Following last year’s Covid-19-forced cancellation, the Cannes Film Festival will return as a physical event and run from July 06-17. Although we are still in the middle of a pandemic, screenings will be allowed to operate at full capacity. One safeguard in place is that people present a vaccination certificate or a valid health pass via a PCR test.
As for the festival and its films, the event features over 63 films from around the world, with Oliver Stone’s JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass getting it’s premiere alongside In Front Of Your Face by Hong Sang-soo and Jane Par Charlotte by Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Starring: Shinya Tsukamoto, Kirina Mano, Tomorowo Taguchi, Tatsuya Nakamura, Kyoka Suzuki, Hisashi Igawa, Takahiro Murase, Keisuke Yoshida, Hiromi Kuronuma
When you say bullet ballet I think of Hong Kong gun-play movies the likes of which made John Woo famous. That isn’t the case here with this Shinya Tsukamoto film which is distinctly him as it features a visual and aural style reminiscent of Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (even shot in black and white) but closer in tone to the existential enquiries of A Snake of June and Tokyo Fist.
Shinya Tsukamoto takes the lead role of Goda, a thirty-something filmmaker working in advertising. His work aside, life is absolutely average – long hours at the office, drinks after work, an equally busy girlfriend named Kiriko. They have been with each other for a decade but never committed to marrying because they are both pursuing careers. No surprises. No detours. No shocks. That is until Goda returns home one night to find police cars and ambulances surrounding the entrance to his apartment building. Kiriko has committed suicide with a gun.
Shinya Tsukamoto will receive the NIPPON HONOR AWARD at the 19th Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (May 28th – June 02nd). Shinya Tsukamoto tweeted this news earlier in the month and it has been confirmed by a press release sent out on Tuesday this week. This is the fifth time the award has been bestowed on someone and it goes to a person who has made outstanding contributions to Japanese cinema. I can’t think of a better person at the moment!
Fans of Japanese films who have followed this blog for a while will know I am a big fan of the actor and director, editor and cinematographer. He was one of the first directors I went and wrote a biography for and reviewed a whole bunch of his films (my favourite being Vital). In fact, I met him at the Raindance Independent Film Festival a few years back and had my picture taken with him just before a screening of Fires on the Plain!
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.
Third Window Films will add Shinya Tsukamoto’s last film, Fires on the Plain to their catalogue of titles further making their releases the definitive editions! Fires on the Plain is an astonishing war film because of its relentlessly dwells on death and destruction and shows the pointlessness of war and the way it dehumanises people through a series of gruelling actions (gory battle scenes, murder, suicide, and worse) broken up by suspenseful periods of non-action in the beautiful jungle environs of the Philippines.
The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Shohei Ooka and Kon Ichikawa’s seminal 1959 war film and for director Shinya Tsukamoto it was a passion project he spent ten years bringing to life. It may be a war film but it fits in perfectly with his oeuvre since he has made films full of body-horror and he loves to explore the psychologically twisted aspects of human nature. Just watch his hyper-violent horror films like Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and dark dramas like Vital (2003) and A Snake of June (2003) and lets not forget Ichi the Killer and Nightmare Detective. Despite the fearsome reputation of the films… well…
I met Shinya Tsukamoto before this movie was screened and he was remarkably laid back. I didn’t get the chance to interview him but I did get my picture taken with him and an autograph which lies safely in a DVD case… I have reviewed a lot of his films and you can see which ones be looking at my profile of the director. I pulled this information from my review of the film and information from Third Window Films. I hope this helps!
The film Fires on the Plain takes place during the closing stages of the war. The Americans are invading Leyte Island in the Philippines and are hot on the heels of demoralised soldiers of the Japanese army, all of whom are looking to evacuate from the island. We see their increasingly desperate struggle from the perspective of an army conscript named Tamura (Shinya Tsukamoto) who is sick with tuberculosis.
He is forced into the field with a grenade by a commander who cannot waste resources on keeping a dying man alive and suggests Tamura blows himself up. Tamura doesn’t want to give up so easily and clings to life. He wanders around the jungle and bounces between broken platoons and brutal battles as everybody heads to the port at Palompon to be evacuated to Cebu but it is a journey that will lead him down a dark path where he will have to hold on to his humanity as he encounters betrayal, extreme violence, and worse…
Japan / 2015 / 87 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / HD / Colour
Out as a DUAL FORMAT DVD & BLURAY September 11th, 2017
Special Features: Dual format DVD & BLURAY
1 hour extensive making of
Audio commentary by Tom Mes, author of “Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto”
First 1000 copies come with LIMITED EDITION slipcase illustrated by Mathieu Bablet
War is hell, as the saying goes, and no more so is that better demonstrated than in Fires on the Plain, a harrowing and horrifying story about a Japanese soldier’s efforts to survive the fall of the Philippines in the final days of the Second World War. From the first scene to the last it serves up a series of hellish vignettes of one man’s struggle against increasingly desperate odds, his plight made visceral and powerful by the director’s passion and experience.
Third Window Films continues to do justice to the back-catalogue of director Shinya Tsukamoto by picking up and releasing one of his most critically acclaimed and internationally known works, A Snake of June.
This film is a psycho-sexual thriller that continues his experimentation with subject and method and daringness in shooting style by placing the rather excellent and underused actor Asuka Kurosawa in the middle of a visceral tale of sexual repression and release. With its monochromatic colours and humid rainy season atmosphere it becomes rather steamy but retains a rather dread-inducing atmosphere thanks to Tsukamoto’s editing and shot composition which becomes rather surreal.
The 2015 Rotterdam International Film Festival launches in just over a week and it will take place from January 21st to February 01st. Rotterdam has always been good for Japanese filmmakers with many like Sion Sono, Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa getting their films screened and receiving support. This year’s line-up of titles has some of their latest projects programmed as major films come to the end of a long festival run including Toronto which is where I got some of the trailers from. Of note is the appearance of Lisa Takeba who was at last year’s festival with The Pinkie. Her projects strike me as interesting and it seems that the programmers at Rotterdam agree because she is back with the world premiere of her latest, Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory!
The line-up features a real variety in topic and tone making this Rotterdam a good one for fans of Japanese films. There are a lot that have toured other festivals but more which have not been widely seen so it’s worth looking at all of them to see if there are any that catch your eye!
The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival launches in just over two weeks and lasts from September 04th to September 14th. As is usually the case, the line-up of films is impressive. I don’t know how Toronto does it but every year they get a selection of great Japanese films. This year there are four films I desperately want to see from three directors I love. Well, three – Sion Sono, Shinya Tsukamoto, and Takashi Miike. All of them have been or are released this year and all from the top end of Japanese commercial cinema. Here are the films:
There are two Japanese films at Venice this year. It is possible that I have missed a few films but I have checked on the website at least a few times a week since the line-up of the 71st Venice Film Festival was announced. Anyway, the festival takes place from Wednesday 27th August to Saturday 06th September and despite having only two Japanese films, one of them looks absolutely fascinating enough to entice me even without a trailer at this stage and that’s because it is a film by Shinya Tsukamoto dealing with the story of a Japanese soldier in the Philippines in the dying days of World War II as he fights to stay alive by doing depraved things… before I go into further detail, there’s also a classic screening as well.