East of Jefferson ジェファソンの東  Dir: Koji Fukada (2018) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

East of Jefferson

ジェファソンの東 Jefason no Higashi

Release Date: June 16th, 2018

Running Time: 18 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Yuri Ogino, Tatsuya Kawamura, Tsuyoshi Kondo,

Website

This short film is about the night two men and a woman meet at a love hotel. While it sounds like a set-up for an AV film, it turns out to be a blackly comic take on a “reunion” with a bleakish ending rather than some erotic fun. Much like Human Comedy Tokyo (and much of Fukada’s oeuvre), the awkward interactions between humans are the focus of the story.

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Yalta Conference Online ヤルタ会談 “オンライン化”!  Dir: Koji Fukada (2020) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

Yalta Conference Online

ヤルタ会談オンライン化“!  Yaruta Kaidan “Onrainka”!

Release Date: June 01st, 2020

Running Time: 38 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Hiroko Matsuda, Yozo Shimada, Fumie Midorikawa 

The Yalta Conference Online is, like the title suggests, a re-imagination of the famous meeting that happened on February 04th, 1945, between Stalin (Hiroko Matsuda), Roosevelt (Fumie Midorikawa) and Churchill (Yozo Shimada). There is none of the pomp and ceremony given to these grand old men, this is a Zoom meeting and so they all get online to chat about the post-war world. Pleasantries turn into negotiations over how to finish the fighting, and who occupies where but the writing and performances are done with the flippancy and awkwardness of an online talk and the humour is shadowed with the audience’s understanding of how their plans turned out.

It is based on a Hirata Oriza stage-play which was made expressly for the We Are One Global Film Festival and it works well within the limitations. The historical figures are all played as caricatures with our manner and social mores. The fact that they wear silly costumes and that the gender of the actors doesn’t matter should be a good indication of this being a comedy and the performances ply absurd and ironic laughs from what is a cheeky adaptation of history.

The dialogue comes thick and fast with grandstanding mixed with gossiping and through their talk we see their overblown pride and prejudice and inaccurate readings of the future. Particularly biting is the casual anti-semitism, orientalism and prejudice as well as the sense of western supremacy and superiority which still exists to this day. What steers this from being offensive is that the characters are clearly parodies of the real people and the film allows audiences to critique their ideas so it is able to be viewed as mordantly funny when they are dismissively talking about liquidating a group of officers or their treatment of refugees. Also, having Japanese play these people helps in lessening any offence and adds some interesting subtext in the mocking of the imperial mindset of Japan at the time which adds an interesting dimension of self-awareness.

There are some inconsistencies in the area of dialogue such as a mention of James Bond which Ian Flemyng created after the war and the constant reference to England rather than Britain, but the dialogue is delivered with witty repartee as the actors, all part of the same acting company, have whizz-bang chemistry that gives them brilliant line delivery. Of particular note is Hiroko Matsuda who has worked with director Koji Fukada on Human Comedy Tokyo, Hospitalite, and Au revoir l’eteI believe. Everyone has perfect timing but she goes up and down the scales of hysteria at different times for added comic oomph.

This is based on a stageplay from Hirata Oriza and the actors all belong to his Seinendan group (some of whom are in The Woman of the Photographs) and they are all pitch-perfect in their parody and are fairly physical despite the limitations of online chats. Ensuring that this isn’t a visually uninteresting talkpocalypse, each person has a prop and costume that fits in with the national stereotype and they move around to fiddle with their computer’s camera, green screens, and Zoom backgrounds for some quick gags. The screens change position and size depending upon who joins the chat and text is used. The way tech is display and characters behave accurately captures the new way we communicate in this era of Covid-19 and that makes the film even funnier.

Inabe いなべ Dir: Koji Fukada (2013) [We Are One Global Film Festival]

Inabe   Inabe Film Poster

いなべ Inabe

Release Date: November 01st, 2013

Running Time: 38 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay),

Starring: Hiroaki Matsuda, Ami Kurata, Yui Ito, Koji Nishida, Minami Inoue,

Website IMDB

Koji Fukada is regarded as one of the leading lights of Japanese cinema and he is someone who I have covered on this blog, from his opener Human Comedy Tokyo (2008) to his Cannes award-winner Harmonium (2016) and other titles. He has the ability to tackle subtle elements in human relationships with black humour and seriousness as well as a light touch. Inabe stands as one of my favourites because of its simplicity and earnestness but more is lurking underneath the honest emotions shared between two siblings who are reunited after years apart.

Tomohiro (Hiroaki Matsuda) is a 30-something guy who hasn’t seen his older sister Naoko (Ami Kurata) in 17 years. He is surprised and suspicious when she returns to their hometown of Inabe with a baby, her son Naoki. Their meeting is out of the blue. She steps off a train, walks to the pig farm he works at, and waits for him to clock off. Initially awkward, they talk as they head to the family home where Naoko reintroduces herself to relatives and soon she is digging into Tomohiro’s current marital woes. This digging gets deeper and more personal as the two wander around childhood haunts.

Continue reading “Inabe いなべ Dir: Koji Fukada (2013) [We Are One Global Film Festival]”

Mini Theater Aid: A Crowdfunding Campaign to Support Japanese Independent Cinemas!

This is a quick post just to promote a crowdfunding event to support independent cinemas across Japan during the Coronavirus epidemic. 
Mini Theater Aid Logo

It’s called Mini Theater Aid and it launched earlier today and lasts until May 15th with a target amount 100,000,000 yen that is hoped to be raised. It was set up by the directors Koji Fukada (Harmonium, Au revoir l’ete) and Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) in response to the closure of small cinemas up and down Japan as the country tries to contain Coronavirus infections.

Due to the recent declaration of a state of emergency, public venues have had to close and this means they will not be able to make money. In the absence of paying customers and any support from the government in paying rent and salaries and so forth, these cinemas may find themselves struggling as the shutdown unfolds. This emergency fund will help guarantee that these establishments, all of which are important to the cinema ecosystem of Japan, can keep going. It’s these cinemas that sustain indie films since they give the movies limited runs across the year as the films tour the country. In short, without these cinemas, indie film directors, film students and audiences would struggle to screen their works and people would struggle to see these films, especially in a community setting.

Continue reading “Mini Theater Aid: A Crowdfunding Campaign to Support Japanese Independent Cinemas!”

Harmonium 深田晃司 Dir: Koji Fukada (2016)

Harmonium  harmonium-film-poster 

深田晃司 「Fuchi ni Tatsu

Release Date: October 10th, 2016

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Takahiro Miura, Momone Shinokawa,

IMDB   Website

Koji Fukada’s Harmonium took the Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and for good reason because it shows a director in precise control of his material. Story-wise, it follows in the footsteps of his debut feature Hospitalite (2011) wherein a stranger enters the lives of a family and disrupts things. While Fukada’s earlier title was light-hearted and poked fun at the social mores of Japan, this film is harsher with only a few dashes of hope beaming down in the final scenes.

Taking the lead is experienced thesp Kanji Futurachi, a familiar face from Fukada’s earlier films like Au Revoir l’ete (2015) and Human Comedy Tokyo (2012) and, crucially, Hospitalite (2011) where he was the stranger that forced a revolution on a family. In a role reversal he is the patriarch and a victim of sorts here as he plays Toshio, the owner of a small factory in the suburbs of some city or other. No location is given. It’s a nondescript and quiet place where he lives a quiet existence with his church-going wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and their daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa). It is she who plays the titular harmonium that gives the film’s soundtrack a funereal sense.

Harmonium Film Image

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Human Comedy in Tokyo 東京人間喜劇 Dir: Koji Fukada (2008)

Human Comedy in Tokyo    Human Comedy Tokyo Film Poster

東京人間喜劇 Tokyo Ningen Kigeki

Running Time: 139 mins.

Release Date: October 11th, 2008

Director:  Koji Fukada

Writer:  Koji Fukada (Screenplay),

Starring: Michitaro Mizushima, Misako Watanabe, Shoichi Ozawa, Shinsuke Ashida, Mari Shiraki, Akira Hisamatsu, Tatsuo Matsushita, Reiko Arai, Kotoe Hatsui,

IMDB

Having watched Fukada’s later works, Harmonium (2016), Sayonara (2015) and Au revoir l’ete (2013) (in that order), I was a fool to expect his feature-film debut Human Comedy Tokyo (2008) to actually be a comedy. What it has to say about human relations makes it one of the bleakest films I have seen in a while as we find that the title is super ironic because he depicts people in Tokyo as super isolated. Continue reading “Human Comedy in Tokyo 東京人間喜劇 Dir: Koji Fukada (2008)”

Au revoir l’ete ほとりの朔子 Dir: Koji Fukada (2014)

Au revoir l’ete          

Au revoir lete Film poster
Au revoir lete Film poster

ほとりの朔子 「Hotori no Sakuko」

Running Time: 125 mins.

Release Date: January 18th, 2014

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Mayu Tsuruta, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Ena Koshino, Makiko Watanabe, Kiki Sugino

Website

Koji Fukada is a film-maker inspired by the cultures of France and Indonesia as best evidenced by him transplanting elements to his native Japan in his many works. His like of French New Wave cinema is made obvious by this film, Au Revoir l’ete, which means goodbye summer and plays like an Eric Rohmer film where relationships are unpicked in a nonchalant manner as we get to a deeper understanding of some human relationships. It’s the perfect title for a film that describes the quiet misadventures of a teenage girl who waves goodbye to her naivete and matures a little more while in the company of some childish adults.

It is late August and an eighteen-year-old Tokyoite Sakuko (Fumi Nikaido) is a ronin student who is preparing to take her university entrance exam after flunking her previous one. Studying is the perfect excuse for her to tag along with her aunt Mikie (Mayu Tsuruta) who is house-sitting for her sister, Sakuko’s mother, in a sleepy coastal town.

Au revoir l'ete Film Image 3

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Sayonara さよなら Dir: Koji Fukada (2015)

Sayonara      

Sayonara Film Poster
Sayonara Film Poster

さよなら「Sayonara

Running Time: 112 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer:  Koji Fukada, Oriza Hirata (Screenplay),

Starring: Bryerly Long, Hirofumi Arai, Geminoid F, Makiko Murata, Yuko Kibiki, Nijiro Murakami,

Website   IMDB

Koji Fukada’s (Hospitalité, Au revoir l’été) 2015 movie Sayonara is billed as the first ever film with an android as one of the stars. As intriguing as seeing an artificial life-form act seems to be, the final result is a pretty lifeless affair in both acting and story terms but it does have some emotional impact.

It is based on a collaboration between Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata (a familiar collaborator with Fukada) and a leading robotics scientist named Hiroshi Ishiguro who works at Osaka University and has been developing different models of the Geminoid androids since 2005. Their team-up resulted in a 15-minute stage-play that travelled Japan with people being able to see the actor Bryerly Long conversing with the latest in android technology. With the two actors on stage and sat down it was a largely static affair in a story where a human woman comes to terms with her impending death through talking and the recitation of poetry. The film largely adopts the stage-play from what I have read and, despite looking good, suffers from relaying the content straight in an end-of-the-world tale that takes two hours but feels longer.

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hospitalité 歓待1.1 Dir: Koji Fukada (2011)

hospitalité   Hospitalite Film Poster

歓待1.1 Kantai 1.1

Running Time: 153 mins.

Release Date: April 23rd, 2011

Director:  Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)

Starring: Kenji Yamauchi, Kiki Sugino, Kanji Furutachi, Bryerly Long, Eriko Ono, Naoki Sugawara, Hiroko Matsuda,

IMDB

Japan is a society where manners and decorum are everything. This is good for the most part. Politeness is the oil that makes society run smoothly. It does have its problems because it can be a nice veneer used to cover up nefarious behaviour or act as a battering ram forcing people to act certain ways. In such an environment, all sorts of negative emotions like paranoia and mistrust can run rife under the surface of individuals and social groups. Hospitalite makes this environment its playground and takes things to absurd heights as it critiques how Japanese society can use outsiders as a scapegoat for problems inside the community.

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Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2017

It’s a grey day in Osaka and pretty cold but I’m staying indoors for most of it since I am cleaning video game consoles. Anyway, The Rotterdam International Film Festival starts later this month and it features a plethora films from Japan that range from the familiar to the new, plus there’s some interesting little shorts. It’s a programme packed with Japanese films but actually using the website to find them was irritating due to the search options, the way information was hidden and the overall look. I’m not a fan. I searched for it so you don’t have to.

Enough of my whining, there are many great films on offer from Roman Porno to yakuza comedy and this is another great year for Rotterdam.

Here’s what’s on offer (click on the titles to be taken to pages with more information):

haruneko-film-imag

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2017”