Playwright and novelist Shiro Maeda has long been working in films, adapting A Story of Yonosuke (2013)and his novels Isn’t Anyone Alive? (2012) andThe Extreme Sukiyaki (2013) for the big-screen. Indeed, his adaptation of The Extreme Sukiyaki was his directorial debut and he followed it up with Kako: My Sullen Past (2016), an exquisite character-driven story of a teenager plagued by uncertainty and cynicism who finds her dull life turned upside-down when her long-dead aunt dashes back into her life and a whole lot of skeletons tumble out of the closet.
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.
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 (SionSono). This year I will review Penance directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
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.
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.
Starring: Takeru Sato, Haruka Ayase, Jo Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Shota Sometani, Keisuke Horibe, Kyoko Koizumi, Keisuke Horibe, Yuki Kan
Ramble alert (I ramble because I love the subject!)
I am a big Kiyoshi Kurosawa fan. Massive. I have pretty much bought and reviewed most of his major titles available in the west and not one of them disappointed me. His critically acclaimed drama Tokyo Sonata I consider one of the most important films I have ever seen while I think highly of his divisive experimental film Bright Future. I really love his J-horror like Cure and Retribution which run along more fiendishly intelligent and psychologically disturbing lines than your average horror movie. Even films he rejects I find a lot to like about! Each title contains his unique aesthetics and deliberate approach to his subject matter. I am really excited about 2013 because he has a new film getting a release in Japan and the UK gets two of his 90’s crime thrillers thanks to Third Window Films.
Colour me happy when I caught a new trailer and teaser for his latest film Real. It is a title with a sci-fi edge that reminds me a little of Inception what with its concept of entering a person’s subconscious, tilting camera angles, fantasy creatures, gravity defying stationary and ruined coastal town (Atsumi’s mind is the scene of the crime!). This also looks like a really big-budget title which is something Kurosawa tends not to handle but his critical cachet has never been higher. Check out the trailer!
Here is a shorter teaser released a bit earlier. It’s more action packed:
Koichi (Sato) and Atsumi (Ayase) are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss as to what the reason that drove her to do such a thing could be. Now she is in a coma and Koichi needs to find out the reason. Since Koichi is a neurosurgeon he has access to the latest studies and so he takes part in a medical procedure that will allow him to enter Atsumi’s subconscious through her central nervous system.
When he arrives she asks him to find a picture of a plesiosaur she drew as a child. It is the key to a suppressed memory connected to a childhood trauma. Finding this picture will allow Koichi to truly get close to knowing his love.
Miki Satoshi brings his brand of quirky and touching comedy to Adrift in Tokyo, a film which is based on a novel by Naoki Prize winner Yoshinaga Fujita. It won Best Script and Best Film at the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival and it is easy to see why because what starts out as a simple gentle comedy gains great depth.
Fumiya (Jo Odagiri) has been a university student for 8 years and owes money to loan sharks. One named Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura) comes to collect. Fumiya cannot pay so Fukuhara makes a proposition: He will cancel the debt as long as Fumiya agrees to walk with him across Tokyo to the police station in Kasumigaseki, where he intends to turn himself in for a crime he deeply regrets. Fumiya accepts the deal and starts a journey which will lead them to various unusual encounters, most of all with themselves.
Adrift in Tokyo is one of those films where the title says it all. Fumiya and Fukuhara are adrift in a road movie without the road, the two travelling along the streets of Tokyo discovering things about themselves, the city and others.
Fumiya (Jo Odagiri) is broke and lazy. He has been a university student for 8 years and owes money to loan sharks and one day a man named Fukuhara comes to collect. Unfortunately Fumiya cannot pay so Fukuhara makes a proposition: He will cancel the debt as long as Fumiya agrees to walk with him across Tokyo to the police station of Kasumigaseki, where he intends to turn himself in for a crime he deeply regrets. Fumiya accepts the deal which is the start of a journey which will lead them to various unusual encounters, most of all with themselves.
Third Window Films have announced that they are going to release Quirky Guys and Gals on the 3rd of October 2011. This is an anthology film from some interesting directors including Yosuke Fujita (Fine, Totally Fine) and Gen Sekiguchi who was the genius behind Survive Style 5+ a particular favourite of mine.
Quirky Guys and Gals
UK Release Date: 3rd of October 2011
Running time: 91 mins
Directors: Yosuke Fujita (Fine, Totally Fine), Gen Sekiguchi (Survive Style 5), Mipo O, Tomoko Matsunashi.
Starring: Kyoko Koizumi (Tokyo Sonata, Sakuran), YosiYosi Arakawa (Tokyo!, Kamikaze Girls), Keisuke Horibe (Love Exposure, Tokyo Gore Police), Yoshiyuki Morishita (Juon: The Grudge, Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers, Fireworks)
Quirky Guys and Gals (Sabi Otoko, Sabi Onna) ties together four stories of people searching for a spark in their lives. Yosuke Fujita (Fine, Totally Fine) leads off with “Cheer Girls,” an entertaining tale of a woman (Nanami Sakuraba) whose passion is to lead cheers—though not for sports teams. Rather, she finds common people and creates anthems to encourage them in everyday life. Tomoko Matsunashi’s “Boy? Meets Girl,” is a Tootsie remake in a high-school setting. Mipo O’s “Claim Night” sees the 30-something Mayuko (Tomochika) return home to find the electricity in her apartment turned off, yet when she finally gets a repairman to come over, their over-the-top confrontation gives rise to a wildly comedic situation. Lastly, Gen Sekiguchi (Survive Style 5+) offers up “The House Full of ‘Abandoned’ Businessmen” a quaint tale of a housewife who collects out-of-work salarymen to try and give them a fresh start.
DVD BONUS FEATURES:
Anamorphic widescreen transfer with optional English subtitles
Special messages from all four directors
Exclusive interviews with all four directors
I’m looking forward to this release because it has a cast who have been in some of my favourite films of all time (Tokyo Sonata being one) and some of the more interesting directors in Japan to (so that’s what Sekiguchi-san has been doing…). As is usually the case with Third Window Films the bonus features are awesome and the DVD case looks top notch. The DVD is released on the 3rd of October.
I love Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s existential horror films like Cure and Pulse so seeing him depart into the mainstream with a family drama was bittersweet but ultimately rewarding because it resulted in a masterpiece that finally revealed the genius his fans have long-recognised.
When Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) is laid-off from his admin job his life as a salary-man is over and his family life is put at risk. The shame of unemployment means that he keeps his situation a secret from everybody including his wife (Kyoko Koizumi) and two sons, Kenji (Kai Inowaki) who wants to learn to play the piano and Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) who he barely speaks to. This means that each morning he dons his suit, picks up his suitcase and heads off to look for work and eat free soup with the homeless and other unemployed salary-men. Soon the lies and suspicion begin to take its toll.
Synopsis wise it sounds like the perfect tale for the age of global recession. Ryuhei is the victim of corporate outsourcing of jobs and this fragments his identity on different levels. The film charts his increasingly desperate attempts to maintain his image of breadwinner and the authority over his family that comes with it.