All Around Us ぐるりのこと。(2008) Director: Ryosuke Hashiguchi

All Around Us    All Around Us Film Poster 2

ぐるりのこと。 Gururi no Koto.

Release Date: June 07th, 2008

Duration: 140 mins.

Director: Ryosuke Hashiguchi

Writer: Ryosuke Hashiguchi (Script),

Starring: Lily Franky, Tae Kimura, Akira Emoto, Susumu Terajima, Tamae Ando, Mitsuko Baisho, Ken Mitsuishi, Ryo Kase, Yoji Tanaka, Reiko Kataoka, Jiro Sato, Rie Minemura,

IMDB

2008 was a vintage year for Japanese cinema as a number of titles were released that have stood the test of time. The most notable are a triumvirate of slice-of-life dramas that left an indelible mark on the film world with Tokyo Sonata and Still Walking leaving a lasting impression with cinephiles while Departures had enough crossover appeal for mainstream audiences to become the first Japanese film to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Not talked about as much but equal to all three is All Around Us, a hidden gem of a marriage story that takes in an epic sweep of social history while delivering intimate character studies all told through subtle direction that respects the audience’s ability to understand and naturalistic acting that is heartfelt and compelling.

The film starts in 1993 in Tokyo and introduces us to Kanao (Lily Franky) and Shoko (Tae Kimura). We enter their lives just as she launches a campaign to get pregnant.

The two are a study in contrasts that is initially fun. She is a controlling woman who works at a small publisher and is capable of great things. He is a laid-back and louche lothario who slums it as a street-side shoe repairman. She dresses primly. He dresses sloppily. She uses diaries and calendars to orchestrate book launches in work and marital sex nights at home to maximise chances of getting pregnant. He loafs around and dutifully, if a little perturbed, goes along with her instructions after days of flirting with female customers. For her, sex is almost laughably clinical while he goes with his passions, as shown in one hilarious scene where he cheekily surprises her by trying out a new sexual position that throws her off her game. 

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Just Only Love 愛がなんだ (2019) Dir: Rikiya Imaizumi

Just Only Love   

愛がなんだ Ai ga Nanda

Running Time: 123 mins.

Release Date: April 19th, 2019

Director: Rikiya Imaizumi

Writer: Rikiya Imaizumi, Kaori Sawai (Screenplay), Mitsuyo Kakuta (Original Novel)

Starring: Yukino Kishii, Ryo Narita, Mai Fukagawa, Ryuya Wakaba, Noriko Eguchi, Mariko Tsutsui, Ayumu Nakajima, Reiko Kataoka, Moeka Hoshi,

Website IMDB

Love makes people lose perspective. Take, for example, Teruko (Yukino Kishii), a 28-year-old office lady helplessly in love with magazine editor Mamoru (Ryo Narita). When we join her, she is in a downward spiral as she neglects her work and friends and chases after his affections. It’s a shame he takes her for granted as she obsesses over him. She has fallen into a one-sided love. Is she crazy to pursue it or just myopic? Viewing her from a neutral position, we want to shake her and say that all she is experiencing is just only love.

Adapted from a work by novelist/screenwriter Mitsuyo Kakuta (Rebirth, Paper Moon), the film shows how love makes fools of us all if we allow ourselves to become obsessed. The story stays with Teruko but gives us other examples of love, including photographer Nakahara (Ryuya Wakaba) the eternally-waiting wannabe beau of Teruko’s best friend Yoko (Mai Fukagawa), and eventually Mamoru who loses his own head over somebody else.

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Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro とんかつDJアゲ太郎 (2020) Director: Ken Ninomiya [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]

Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro   Tonkatsu DJ Age-Taro Film Poster

とんかつDJアゲ太郎 Tonkatsu DJ Age-Taro

Release Date: October 30th, 2020

Duration: 100 mins.

Director: Ken Ninomiya

Writer: Ken Ninomiya (Script), Iipyao, Yujiro Koyama (Original Manga)

Starring: Takumi Kitamura, Maika Yamamoto, Kentaro Ito, Yusuke Iseya, Brother Tom, Reiko Kataoka, Natsumi Ikema, Kou Maehara, Kodai Asaka,

Website IMDB

In Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro, Shibuya’s club land gets a sweet-hearted remix made via juggling an epicurean adventure in Japanese cuisine with musical antics. Its origins lie in a popular gag manga by Yujiro Koyama and Iipyao which originates from around 2014 with a TV animation released in 2016 but newbies need not worry as this fun family-friendly film is a standard-issue coming-of-age story that anyone can get into.

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Yamato (California) 大和(カリフォルニア)  (2017) Director: Daisuke Miyazaki Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017

Yamato Californiayamato-california-film-poster

大和(カリフォルニア)  Yamato (Kariforunia)   

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Writer: Daisuke Miyazaki (Screenplay)

Starring: Hanae Kan, Nina Endo, Reiko Kataoka, Mayumi Kato, Shuya Nishiji, Haruka Uchimura,

IMDB

Yamato (California) is a coming-of-age tale from Daisuke Miyazaki, a graduate from Waseda University with a varied filmography consisting of indie films and experience working as an assistant director on commercial movies such as Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s family drama Tokyo Sonata (2008). Much like that film, he looks at people left trailing by the economic problems and the split in identities caused by different forces in contemporary Japan and he does so through one teenager’s rebellion against cultural apathy through the medium of Hip-Hop.

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