Shady かしこい狗は、吠えずに笑う (2013)

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Shady                                   Shady Film Poster                                         

Japanese Title: かしこい狗は、吠えずに笑う

Romaji: Kashikoi Inu wa, Hoezu ni Warau

Release Date: June 22nd, 2013

UK Release Date: March 24th, 2014

Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 94 mins.

Director: Ryohei Watanabe

Writer: Ryohei Watanabe (Screenplay)

Starring: mimpi * β, Izumi Okamura, Isao Nakazawa, Gota Ishida, Ayumi Seko

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Japanese film industry has resorted to producing nothing more than big-budget adaptations of novels, books, and anime and retreads of tried and tested formulas. Original ideas are still alive and kicking, particularly in the indie scene, but sometimes hard to track amidst all of the noise that the bigger releases produce. When an original indie film does make a splash, word spreads quickly over the internet. “Shady” is a prime example.

The first post fellow blogger Alua made for 2013 contained the trailer for this film and I commented on it stating that I liked it. I kept an eye on it and finally got to see it at last year’s Raindance Film Festival and let me tell you what a surprise it was.

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Sake-Bomb

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Sake-Bomb                                                                           Sake bomb film poster

Seen as part of the Raindance Film Festival     

Running Time: 91 mins.

Director: Junya Sakino

Writer: Jeff Mizushima (Screenplay),

Starring: Gaku Hamada. Eugene Kim, Marlane Barnes, Josh Brodis, Samatha Quan, Hiroyuki Watanabe

A Sake-Bomb is a type of drink created when a cup of sake is balanced on chopsticks on a glass of beer. When the table is hit the chopsticks move and the sake falls into the beer and the beer is then drunk in one go. Effectively this is a mixing of East and West (through alcohol) which is what this film hopes to achieve in what is almost a refreshingly new take on a comedy staple the road-trip movie.

Sake-Bomb Naoto and his Boss

Naoto (Hamada) is an unassuming looking chap who works at a brewery in a rural part of Japan. Because his soon-to-retire boss (Denden) considers him the best employee at the brewery Naoto finds himself named as the successor for the business. Before that can happen his boss tells him to take a week off and do something he has always wanted to do so he can settle down and devote his life to brewing alcohol. With this advice in mind Naoto heads to America to track down a former girlfriend who taught him English before disappearing without a trace.

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Ku_On クオン (2013)

Ku_On                                          Ku_On Poster

Japanese Title: クオン 久遠 

Running Time: 78 mins.

Seen at the Raindance Independent Film Festival

Director: Takayuki Hatamura

Writer: Takayuki Hatamura

Starring: Hidemasa Shiozawa, Haruna Isaoka, Seiko Seno, Yusei Tajima, Sou Sato, Shizuka

We begin 200 years in the past in a small village in the Tohoku region. A man is about to commit suicide.

Cut to a prison where a man in an orange jump-suit named Ushio is having a parole meeting. His interviewer takes a gander at his art. It’s all abstract (enough of a crime for some) but the colours and shapes are violent.

Cut to a mental hospital where two women talk to each other. The talk turns into an argument and one named Sayo leaves.

These incidents will link up when weeeeee…

Cut to Hiroyuki Sano, a 26-year-old office drone and our protagonist. He is standing over his body after inadvertently transferring his mind into that of a work colleague. Now his original body lies on the floor, an empty husk devoid of life.

Ku_On Sano

Panicking, he tries his best to revive himself, shaking his former body manically only to be discovered by an OL who was out for coffee. Understandably she freaks out at the sight of him shaking an unconscious man about but Sano could still save the situation by explaining that he has run across a chap who has collapsed or maybe is acting or anything but what he does next… he makes the mistake of running.

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Shindo – The Beat Knocks Her World – 震動 (2013)

Shindo – The Beat Knocks Her World –Shindo Nao and Les Paul

Japanese Title: 震動

Running Time: 73 mins.

Director: Asami Hirano

Writer: Asami Hirano (Screenplay),

Starring: Shumpei Kawagoishi, Kana Kita, Kyutaro, Takuya Matsunaga, Gen Ogawa, Yuji Kaneda, Maya Kondo

It is a balmy summer and Haruki (Kawagoishi), a rather quiet and reserved high-school student, is on the cusp of graduation. He lives in a small and quiet country town and his days are pretty uniform. He awakes in a group home and gets ready for school helping the other kids there as well. With his school bag packed and his iPod fully charged, he heads to school listening to music and dutifully does his lessons before going to work at a convenience store and then heading back to the home and helping out around the place, all with his iPod Shindo Second Viewing (3)creating a soundtrack for him.

The one person or thing he really cares about most is Nao (Kita), a deaf girl who has lived in the same orphanage since they were young children. They are devoted to each other and with graduation on the horizon Haruki has a plan for their future mapped out: he intends to use the money he has saved from working at the convenience store to buy a place for the two of them to live in together.

Enter classmate Aki. He is a wild-haired drummer in a rock group in need of a guitarist. Aki Shindo Haruki and His Bandasks Haruki to play guitar and even though Haruki has never touched one in his life, Aki is persistent because Haruki is left-handed and left-handed guitarists (Hendrix, Cobain, McCartney) are cool and the band needs cool more than it needs technical skill. Haruki can learn this stuff, right?

Shindo Haruki and his Guitar

Haruki is initially reluctant but Nao pushes him because she knows of his love for music. As Haruki plays with the band it widens his horizons as he spends more time with others practicing and performing at concerts and gaining fans but as Haruki becomes more devoted to music Nao feels a growing distance between them and becomes unhappy as the music steals Haruki away.

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Genkina hito at the Raindance Film Festival 2013

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I’m back in London at another film festival a week after this year’s Raindance Independent Film Festival finished.

The thing about this festival is that it screens titles that would be hard to find even in their native countries. Indie films that would have a narrow release, usually in a capital city (Tokyo, London) and perhaps at some regional third-tier film festivals. If I had to describe the titles I watched with simple words then I would use confident and stylish. Every story was told with an assured skill and was highly absorbing. The only downside was the small turn-out for each of the films I attended. It was most disappointing during the Remiges screening because I played a part in getting it into the festival and the director came all the way from Japan to perform a Q&A!

The most positive thing is that I met friends and watched excellent films that have shot to the top of my favourite films of the year list – oh how I loved watching Shady, The Kirishima Thing, and Remiges – and I’ve become immersed even more in cinema culture.

Even more immersed in the culture?

Well, I write for Gigan magazine and some of my reviews for the festival appeared in the paper edition (no sign of digital yet). Thanks to Adam of Third Window Films I was able to conduct a couple of interviews with directors. So what reviews do I have in connection with the festival? Here are the reviews and interviews:

The Kirishima Thing

Shindo 

Ku_On 

Sake-Bomb + Interview 

Remiges + Interview 

Shady

The Kirishima Thing                                         The Kirishima Thing Poster          

Romaji: Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo

Japanese Title: 桐島、 部活 やめるってよ

Running Time: 103 mins.

Director: Daihachi Yoshida

Writer: Ryo Asai (Original Novel), Kohei Kiyasu, Daihachi Yoshida (Screenplay)

Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Suzuka Ohgo, Mayu Matsuoka, Motoki Ochiai, Masahiro Higashide, Kurui Shimizu, Mizuki Yamamoto,   

The Kirishima Thing is a teen drama featuring a collection of bright young things of the Japanese acting world that show they are a new and strong generation of talent. Its depiction of the social mores and strata in high school is well-observed and real and for its efforts it was the big winner at the recent Japanese Academy Awards scoring Best Film and Best Director prizes. I already watched and reviewed it before the festival so expect a re-review or lots of picture/Gifs.

When high school volleyball star player Kirishima quits the team shockwaves are sent through the school. This is the story of the students surrounding Kirishima from his friend Hiroki Kikuchi (Higashide), girlfriend Risa (Yamamoto), Aya (Ohgo) a brass band musician with a crush on Kirishima, badminton player Kasumi (Hashimoto), and the president of the film club Maeda (Kamiki). The students will cross social boundaries and defy groups as they attempt to redefine themselves.

 

Shady                                                                           Shady Film Poster 

Japanese Title: かしこい狗は、吠えずに笑う

Romaji: Kashikoi Inu wa, Hoezu ni Warau

Release Date: June 22nd, 2013

Director: Ryohei Watanabe

Writer: Ryohei Watanabe (Screenplay)

Starring: mimpi * β, Izumi Okamura, Isao Nakazawa, Gota Ishida, Ayumi Seko

I’ve been hyped for this ever since seeing at on Alua’s blog back in January. This film was released in June 2013 and it has been wowing critics and distributors (Winner of the Entertainment Award at the PIA Film Festival) and has been picked up by Third Window Films for the UK. This was my film of the festival. It was a genuinely unexpected treat that kept me hooked from start to finish. I want the soundtrack as well!

 

Misa Kumada (mimpi * β), an outcast at her school who is mercilessly teased and has no friends. She hates the place but when the popular and pretty Izumi Kiyose (Okamura) befriends her the two develop bonds of friendship. What Misa doesn’t know is that the seemingly angelic Kiyose has quite a dark side.

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Japanese Films at the Raindance Film Festival 2013

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The films for the Raindance Film Festival (September 25th – October 06th ) have been announced and there are a lot of Japanese titles on offer in the Way Out East strand. There are some I have reviewed, some I have viewed and a lot that have come up in Saturday trailer posts I do every week. There are enough that I am willing to attend the festival. I will be heading down to London and watching Shindo, The Kirishima Thing, Shady and Remiges.

Here’s a trailer for the festival:

Here’s the line-up of titles:

Soul Flower Train            Soul Flower Train Film Poster

Japanese Title:  ソウル フラワー トレイン

Romaji: Souru Furawa- Torein

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Nishio

Writer: Miyuki Uehara, Hiroshi Nishio (Screenplay), Robin Nishi (Original Manga)

Starring: Mitsuru Hirata, Saki Seishi, Kensuke Owada, Mio Otani, Kaoru Kusumi, Megumi Wada, Shoichi Asano, Marin Sayoko

Robin Nishi, the mind behind the manga/anime Mind Game has another of his works adapted. It’s a road-trip movie with a soundtrack by Shounen Knife. This trailer was featured just last weekend and I liked it a lot but the screening date is a little too early for me so I’ll have to miss it.

In this tale, a father named Amamoto leaves his small village and heads to Osaka to track down his estranged daughter Yuki. He hooks up with a friendly young woman who helps him but ends up getting lost and caught up in a surreal adventure on the island before he finds her and discovers she is keeping secrets.

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