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Fish Story フィッシュストーリー Dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura (2009)

Fish Story    Fish Story Film Poster

フィッシュストーリー Fisshu Suto-ri-

Release Date: March 20th, 2009

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura

Writer: Tamio Hayashi (Script), Kotaro Isaka (Original Manga)

Starring: Kengo Kora, Atsushi Ito, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Noriko Eguchi, Gaku Hamada, Mikako Tabe, Mirai Moriyama, Nao Omori, Hidekazu Mashima, Toshimitsu Okawauchi (of the band Drive Far),

 IMDB   Third Window Films

If I were to tell you just some of the many different things going on in Fish Story, you would say that the title must be a perfect fit for such an outrageous yarn and that it cannot possibly work in a movie. But the film’s story gracefully ties a huge range of things together to make an unconventional and warmhearted tale that shows how no struggle is fruitless and everything in life can go on to have great meaning.

Fish Story is based on Kotaro Isaka’s same-named novel and consists of many distinctly different and seemingly unconnected storylines taking place at different points over 77 years to explain how a punk rock song nobody bought saves the world from an asteroid on a collision course with the Earth.

Continue reading “Fish Story フィッシュストーリー Dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura (2009)”

Shoplifters 万引き家族 Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda (2018)

Shoplifters   Shoplifters Film Poster

万引き家族 Manbiki Kazoku

Release Date: June 08th, 2018

Duration: 121 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Writer: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Screenplay),

Starring: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Kirin Kiki, Miyu Sasaki, Mayu Matsuoka, Kairi Jyo, Yoko Moriguchi, Yuki Yamada, Moemi Katayama, Akira Emoto, Kengo Kora, Chizuru Ikewaki, Sosuke Ikematsu,

Website IMDB

Hirokazu Kore-eda is often compared to Yasujiro Ozu due to his depictions of families in Japan but he is quite political. Through various detailed tapestries of the rich and poor, nuclear and unconventional family units and different individuals, he has charted a myriad of lives all over the archipelago of his home nation and captured the changing dynamics of a country where tradition, social mores and people’s bonds are seemingly degrading as society adapts to new ways of thinking about work and family and people live atomised lives. Shoplifters tells the story of a most unconventional family by normal Japanese standards and, in so doing, it offers some quite stringent critiques of the exploitation of labour, the indifference of authorities and the resulting breakdown of relationships. It is a refreshingly open politicisation of content for a Japanese mainstream film and it feels akin to the social realist films of Ken Loach. This political bite could partly be the reason why the film went on to wow critics and net the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival but, as in all Kore-eda films, it is the performances that sway hearts and make audiences cry.

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Being Good きみはいい子  Dir: Mipo O (2015)

You Are a Good Kid   / Being Good   

You're a Good Kid Film Poster
You’re a Good Kid Film Poster

きみはいい子  「Kimi wa iiko」

Release Date: June 27th, 2015

Running Time: 121 mins.

Director: Mipo O

Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Hatsue Nakawaki (Original Novel)

Starring:  Kengo Kora, Machiko Ono, Chizuru Ikewaki, Michie Kita, Mei Kurokawa, Kazuya Takahashi,

Website IMDB

One of the most important lessons I took away from being a teacher was the idea of being a guardian. An important part of our role is to care for the well-being of our students, to consider their personal circumstances, and emotional needs as well as educational ones. These responsibilities make the role slightly analogous with being a parent. It is a weighty responsibility but gratifying when you genuinely help someone. You don’t need to be a teacher or a parent to care for others. The simple act of caring can save lives. Being Good (2015) shows why.

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Bitter Honey    蜜のあわれ  Dir: Gakuryu Ishii (2016)

Bitter Honey    

Mitsu no Aware Film Poster
Mitsu no Aware Film Poster

蜜のあわれ 「Mitsu no Aware

Running Time: 105 mins.

Director: Gakuryu Ishii

Writer: Takehiko Minato (Screenplay), Saisei Muro (Original Manga)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Ren Osugi, Yoko Maki, Kengo Kora, Masatoshi Nagase, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Seiko Iwaido,

Website    IMDB

Director Gakuryu Ishii made his name with crazy indie films fizzing with punk energy, works like Burst City (1982) and Crazy Thunder Road (1980), but that is just one aspect of his career since he has an imagination capable of covering different genres from gloomy serial killers films like the brilliant Angel Dust (1994) and talky apocalypse movies like Isn’t Anyone Alive? (2012). I recommend watching them but of his other works, The Crazy Family and August in the Water are my personal favourites. Most of his films burst with voluptuous visuals and costumes, dense dialogue, and big name actors and over his long career he has maintained his flare for shooting scenes in energetic ways, something much needed here in a story that takes a while to get traction despite an exuberant performance from Fumi Nikaido as a goldfish turned human.

Based on a 1959 novel by the author Saisei Muro, Bitter Honey is set in 1950’s Tokyo. Although shot in a few outdoor locations like a yokocho, some streets, and temple grounds, most of the action takes place indoors, particularly the well-appointed house of an old male writer (Ren Osugi) who is busy making works of literature that will stand the test of time. Well, he would be if he wasn’t enthralled with a red goldfish who is able to transform into a beautiful voluptuous young woman (Fumi Nikaido).

Mitsu no Aware - Ren Osugi and Fumi Nikaido Continue reading “Bitter Honey    蜜のあわれ  Dir: Gakuryu Ishii (2016)”

My Man Watashi no Otoko 私の男 (2014)

It seems that reviews of films containing Fumi Nikaido grow to mammoth proportions and this is another long one for a film released in June of last year. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers and barely mention what happens in the second half of the film. Read on if you care or dare because this film is about some taboo subject-matter.

 

My Man  My Man Film Poster

Japanese Title:私の男

Romaji: Watashi no Otoko

Running Time: 128 mins

Release Date: June 14th, 2014 (Japan)

Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri

Writer: Takashi Ujita (Screenplay), Kazuki Sakuraba (Novel)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Tadanobu Asano, Aoba Kawai, Kengo Kora, Tatsuya Fuji, Taiga, Itsuki Sagara,

“Parents. They f*ck you up.” – Philip Larkin

That quote seems apt for Watashi no Otoko, a beautiful but dark film that is sure to challenge all viewers. It starts off with a disaster, one that strips a girl of her family, and gets darker as she gets a new family. If I make a reference to the novel/film Lolita you will know the territory. A spirit of corruption hovers over the characters in the film, one that takes the bonds of family and poisons them with the perversion of incest and director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri makes no bones about being somewhat explicit while exploring the effects of an incestuous love affair on the characters.

Watashi no Otoko Jungo (Tadanobu Asano) and Hana (Fumi Nikaido) on a Bus

Continue reading “My Man Watashi no Otoko 私の男 (2014)”

Third Window Films Release The Story of Yonosuke

Third Window Films follow up last month’s release of the ultra-brilliant “Shady” with a more heart-warming human drama about the power of friendship called “The Story of Yonosuke“. As I made clear in my review, I liked it a lot. Here are the release details:

The Story of Yonosuke

The Story of Yonosuke DVD Case

A film by Shuichi Okita (The Woodsman & the Rain)
Based on a novel by Shuichi Yoshida (Villain, Parade)

Japan / 2013 / 160 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour

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The Drudgery Train 苦役列車 (2012)

Genki Drudgery Train Review Header

The Drudgery Train               Drudgery Train Movie Poster

Japanese Title:  苦役 列車

Romaji: Kueki Ressha

Release Date: July 14th, 2012

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Writer: Shinji Imaoka (Screenplay), Kenta Nishimura (Original Work)

Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Kengo Kora, Atsuko Maeda, Makita Sports, Tomorowo Taguchi, Mamiko Ito, Miwako Wagatsuma, Shohei Uno, Hiroshi Sato, Asuka Ishii, Kouji Tsujimoto

 “Come in. Take a peek. Big boobs. Lots of nice girls here.”

The film starts in a grimy trash strewn back street. We are looking at a club named Peep Show Locker Room and the doorman for the club shouts out what is on offer. Out of the club saunters Kanta Kitamichi (Moriyama), who grimaces and lights a cigarette. Freeze frame, a voice over accompanied by on-screen text introduces us to Kitamichi, his father committed a sex crime that tore up his family in 5th grade. He has worked as a day labourer since graduating junior high. His only hobby is reading books.

Genki-Drudgery-Train-Kengo-Kora-Walk

It isn’t the most promising introduction to a main character, an aimless young man in 80’s Japan, the age of wealth and opportunity, and as we watch the film his behaviour is pretty awful.

Continue reading “The Drudgery Train 苦役列車 (2012)”

The Story of Yonosuke 横道世之介 (2013)

Genki The Story of Yonosuke Review Header Yonosuke (Kora)

The Story of Yonosuke                      A Story of Yonosuke Film Poster

Japanese Title: 横道世余之介

Romaji: Yokomichi Yonosuke

Release Date: February 23rd, 2013 (Japan)

UK Release Date: N/A

UK Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 160 mins.

Director: Shuichi Okita

Writer: Shiro Maeda (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Original Novel)

Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ayumi Ito, Gou Ayano, Arata, Kimiko Yo, Aki Asakura, Mei Kurokawa, Tasuku Emoto, Aimi Satsukawa, Keiko Horiuchi, Noriko Eguchi,

I was made a fan of Shuichi Okita after watching The Woodsman & the Rain, a film which is a wonderfully observed and rather touching comedy about the art of filmmaking and human bonds. Despite potentially weighty subjects I found it was an amusing and gratifying film that worked through its great characters and well-observed dry comedy. Okita is back a year after that film with a more complex one as he directs Shiro (Isn’t Anyone Alive?) Maeda’s adaptation of Shuichi’s Yoshida’s novel which flits between different time periods with a large cast of characters stretching between the ’80s and now.

The Story of Yonosuke Arrival in Tokyo (Kora)Tokyo 1987, Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kora) has left a small port city and lumbers into Tokyo to attend university. It blows his mind. There are huge buildings covered with ads for Sony and Kiss Mint gum, he sees amateur idol groups performing J-pop on the street and fashionable people everywhere.

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The Woodsman and the Rain キツツキと雨 (2012)

Genki Jason The Woodsman and the Rain Review Banner

The Woodsman & the Rain                            The Woodsman and the Rain Film Poster

Japanese Title: キツツキと雨

Romaji: Kitsutsuki to Ame

Release Date: February 11th, 2012

UK Release Date: January 28th 2013 (UK)

UK Film Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 135 mins.

Director: Shuichi Okita

Writer: Shuichi Okita, Fumio Moriya

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Shun Oguri, Kengo Kora, Asami Usuda, Kanji Furutachi, Daisuke Kuroda, Kyusaku Shimada, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Tsutou Takahashi, Mitsuru Hirata, Masato Ibu, Tsutomu Yamazak

Ever since writing about this film last year I had been eagerly anticipating it, principally because it stars Koji Yakusho, a wonderful actor who has won my admiration through a series of performances in films by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. I was also impressed by the festival awards buzz it had acquired as it took the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival and the Audience Award at Nippon Connection. The awards are richly deserved.

The Woodsman & the Rain opens in a dense forest outside Yamamura village. A lumberjack named Katsuhiko (Yakusho) is busy sawing a tree with a chainsaw. This short sequence reveals a gruff and pragmatic small town man who is comfortable working the land. He can even read the weather and predict when it will rain hence the title. He is soon distracted by the arrival of Torii (Furutachi), the assistant director of a film. Torii asks him to stop. “We’re in the middle of a take.” Katsuhiko does not quite understand movie jargon and he is not one easily swayed from his craft so Torii says, “We’re shooting a movie over there.” Katsuhiko understands now and asks “Can I prune?” Torii replies “If it isn’t noisy, sure.” Katsuhiko climbs a tree and starts cutting branches. From this vantage point both Katsuhiko and the audience see the town in distance with movie vans parked around.

Yamamura has been invaded by a small crew shooting a low-budget zombie film named Utopia. Katsuhiko is not concerned with any of this and goes about his work day routine and living very uneasily with his unemployed and directionless son Koichi (Kora) but a chance encounter with Torii on the road leads to Katsuhiko meeting the film’s director who is also named Koichi (Oguri), a man barely out of university and on his first major project. Pressure is getting to him and he suffers from severe lack of confidence which leaves Torii taking command and trying to make use of Katsuhiko’s local knowledge for some location scouting. This is just the first of many requests that the film crew ask of Katsuhiko.

The Woodsman and the Rain Zombie YakushoDespite being initially unimpressed with what he sees (especially Koichi) Katsuhiko is soon sucked into the film and even gets to act as a zombie. He even strikes up an unlikely friendship with Koichi as he falls in love with the story of the movie and the experience of making it. The more deeply he becomes involved with the film the more enthusiastic he is and discovers that the director, despite lacking in confidence and finding the demands of movie-making a little too much, is extremely talented. The two forms an unlikely friendship and help each other overcome personal problems.

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Third Window Films Release The Woodsman & the Rain

Third Window Films follow up their release of The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck & God in a Coin Locker with the release of the second film on my  preview of Asian films getting released in the UK, a film I have been interested in since it was released in Japan last year. That release is The Woodsman & The Rain. It has an all-star cast including the incredible Koji Yakusho and Shun Oguri. I’ve got my copy on pre-order!

Alua over at Otherwhere reviewed this film last year and gave it an excellent write-up, so without further ado, here are the details:

The Woodsman and the Rain DVD Case

The Woodsman & The Rain

A film by Shuichi Okita (Chef of the South Polar, Story of Yonosuke)

Starring: Koji Yakusho (13 Assassins, Cure, Retribution)
Shun Oguri (Crows Zero, Azumi, Space Brothers)
Kengo Kora (Norwegian Wood, Fish Story)

Japan / 2011 / 129 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / 35mm

Out on DVD January 28th, 2013

DVD Special Features:

Interviews with the Cast & Crew, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

Katsu (Yakusho) is a 60 year-old lumberjack who lives in a small, tranquil village in the mountains. When a film crew suddenly arrives to shoot a zombie movie, Katsu finds himself unwittingly roped into assisting the production and becomes increasingly frustrated with the pushy crew, especially the young, seemingly spineless director Koichi (Oguri).

However, an improbable friendship soon develops between Katsu and Koichi, as Katsu comes to see joy in the filmmaking process, and gradually helps Koichi to recover his sense of self. Soon, their bond inspires an unusual collaboration between the villagers and the film crew.