Sway ゆれる (2006)

Sway   Yureru Sway Film Poster

ゆれるYureru

Release Date: April 08th, 2006

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay),

Starring: Joe Odagiri, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yoko Maki, Keizo Kanie, Tomorowo Taguchi, Hirofumi Arai, Masato Ibu, Pierre Taki, Mayu Kitaki,

Website    IMDB

Sway is an innocuous title but it harbours many powerful meanings. It refers to memories, one of the most profound elements that make a person unique. It refers to the ever changing personalities of people. It also refers to the sibling relationship at the centre of the film. These elements are something which writer and director Miwa Nishikawa crafts a film about in a story where the return of a younger brother to his hometown results in his older brother going on trial for murder. What is ostensibly a mystery/crime thriller becomes a dissection of modern male pride and the strain that society puts on people as revealed in a riveting character drama.

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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,

Website IMDB

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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The World of Kanako 渇き (2014)

The World of Kanako      The World of Kanako Film Poster 2

Japanese Title:

Romaji: Kawaki

Running Time: 113 mins

Release Date: June 27th, 2014 (Japan)

Seen at the BFI London Film Festival

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima (Screenplay), Akio Fukamachi (Novel),

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Nana Komatsu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Joe Odagiri, Fumi Nikaido, Ai Hashimoto, Miki Nakatani, Jun Kunimura, Asuka Kurosawa,

Website

On paper The World of Kanako sounds incredibly formulaic: based on a novel by Akio Fukamachi, it’s about an ex-cop and bad father who goes in search of his missing daughter who may be involved in a world of trouble. The World of Kanako is anything but formulaic. It resists falling into cliché by being a visually and aurally staggering assault on the senses so meticulously designed, written, and directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, and acted out by big name actors given the chance to play evil characters that it makes an old plot feel new and exciting.

The film begins with the quote:

An era is only confused by a confused mind – Jean Cocteau

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The Great Passage 舟を編む (2013)

Genki The Great Passage Review Header

The Great Passage                We Knit Ship Film Poster

Japanese Title: 舟を編む

Romaji: Fune wo Amu

Release Date: April 13th, 2013 (Japan)

Seen at the BFI London Film Festival 2013

Running Time: 133 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Shion Miura (Original Novel), Kensaku Watanabe (Screenplay),

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri, Haru Kuroki, Misako Watanabe, Kumiko Aso, Shingo Tsurumi, Chizuru Ikewaki, Hiroko Isayama, Kaouru Kobayashi, Go Kato, Kaoru Yachigusa, Ryu Morioka, Shohei Uno, Kazuki Namioka

The year is 1995 and the place is the Dictionary Editorial Department of the publisher Genbu Books. The staff include Matsumoto (Kato), a veteran editor in chief of dictionaries who is assisted by his key right-hand man Araki (Kobayashi), a skilled editor who is on the verge of quitting because his wife is ailing and he wants to be by her side. Also in the department are Sasaki (Isayama), the oil for the team ensuring that word entries are logged on computers and filed away and young blade Nishioka  (Odagiri) who, while not as is good at defining words, is a pro at getting more up to date definitions and examples because he has skill with human contact.

And that’s it for the dictionary team. All dedicated to the beauty of words but considered weird by the rest of the staff at the publisher. Fact of the matter is that compiling dictionaries is not hot shot work in publishing terms because such things are boring and costly in an age when digital technology is coming to prominence and everybody else would rather work on glossy magazines.

With Araki seeking to retire it places great strain on the department at a time when Matsuoka wants to initiate a new project called The Great Passage, a 240,000 word dictionary that will capture everything from the most current youth slang to the most technical terms of different fields like theatre and literature making it the most comprehensive and representative dictionary in the country.

Genki-The-Great-Passage-Work-on-the-Jisho

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I Wish (Kiseki) 奇跡 (2011)

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I Wish                                       Kiseki FIlm Poster

Japanese Title: 奇跡

Romaji: Kiseki

Running Time: 128 mins.

Release Date: June 11th, 2011

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Writer: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Screenplay)

Starring: Koki Maeda, Ohshiro Maeda, Joe Odagiri, Nene Ohtsuka, Isao Hashizume, Kiki Kirin, Ryoga Hayashi, Kara Uchida, Kanna Hashimoto, Hoshinosuke Nagayosi, Rento Isobe, Hiroshi Abe, Masami Nagasawa, Yoshio Harada, Yui Natsukawa

Pre-teen brothers Koichi and Ryunosuke have been separated from each other following their parents’ divorce. Thoughtful elder-brother Koichi has followed his mother Nozomi (Otsuka) to his maternal grandparents place in sleepy Kagoshima. Lively Ryunosuke lives with his indie musician father Kenji (Odagiri) in the more vibrant Fukuoka. Both places are at opposite ends of Kyushu and their only contact is by telephone. Despite putting on a brave face Koichi longs for his family to be reunited while Ryunosuke is more accepting of their situation and too busy doing other things like growing vegetables and taking care of his lackadaisical father.

One day in school Koichi hears that when two bullet-trains pass each other the resulting energy is strong enough to grant the wish of anyone seeing it occur so he devises a scheme that will see himself and his friends skip school, evade their parents, journey across the island and meet Ryunosuke and his friends at a point where newly built lines connecting Fukuoka and Kagoshima meet so they can make a wish. What does Koichi want? For his family to get back together again. Are things that simple?

Kiseki I Wish Kenji (Odagiri) Ryunosuke (Ohshiro Maeda) Koichi (Koki Maeda) and Nozomi (Ohtsuka)

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Mushishi 蟲師 (2007)

Mushishi Genki Review Banner Genki Jason

Mushishi                                                                   Mushishi Film Poster

Japanese Title: 蟲師

Romaji: Mushishi

Release Date: March 24th, 2007 (Japan)

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

Writer: Yuki Urushibara (Original Manga/Screenplay), Sadayuki Murai (Screenplay),

Starring: Joe Odagiri, Yu Aoi, Makiko Esumi, Nao Omori, Reia Moriyama, Reisen Ri, Lily, Hideyuki Inada,

Mushishi is based on Yuki Urushibara’s award-winning manga. It is a title which has captured imaginations because it was quickly adapted into a highly regarded award-winning anime in 2005-06. To cap it all off we get a live-action version.

Mushishi Ginko Manga Anime Live Action Comparison

This story of an itinerant spiritualist wandering through a Japan just entering the meiji era is beautiful and poignant with bits of human drama and nostalgia. This combined with the visuals formed a wonderful film which is a visual and aural feast that submerges the viewer in a narrative that evokes wonder.

Mushishi begins with long-held wide-angle shots of rain-soaked tree-covered mountains wreathed with mist. It feels like a scene from a primordial time before man has trod on the earth and a time where spirits could be lingering in this natural world.

Mushishi Landscape 2

The film then cuts to a shot of two people trudging along a muddy road that clings to the Mushishi Ginko and His Motherside of the mountain. The smallest figure, Yoki, is a boy moving from town to town with his mother who carries a heavy pack with all of their belongings. All talk about spirits lingering proves right as Yoki can see wisps of spirits emanating from the landscape. These are mushi (bugs), the phantom soul of nature which breathes through the living and the dead. Think of them like magical presences which can affect people in various, mostly negative, ways such as causing the growth of horns and sucking souls. Few people can see them but it seems that Yoki (Inada) is one of them. They fascinate Yoki who lags behind his mother on the road. Perhaps this is what saves him as a landslip causes trees and earth to careen down the side of the mountain and engulf the road he and his mother are on. His mother yells at him to run before she is swept away. When the smoke clears all we see is Yoki clawing through rocks trying to find his mother while an enigmatic figure with white hair steps into high angle shot and watches his futile effort. Her name is Nui (Esumi) and she will play a pivotal role in his future.

Mushishi Nui (Esumi) Watches

Mushishi Snowbound VillageCut to a snowy landscape and Yoki has grown up into Ginko (Odagiri), a humble mushi-shi (bug master) who travels around Japan with his huge chest of medicines and tools helping people beset with mushi problems by trying to solve, or at the very least, lessen the problems mushi cause. The film tracks a selection of his adventures such as his first where he wanders into a snow-bound village and discovers that the inhabitants have been infected by mushi who make the villagers deaf in one ear. By following Ginko we see that mushi are everywhere and affect people in various ways but he is not alone in tracking the mushi of the world as he reunites with a woman named Tanyu (Aoi) who chornicles the different mushi in Japan to tackle a fierce mushi which may be linked to his past.

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Retribution さけび 叫 (2007)

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Retribution                                                  Retribution Poster

Romaji: Sakebi 

Japanese Title:さけび 叫

Release Date: 24th February 2007 (Japan)

Running Time: 103 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Manami Konishi, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Riona Hazuki, Joe Odagiri, Ryo Kase, Hiroyuki Hirayama, Kaoru Okunuki, Ikuji Nakamura, Kenkichi Watanabe

With Kurosawa moving from the horror genre into the realm of drama Retribution is one of his last horror films. It bears all of the trademark imagery that Kurosawa is known for as well as his trusted male lead Koji Yakusho (Seance, Cure) and it is wrapped up in one of his intriguing supernatural mysteries.

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