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Japanese Films at the San Sebastian International Film Festival 2020 (September 18th-26th)

san sebastian film festival 2020 Logo

This year’s San Sebastian International Film Festival runs from September 18th to the 26th and they have announced their selection of films. Due to the Covid-19, the festival has reduced what it will show and created a mixed programme of physical and online activities (details here). There are three Japanese films, as far as I am aware and they are detailed below. Take a look!

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Japanese Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2020 (September 10th-20th)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Post Header

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 10th to the 20th and they have announced their selection of films. Due to the Covid-19, it is a reduced festival with just 50 titles but there are works from major directors as well as plenty of new talents. In terms of attending the fest, there are some in-person events like drive-ins, outdoor screenings and some indoor screenings, that will be mixed with online screenings and virtual press conferences talks. There are two Japanese films and they are both by leading ladies in the industry. Take a look!

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Naomi Kawase in London in September for: Naomi Kawase: In Focus – Open City Documentary Festival 2019

Naomi Kawase¹ (website) is in London in September for the Open City Documentary Festival 2019 where she will take part in three screenings and will introduce a selection of her works and take part in a Q&A and extended talk. Called, “Naomi Kawase: In Focus”, this particular festival strand, organised with the help of the Japan Foundation, is a unique opportunity to see some of the early films that helped make Naomi Kawase a major presence in world cinema as these self-documentaries show her nascent skull which developed while she recorded some of the most intimate details of her life as she searched for her identity on screen. Most prominent amongst the films is the influence of her adoptive mother, Uno Kawase, which is a bond that is put on screen in a moving set of films which have been highly lauded.

Here are the details. Just click on the titles to access the festival page and booking information:

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Japanese Films at the Glasgow International Film Festival 2019

The Glasgow Film Festival (February 20th – March 03rd) will launch for its 15th edition in just under a month’s time and there are three Japanese films on offer and one Japan-China co-production. Two of the titles come from Third Window Films and two have not been licensed for the UK as far as I am aware so this might be your best chance to see them.

Here is what is on offer:

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Radiance 光 Dir: Naomi Kawase (2017)

RadianceHikari Film Poster

 Hikari

Running Time: 129 mins.

Release Date: May 27th , 2017

Director: Naomi Kawase

Writer: Naomi Kawase (Screenplay),

Starring: Masatoshi Nagase, Ayame Misaki, Tatsuya Fuji, Chihiro Ohtsuka, Kazuko Shirakawa, Saori Koide, Nobumitsu Onishi, Mantaro Koichi,

Website IMDB

Naomi Kawase is one of the “4 Ks”, directors who dominate contemporary Japanese cinema (the others are Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Kitano and Kore-eda) and she is a film-maker whose ability to capture sensual experiences makes for transcendent films. This is something which masks the slightness of some of her stories but at the same time it lends them more power. With Radiance she looks at the transcendent nature of film itself and she does so through the realm of using words.

Misako Ozaki (Ayame Misaki) is a woman who is involved in a project providing audio description for films for the visually impaired. She watches films and writes down the best way to describe scenes and characters and then presents them to a panel of people who critique her work so she can tweak it for a wider release. Masaya Nakamori (Masatoshi Nagase) is one of those people on the panel. He is a genius photographer and he has the harshest criticisms. The two initially don’t get on because Masaya has a cold attitude but when Misako sees a photograph of a sunset shot by him, she is inspired to look into Masaya’s life and discovers that he is losing his sight and their relationship changes as she gets to know him.Radiance Film Image 2

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Vision ビジョン Dir: Naomi Kawase (2018)

Vision    Vision Film Poster

ビジョン Bijon

Running Time: 110 mins.

Release Date: June 08th, 2018

Director:  Naomi Kawase

Writer: Naomi Kawase (Screenplay),

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Masatoshi Nagase, Min Tanaka, Mari Natsuki, Mirai Moriyama, Minami,

Website    IMDB

Naomi Kawase is a director who translates new age ideas to the screen with ease. Her work evidences an eye for the beauty of the natural world and a knack for getting good performances from her actors. Kawase delivers beautiful paeans to the power of life itself as exemplified here in a story of a French woman who heads to an ancient forest in Japan as she seeks a mysterious herb that can heal many things including, she hopes, an aching pain in her heart.

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Sweet Bean あん Dir: Naomi Kawase (2015)

Sweet Bean

An Sweet Red Bean Paste Film Poster
An Sweet Red Bean Paste Film Poster

あん 「An」

Release Date: May 30th, 2015

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Naomi Kawase,

Writer: Naomi Kawase (Screenplay), Tetsuya Akikawa (Original Novel),

Starring:  Masatoshi Nagase, Kirin Kiki, Kyara Uchida, Etsuko Ichihara, Miki Mizuno, Taiga, Wakato Kanematsu, Miyoko Asada.

Website   IMDB

Travelling through Japan is an amazing culinary experience because of the sheer amount of restaurants, stores and street food available in shotengai, yokocho and main streets. Everything from big chains to small stores selling a variety of things from tasteless but healthy jelly-like konyaku to the pastry-like manju (the greatest delicacy!!!) all cooked up and served by a variety of people. The most memorable encounters I had were usually old ladies with crooked backs bent from a lifetime of hard work. While they were cooking they would impart some of their experiences and what the food means and these experiences and informed how they cooked and made the food seem more meaningful and tasty than store-bought goods. It is this sort of thing that Naomi Kawase channels in her drama Sweet Bean which is based on a novel by Durian Sukegawa. It tells the tale of a melancholy cake shop owner who rediscovers his joie de vivre after meeting an exceptional person. It marries Kawase’s visual lyricism and penchant for making connections between humans and nature to a simple tale and works well.

Sweet beans, known as an in Japanese, is a wonderfully sweet-tasting thick substance made from adzuki beans and is a filling usually found in confections from doughnuts to the dorayaki as seen in this film. Dorayaki are like pancakes where the batter is poured onto a metal griddle and flipped with a spatula before the sweet bean filling is added.

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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

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review Round-Up: Naomi Kawase’s “Radiance”

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 Before We Vanish is…

Radiance

Radiance Film Image 2

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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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