And Your Bird Can Sing きみの鳥はうたえる Dir: Sho Miyake (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]

And Your Bird Can Sing   Kimi no tori wa utaeru Film Poster

きみの鳥はうたえる Kimi no tori wa utaeru

Release Date: September 01st, 2018

Duration: 119 mins.

Director: Sho Miyake

Writer: Sho Miyake (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Novel)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Tasuku Emoto, Shizuka Ishibashi, Makiko Watanabe, Ai Yamamoto,

Website IMDB

Film adaptations of stories by the writer Yasushi Sato have slowly been made over the last decade with Sketches of Kaitan City (2010) by director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Mipo Oh’s The Light Shines Only There (2014) and Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence (2016) joined by Sho Miyake’s And Your Bird Can Sing which premiered at the 2018 Tokyo International Film Festival. All are set in the author’s native city of Hakodate in the north of Japan and all centre on the lives of working-class people, showing them with subtle shades of sadness in slow moving dramas struck through with moments of beauty for some uplift. And Your Bird Can Sing is the least dramatic of the bunch but no less engaging.  

The film takes place over one summer in Hakodate and follows an unnamed protagonist (Tasuku Emoto), simply referred to as “Me” in the credits. He is a freeter who works at a bookstore while sharing an apartment with his unemployed friend, Shizuo (Shota Sometani). They pass their time together drinking from dusk until dawn and shambling home in a fit of giggles after some mild caper. “Me” will frequently roll into work with a hangover while Shizuo will potter around during the day in anticipation of the night to come which promises a repeat of their antics. They are young, aimless and content. However, their lethargic days are shaken when “Me” begins dating his co-worker Sachiko (Shizuka Ishibashi). Independent and quietly rebellious, she is attracted to “Me” and his laid back nature. Curiosity turns into companionship as she gets roped into his hang-about life and meets Shizuo.

For “Me” and Sachiko the future appears so far off as to be inconsequential especially with more immediate pleasures at hand which consist long nights spent bopping to beats in clubs or slipping in and out of a lover’s embrace but change will happen because there is an ever so gentle forward motion to the story driven by Shizuo’s growing attraction to Sachiko. Sho Miyake’s camerawork loves Shizuka Ishibashi’s spirited performance as she slinks and grooves through scenes and she imbues a liveliness to her character which naturally holds the attention of the audience as well as other characters, Shizuo especially as his snatched glances and side-eyed stares segue into touchy-feely interactions during their many trips to karaoke bars and clubs.

“Me” seems to just accept the situation with indifference but the subtle shifting of emotions presages bigger changes as the three friends start to slowly slip away from each other at a time when employment and family pressures mount and provide unwelcome pricks of reality that let the air out of the snug and comfortable world they created. Responsibilities avoided come crashing down and it seems like the fun is over as the story forces them to reassess their situation and recognise a general malaise they feel from having held life in stasis for some time. 

This is a soft drama rather than something hardscrabble, something that explores the harmony of companionship where the pace of the film is affected by the lifestyle of the three as they while away their time but the emotional fluctuations are there and they lurk under the surface of scenes, usually in subtle movements of the actors. When the pressure mounts, hints of nastiness emerge, Shota Sometani and Tasuku Emoto able to turn their character on a dime and launch into aggressiveness and then reveal a more sympathetic worry to add welcome layers of emotions to characters that initially just seem aimless. 

Sho Miyake chooses to use this slow pace to delicately tease out the changes felt between these people in moments of low drama so the film ends up feeling like a tender and caring examination of characters preparing to face complicated feelings rather than something harsher as experienced in other adaptations of Yasushi Sato’s work. Miyake probably captures the freeter lifestyle accurately as he respects and translates the pleasures of their lives, shooting everything with a pleasant light, often during dusk and dawn, giving the image a quality that softens everything and renders their activities and the city of Hakodate more beautiful than it could possibly be in reality. Reality can be harsh but there is some hope at the end of this film as they have to leave behind their freeter lifestyles. As much as they like hanging out, at some point the party has to end but who will leave with the girl…?

 

My review for this film was originally published on July 21st at VCinema

Masters of Cinema Release of the Naomi Kawase Film “The Mourning Forest” on August 21st

Eureka Entertainment will release Naomi Kawase’s award-winning film, The Mourning Forest in a dual format blu-ray and DVD set on August 21st (you can order it on Amazon). It is released as part of The Masters of Cinema Series and Naomi Kawase has certainly earned that title since she is a stalwart of the festival circuit and has won many awards. Here are the details on the film:

Mogari no Mori Film Image Machiko Ono

Continue reading “Masters of Cinema Release of the Naomi Kawase Film “The Mourning Forest” on August 21st”

Sion Sono’s Twisted Romance “Love Exposure” Screened at Japan Society New York June 03rd

Love Exposure's Interesting Ride

The film section on the Japan Society (New York) website has a listing for a screening of Love Exposure (2009). There’s this sentence:

“In anticipation of the upcoming 10th edition of JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film (July 14-24, 2016) we screen Sion Sono’s notorious masterpiece about love, family, religion and upskirt photography.”

That sentence leads me to assume that Sion Sono’s two latest films, Whispering Star and Love and Peace will get screened at Japan Cuts this year. The two have been on the festival circuit and are at this year’s Nippon Connection.

Continue reading “Sion Sono’s Twisted Romance “Love Exposure” Screened at Japan Society New York June 03rd”

Au revoir l’ete UK Release Information

Au Revoir l’ete will be getting a UK release courtesy of the film company day for night. Even though the film was screened at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival and I was aware that it was picked up for UK distribution but lost track of it after that. Thankfully a kind reader named Rachel Amandus alerted me to a future screening and that got me doing some rummaging around the internet for information to make this post!

Continue reading “Au revoir l’ete UK Release Information”

Japanese Films at Cannes Film Festival 2014: Still the Water Trailer and Details

Genki Cannes Film Festival 2014 Banner

The films playing at the Cannes Film Festival were announced earlier today and as expected Naomi Kawase’s latest feature is in Competition. She is competing against a field full of very strong directors like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, David Cronenberg and Jean-Luc Godard. Kawase’s film looks the most intriguing to me, although Mike Leigh’s film about JMW Turner has me interested as well. Here are the details on Kawase’s film (alas, no trailer. I guess we’ll have to wait):

Continue reading “Japanese Films at Cannes Film Festival 2014: Still the Water Trailer and Details”

Women on the Edge, Eight Ranger, Naruto the Movie: Road to Ninja Trailers and the Japanese Box-Office Chart

Kouhaku Kuroboshi designs for One OffThis week I got my Himizu poster from Adam over at Third Window Films and I wrote two reviews for the J-horror films Shibuya Kaidan 1 and 2 and a preview of Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story. Fuse is really capturing my imagination at the moment. I have been terribly busy this week what with work and life in general and so I found myself watching only a couple of Takeshi Kitano films and no anime (although I did watch the new trailer for One Off which still looks intriguing) and I pretty much stopped posting for AUKN (I wonder if anyone notices). I’m back on a somewhat even keel so I’ll resume my news duties and get back to watching more awesome Japanese films. Wasn’t the opening to the London 2012 Olympics spectacula?

What’s does the Japanese movie box-office chart look like this week?

  1. Umizaru 4: Brave Hearts
  2. The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki
  3. Pikachu the Movie 2012
  4. Helter Skelter
  5. Brave
  6. The Amazing Spider-Man
  7. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 2nd
  8. Soreike! Anpanman Yomigaere Bananajima
  9. Rinjo
  10. Thermae Romae

Last week’s new entry The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki has taken second in the charts while Uzimaru holds onto the top and Helter Skelter holds on to fourth in its second week. Thermae Romae remains in the top ten. Interestingly it was announced for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival alongside Takeshi Kitano’s latest film Outrage Beyond.

What films are released today?

Women on the Edge                                         Women on the Edge Movie Poster

Romaji: Girigiri no Onnatachi

Japanese Title: ギリギリ の 女たち

Release Date: 28th July 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 101 mins.

Director: Masahiro Kobayashi

Writer: Masahiro Kobayashi

Starring: Miho Fujima, Yuko Nakamura, Makiko Watanabe

Masahiro Kobayashi, writer and director of grim films like Bashing is back with Women on the Edge which stars Miho Fujima (Ju-On: The Grudge, Tajomaru), Yuko Nakamura (Blood and Bones), and Makiko Watanabe (Himizu, Love Exposure). Reviews aren’t kind.

The three Onodera sisters return to the home of their deceased parents’ in Kesennuma, Miyagi, a place affected by the Tohoku Earthquake. The house has survived the earthquake and tsunami and the three are looking to claim an inheritance. Nobuko (Nakamura) moved to Tokyo and is a divorcee, Takako (Watanabe) moved to New York and works as a butoh dancer. Third sister Satomi (Fujima) stayed behind. There are deep resentments and over the course of the film they will come out.

 

Eight Ranger                                          Eight Ranger Movie Poster

Eito Renja

Japanese Title: エイトレンジャー

Release Date: 28th July 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi

Writer: N/A

Starring: Yu Yokoyama, Subaru Shibutani, Shingo Murakami, Ryuhei Maruyama, Shota Yasuda, Ryo Nishikido, Tadayoshi Okura, Hiroshi Tachi, Becky, Misako Renbutsu, Renji Ishibashi, Hitomi Takahashi,

Yukihiko Tsutsumi went from box-office smash hit SPEC: Heaven to the more intimate and small-scale film My House. Now he is tackling a parody of super sentai shows as Eight Ranger shows. I really hate that type of show (Takeshi Kitano’s Getting Any? was going along perfectly until the final section with the Earth Defence Force…). It is based on some of the boy band Kanjani Eight’s live performance. Kanjani Eight take the lead roles but there other notable names including Renji Ishibashi (One Missed Call, Audition, Outrage),  Hitomi Takahashi (The Sound of the Sea, Crime or Punishment?!?), and Misako Renbutsu (River, Quirk Guys & Gals).

The devastated city named Eight City is under attack from Dark Crusade and only the Eight Rangers can protect the inhabitants.

Naruto the Movie: Road to Ninja.

Synopsis

Sixteen years ago, a creature known as Kurama the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox was released from its jinchūriki (living prison) by a mysterious ninja and unleahed on the Hidden Leaf Village, leading to the death of many people. In order to stop this demon the Fourth Hokage Minato Namikaze, and his wife Kushia Uzumaki, who was the jinchūriki, sealed the demon inside their new born son, Naruto. With the beast sealed inside Naruto, things went back to being peaceful until a group of ninja known as Akatsuki attack the village. They are under the guidance of Tobi, the mysterious ninja who unleashed the demon the first time.

This is the sixth Naruto movie to be released thus far and it is set in an alternate timeline Naruto the Movie Road to Ninja Posterin which Naruto’s parents are still alive. People also have very different personalities as seen when Sasuke is hitting on Sakura and Hinata is much more aggressive. Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto, is handling the character designs and writing the script with Yuka Miyata (Naruto Shippūden) for the movie. The film is directed by Hayato Date who has handled countless Naruto TV episodes and movies like Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow. The franchise voice actors also return with Junko Takeuchi voicing Naruto, Nana Mizuki voicing Hinata, Noriaki Sugiyama voicing Sasuke and Chie Nakamura voicing Sakura. The awesome J-rock outfit Asian Kung-Fu generation are providing the film’s theme.

Staff: Hayato Date (Director), Masashi Kishimoto (Script/Character Design/Original Creator), Yuka Miyata (Script), Tetsuya Nishio (Animation Director), Asian Kung-Fu Generation (Movie Theme)

Voice Actors: Junko Takeuchi (Naruto Uzumaki), Emi Shinohara (Kushina Uzumaki), Toshiyuki Morikawa (Minato Namikaze), Kazuhiko Inoue (Kakashi Hatake), Chie Nakamura (Sakura Haruno), Nana Mizuki (Hinata Hyuga), Noriaki Sugiyama (Sasuke Uchiha)

Studio: Studio Pierrot

Himizu UK Theatrical Release

Third Window Films is releasing Himizu in selected cinemas across the UK today with screenings in London’s ICA, Prince Charles, Renoir and Riverside Studios cinemas. There will also be showings in Wales at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre from the 11th to the 13th of June, Ireland at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin from the 22nd of June until the 28th, and Scotland at the Eden Court Cinema in Inverness from the 31st of June to the 02nd of August. For a full list of sites and dates check the this page at Third Window Films.

Himizu        Himizu Poster

Release Date: 01st June (UK Theatrical Release), 14th January 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (script adaptation), Minoru Furuya (manga)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaidō, Tetsu Watanabe, Denden, Jun Murakami, Makiko Watanabe, Ken Mitsuishi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Asuka Kurosawa, Taro Suwa, Yosuke Kubozuka Keisuke Horibe, Takahiro Nishijima

Junior high school kid Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) wants a quiet life but his mother (Yukiko Watanabe) comes home with different men every night, and his drunken, hate-filled father (Ken Mitsuishi) only pays him visits when he needs money. Yuichi carries on running the family boat rental business and lives surrounded by homeless people who are victims of the tsunami. Meanwhile at school he is ignoring class-mate Keiko Chazawa(Fumi Nikaidō) who has a massive crush on him. Things get tough when his mother abandons him and Kaneko (Denden), a Yakuza loan-shark, shows up looking for Yuichi’s father and ¥6 million. Pushed to breaking point by his situation Yuichi finds himself unable to control his anger and a series of events leads him to the brink of madness.

Sion Sono (Cold Fish, Exte, Love Exposure) is a favourite director of mine so when Third Window Films announced that they were had acquired the rights to Himizu I was excited to say the least. Then I saw it and was blown away. This is one of the most powerful films to come out of Japan recently and so I urge anybody who has an interest in Japanese films or films in general to go and see it!

Himizu ヒミズ (2012)

Yuichi (Sometani) and Keiko (Nikaidou) in Himizu Banner

Himizu is Sion Sono’s adaptation of Minoru Furuya’s manga of the same name. It involves tough subject matter like child abuse, murder, and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, but it is ultimately a redemptive and moving exploration of life, identity, and the will to live in an unfair world.

Junior high school kid Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) wants a quiet life but his mother (Yukiko Watanabe) comes home with different men every night, and his drunken, hate-filled father (Ken Mitsuishi) only pays him visits when he needs money. Yuichi carries on running the family boat rental business and lives surrounded by homeless people who are victims of the tsunami. Meanwhile at school he is ignoring class-mate Keiko Chazawa (Fumi Nikaidō) who has a massive crush on him. Things get tough when his mother abandons him and Kaneko (Denden), a Yakuza loan-shark, shows up looking for Yuichi’s father and ¥6 million. Pushed to breaking point by his situation Yuichi finds himself unable to control his anger and a series of events leads him to the brink of madness.

 Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) in a Crisis in Himizu

Sion Sono’s films usually carry the tropes of bad parents, abuse, violence, and existential confusion but there is enough black humour and outlandishness to lighten the impact. The audience does not get that here. What we get is an extreme view of the dark side of a modern Japan and the existential soul searching that needs to take place to build a new future and a lesson in never giving up on life.

 “Nobody can touch my future!”

  Continue reading “Himizu ヒミズ (2012)”

Love Exposure 愛のむきだし (2009)

Love Exposure

Sion Sono’s Love Exposure is a tale of lust, obsession and religious ferour which has a four hour running time but breezes by quite happily.

Yu (Nishijima) lives the life of a devout Christian. After his mother dies his father Tetsu (Watabe) becomes a priest but is soon seduced by an emotionally volatile woman named Kaori (Watanabe) who then proceeds to leave him. A heart-broken Tetsu begins to torment the spiritually and morally innocent Yu by forcing him to confess sins on a daily basis.  To appease his father Yu begins to sin on a daily basis and on the advice of delinquent friends he trains to become an expert in upskirt photography and becomes a master at getting panty shots. One day, while dressed as a girl, he witnesses a beautiful man-hating girl named Yoko (Mitsushima) get into a street brawl. He instantly falls in love with her and decides to intervene. Little does he know that a cult leader in the Zero Church named Aya (Ando) is manipulating them for her own purposes.

Aya Koike (Ando) and Her Gang in Love Exposure

Sion Sono has directed and written a story which is bursting with ideas and good humour. It is delivered in a non-linear manner from multiple viewpoints. Unlike Cold Fish there is no grit here and instead what we get is a bright and goofy story that satirises cults, high school romance, martial arts and ‘tosatsu’ – the art of taking pictures of girl’s underwear.

Continue reading “Love Exposure 愛のむきだし (2009)”