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Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura DESTINY 鎌倉ものがたり Dir:  Takashi Yamazaki (2017)

Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura   DESTINY Kamakura Monogatari Film Poster

DESTINY 鎌倉ものがたり DESTINY Kamakura Monogatari

Running Time: 129 mins.

Release Date: December 09th, 2017

Director:  Takashi Yamazaki

Writer:  Takashi Yamazaki (Screenplay), Ryohei Saigan (Original Manga)

Starring: Masato Sakai, Mitsuki Takahata, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Sakura Ando, Min Tanaka, Tamao Nakamura, Mikako Ichikawa, Jun Kunimura, Tomokazu Miura,

Website IMDB

Kamakura is one of the old capitals of Japan and the most magical place in the country according to Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura. In this CG-heavy adventure, a young woman discovers her new husband’s titular home town is where the borders between life, death, fairytale and reality are blurred as she and her beloved embark on a magical fantasy adventure.

Continue reading “Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura DESTINY 鎌倉ものがたり Dir:  Takashi Yamazaki (2017)”

Hirokazu Kore-eda wins the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters” at Cannes 2018

Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at the 71st Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, Shoplifters.

Hirokazu Koreeda Cannes 2018 Shoplifters Palme d'or
(Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

Congratulations, Hirokazu Kore-eda!

This was his fifth time in the competition section and his win marks, to quote the critic Peter Debruge over at Variety,

“just the second time this century that an Asian film has claimed the festival’s top prize (the other being Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” in 2010).”

This latest drama features an unconventional family living happily together on the margins of Japanese society through a mixture of grit and graft. Initially a gentle and heartwarming film, the tone changes as it shines a light on the failings of society and individuals. It marks yet another film where Kore-eda has worked with child actors and got amazing results as the different reviews have pointed out (round-up of reviews post).

Cate Blanchett, the Cannes Jury president said, “We were completely bowled over by ‘Shoplifters.’ How inter-meshed the performances were with the directorial vision”.

The film has already been picked up for US distribution thanks to Magnolia Films. The company’s president, Eamon Bowles said,

“In a long career of incredible peaks, Hirokazu Kore-eda has delivered one of his best works. ‘Shoplifters’ is an incredible story that deals with familial bonds in a way I’ve never seen before”. SOURCE

Continue reading “Hirokazu Kore-eda wins the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters” at Cannes 2018″

Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival Review Round-Up: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters”

There is a small selection of Japanese films at the Cannes Film Festival 2018 with two in the Competition section. The biggest name is Hirokazu Kore-eda who has appeared at Cannes six times in the Competition and Un Certain Regard sections, picking up the Jury Prize for Like Father, Like Son (2013). Due to his focus on families in films like I Wish (2011) and Our Little Sister (2015), he is often called the Ozu of modern Japanese cinema by critics and this one features an unconventional family by normal Japanese standards since it features a group of people living happily together on the margins through a mixture of grit and graft. Initially a gentle and heartwarming film, the tone changes as it shines a light on the failings of society and individuals. So, what are the highlights of the reviews?

SHOPLIFTERS

Shoplifters Film Image 2

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival Review Round-Up: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters””

Petal Dance 「ペタル ダンス」 (2013) Dir: Hiroshi Ishikawa (4/5)

I recently landed a role as contributor to V-Cinema and I have reviewed a number of films for the website. I have been something of a fan and enjoyed listening to their podcasts when they have covered Japanese cinema so I’m pretty excited to be a part of the team and helping to highlight Japanese cinema. Writing reviews is something I enjoy doing and I hope people enjoy reading my reviews!

Here’s a snippet of my review of the film Petal Dance (2013) images plus a link to the full review follow. The film itself is a further refinement of Hiroshi Ishikawa’s style which is all about long takes, unscripted dialogue, minimalist aesthetics, and a love of showcasing huge skies and Aoi Miyazaki’s acting.

Continue reading “Petal Dance 「ペタル ダンス」 (2013) Dir: Hiroshi Ishikawa (4/5)”

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”

100 Yen Love 百円の恋 (2014)

100 Yen Love   

100 Yen Love Film Poster
100 Yen Love Film Poster

百円の恋 「Hyaku-en no Koi

Running Time: 113 mins.

Release Date: December 20th, 2014

Director: Masaharu Take

Writer: Masaharu Take (Screenplay),

Starring: Sakura Ando, Hirofumi Arai, Miyoko Inagawa, Saori, Shohei Uno, Tadashi Sakata, Yuki Okita,

Website   IMDB

The sports film is a popular genre because most of us participate or are interested in sports. It is also popular because sport offers an arc of development for the main protagonist who journeys from the bottom to the top through training, usually for a make-or-break final match. 100 Yen Love works with this formula and in a year when boxing films have made a comeback with Southpaw (2015) and Creed (2015), it proves to be a strong and distinctive drama thanks to a terrific performance from leading lady Sakura Ando as Ichiko, a girl who goes from zero to not quite hero but is inspirational nonetheless.

Continue reading “100 Yen Love 百円の恋 (2014)”

Penance Shokuzai 贖罪 (2012)

Penance Eiko Koike Banner

Penance                   Shokuzai Drama Poster

Romaji: Shokuzai

Japanese Title: 贖罪

Running Time: 300 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Script), Kanae Minato (Original Novel)

Starring: Kyoko Koizumi, Eiko Koike, Sakura Ando, Chizuru Ikewaki, Yu Aoi, Mirai Moriyama, Ryo Kase, Teruyuki Kagawa, Hirofumi Arai

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 (Sion Sono). This year I will review Penance directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

kurosawa-penance

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.

Penance Emiri in School

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.

Penance Inciting Incident  Continue reading “Penance Shokuzai 贖罪 (2012)”

Third Window Films Release For Loves Sake on DVD & Blu-Ray

Long time readers of the blog will remember that I attended last years BFI London Film Festival and saw For Love’s Sake. My review was positively overflowing with love, praise and fervour for the film and it landed at number 2 in my Top 10 Films of 2012. I can still remember whole swathes of the film and how I felt during the screening. When I found out that Third Window Films was releasing it I was rather pleased and I highly, highly (very, very highly) recommend it. Enough from me, here’s the details:

 For Loves Sake DVD Case

FOR LOVE’S SAKE

Director: Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, One Missed Call, Audition, Ninja Kids!!!)

 Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain, Tokyo Family, Tokyo!, Dororo)

Emi Takei (Rurouni Kenshin)
Sakura Ando (Love Exposure, Our Homeland, Penance)

Japan / 2012 / 134 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour

Out on Double-disc DVD & Blu-ray 

June 10th, 2013

DVD and Blu-ray Special Features
Anamorphic Widescreen transfer with 5.1 Surround Sound
Making Of, Skip to a Song Selection, Theatrical Trailer

 Ai to Makoto's Ai (Takei) Looking to the Future

Takashi Miike, the director of ’13 Assassins’, ‘Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai’ and ‘Audition’ brings us as Bollywood-style musical action/comedy/love story!
 
Not exactly a director that plays along with genre rules, the prolific Takashi Miike now takes his talent in genre bending to the pure romance world with For Love’s Sake (a.k.a. Ai to Makoto), based on Kajiwara Ikki’s 1973 manga series. An epic story of a rich high school girl who falls in love with a tough young gangster, Miike’s take on the story breaks all the rules with musical numbers (with music by popular music producer Kobayashi Takeshi), tongue-in-cheek humour, and in-your-face violence. Starring Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain) and Emi Takei (Rurouni Kenshin) as the star-crossed lovers, For Love’s Sake is a unique and incredibly wild ride that will change your definition of what a pure romance can be.

Ai to Makoto Love is in the Air Makoto (Tsumabuki) and Ai (Takei)

For Love’s Sake 愛と誠 (2012)

For Love’s Sake                                              

Japanese Title: 愛と誠

Romaji: Ai to Makoto

Japanese Release Date: June 16th, 2012

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto, Masachika Ichimura

For Love’s Sake was the final film I saw during the 56th BFI London Film Festival. Despite my dislike for musicals I expected this film to be highly entertaining because it was directed by Takashi Miike.

Can he change how I view a genre? Definitely.

I love Takashi Miike’s sensibilities. Miike is the type of director who can take any genre and transform it into something uniquely his own. When he made The Happiness of the Katakuris I found a musical I could love what with its inventive designs, amusing song and dance numbers, cracked performances and black humour. For Love’s Sake is another musical I can embrace thanks to its ultra-stylish and gleefully over the top and energetic execution. 

1972, Tokyo, Ai Satome (Takei) is an angelic high school student who comes from a respectable family. She leads a charmed life until Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki), the boy who stole Ai’s heart as a child and an ultra-delinquent, arrives in Tokyo to settle a score from his past. He soon gets arrested after a rumble with some local toughs and is sent to reform school. Ai is still in love with Makoto and manages to get him released. She brings him to Aobodai Prep School where she studies. Ai’s love for Makoto inspires jealousy in Iwashimizu (Saito), the President of the Student Council, who loves Ai. Soon Makoto is sent to Hanazono Trade School where girl gang leader Ango Gumko (Ando) and Yuki, a “sad chick”, soon develop feelings for him. With Makoto in the centre of this tangled web of love things get extremely complicated and melodramatic.

Ai to Makoto will be familiar for a Japanese audience as it originates from a massively popular manga written in 1973 by Ikki Kajiwara which has been adapted for film in 1974, 75, and 76, Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation being the fourth so far and with Miike’s unique vision this is a case of adapting the classic story of bad boy meets good girl who tries to redeem him and adding a megaton of spectacle.

This missy is downright crazy

For Love’s Sake is an entertaining romp through the popular school melodrama genre. While I haven’t read the original manga this feels like a parody of said genre thanks to the excessiveness of style and the combination of the musical genre. With the knowing lines, sudden bursts of dancing and the presence of plenty of pop music from the 1970’s laced with hilarious lyrics, it is too funny, melodramatic, ironic, and openly genre savvy to be anything else.

The mise-en-scene is perfect and points to the high degree of skill in putting the whole film together. The film starts off with animation, a ski sequence gone awry which is where Makoto and Ai first meet. Then, after the titles hit us, things get a bit normal (apart from one inventive sequence set on stage with props) and we are transported into 1970’s Tokyo, a place of loud shirts, flares and bad clothing in general (except for the classic school uniforms). The look is, to my eye, as convincing as the one seen in Norwegian Wood.

The locations vary from the ostentatious and gaudily decorated home of the Satome family to the post-apocalyptic Hanazono trade school. Each location is wonderful with plenty of details to bask in. One highlight, only used for a few minutes, is a maid café which is straight from a lurid fantasy like Strange Circus. It is full of creeps and creepy solid gold dancers, a place where the cute waitresses wear pink frilly outfits and red shoes.

All of it fits the melodramatic tone of the film and the musical sequences add to the atmosphere as they perfectly illustrate the emotions of the characters in the scenes.

Continue reading “For Love’s Sake 愛と誠 (2012)”

Genkina hito at the 56th London Film Festival

Getting Any Genki Film Festival Banner

Yep, after months of reporting about international film festivals like Berlin, Cannes, Venice, and Toronto and complaining about not being able to be at them and watching Japanese films, I am finally attending one myself for this is the year I try and increase my coverage by taking part in The 56th London Film Festival. The festival takes place from the 10th until the 21st of October and I will be seeing The Wolf ChildrenKey of Life, and For Love’s Sake.

 

For Love’s Sake              Ai to Makoto Film Festival

Japanese Title: 愛 と 誠

Romaji: Ai to Makoto

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto

This will be the final film I see in the festival and I am expecting this to be highly entertaining because it is directed by Takashi Miike. I hate musicals but Miike made The Happiness of the Katakuris which I loved. Tony Rayns, a highly experienced Japanese film expert states, “you can only gasp in disbelief at Miike’s inventiveness: performances, design, choice of golden-oldie hits and fight choreography are all beyond ace.”  Sounds awesome! Anyway Miike reunite with Emi Takei and Takumi Saito (13 Assassins) two stars from his previous film, Ace Attorney. It also stars Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain) and Sakura Ando (Love Exposure). Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation of Ai to Makoto is the fourth so far, the previous three being made in 1974, 75, and 76.

High school student Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki) is an ultra-delinquent who has arrived in Tokyo to avenge an incident from his past. That will have to wait as he falls in love with the angelic Ai (Takei) who comes from a respectable family. Things will get complicated as Iwashimizu (Saito) is in love with Ai while Gamuko (Ando) has feelings for Makoto.

 

 

Key of Life                                                          Key of Life Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 鍵 泥棒 の メソッ

Romaji: Kagi Dorobou no Meoddo

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Kenji Uchida

Starring: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi

This film gets a glowing write up from Tony Rayns who describes it as “deliciously funny, not to mention brilliantly timed and acted with relish by the all-star cast.”  Some of that cast includes Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata), Masato Sakai (Sky High, The Samurai that Night), Ryoko Hirosue (Departures), YosiYosi Arakawa (Fine, Totally Fine, Quirky Guys & Girls), and Yoko Moriguchi (Casshern). I was sold on this from the cast and the trailer and so I will be watching this at the festival.

 

Sakurai (Kondo) is an aspiring but unsuccessful actor who has recently attempted suicide but is unsuccessful at that. He decides to head to a local bathhouse to ease his suffering and whilst there he witnesses a stranger in the neighbourhood named Kondo (Kagawa) who slips and knocks himself unconscious. Sakurai takes advantage of this and helps himself to Kondo’s locker key. He loots Kondo’s belongings and assumes his identity which is a pretty bad idea considering that Kondo is an assassin working for a yakuza. For his part Kondo wakes up in hospital minus his memory and so assumes Sakurai’s life as an actor but applies his dedicated nature to the craft while trying to recover his memory. 

 

The Wolf Children             The Wolf Children Poster

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Writer: Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera

Starring: Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Yukito Nishii, Haru Kuroki, Amon Kabe, Momoka Oona, Shota Sometani, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuki Tanimura,

This is the biggest draw of the festival for me. I have been posting about this film since the earliest trailers were released in Japan and it hit the Japanese movie box office charts. I am a major fan of Mamoru Hosoda’s first film, The Girl who Leapt Through Time, but Summer Wars left me cold despite the excellent animation and assured script. The Wolf Children could be the film that reaffirms my interest in him or kill it off. Just watching the trailer I figure I will get emotional at some point and get swept up in the story and there is every possibility that this will happen because Hosoda is aided with scripting duties by Satoko Okudera who has worked on major anime movies like Summer WarsMiyori’s ForestThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and The Princess and the Pilot and legendary character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, FLCL, Evangelion) is the character designer. The voice actors are familiar from the world of live action movies. Hana is voiced by the actress Aoi Miyazaki who starred in Shinji Aoyama’s 2000 film Eureka (which I received a couple of weeks ago), Ōkami is voiced by Takao Osawa (All About Lily Chou-Chou – a film that I dread watching because I was left emotionally drained), Yuki is voiced by Haru Kuroki, and Ame is voiced by Yukito Nishii (Confessions). Other notable names include Momoka Oona (Mitsuko Deliversa film that was blah) who plays an even younger version of Yuki, Amon Kabe who plays an even younger version of Ame, Shota Sometani (HimizuSadako 3DIsn’t Anyone live?), Mitsuki Tanimura (13 Assassins), and Kumiko Aso (Pulse – an awesome J-horror!).

A story of love between parents and children that takes place over thirteen starts when a university student named Hana falls in love with Ōkami who is a “wolf man”. The two marry and have children named after the weather on the day they were born – Yuki (snow) the older sister and Ame (rain) the younger brother. The four live quietly in a city concealing the true existence of their relationship until Ōkami dies and Hana decides to move to the country.

Check out Alua’s post for more information on other titles worth checking out. I bet nobody will be able to guess which film the image comes from!