SAKKA Online Streaming Service Set to Launch “NOISE” by Yusaku Matsumoto on March 24

US-based distribution Japanese film streamer SAKKA is set to distribute Yusaku Matsumoto’s debut film Noise later this week, March 24th.

Noise Film Image

Originally released in Japan in 2019, this is an ensemble drama about lost souls who gravitate around Tokyo’s Akihabara district. Urban alienation, sexual and workplace exploitation, and fractious family ties form the basis of much of the drama. It won high praise from film critics around the world, including the 25th Raindance Film Festival which is where I reviewed it for V-Cinema (I’ll republish my review here).

On top of streaming the film, SAKKA’s release will be accompanied by exclusive bonus content such as a newly edited behind-the-scenes featurette and the director’s scene commentary.

Here are the details on the film itself:

Continue reading “SAKKA Online Streaming Service Set to Launch “NOISE” by Yusaku Matsumoto on March 24″

Side by Side サイド バイ サイド 隣にいる人 (2023) Dir: Chihiro Ito [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

Side by Side       Side by Side Film Poster R

サイド バイ サイド 隣にいる人 Saido Bai Saido Tonari ni Iru Hito

Release Date: April 14th, 2023

Duration: 130 mins.

Director: Chihiro Ito

Writer: Chihiro Ito (Screenplay),

Starring: Kentaro Sakaguchi, Asuka Saito, Kodai Asaka, Ameri Isomura, Mikako Ichikawa,

Website IMDB

Side by Side is the sophomore directorial feature from veteran screenwriter Chihiro Ito. Under her own name and under the pen name Anne Horizumi, she has written a multitude of screenplays for hit films, partnering up in particular with Isao Yukisada for titles like Crying Out Love in the Center of the World (2004) and The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese (2020). 

In 2022, she debuted as a director with In Her Room, which was produced by Yukisada and played in the Nippon Cinema Now section at the Tokyo International Film Festival. It recently went on general release in Japan and has gotten good reviews. In a month’s time, Side by Side get its theatrical release but before then, it receives its world premiere at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023. 

Continue reading “Side by Side サイド バイ サイド 隣にいる人 (2023) Dir: Chihiro Ito [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]”

New Religion ニューレリジョン (2022) Director: Keishi Kondo [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

New Religion   New Religion Film Poster R

ニューレリジョン  「Nyu- Rerijon

Release Date: 2023

Duration: 100 mins.

Director: Keishi Kondo

Writer: Keishi Kondo (Screenplay),

Starring: Kaho Seto (Miyabi), Satoshi Oka (Photographer), Ryuseigun Saionji (Boyfriend), Daiki Nunami,


J-horror is effectively like a Frankenstein’s monster these days. When major studios resurrect a character like Ringu‘s Sadako or Ju-on‘s Kayako, there is the recycling of a patchwork of scares and tropes grafted on to gimmick storylines. Original works by horror masters like Takashi Shimizu find their scares toned down to be more acceptable to the mainstream and so, without the power to shock or even surprise, these films have the freshness of a desiccated corpse. Viewing them is like passively watching a corpse shamble on and off the screen. Then, out of nowhere, Keishi Kondo’s New Religion emerged on the festival circuit, like a breath of fresh air gusting into the genre crypt.

A truly independent film, Kondo made it in between fulltime work commitments and a crowdfunding campaign to help with post-production. What we get is a horror movie that feels close to the supernatural apocalypse films that Kiyoshi Kurosawa put out in the late 90s/early 2000s but it is wrapped up in an affecting portrait of the main character’s inchoate grief warping reality.

When we first meet the main protagonist, Miyabi (Kaho Seto), we see the tragedy that eats away at her throughout the film. While reading Virginia’s Wolfe’s The Lighthouse in the kitchen of her high-rise apartment, she fails to stop her daughter plunging to her death. Fast-forward a few years and a broken marriage and we find that she is working as a call girl and living with her DJ boyfriend (Ryuseigun Saionji), all while living in the same apartment and with her daughter’s items still around.

There is a shroud of death covering her, one might say, and that becomes exploited by the film’s antagonist of sorts, a mysterious photographer (Satoshi Oka) whose use of a voice box gives him a unnatural sound while he moves in an almost mechanical way. He is seemingly connected to the psychotic break and disappearance experienced by another call girl and it seems that Miyabi might be next in line. How? With every meeting at his creepy apartment, he takes pictures of parts of her body. Her feet, her legs, her spine. Miyabi is initially suspicious but that feeling fades away as she soon senses that with every photo taken she can detect her daughter’s spirit.  She becomes addicted and finds herself departing from the calm façade she has built up to become more morbid.

With each part of her he captures on film, Miyabi finds herself losing something of her essential spirit. As she starts to come closer to the daughter she lost she moves closer to facing the grief that she has tamped down inside of herself but she risks losing everything.

New Religion Film Image 4 R

Continue reading “New Religion ニューレリジョン (2022) Director: Keishi Kondo [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]”

Where Love Goes 愛のゆくえ (2023) Director: Fuka Miyajima [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

Where Love Goes     Where Love Goes Film Poster R

愛のゆくえAi no Yukue

Release Date: 2023

Duration: 88 mins.

Director: Fuka Miyajima

Writer: Fuka Miyajima (Screenplay),

Starring: Itsuki Nagasawa, Airu Kubozuka, Mari Hayashida, Katsumi Hyodo, Atsuko Hirata, Keisuke Horibe, Rena Tanaka,

Where Love Goes is a tale of love. It seems to be named after the main character but also captures how the emotion imbues people with an unshakeable inner power and how it draws them to safety. It is a striking debut. Well shot, affecting, visually distinctive. It may feature familiar characters and tropes but first-time feature film director Fuka Miyajima evades conventionality through a touch of magical realism. 

We are taken to a snowbound town in Hokkaido (Fuka Miyajima’s home island) and into the cosy house of two junior high schoolers, shy silent Ai Sudo (Itsuki Nagasawa) and angry Sosuke Ito (Airu Kubozuka). They are not blood relatives but live together as a patchwork family cared for with great compassion for by Ai’s mother, Yumi (Mari Hayashida). Yumi’s love takes the form of constancy in cooking curries and caring for others first despite her own ill health. This provides a warm safe space for her kids who are enduring tormenting feelings of self-doubt, bullying in school, and the harsh snowy environment just outside their doorstep. Then Yumi dies and Ai is taken to Tokyo by her neglectful father while Sosuke is left behind, lost in confusion and fury. This is the start of Ai’s odyssey as she finds herself drawn back to her old home, Sosuke, and a new self-understanding.

Continue reading “Where Love Goes 愛のゆくえ (2023) Director: Fuka Miyajima [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]”

The Burden of the Past 過去負う者 (2023) Dir: Atsushi Funahashi [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

The Burden of the Past   The Burden of the Past Film Poster R

過去負う者 Kako ou mono

Release Date: 2023

Duration: 125 mins.

Director: Atsushi Funahashi

Writer: Atsushi Funahashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Taku Tsuji, June Kubodera, Kiriko Kina, Miyatani, Yoshio Taguchi, Saki Hirai,

With a recidivism rate of 50%, Japanese society has yet to hit upon a way to stop criminals reoffending and relies, instead, on punitive justice. Part of that punitive justice is the social ostracisation that occurs for those previously incarcerated. Getting jobs, finding accommodation, earning people’s trust, all is made harder with a criminal record.

Losing a criminal past is often the subject of films, from Kazuya Shiraishi’s One Night to Daihachi Yoshida’s The Scythian Lamb and Miwa Nishikawa’s Under the Open Sky. It is now the turn of dramatist/documentarian Atsushi Funahashi who shows the difficulties in rehabilitating former criminals with The Burden of the Past, a hard-hitting ensemble docudrama that draws upon the real-life work of CHANGE, a magazine/NPO that aims to help ex-prisoners reintegrate with society.

Written, edited, and directed by Atsushi Funahashi, this two-hour film asks us to witness the work of the staff at CHANGE and the struggle of some of their charges as they battle against the prejudice that others show when asked to live alongside people who have committed crimes.

Continue reading “The Burden of the Past 過去負う者 (2023) Dir: Atsushi Funahashi [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]”

December 赦し (2022) Director: Anshul Chauhan [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

December December Film Poster R

赦し   「Yurushi」

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 99 mins.

Director: Anshul Chauhan

Writer: Rand Colter, Mina Moteki, Anshul Chauhan (Script), 

Starring: Shogen, Megumi, Ryo Matsuura, Shingo Fujimori, Toru Kizu, Takuzo Shimizu, Miki Maya


Anshul Chauhan has carved a place for himself in the Japanese film industry as a true maverick. His first two feature films, Bad Poetry Tokyo (2017) and Kontora (2020), were both indie movies, both based on original ideas, and both featuring a cast of relative unknowns who he worked with intensely to draw out raw performances which he presented in visually dynamic ways. The force and uniqueness of his films distinguished his dramatic works in such a way that they won him play on the festival circuit, awards, and notice as filmmaker to track.

For his third feature, he changes tack and teams up with a rising star and globe-trotting actor Shogen, to make a legal drama. It looks more mainstream and like it has a bigger budget but scratch the surface of genre and its looks and you will see that it features Chauhan’s trademark tackling of thorny emotional issues as he addresses murder and justice.

December begins with a court notice being delivered. The recipients are Katsu Higuchi (Shogen) and his ex-wife Sumiko (Megumi). They were a couple until their marriage broke up after the death of their 17-year-old daughter Emi (Miki Maya). Now separated, their lives have taken radically different paths as Katsu exists as an ex-writer trapped in a haze of alcohol and anger while Sumiko has tried to move on by marrying another man. They find themselves brought back together again by the news that their daughter’s killer, Kana Fukada (Ryo Matsuura), will get a retrial. 

The man who has set this reunion up is Takumi Sato (Toru Kizu), a wily defence lawyer who believes Kana was offered a raw deal at her original trial and has now been reformed. The death of a child is always highly emotive but he is laser-focussed on legal loopholes and processes as he thinks he can get a reduction in Kana’s sentence. His efforts necessitate reopening old wounds in public but in doing this he offers a second chance at life for Kana and, unexpectedly, Katsu and Sumiko.

Continue reading “December 赦し (2022) Director: Anshul Chauhan [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]”

Haruna Tanaka Double-Bill: “Shall We Love You?” and “Kanro  甘露” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

Haruna Tanaka is a filmmaker whose film presence I became aware of through two fine shorts; Slough (2020), a contemplative and slow-paced story about the loss of a child which hit a few festivals before being featured in a MIRRORLIAR FILMS anthology, and LIFELIKE (2018), a historical drama which played at the 20th Japan Film Fest Hamburg and won the Golden Iris Prize at the Aichi International Women’s Film Festival 2018.

Her latest shorts are featured at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023 in a special sidebar dedicated to her. For both films, it looks like she worked with the same crew – Koichi Nakajima (DoP), Masahiro Sone (colorist), Reach Minoji (music) etc. – and used similar techniques to capture dialogue driven stories. With well-written scripts and talented performers who deliver their roles with focus, she has two films well worth watching.

Continue reading “Haruna Tanaka Double-Bill: “Shall We Love You?” and “Kanro  甘露” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]”

Sekai 世界 (2023) Director: Marina Tsukada [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]

Sekai   Sekai Film Image R

世界 Sekai

Release Date: 2023

Duration: 38 mins.

Director: Marina Tsukada

Writer: Marina Tsukada (Screenplay),

Starring: Aki Wakui, Yoomi Tamai, Takeshi Yamamoto, Ryo Ikeda,


Sekai is a small but wondrous film. It does one of the things that films are good at, it gives us the lives of other people. Working as writer, director, and editor, Marina Tsukada gives us two protagonists, ostensibly different, and takes us into their individual worlds and shows their commonalities and helps us relate to them. She achieves this through naturalism and minimalism, using great delicacy to convey everything. 

The people we meet are a shy junior high student named Aki and a musician named Yoomi. Aki’s school life is spent keeping a low profile because of her stutter while her home life is fraught with emotional landmines as she navigates adolescent frustration with her quarrelling parents. Yoomi, on the other hand, is older, independent and lives alone. Her routine takes her between part-time work at a bar and a studio. While working, she talks to salarymen and young up-and-coming musicians. 

Continue reading “Sekai 世界 (2023) Director: Marina Tsukada [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2023]”

Torso トルソ Director: Yutaka Yamazaki (2009)

Torso   Torso Film Poster

トルソ Toruso

Release Date: July 10th, 2010

Duration: 104 mins.

Director: Yutaka Yamazaki

Writer: Yutaka Yamazaki, Yuki Sato (Script),

Starring: Makiko Watanabe, Sakura Ando, Sola Aoi, Arata Iura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyako Yamaguchi,


Torso tells a tale of a woman whose life is troubled by men. The film’s hook is understanding how she mediates this trouble through her cohabitation with an inflatable male mannequin torso. The reason why she would choose an inanimate object over a flesh-and-blood person is gradually revealed when her younger half-sister moves into her apartment over the course of a hot Tokyo summer. This disturbance leads to an unearthing of traumas that create a pathology explaining why a woman would avoid men. 

We follow Hiroko Katagiri (Makiko Watanabe), a 34-year-old office lady working for a fashion house. Katagiri is not one for dates, for mixers, for being picked up in bars because she is not one for meeting men. She is quite content with leading solitary life, her only companion being the limbless torso which she treats in some ways like a boyfriend, albeit an undemanding one. Living solo she cooks what she wants, drinks wine whenever she likes, and can relax in freedom. The question of how she ended up like this is brought to the fore with the arrival of her more flighty half-sister Mina (Sakura Ando) who comes seeking shelter after fleeing her abusive boyfriend, Hiroko’s ex.

Like water and oil, the two aren’t that good at mixing as Mina, a budding fashion video director is the younger, prettier, and more popular of the two, with both men and their mother, and she flaunts it. As Mina unsettles Hiroko’s routines the older sister faces up to traumas that have shaped her life such as how she lost her boyfriend to Mina and a dark family past and so, as odd as the hook of living with a torso is, that becomes secondary to understanding Hiroko and her problem with men.

Continue reading “Torso トルソ Director: Yutaka Yamazaki (2009)”

Asyl: Park and Love Hotel (2008) Director: Izuru Kumasaka

Asyl: Park and Love Hotel    Asyl Park and Love Hotel Film Poster

パーク アンド ラブホテル Pa-ku ando Rabu Hoteru

Release Date: April 26th, 2008

Duration: 111 mins.

Director: Izuru Kumasaka

Writer: Izuru Kumasaka (Script),

Starring: Lily, Chiharu, Sachi Jinno, Hikari Kajiwara, Kanji Tsuda, Ken Mitsuishi,


The lives of four women meet at Asyl Park and Love Hotel, the titular establishment in the heart of Tokyo. Eschewing the erotic potential that the title suggests, this film leans more in favour of showing the loneliness on the characters, particularly the absence of men.

Continue reading “Asyl: Park and Love Hotel (2008) Director: Izuru Kumasaka”