Rampo Noir 乱歩地獄 (2005) Dirs: Suguru Takeuchi, Akio Jissoji, Hisyasu Sato, Atsushi Kaneko

Happy Halloween! This is the time of year when people celebrate the supernatural and ghoulish aspects of popular culture and national myths. I do my part by highlighting horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare DetectiveStrange CircusShokuzaiPOV: A Cursed Film CharismaDon’t Look Up, Snow Woman (2017) Snow Woman (1968)  Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel, Gemini, and John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’ll be returning to Japan for the next Halloween Review, an anthology film based on the erotic-grotesque-nonsense works of Edogawa Rampo.


Rampo Noir    Rampo Noir Film Poster

乱歩地獄 Rampo Jigoku

Release Date: November 05th, 2005

Duration: 134 mins.

Director: Suguru Takeuchi (Mars Canal), Akio Jissoji (Mirror Hell), Hisyasu Sato (The Caterpillar), Atsushi Kaneko (Crawling Bugs),

Writer: Suguru Takeuchi (Mars Canal), Akio Satsukawa (Mirror Hell), Shiro Yumeno (The Caterpillar), Atsushi Kaneko (Crawling Bugs), (Script), Edogawa Rampo (Original Stories),

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Yumi Yoshiyuki, Susumu Terajima, Yuuko Daike, Chisako Hara, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryuhei Matsuda, Hanae Kan, Nao Omori, Yukiko Okamoto,

IMDB

Hirai Taro aka Edogawa Rampo. A prolific writer whose stories were serialised in newspapers and published as novels. Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, the source of his pen name, Rampo turned his literary talents to stories of detectives, the supernatural, the erotic and the psycho-sexual. These works proved ripe for cinematic treatment, particularly around the time of the pink film boom.

Blind Beast (1969, Yasuzo Masumura) Black Lizard (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968) Horrors of Malformed Men (Teruo Ishii, 1969), Watcher in the Attic (Nobuo Tanaka, 1976), and Gemini (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1999) stand as the most famous adaptations. Even this year there have been adaptations with Hiroki Inoue’s drama Hito de nashi no Koi released in June.

And we return to Rampo Noir. Back in 2004, as the J-horror genre started to shamble along zombie-like on the back of recycled tropes and trends, this anthology film was made that allowed its directors to approach Rampo’s macabre and menacing material in their own unique and memorable ways. It also allowed some of the leading acting talents of the early 2000s to wrestle with some truly disturbing material, particularly Tadanobu Asano (Bright Future, My Man, Survive Style 5+, Vital) who appears in the four chapters of the film and plays Rampo’s famous Detective Akechi Kogoro in two. While Rampo Noir does not feature jump scares or bone-chilling frights, it packs in a lot of ero-guro sights to leave an average viewer sickened and disturbed.

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The Taste of Tea 茶の味 Dir: Katsuhito Ishii (2004)

The Taste of Tea    The Taste of Tea Film Poster

茶の味  Cha no Aji

Release Date: July 17th, 2004

Duration: 143 mins.

Director: Katsuhito Ishii

Writer: Katsuhito Ishii (Screenplay),

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Takahiro Sato, Maya Banno, Satomi Tezuka, Tatsuya Gashuin, Tomokazu Miura, Anna Tsuchiya, Ikki Todoroki, Hideaki Anno,

IMDB

Katsuhito Ishii is probably best known for making weird films and while The Taste of Tea is one of his most restrained, it is probably his most popular work. At its simplest, The Taste of Tea is a cross between Yasujiro Ozu’s gentle comedy Good Morning (1959) and the playfully bizarre Survive Style 5+ (2004). Try to imagine the styles of the two melding with and diluting each other and you come close. The result is a film where everyday characters and their small dramas are given the odd flights of fancy that burst out from beneath the surface of normality.

Like in a typical Ozu film, we follow multiple generations of a family. Here, we are spending time with the Haruno family who live in an old-fashioned house in a small mountain town just north of Tokyo. They consist of the mother, Yoshiko (Satomi Tezuka), Nobuo (Tomokazu Miura), the father, their son Hajime (Takahiro Sato), Sachiko (Maya Banno), their daughter, and eccentric grandfather Akira (Tatsuya Gashuin). They will soon be joined by uncle Ayano (Tadanobu Asano) who is taking a break from his job as a music producer to visit for a few days.

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Third Window Films Release World’s First Blu-ray Edition of Gentle Warped Comedy “The Taste of Tea” on October 05th, 2020

Third Window Films are going to issue the world’s first blu-ray release of the offbeat comedy The Taste of Tea on October 05th. Here are the details on the extras on the disc.

The Taste of Tea Bluray Cover 1

Extra features:    

Extra features (*in standard definition):
90 minute Making Of
‘Super Big’ – Animation
Reversible sleeve art

Here’s the trailer and synopsis and a little extra info:

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Distance ディスタンス Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda (2001)

Distance    Distance Film Poster

ディスタンス Disutansu

Release Date: May 26th, 2001

Duration: 132 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Writer: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Script) 

Starring: Yui Natsukawa, Yusuke Iseya, Arata, Susumu Terajima, Tadanobu Asano, Ryo, Kenichi Endo, Kanji Tsuda,

IMDB

Hirokazu Kore-eda made Distance after he became interested in the disciples of Aum Shinrikyo, the group which committed the Tokyo subway sarin attack¹. He wanted to comment on how everyone in society could be responsible for it in some way. In so doing, he strikes at a universal fear surely felt by everyone which is that perhaps those who should be the closest to us are sometimes the ones furthest away.

This idea of distance is given to us through the story of a group of people who are ostensibly disconnected from each other but each has a deep personal connection to a terrorist incident described at the start of the film by a radio announcer.

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Harmonium 深田晃司 Dir: Koji Fukada (2016)

Harmonium  harmonium-film-poster 

深田晃司 「Fuchi ni Tatsu

Release Date: October 10th, 2016

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Koji Fukada

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi, Taiga, Takahiro Miura, Momone Shinokawa,

IMDB   Website

Koji Fukada’s Harmonium took the Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and for good reason because it shows a director in precise control of his material. Story-wise, it follows in the footsteps of his debut feature Hospitalite (2011) wherein a stranger enters the lives of a family and disrupts things. While Fukada’s earlier title was light-hearted and poked fun at the social mores of Japan, this film is harsher with only a few dashes of hope beaming down in the final scenes.

Taking the lead is experienced thesp Kanji Futurachi, a familiar face from Fukada’s earlier films like Au Revoir l’ete (2015) and Human Comedy Tokyo (2012) and, crucially, Hospitalite (2011) where he was the stranger that forced a revolution on a family. In a role reversal he is the patriarch and a victim of sorts here as he plays Toshio, the owner of a small factory in the suburbs of some city or other. No location is given. It’s a nondescript and quiet place where he lives a quiet existence with his church-going wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and their daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa). It is she who plays the titular harmonium that gives the film’s soundtrack a funereal sense.

Harmonium Film Image

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Dear Etranger 幼な子われらに生まれ (2017) Dir: Yukiko Mishima

Dear Etranger    Dear Etranger Film Poster

幼な子われらに生まれ 「Osanago Warera ni Umare

Running Time: 127 mins.

Release Date: August 26th, 2017

Director:  Yukiko Mishima

Writer: Haruhiko Arai (Screenplay), Kiyoshi Shigematsu (Original Novel)

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Rena Tanaka, Kankuro Kudo, Shinobu Terajima, Sara Minami, Miu Arai, Raiju Kamata, Shingo Mizusawa, Narushi Ikeda,

Website IMDB

Dear Etranger is an intimate drama about one man trying to balance two families and be an ideal father at a time when others give him or are going through crises. Free from melodrama and idealism, it paints a believable picture of the stresses and strains of maintaining a loving family unit built from the scraps of past relationships.

The film is based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu and tells the tale of 40-year-old Makoto Tanaka (Tadanobu Asano), an assistant manager at a company.

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RUINED HEART: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore (2014)

RUINED HEART: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore 

Ruined Heart DVD Cover
Ruined Heart DVD Cover

UK Release Date: December 07th, 2015 via Third Window Films

Running Time: 73 mins.

Directors: Khavn

Writer: Khavn (Screenplay)

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Nathalia Acevedo, Andre Puertollano, Elena Kazan, Vim Nadera

Website   IMDB

The latest release from Third Window Films is Ruined Heart: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore. That long title should give an indication that the audience is going to be given a familiar tale of forbidden love with archetypal characters but the way it is shot and the use of songs makes the film different.

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Third Window Films Release Ruined Heart

The latest Third Window Film release caught my attention earlier this year because it saw the collaboration between Wong Kar-Wai’s favourite cinematographer Christopher Doyle (the man responsible for the look for Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express) and the awesome actor Tadanobu Asano (Vital, Watashi no Otoko, Ichi the Killer, Survive Style 5+).

The film is a gangster flick which looks stylish and involves Asano falling for a gangster’s moll played by Mexican star Nathalia Acevedo (Post Tenebras Lux) and the two going on the run. They are working with the Phillipine director Khavn (Mondomanilla) and music is provided by German synth-pop duo Stereo Total. Long time readers will remember that I wrote about this when Asano and Stereo Total were at Nippon Connection earlier this year when trio played a concert and attended the screening of the film. Here are the details!

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My Man Watashi no Otoko 私の男 (2014)

It seems that reviews of films containing Fumi Nikaido grow to mammoth proportions and this is another long one for a film released in June of last year. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers and barely mention what happens in the second half of the film. Read on if you care or dare because this film is about some taboo subject-matter.

 

My Man  My Man Film Poster

Japanese Title:私の男

Romaji: Watashi no Otoko

Running Time: 128 mins

Release Date: June 14th, 2014 (Japan)

Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri

Writer: Takashi Ujita (Screenplay), Kazuki Sakuraba (Novel)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Tadanobu Asano, Aoba Kawai, Kengo Kora, Tatsuya Fuji, Taiga, Itsuki Sagara,

“Parents. They f*ck you up.” – Philip Larkin

That quote seems apt for Watashi no Otoko, a beautiful but dark film that is sure to challenge all viewers. It starts off with a disaster, one that strips a girl of her family, and gets darker as she gets a new family. If I make a reference to the novel/film Lolita you will know the territory. A spirit of corruption hovers over the characters in the film, one that takes the bonds of family and poisons them with the perversion of incest and director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri makes no bones about being somewhat explicit while exploring the effects of an incestuous love affair on the characters.

Watashi no Otoko Jungo (Tadanobu Asano) and Hana (Fumi Nikaido) on a Bus

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47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin Review Header

47 Ronin                                 47 Ronin Film Poster                            

UK Release Date: December 26th, 2013 (UK)

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Carl Erik Rinsch

Writer: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kou Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Jin Akanishi, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa,

47 Ronin is the Hollywood adaptation of a real incident from Japan’s samurai past during the Tokugawa era where 47 masterless samurai seek revenge over the death of their Lord through the assassination of another even though it means certain death. It is a celebrated tale that has been turned into multiple films because it typifies the bravery and loyalty of the samurai at a time when they were losing their place in the country. Instead of sticking firmly to the facts the writers of this version favour have endeavoured to make a fantasy epic close to The Lord of the Rings (perhaps to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience?) but in doing so they make a vapid and dull action film.

Ancient feudal Japan. A group of magical islands full of witches and demons. Peace is kept by samurai. The story of 47 Ronin is the story of all Japan.

The first character we meet is a boy named Kai, the illegitimate son of a British sailor and a Japanese peasant woman who was abandoned in a forest raised by Tengu. He is fleeing the forest in which they live so he can experience a life amongst humans. During his escape he runs into Lord Asano (Tanaka) and his entourage. Asano takes pity on the boy and takes him in. Asano’s samurai are displeased, not least his loyal general Oishi (Sanada), but his daughter Mika takes a liking to Kai.

Fast forward to the future and Kai (Reeves) is an outcast in Asano’s kingdom. He is held in contempt by the haughty samurai, usually referred to as half-breed and treated like a dog, but the love of Mika (Sibasaki) is enough joy for him to remain in the service of her father. This loyalty is called upon when the evil Lord Kira (Asano) and a witch named Mizuki (Kikuchi) use magic to destroy Asano and steal his lands. Oishi, banished with the rest of Asano’s samurai plot their revenge and it is Kai with his mysterious past who will play a pivotal role.

47 Ronin Keanu Reeves in Samurai Armour

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