Genkina hito’s Top Fourteen Films of 2020

祖谷物語 おくのひと Rina Takeda

Wow, I had no idea that 2020 would turn out like this when I wrote last year’s end post. We’re a few days away from the end of what has been a plague year. I almost got caught out at the start when I was in Japan and the borders were going to be closed, back at the end of March, but I escaped with the help of some friends. Since then, I have been in work on reduced duties or at home waiting to be called in for odd jobs. When not working, I was doing shopping with my mother and checking in on my grandmother.

During this time of waiting, I watched a lot of films, some as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Nippon Connection, Japan Cuts and the New York Asian Film Festival, a lot just for pleasure. I took part in a physical film festival in Japan and I helped organise and execute an online film festival twice and during all of this I wrote a lot of reviews. Probably more reviews than in previous years. On top of it all, I also helped start a podcast about Asian films called Heroic Purgatory where I discuss films with fellow writer John Atom (the Christmas special is already out and the second season coming in 2021!).

When I was able to go to the cinema I watched a wide variety of things. In the UK, the last film I watched was Parasite with my mother. In Japan, I went to numerous screenings at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and an animation festival at the Yujiku Asagaya (just before Tokyo’s lockdown). At home with a lot of time on my hands I got into the cinema of Mario Bava and re-watched lots of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento movies. I waded through hours of 70s and 80s horror movies from America and I went back to some tried and trusted Japanese classics. Most of all, I tried to get more Japanese indie films out there and so I think this is reflected in my list of top films from 2020.

So, what are they?.  

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Top Fourteen Films of 2020”

Kamata Prelude, Midnight Swan, My Sweet Grappa Remedies, Keep Your Hands off Eizouken! Live-Action, How Neya Ryoka Became a Director, ATEOTD – At the End of the Day and Other Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone.

We have made it through another week.

I have been busy posting things such as a round up of the Japanese films at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the London Film Festival, Skip City D-Cinema Festival and an interview with Urara Matsubayashi and Mayu Akiyama for their work on Kamata Prelude and a post about the Kickstarter campaign for Noriko Yuasa’s latest project, Performing Kaoru’s Funeral. In terms of films watched, I have ploughed through the MOOSIC Lab works that are free to view for the remainder of this month and I have watched John Woo’s The Killer and a Japanese film from 2018, Lovers on Borders. Oh, also more episodes of The Boys season 2!

What is released this weekend?

Continue reading “Kamata Prelude, Midnight Swan, My Sweet Grappa Remedies, Keep Your Hands off Eizouken! Live-Action, How Neya Ryoka Became a Director, ATEOTD – At the End of the Day and Other Japanese Film Trailers”

An Interview with Urara Matsubayashi and Mayu Akiyama on the Film “Kamata Prelude” at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020

Mayu Akiyama (director) and Urara Matsubayashi (producer/lead actress) from the Osaka Asian Film Festival
Mayu Akiyama (director) and Urara Matsubayashi (producer/lead actress) from the Osaka Asian Film Festival

My final interview at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 was with Mayu Akiyama and Urara Matsubayashi for the festival’s closing film Kamata Prelude.

Kamata Prelude is the brainchild of Urara Matsubayashi (lead actress in The Hungry Lion) who Kamata Prelude Film Posterproduced as well as took a lead role. She gives a portrayal of a struggling actress named Machiko who lives in the Kamata area of Tokyo. A four-part omnibus film, each section revolves around her in some way and aims to depict what it means to be a “woman” and an “actress” in society, but they are done in the unique style of each of the four directors.

Two of the directors are guys you may have heard of if you follow film festivals. Book-ending the film are Ryutaro Nakamura, whose works like Plastic Love Story and Silent Rain are full of lyrical imagery, and Hirobumi Watanabe, who has built a filmography based on his stories all being set in his native Tochigi prefecture and shot with distinct monochrome visuals while being shot-through with dry humour. The newer directors are two young women, Yuka Yasukawa, one of a number of emerging talents tapped to helm a section in the omnibus film 21st Century Girl, and Mayu Akiyama, whose debut work, Rent a Friend, won the MOOSIC LAB Grand Prix and was screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2018.

While Watanabe and Nakamura made sections that are delightful reveries about life and a love of movies/culture (albeit, tinged with melancholy in Nakamura’s case), Yasukawa and Akiyama provided subjects that feel more keyed in to the thorny issues of life as a young woman. Yuka Yasukawa gives a #MeToo story wherein Machiko goes to a casting call and finds herself facing a grossly exploitative panel of guys alongside a defiant fellow actress played by Kumi Takiuchi (It Feels So Good, Greatful Dead). Meanwhile, Akiyama’s section felt like a realistic depiction of a get-together of girls wherein false masks and the anxieties that women bear in society are exposed in an onsen in Kamata. This section is full of great actresses who are making waves in the entertainment world like Mayuko Fukuda (Good-Bye) and an especially acerbic Sairi Ito (Love & Other Cults). 

Sat with Matsubayashi and Akiyama at a rooftop bar, I enjoyed a lively talk with two intelligent and resourceful creatives who I felt would be making big things in the future. Their film is a refreshingly hip and contemporary set of stories where its unique approach to style and subject-matter rendered their address of important issues enjoyable, nuanced, and relevant for our age.

This interview was done at the festival and via email with their help and the invaluable help of Takako Pocklington who translated and added some interesting comments.

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KAMATA PRELUDE 蒲田前奏曲 Dirs: Ryutaro Nakagawa, Mayu Akiyama, Yuka Yasukawa, Hirobumi Watanabe (Japan, 2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]

KAMATA PRELUDE    Kamata Prelude Film Poster

蒲田前奏曲 Kamata Sensoukyoku

Release Date: Autumn 2020

Duration: 115 mins.

Directors: Ryutaro Nakagawa, Mayu Akiyama, Yuka Yasukawa, Hirobumi Watanabe

Writers: Ryutaro Nakagawa, Mayu Akiyama, Yuka Yasukawa, Hirobumi Watanabe (Script)

Starring: Urara Matsubayashi, Kotone Furukawa, Kumi Takiuchi, Ren Sudo, Sairi Ito, Mayuko Fukada, Noa Kawazoe, Ryutaro Ninomiya, Ryutaro Kondo,

OAFF Link

Receiving its world premiere as the closing film of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020, Kamata Prelude is an omnibus movie split between four different directors with four distinct styles separated simply by an edit and a change in visual approach. Each director is part of a new generation of talent from the Japanese movie industry and this mix of approaches ensures a change of pace occurs often enough to keep interest in the film high.

Keeping all of these disparate elements together is the depiction of the life of a struggling actress named Machiko who lives in Kamata. Portrayed by Urara Matsubayashi (lead actress in The Hungry Lion), the film’s producer, she is the centre of these stories each of which depicts her learning what it means to be a “woman” and an “actress” in contemporary Japanese society through showing the behaviour and perceptions of those who surround her. Comic, dramatic, all sorts of emotional hues are touched upon.

Continue reading “KAMATA PRELUDE 蒲田前奏曲 Dirs: Ryutaro Nakagawa, Mayu Akiyama, Yuka Yasukawa, Hirobumi Watanabe (Japan, 2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020]”

Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 Announces Opening and Closing Films: The Garden of Evening Mists and Kamata Prelude

OAFF2020 top_main1_e

Earlier today, the organisers of the 2020 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival announced their opening and closing films, both of which are completely different in form and content. Here’s the information direct from the festival website.

Everything kicks off on March 06th with the Malaysian film, The Garden of Evening Mists, a historical drama featuring a pan-Asian cast and crew who have adapted the award-winning novel by Twan Eng Tan.

Continue reading “Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 Announces Opening and Closing Films: The Garden of Evening Mists and Kamata Prelude”