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.

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Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2018

The 68th Berlin International Film Festival, running from February 15th to the 25th, has a pretty good line-up of films but I’m super interested in the Japanese contingent. Thanks to the great media communication, the last few weeks have been building up lots of anticipation. I’ve been covering this festival for a while now and this year is as strong as many others.

Here are the Japanese films that have been programmed, just click on the titles to be taken to the festival listing.

Berlinale 2018 Logo

The Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art has programmed the Forum as part of the Berlinale, selecting 44 films, 35 of which world premieres. The International Forum of New CinemaForum is a bit like the wild west in the sense that the filmmakers selected come from different backgrounds and practice different forms of cinema from drama to avant garde, experimental works closer to art pieces to to observational documentaries, with subjects like political reportage and drama being given equal importance. There are a huge variety of films and topics few formal limitations when it comes to the selection of films, resulting in even greater freedom.

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Daguerrotype ダゲレオタイプの女  (2016) Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Daguerrotype   Daguerrotype Film Poster

ダゲレオタイプの女 Dagereotaipu no onna

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Cattherine Paille (adaptation) Eleonore Mahmoudian,

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet, Mathieu Amalric,

Website IMDB

Daguerreotype is the first film Kurosawa has shot outside Japan but the story fits easily into his horror oeuvre which consists of tales where supernatural beings impinge on the vistas of protagonists who we watch undergo crises, their minds unable to correlate events that, once pieced together, provide a shocking revelation for the viewer as we see the main characters are actually morally compromised. The French setting, cast, and crew ably deliver this type of tale in a chilling ghost story light on jump scares and heavy on melancholy and dread as an ordinary man finds himself sucked into a supernatural tale of love and betrayal.

Jean (Tahar Rahim) is a working-class guy with a vague interest in photography. Desperate for a job he applies for many each day and finally stumbles into one as a photographer’s assistant. He heads to a crumbling manor on the outskirts of Paris to work as the assistant for the reclusive photographer named Stephane (Gourmet).

Daguerrotype Film Image

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review Round-Up: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Before We Vanish”

It has been a while since I last did a review round-up of any festival but fellow cinephile and Twitter-user FelixAguirre regularly collects links to reviews and alerts them to me and with such a treasure-trove of opinions from the most recent Cannes Film Festival on offer, I’d be mad to turn them down. Following on from Blade of the Immortal and Radiance is…

Before We Vanish

Before We Vanish Film Image

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Poster

This year’s Cannes Film Festival (17th – 28th May) is the 70th edition of the event and the festival head Thierry Fremaux announced the Official Selection of films programmed last week. Critics are salivating over the fact that there are two Netflix films: the monster movie Okja by Bong Joon-ho (The Host) and The Meyerowitz Stories by Noah Baumbach (writer on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and director of Mistress America). There will be two TV series for audiences to watch: David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake and lots more familiar faces such as Sofia (Somewhere) Coppola’s The Beguiled, Michael (Code Unknown/Cache) Haneke’s Happy End (knowing Haneke, it’s probably an ironic title…). More importantly, there are also nine first-time filmmakers getting their works screened.

Why is that important?

The Cannes Film Festival comes into 2017 with a need to find fresh blood and this is seemingly strong selection because may be it. Since this is the 70th anniversary of the festival and the fact that, last year, organisers faced fierce criticism last year for their lack of female directors, commentators identified that they needed to do a couple of things: broaden out its programme so that there are filmmakers other than the old guard (Campion, Haneke, Kawase, Haynes, the Dardennes brothers etc.) and increase the number of female-centric stories and female-led films across the programme. The old guard are back but just by glancing at the lists of announced films, it is clear that the festival has achieved some of its goals and will probably avoid the criticism it faced last year – hopefully, no high-heels and breast-feeding baby incidents will crop up). Things are a bit of a mixed picture when it comes to the Japanese films.

So far, there are four Japanese films programmed, and three come from festival regulars: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Naomi Kawase, and Takashi Miike. Two of the four are adaptations while the other two are original dramas. Out of the dramas, one is made by a seasoned professional while the shorter one at 45 minutes is from a student. The presence of a fresh director is always something to cheer when it comes to Japanese films at international festivals and this director is a lady to boot: Aya Igashi. She is a graduate from Toei Gakuen Film College’s movie production department and is already working on her third film.

So, while we can all sigh and shrug our shoulders at the lack of original content, we can take comfort in the fact that Aya Igashi is on the radar of people who programme the festival.

What are the films playing this year?

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2016 Nippon Connection Film Festival Preview

The 16th edition of the Japanese film festival Nippon Connection will take place in Frankfurt, Germany, from May 24th to the 29th. Over the course of six days audiences will get the chance to watch more than 100 short and feature films and this incudes indies, anime, blockbusters, and documentaries. This is the biggest festival dedicated to Japanese films and so filmmakers are going to attend the event to present their works.

On top of the films there are guests who are coming over from Japan so that means there are also workshops, lectures, panel discussions, performances, exhibitions, and there is also a Japanese market with food on sale. It’s a huge event with lots to see and do.

Good Stripes Film Image
Good Stripes Film Image

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Charisma カリスマ (2000)

Charisma

カリスマKarisuma

Release Date: Feburary 26th, 2000 (Japan)

Running Time: 99 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Jun Fubuki, Yoriko Doguchi, Ren Osugi, Yutaka Matsushige, Akira Otaka,

IMDB

Happy Halloween! This is the fourth year where I highlight horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare DetectiveStrange CircusShokuzai, and POV: A Cursed Film. This year I take on Charisma!

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is my favourite director and for much of his career he has focussed on horror movies. Post Tokyo Sonata (2009) Kurosawa has become more conventional and mainstream as he slides into making dramas and adaptations of novels so it is great to revisit one of his horror films for Halloween 2015!

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Seventh Code (2014)

Seventh Code     

Seventh Code Film Poster
Seventh Code Film Poster

Japanese Title:  Seventh Code

Romaji: Sebunsu Kodo

Release Date: January 11th, 2014

Running Time: 60 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Atsuko Maeda, Ryohei Suzuki, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Aissy

Website

Kiyoshi Kurosawa at the Rome Film Festival2013 was the year for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s return to mainstream big-budget filmmaking. He released two films, both star-packed with idols. The first was the big-budget sci-fi film Real, a title that was subject to critically and commercially middling responses. I found it a dull trudge through a slight story with one-note characters played by Takeru Sato and Haruka Ayase. The better received of the two movies, and definitely the most interesting viewing experience, was his latest film Seventh Code which won two awards at the Rome Film Festival for Best director and technical contribution for Koichi Takahashi, the editor. Kurosawa was reportedly very surprised to get them. After watching Seventh Code I can see why.

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Real リアル-完全なる首長竜の日- (2013)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa Real (11)

Real                                                                                 Real Film Poster

Japanese Title: リアル 完全なる首長竜の日

Romaji: Riaru Kanzen’naru Shuchou Ryuu no Hi

Release Date: June 01st, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Rokuro Inui (Original Novel)

Starring: Takeru Sato, Haruka Ayase, Jo Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Shota Sometani, Keisuke Horibe, Kyoko Koizumi, Yuki Kan

Real was one of two films directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa that were released last year, the other being Seventh Code which stars former AKB48 member, Atsuko Maeda. Real is Kurosawa’s biggest budgeted film in a long time. Based on an award-winning mystery novel and featuring two beautiful leads anchored by a supporting cast of familiar and excellent actors the biggest mystery is why the film turned out so dull.

Koichi (Sato), a physical fitness trainer, and Atsumi (Ayase), a manga artist, are beautiful people who seem to lead a blessed life.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa Real Image 2

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Penance Shokuzai 贖罪 (2012)

Penance Eiko Koike Banner

Penance                   Shokuzai Drama Poster

Romaji: Shokuzai

Japanese Title: 贖罪

Running Time: 300 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Script), Kanae Minato (Original Novel)

Starring: Kyoko Koizumi, Eiko Koike, Sakura Ando, Chizuru Ikewaki, Yu Aoi, Mirai Moriyama, Ryo Kase, Teruyuki Kagawa, Hirofumi Arai

For the last few years I have reviewed a J-horror film or something twisted for this blog for Halloween. Well, I was reviewing lots of J-horror anyway but I would only write about something really good, usually from my favourite directors like Nightmare Detective (Shinya Tsukamoto) and Strange Circus (Sion Sono). This year I will review Penance directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

kurosawa-penance

It was originally broadcast on the Japanese TV station WOWOW in five parts. A shorter version running at 270 minutes toured western film festivals like Venice and the East End Film Festival so it could be watched in one go. It has picked up for distribution by Music Box Films for release in the UK/Canada and US some time next year. I have watched the original episodes made for Japanese TV.

Penance is a five-episode TV drama based on Kanae Minato’s 317 page novel of the same name (Minato also wrote the novel which the film Confessions is based on) and is Kurosawa’s follow-up to the magnificent Tokyo Sonata.

Penance Emiri in School

Emiri Aachi is an elementary school student whose family have moved from urban Tokyo to sleepy Ueda due to her father’s work. She makes friends with four girls named Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuka. Emiri is the fashionable one who has all of the latest things and she brings some excitement into the lives of the girls but strange things are going on including the theft of French dolls. One day when the five girls are playing volleyball at school they are approached by a man dressed in work-clothes. He has been watching them intently and asks for their help in repairing the ventilation system in the school gym.

Penance Inciting Incident  Continue reading “Penance Shokuzai 贖罪 (2012)”