Genkina hito in Japan

Regular readers might know that I set up this blog to review Japanese films and track my journey to Japan. Nearly six years after starting out I have made it to Japan. I am on a working holiday and have been in the country since September 10th but I haven’t had the chance or motivation to write anything. Instead, I have been out and about exploring places, trying things out, eating new food, and making friends. I have travelled from Osaka to Tokyo to Yokohama to other places in Kanagawa and Gunma. I am only just getting started since I have around ten months left in my working holiday. I timed my working holiday to take in as many film festivals as I possibly could. The first film festival I went to was the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF).

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The Tokyo International Film Festival was pretty awesome. I was there for four days and three films. It takes place in the rather upmarket area of Roppongi and the films I watched were in two locations – Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills and Ex Theater Roppongi. Both cinemas are earthquake-proof (as was constantly announced before film screenings) and look really cool – space-age structures of glass and steel and cool lighting.

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The Bride of Rip Van Winkle リップヴァンウィンクルノ花嫁 (2016) Dir: Shunji Iwai

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!

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle Nanami (Haru Kuroki)

Here’s a snippet of my review of the film A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016), the latest from the auteur Shunji Iwai. It is one of three films directed by him at the New York Asian Film Festival which is where he will pick up a lifetime achievement award. You can find more images plus a trailer and a link to the full review further down the post.

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Hana to Alice: Satsujin Jiken (The Case of Hana & Alice) Trailers

The Case of Hana & AliceHana and Alice Anime Movie Poster 

Japanese Title: 花とアリス 殺人事件

Romaji: Hana to Alice: Satsujin Jiken

Release Date: February 20th, 2015

Running Time: N/A

Director: Shunji Iwai

Writer: Shunji Iwai (Screenplay/Original Creator),

Starring: Yu Aoi (Tetsuko Arisugawa), Anne Suzuki (Hana Arai), Ryou Kazuji (Kotaro Yuda – a man who holds the key to the murder mystery), Haru Kuroki (Satomi Hagino-sensei – Hana and Alice’s homeroom teacher), Tae Kimura (Yuki Tsutsumi – the ballet classroom teacher), Shouko Aida (Kayo Arisugawa – Alice’s mother), Sei Hiraizumi (Kenji Kuroyanagi – Alice’s father), Ranran Suzuki (Tomomi Mutsu – Hana’s classmate), Tomohiro Kaku (Asanaga-sensei), Midoriko Kimura (Tomomi Arai – Hana’s mother),

I write for a few websites and one of them is Anime UK News which is where I publish anime season previews. I have written about a lot of TV anime but there is one special anime film I want to share with users and that is Hana to Alice: Satsujin Jiken which is in the first part of my season preview.

This is the prequel movie to Shunji Iwai’s wonderful 2004 coming-of-age film Hana & Alice, the film which was the break-out title for two totally talented actors Yu Aoi and Anne Suzuki who respectively starred as Alice and Hana, two school girls in an intense friendship who both experience love for the first time. Hana to Alice: Satsujin Jiken tells the story of how the girls first met and it is apparently through the world’s smallest murder case.

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Insight into the Universe, Vampire, Key of Life, Like Someone in Love Trailers and the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart

Maharu from Steins;GateThis week I previewed the BFI London Film Festival and detailed some of the movies I will be seeing. I also started my Shinya Tsukamoto Season which is ahead of digitally re-mastered re-release of Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Tetsuo: Body Hammer. I then celebrated my birthday by being stuck in work all day and I banged my head on a museum exhibit (I did get lots of cards and two cakes and I talked all day to a Chinese girl about Kanji/Hanzi) before I reviewed Tetsuo: The Iron Man and was stunned at the brilliant use of cinematic technique and imagination in Tsukamoto’s landmark film. If you consider yourself a cinephile get this movie!

What changes have happened with the Japanese movie box office charts?

  1. Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final New Hope
  2. Rurouni Kenshin
  3. Dear
  4. The Avengers
  5. Prometheus
  6. Safe House
  7. Dreams for Sale
  8. Akko-chan: The Movie
  9. Intouchables
  10. The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki
  11. Umizaru 4: Brave Hearts

The massively popular Bayside Shakedown series has released its final movie and it has taken the top spot. It was released last week alongside the critically acclaimed (okay, the Japan Times gave it an excellent write-up) Dreams for Sale (soon to be seen at the London Film Festival) which has taken the number seven spot. Rurouni Kenshin drops into second place in its third week while Dear, with all its star power, climbs up to three. The Wolf Children Rain and Snow and Umizaru 4 hold on at ten and eleven after earning insane amounts of money.

What Japanese films are getting released today?

Insight into the Universe               Insight into the Universe Movie Poster                                                             

Japanese Title: 天地 明察

Romaji: Tenchi Meisatsu (Tenchi: The Samurai Astronomer)

Release Date:  15th September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 141 mins.

Director: Yojiro Takita

Writer: Tow Ubukata (Novel), Masato Kato, Yojiro Takita (Script)

Starring: Junichi Okada, Ennosuke Ichikawa, Aoi Miyazaki, Ryuta Sato, Koshiro Matsumoto

An adaptation of Tow Ubukata’s novel about a samurai who makes a calendar… Sounds boring unless you have a thing for maths/physics but since Tow Ubukata is the man behind Mardock Scramble and Le Chevalier D’Eon, the latter is a supernatural take on European history and is pretty good (I’m four episodes from the end). Also of interest is the crew behind the film including the director Yojiro Takita who directed the brilliant Departures (his early career is littered with awful sounding pink films) with a cast that includes Junichi Okada of the J-pop idol group V6 and lead in Tokyo Tower and From Up on Poppy Hill, with the main female role played by Aoi Miyazaki who starred in Eureka which I still need to watch… Music comes from Joe Hisaishi who has worked on many of Studio Ghibli’s films and produced the magnificent OST’s for Takeshi Kitano’s films!

Yasui Santetsu (Okada) is the son of a samurai class family known for its prowess at the board game go but he is a rebel and would rather solve math puzzles and observe the sky at night! He has many friends with who share his enthusiasms including Seki Takakazu (Ichikawa), math instructor Murase Gieki (Sato) and his sister En (Miyazaki). When a clan lord named Hoshina Masayuki (Matsumoto) appoints him to an expedition to map Japan using the North Star as a guide he discovers that the current calendar does not accurately predict the eclipse of the moon and it may not be keeping time as well as believed.

 

Vampire                                                                     Vampire Movie Poster

Japanese Title: ヴァンパイア

Romaji: Vampaia

Release Date:  15th September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Shunji Iwai

Writer: Shunji Iwai

Starring: Yū Aoi,Kevin Zegers, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Adelaide Clemens, Travor Morgan, Amanda Plummer, Kristin Kreuk, Rachael Leigh Cook

The beautiful and talented Yū Aoi is back with Shunji Iwai who gave her her big break in his 2001 film All About Lily Chou-Chou (a beautiful OST and emotionally draining). Since then she has starred in Hula Girls, Tekkon Kinkreet and Rurouni Kenshin. She is surrounded by a diverse cast in terms of experience – Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction), Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) and Adelaida Clemens (soon to be seen in the forthcoming Silent Hill Revelation 3D). It sounds a lot like George A. Romero’s Martin mixed with Lily Chou-Chou. This is Iwai’s English language debut and it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where, according to Wildground, it received harsh reviews.

Simon (Zegers) is a high school biology teacher and a serial killer who preys on suicidal girls who are drawn to him and let him feast on their blood. To find the girls he searches for are on suicide websites and he portrays himself as an equally suicidal chap who will perform double-suicide with them but he has no intention of ending his own life and so he carries on with his evil escapades. But the police are tracking him.

 

 

Key of Life                                                        Key of Life Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 鍵 泥棒 の メソッ

Romaji: Kagi Dorobou no Meoddo

Release Date:  15th September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Kenji Uchida

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

Key of Life is one of the films I will see at the BFI London Film Festival and I am so excited at the prospect of seeing this comedy primarily because ofthe all-star cast which includes Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata), Masato Sakai (Sky High, The Samurai that Night), Ryoko Hirosue (Depatures), YosiYosi Arakawa (Fine, Totally FineQuirky Guys & Girls), and Yoko Moriguchi (Casshern).

 

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.

 

Like Someone in Love                                       Like Someone in Love Poster

Japanese Title: ライク サムワン イン ラブ

Romaji: Raiku Samuwan In Rabu

Release Date: 15th September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Writer: Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase

The film was released in Cannes where it met so-so reviews. The cast includes Rin Takanashi who starred in Goth: Love of Death, Denden who stars in Cold Fish and Himizu and Ryo Kase who is in  SPEC: The Movie which is hanging on in the Japanese charts. Kiarostami has previously won big at Cannes by taking the Palme d’Or for Taste of Cherry in 1997.

A young female student named Akiko (Rin Takanashi) works as a prostitute to pay off her univeisty fees. One of her clients is an elderly academic (Tadashi Okuno) who is fond of her. Soon a relationship develops between the two.

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2011 A Year of Promise at the Movies (with trailers)

I wanted to do a proper post saying goodbye to 2010 and hello to 2011 but a combination of flu and a hang-over laid me out for a few days and all I could manage was a half-hearted adieu to a year that had been good.

2010 was a pretty good year for film (from what I saw, at least). 2011 looks like it is shaping up to have some interesting releases as well. Here’s what has interested me from the trailers and information on the web.

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