The Real Thing 本気のしるし Dir: Koji Fukada (2020)

The Real ThingThe Real Thing (Movie Version) Film Poster

本気のしるし  Honki no Shirushi

Release Date: October 09th, 2020

Duration: 232 mins.

Director: KojFukada

Writer: Shintaro Mitani, Koji Fukada (Script), Mochiru Hoshisato (Original Novel)

Starring: Win Morisaki, Kaho Tsuchimura, Kei Ishibashi, Akari Fukunaga, Yukiya Kitamura, Shohei Uno, Shugo Oshinari, Masaki Naito,

Website IMDB

The Real Thing is a 10-episode TV drama adapted from a manga originally created by Mochiru Hoshisato. It was first aired by Nagoya Broadcasting Network in 2020 and later edited into a theatrical version. This appears to be only the second time that writer/director Koji Fukada (reviews of his films) has adapted someone else’s work for the screen as he tells the romantic drama surrounding a successful salaryman who throws his life away after he meets a mystery woman and pursues her, driven on by an emotion new to him even if it promises his own destruction.

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An Interview with Satoko Yokohama, Director of “Ito” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

While getting a World Premiere in the Competition section of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 would be a sign of quality for director Satoko Yokohama and her film Ito, her work ended up taking two high-profile accolades at the event as judges awarded it the Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) and viewers selected it for the Audience Award. These wins are richly deserved as Ito laces a youth film and a heartfelt tribute to all-things Aomori around a charming central performance from rising actress Ren Komai (駒井蓮).

In the film, Komai plays Ito Soma, a high school girl who lives with her father (Etsushi Toyokawa – 豊川悦司) and maternal grandmother (Yoko Nishikawa – 西川洋子) in a small town just outside Hirosaki city, Aomori. Ito embodies various aspects of the local culture, from having a thick Tsugaru accent to an innate skill in playing the Tsugaru shamisen, an ability inherited from her late mother.  Alas, Ito refuses to practice and stays silent due to her embarrassment over her country roots and also her melancholy over never having known her mother. What puts the girl on the path of self-acceptance and self-expression is an unlikely job at a maid café where she meets a coterie of kind people who offer encouragement and get her to embrace her cultural and family heritage on her own terms. You can read my review here

The film is based on a novel by Osamu Koshigaya and while its Japanese title “Itomichi” was shortened to “Ito” for the international version, the story still communicates all of the charms of Aomori. It is the latest project from Satoko Yokohama (横浜聡子), a graduate of the Film School of Tokyo who independently produced her first feature German + Rain (2007) which won the Directors Guild of Japan Newcomer Award. Next came Bare Essence of Life (2009) and The Actor (2015) which have both been screened at international festivals. Both she and lead actress Ren Komai hail from Aomori Prefecture, the setting of the film and audiences will be able to detect their knowledge and closeness really brought out deep details and atmosphere.

Director Yokohama kindly took part in an interview where she talked about adapting the novel, working with Ren Komai to get a moving portrayal of the main character plus an impressive shamisen performance, and what it means to be a filmmaker from Aomori and returning there to shoot a film. 

Satoko Yokohama at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Satoko Yokohama at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021

This interview was done through the translation skills of Takako Pocklington and the film/festival staff who set everything up.

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The Actor 俳優亀岡拓 Dir: Satoko Yokohama (2016)

The Actor

The Actor Film Poster俳優亀岡拓次 「Haiyuu Kameoka Takuji」

Release Date: January 30th, 2016

Duration: 123 mins.

Director: Satoko Yokohama

Writer: Satoko Yokohama (Screenplay), Akito Inui (Original Novel)

Starring: Ken Yasuda, Kumiko Aso, Shohei Uno, Yoshiko Mita, Shota Sometani, Hirofumi Arai, Youki Kudoh,

Website    IMDB

It is fair to say that most people go into acting with the expectation that they will be cast in a leading role at some point. However, not everyone can be centre stage and some are relegated to a career of supporting roles. In a profession where acting in the limelight is what actors pursue, how does being in the shadows feel? This is a question that the titular actor, Takuji Kameoka, faces when a mid-career crisis meets an existential crisis as he takes stock of his life in this melancholy comedy, or should that be, melancomedy.

Takuji Kameoka (Ken Yasuda) is a lonely thirty-something bachelor who plays bit-parts in movies and dramas. His only interest outside of cinema is drinking. One day, on a shoot in snowy Nagano, he gets drunk and sadder than usual at an izakaya where a woman named Azumi Murota (Kumiko Aso) runs the bar in her father’s stead. Takuji and Azumi talk while sharing saké. He quietly falls in love with her and it happens just at the point he begins to wonder if he will ever be the leading man in his own life and in the acting profession.

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