiso Boshi

Running Time: 101 mins.

Release Date: May 14th, 2016

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay)

Starring: Megumi Kagurazaka, Kenji Endo, Yuto Ikeda, Mori Kouko,

Website    IMDB

The Whispering Star was originally created and screened as part of an art exhibition which had the theme of dystopia running through it. That theme is more than adequately captured in this black fable about a robot travelling amidst the remnants of humanity. It was shot in different locations in Fukushima prefecture, turning depopulated and irradiated areas into a futuristic landscape that speaks of hopelessness, pollution, and abandonment delivered in slow sketches until the film ends on a touching note of human contact. It shows good control of material from Sion Sono but that’s to be expected from a man who has been in the industry since the 80s.

At the start of the film we learn that multiple nuclear disasters and other mistakes have forced people to migrate to the stars. Humans are scattered across a myriad of planets and are on the verge of extinction as their will to live and explore flickers out in the face of technology and ennui. What keeps people hanging on are robots with AI who operate an interplanetary delivery system, facilitating a new sort of human contact.

Continue reading “The Whispering Star  ひそひそ星 Dir: Sion Sono (2016)”

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Girl Returned 帰ってきた少女 Dir: Satoru Hirohara (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Girl Returned

帰ってきた少女 Kaette kita shoujo

Running Time: 44 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Satoru Hirohara

Writer: Satoru Hirohara (Screenplay),

Starring: Reina Kikuchi, Masahiro Ezaki, Toru Kizu, Sakiko Takao, Michie Kita,

Website

Girl Returned” is built around a nightmare scenario – a child has been kidnapped. 15-year-old Misaki Fujino (Reina Kikuchi) was snatched by an average-looking guy while jogging and held imprisoned in his apartment for two years. Following her rescue by the police, she is allowed back to her home but the experience has left her not knowing what to do. Finally free from her kidnapper, she is now trapped in the role of a victim. The media wait outside the house for a story, her parents are trapped inside with the fear she will disappear again, and Misaki… all she does is wait for the time to pass and the scandal to die down.

IF04_GirlReturned

Continue reading “Girl Returned 帰ってきた少女 Dir: Satoru Hirohara (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

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CYCLE-CYCLE Dir: Junichi Kanai (2018) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

CYCLE-CYCLE

Running Time: 18 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Junichi Kanai

Writer: Junichi Kanai (Screenplay),

Starring: Jinto Yoshida, Haruki Yamazaki, Daichi Shiozaki

Website IMDB

Jinto Yoshida, Haruki Yamazaki, and Daichi Shiozaki are three members of the idol group M!LK and they are starring in a short film billed as a “fresh, light, absurd teen movie which sharply cuts into Japan social problems.” What audiences will get is a well-shot mildly amusing road-trip movie with only the slightest glance at a social problem. However, for fans of the group, this is the perfect film that highlights the foibles and behaviour of the people they adore.

The story starts with two high school boys, Junpei and Satoshi, who have started a bicycle trip around Japan on a tandem after failing their college entrance exams. Headstrong Junpei claims he is on this trip because he is determined to look at his life from a fresh perspective but Satoshi is more interested in looking at his social media profile and hoping for a bump in followers with his journey. Soon they argue and split up. Junpei keeps going on his own trip by bicycle and picks up a hitch-hiker named Mitsuru to ride with him.

IF02_cyclecycle

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Eriko Pretended, Laughing Under the Clouds, Girl’s Play, The Final Parting, Saimon and Tada Takashi, Goku Tomo, From Taiwan with Love, From Taiwan with Love, Spit & Honey Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, people!

Eriko, Pretended Film Image

I’m just about ready to get back into normal service again after spending much of last week working and much of this week travelling. The sun has been shining, I had dinner with a really cool person I admire and I visited good places. I am happy.

I have more OAFF 2018 reviews stacked up, the only reason I didn’t post them this week was because I was rushing around doing things or relaxing and exploring places and, I must admit, I need to do rewrites on some. That period is almost over as I am about to resume my normal life but the festival process is starting with Kotatsu and I am working on new projects in my day-job.

What is released this weekend in Japan (we’re on time this week, people!!!)?

Continue reading “Eriko Pretended, Laughing Under the Clouds, Girl’s Play, The Final Parting, Saimon and Tada Takashi, Goku Tomo, From Taiwan with Love, From Taiwan with Love, Spit & Honey Japanese Film Trailers”

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Here and Here 憧れ Dir: Yoshimasa Jimbo (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Here and Here 

憧れ Akogare

Running Time: 20 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Yoshimasa Jimbo

Writer: Yoshimasa Jimbo (Screenplay),

Starring: Heo Rynn, Heo Min-kyung, Lee Yoon-sun, Lee Hae-soon,

Website IMDB

The South Korean city of Busan is most famous as a hotbed of cinema and politics and one of the many projects it hosts is a three-week film-making residency that allows directors to make a short film with a Korean cast and staff which will then be screened at the UNESCO sponsored Busan Inter-City Film Festival. Taking part in last year’s residency was Jimbo Yoshimasa whose high-quality work, “Here and Here” turns the camera on the city and its residents in a drama about a pregnant woman confronting her fears about giving birth.

Taking place over the course of one day, we follow Mina, a writer for B.Cent magazine. Despite being seven-months pregnant, she is roaming the city of Busan for an article about people’s first memories. She is collecting them through a series of interviews she records and plays back over the film. Old men and young girls, whoever catches her attention gets questioned and their answers provide something of a soundtrack. Behind her smiles, she is anxious about what giving birth feels like as is revealed through an underlying subtext of her fears that emerges during her interviews and phone conversations with someone from her personal life who is off-screen.

Continue reading “Here and Here 憧れ Dir: Yoshimasa Jimbo (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”

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NAGISA なぎさ Dir: Takeshi Kogahara (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

NAGISA

なぎさ Nagisa

Running Time: 18 mins.

Release Date: June 17th, 2017

Director: Takeshi Kogahara

Writer: Takeshi Kogahara (Screenplay),

Starring: Kenshin Endo, Himeka Asami, Shu Takaura, Namiko Ikeda, Ruri Ikeda, Minami Muroi,

IMDB
Cinematic explorations of first love are seemingly a dime a dozen but each can be special if given a twist and Nagisa” is special. This is a tale of innocent love at the height of summer as a schoolboy tries to get closer to the titular Nagisa and what makes it special is that Takeshi Kogahara uses various cinematic techniques to show how a human connection and a moment in time can imprint itself in a person’s memory and heart and influence a life. 

It all starts on the edge of the school pool, Fuminao, a sensitive and quiet boy, is sat next to his classmate Nagisa, a playful and teasing girl he has admired from afar.

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Before We Vanish 散歩する侵略者 Dir:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2017)

Before We Vanish (English Title) / Strolling Invader (Literal Title)  Before We Vanish Film Poster

 散歩する侵略者 Sanpo suru Shinryakusha

Running Time: 129 mins.

Release Date: September 09th , 2017

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Tomohiro Maekawa (Original Stageplay),

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mahiro Takasugi, Yuri Tsunematsu, Hiroki Hasegawa,

Website IMDB

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is often pigeon-holed as a horror director with ghosts lurking in the darkness but his latest title, Before We Vanish is his first alien invasion movie and features the threat in broad daylight. Based on a stageplay by Tomohiro Maekawa which was first performed in 2005, this film appeared at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and has had a dorama spin-off. A glib comparison might be Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as aliens travel to Earth and take human hosts but in this chat-pocalypse the tension is dialled down for a surprisingly effective examination of what it means to be human with surprising results that may or may not stop the end of humanity.

Somewhere in Shizuoka, freelance designer Narumi (Masami Nagasawa) and her salaryman husband Shinji Kase (Ryuhei Matsuda) are having problems of the marital sort. He is suspected of cheating and has recently disappeared so when Narumi is summoned to a hospital to pick him up she is furious. However, the man facing her in the doctor’s office seems like a totally different person, a blank slate with vague memories of his life and a problem knowing how to navigate social situations and even use his body properly. Things learned over time have been shorn away from him including the basic meaning behind various ideas such as possession, family, and love. He wants to learn these things and so he asks Narumi to be his guide. When she isn’t around, he likes to go for a walk and talk to random people and get their understanding of a situation or word. What happens next reveals his alien nature as he engages in a game of word association. He gently questions people until he actually sees the ideas visually forming in their head and, once that happens, he touches the person’s forehead and plucks the idea away, learning a new concept while erasing it from the speaker. Sinec he’s an alien, it is how he learns what makes humans work.

Before We Vanish Film Image

After so many relationship problems, Narumi is surprised by her kinder and gentler man who tries to understand her more. What she doesn’t know is that she has the easier alien to deal with.

Continue reading “Before We Vanish 散歩する侵略者 Dir:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2017)”

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Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops, Ikiru Machi, Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple, Eiga Doraemon Nobita no Takarajima, Kamen Rider EX-AID: Another Ending Part III – Kamen Rider Genm vs. Lazer, Omotenashi, Anata wa watashijanai, Principal – Koi Suru Watashi wa Heroine Desu Ka?, Anata wa watashijanai, Life Goes On, Ghost Squad, Basuketto to Boku!, Ramen Kuitee, Living the Game Japanese Film Trailers

Happy Weekend, People!

IF14_WhoKnowsAboutMyLife

This is my first trailer post from Japan. The last time I was in the country, I didn’t have the time or energy to do them because of constant activity but good experiences and good people motivated me to get back into the game and it has been fun putting this one together. After this is posted, I will head out to explore some cities. And write. I made the mistake of catching a train at rush hour last night and got stuck in a corner, desperately writing review notes with my pen and pad while I travelled back to my room.

I have had a busy week since getting here but spent the weekend prepping reviews for the upcoming Osaka Asian Film Festival. I posted an article about the Japanese films that will be playing and I’m looking forward to seeing what is on offer. My second post was a review of “Love and Other Cults” (2017) which is released on DVD/Blu-ray in the UK on March 26th by Third Window Films.

What is released this weekend in Japan?

Continue reading “Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops, Ikiru Machi, Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple, Eiga Doraemon Nobita no Takarajima, Kamen Rider EX-AID: Another Ending Part III – Kamen Rider Genm vs. Lazer, Omotenashi, Anata wa watashijanai, Principal – Koi Suru Watashi wa Heroine Desu Ka?, Anata wa watashijanai, Life Goes On, Ghost Squad, Basuketto to Boku!, Ramen Kuitee, Living the Game Japanese Film Trailers”

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Love and Other Cults 獣道 Dir:  Eiji Uchida (2017)

Love and Other Cults   Love and Other Cults Film Poster

獣道 「Kemonomichi

Running Time: 95 mins

Release Date: March 26th, 2018

Director:  Eiji Uchida

Writer: Eiji Uchida (Screenplay),

Starring: Sairi Ito, Kenta Suga, Kaito Yoshimura, Hidenobu Abera, Antony, Denden, Hanae Kan, Leona Hirota, Tomoko Hayakawa,

Website IMDB

Not every romance is clean and tidy but the latest film from Eiji Uchida, director of Greatful Dead (2014) and Lowlife Love (2016) is the messiest and grimiest one you will see without Takashi Miike levels of gore and craziness involved. This story of star-crossed lovers is, however, everyday crazy as we see the lowest of Japanese society try and claw their way out of small town criminality and exploitation.

The film’s central couple are Ai (Sairi Itoh) and Ryota (Kenta Suga). The two meet in school and sparks start flying almost immediately but their passion is of the confrontational kind where arguments flare up. Unable to recognise love or express it, they part ways and meet up again at various points in their lives. The reason for their fractious relationship is that neither has had a stable home. We get Ai’s story for the most part and glimpses of Ryota’s while he also offers narration over the entire film which acts like a Greek chorus summing up what has gone wrong for the characters. Indeed, Ai’s story is one of constant tragedy and a search for a family.

Continue reading “Love and Other Cults 獣道 Dir:  Eiji Uchida (2017)”

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Japanese Films at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

The team behind the Osaka Asian Film Festival has released the entire programme of films that will play at this year’s edition and it’s a mighty cinematic feast spread across a Competition and programmes dedicated to Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other territories from elsewhere across Asia as well as Special Screenings, an Indie Forum, and films supported by the Housen Foundation.  

These films cover a huge range of stories from dramas involving people finding karate giving meaning to their lives, to a melancholy animated title about dogs to Taiwan. There are lots of fantastic Japanese short films and box-office hits and an appearance from Hong Kong’s king of comedy, Chapman To. He is the recipient of the Osaka Asia Star Award and will be at the festival to talk about his career. A new talent on the American indie-scene, Kogonoda, will get his film screened at the festival and there are up-and-coming female directors from Asia. More pertinently, there is a whole slew of fantastic Japanese indie films that have some of the best drama and settings. Most if not all of these films have English subs which makes this festival the best place in Japan to see films.

The entire programme and all details, times, and dates are online at the festival’s site and tickets are already on sale. Here is a preview covering the Japanese films:

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018”