The great existentialist thinker Jean-Paul Satre once said something along the lines of, “you can never truly know another person,” with the view that everybody is hiding behind a false mask. Nobody is genuine, everybody is playing a character, projecting a persona to hide their Jungian shadow, their real self, and so it is here with a group of young flatmates sharing a 2LDK apartment in Tokyo.
Japanese cinema has a unique category of film known as seishun eiga (youth films or coming-of-age films). These are a pretty common in Japan because many are made to serve as a star-vehicle for some young up and coming talent. Shindo stands out by taking the audience into the world of its main protagonist and lets us experience things as she does.
Shindo can translate into genius or prodigy and the prodigy here is Uta Naruse (Riko Narumi). Her name means song and she is a musical prodigy, a gifted pianist. She could read sheet music before she could speak and can play complex pieces from memory.
Yoshihiro Nakamura’s latest film is a twisting murder tale which is less about who-dunnit and more about tearing open the glossy façade of contemporary media and revealing the lurid rumour-fuelled tabloid culture that festers underneath. As a Twitter-addict at a TV company uses social media to investigate a shocking death, he finds himself gaining what could be a massive scoop. With every Tweet he becomes the preacher to a growing congregation of gossips ready to praise him but his audience can turn and in his enthusiasm and efforts to catch a big news story he blithely ignores the damage that spreading rumours can do to promote his career.
The Amazing Spider-Man, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Rinjo remain in the top three – Snow White is actually pretty decent even if I found the Princess Mononoke section awful. Two of last week’s releases, Soreike! Anpanman Yomigaere Bananajima and Guskou Budori enter at four and seven respectively. Thermae Romae spends yet another week in the top ten. It must be seriously funny!
What Japanese films are released today (and yesterday)? Well it’s pretty busy but we see Erika Sawajiri back on the big screen!
Lead actress Erika Sawajiri (Ghost Train) makes her movie comeback with Helter Skelter a stunning looking movie with a great cast. The director is Mika Ninagawa, an art/fashion photographer who made her directorial debut with Sakuran. The film adapts Kyoko Okazaki’s psychological manga which was originally released in 2003.
Ririko (Sawajiri) is a vision of perfect beauty. What the public does not know is that her beauty is derived from multiple cosmetic surgeries and a lot of medication. To maintain her beauty and position she needs to keep taking medication and getting surgery but when the clinic that performs her surgery comes under investigation for medical ethics from authorities led by Prosecutor Asada (Omori) Ririko finds her career on the brink of calamity. With pressure mounting, Ririko’s body begins to suffer and her emotions and career, and sanity begin to fall apart.
Another big-screen adaptation of a popular television series only this one focusses on the Japanese Coast Guard. Taking to the high seas are an interesting cast list including Hideaki Ito (Sukiyaki Western Django) and Riisa Naka (Mitsuko Delivers), Ai Kato (Another), and Tsuyoshi Ihara (13 Assassins, Retribution).
When a plane due to land at Haneda Airport begins to suffer engine failure, Sea Marshal Daisuke Senzaki (Hideaki Ito) is on the case. He better hurry because one of the flight attendants is Riisa Naka!
Drudgery Train comes from Nobuhiro Yamashita (Linda, Linda, Linda), and is based on Kenta Nishimura’s Akutagawa Prize-winning novel Kueki Ressha. This character-study stars Mirai Moriyama (Fish on Land, Fish Story), Kengo Kora (The Woodsman and the Rain, Norwegian Wood), and Atsuko Maeda (The Suicide Song), a member of Team A in AKB48 and has got some great reviews. This has to be my favourite trailer from today.
Kitamichi (Moriyama) is a 19-year-old junior high drop out with alcohol problems. He works as a labourer in a warehouse and he has no friends and wastes his days doing very little apart from reading mystery novels. Then he meets Kusakabe (Kora), a new hire at the warehouse. The two become friends and Kusakabe brings Kitamichi into his circle of friends which includes Yasuko (Maeda) who works in a book store. Kitamichi falls for her. The problem is that Kusakabe is also in love with Yasuko and Kitamichi gets jealous. Can his new-found friendships last?
With a title like that I was expecting spooks on the high seas but this is about ghosts spreading their malign influence over the airwaves. It doesn’t quite make the grade as horror and ultimately feels like another average low-budget digitally shot film meant to cash in on the Ringu phenomena where ghosts use technology to get us.
At a TV network board meeting, Hiroshi Usui (Toshihiro Wada) is asked to boost ratings for his show ‘Akie Doma’s Exorcism’. The show draws people who love the supernatural as well as the mentally disturbed. It also draws the ire of a psychiatrist named Kawamura (Meikyo Yamada) who accuses Usui of exploiting the mentally unbalanced. Usui visits the house of an overzealous fan named Tsuyoshi Nagao (Masaki Miura) who lives with his sister Runa (Shihori Kanjiya) who he believes is possessed. Despite Runa’s protestations that the ghosts will be angry with an exorcism, Tsuyoshi and Usui make a deal allowing the filming of Runa’s exorcism. Akie Doma (Asuka Kurosawa) performs the exorcism. Strangely it is Tsuyoshi who has a violent physical reaction whilst Runa’s gaze is locked on something invisible that she apologises to. Later Usui is approached by Kawamura who reveals the phenomena of “Dead Waves”, radio waves that harbour vengeful spirits who use TV broadcasts to draw people into the world of death. Despite scepticism, Hiroshi is uneasy because he discovers disturbing information surrounding the Nagao’s and a revelation about his ex-girlfriend. The show with the Nagao’s is due to broadcast soon, could Dead Waves exist? Are the Nagao’s cursed by ghosts or is there something more mundane but just as deadly.