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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2019

Cannes Film Festival 2019 Poster

The 72nd Cannes Film Festival will run from May 14th until the 25th and themain programme was announced a couple of weeks ago. There are around 47 premieres at the fest with familiar names like Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, Ghost Dog), Ken Loach (Kes) and Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In) walking on the Croisette along with a slight uptick in female directors – Jessica Hausner and Mati Diop are the names to watch – and there is a decent Asian contingent.

Prominent names for me are South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho, a masterful director with titles like Mother, Memories of Murder and The Host in his filmography. He is at Cannes with Parasite, which has a family tragi-comedy unfold as one “parasitic” family gets involved with a well-to-do one for nefarious reasons. The trailer looks brilliant. Then there is China’s Diao Yinan who made the electric neo-noir Black Coal, Thin Ice which won the Golden Bear at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival. He has a story of a biker and a desperate woman trying to escape their situations. What of Japan? Nothing much that can secure a Palm d’Or.

Hirokazu Koreeda Cannes 2018 Shoplifters Palme d'or
(Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

Following his success at last year’s Cannes, it looks like Hirokazu Kore-eda won’t be returning because his latest film, the France-set film The Truth won’t be ready in time. This is Kore-eda’s first film set outside Japan and it stars Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke and Ludivine Sagnier. Kiyoshi Kurosawa does have a film due for release this year but it doesn’t look like it will be shown at Cannes. Thankfully, there is still a Japanese presence at the festival and it comes from Takashi Miike and a classic!

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Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2017

The 14th London International Animation Festival (LIAF 17) returns to the Barbican from 1st-10th December and there are 200 animated shorts and features slated to appear as well as a lot of guests who will take part in Q&As and presentations. There is a focus on the on-screen representation of women and the usual high-quality and diverse selection of films which show the various media used in making the many different films.

As the organisers have written on their site,

This year’s uncompromising programme promises to inspire, delight and challenge the notion that animation is merely for the 3D-CGI blockbuster genre or cute cartoons for kids. Independent animation is an art form that continues to thrive and develop as a breathtaking medley of styles, materials, techniques and production – including hand drawn, paint on glass, collage, sculpture, cut outs, puppets, abstract, sand/salt, the interesting developments in CGI – all of which can be seen at LIAF 2017.

Here’s what’s on offer:

Gokurosama Image

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review Round-Up: Takashi Miike’s “Blade of the Immortal”

It has been a while since I last did a review round-up of any festival but fellow cinephile and Twitter-user FelixAguirre regularly collects links to reviews and alerts them to me and with such a treasure-trove of opinions from the most recent Cannes Film Festival on offer, I’d be mad to turn them down. First up…

Blade of the Immortal Film Poster 3

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Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2017

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Poster

This year’s Cannes Film Festival (17th – 28th May) is the 70th edition of the event and the festival head Thierry Fremaux announced the Official Selection of films programmed last week. Critics are salivating over the fact that there are two Netflix films: the monster movie Okja by Bong Joon-ho (The Host) and The Meyerowitz Stories by Noah Baumbach (writer on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and director of Mistress America). There will be two TV series for audiences to watch: David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake and lots more familiar faces such as Sofia (Somewhere) Coppola’s The Beguiled, Michael (Code Unknown/Cache) Haneke’s Happy End (knowing Haneke, it’s probably an ironic title…). More importantly, there are also nine first-time filmmakers getting their works screened.

Why is that important?

The Cannes Film Festival comes into 2017 with a need to find fresh blood and this is seemingly strong selection because may be it. Since this is the 70th anniversary of the festival and the fact that, last year, organisers faced fierce criticism last year for their lack of female directors, commentators identified that they needed to do a couple of things: broaden out its programme so that there are filmmakers other than the old guard (Campion, Haneke, Kawase, Haynes, the Dardennes brothers etc.) and increase the number of female-centric stories and female-led films across the programme. The old guard are back but just by glancing at the lists of announced films, it is clear that the festival has achieved some of its goals and will probably avoid the criticism it faced last year – hopefully, no high-heels and breast-feeding baby incidents will crop up). Things are a bit of a mixed picture when it comes to the Japanese films.

So far, there are four Japanese films programmed, and three come from festival regulars: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Naomi Kawase, and Takashi Miike. Two of the four are adaptations while the other two are original dramas. Out of the dramas, one is made by a seasoned professional while the shorter one at 45 minutes is from a student. The presence of a fresh director is always something to cheer when it comes to Japanese films at international festivals and this director is a lady to boot: Aya Igashi. She is a graduate from Toei Gakuen Film College’s movie production department and is already working on her third film.

So, while we can all sigh and shrug our shoulders at the lack of original content, we can take comfort in the fact that Aya Igashi is on the radar of people who programme the festival.

What are the films playing this year?

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Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld 極道大戦争 (2015)

Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld   

極道大戦争「Goku dou dai sensou

Yakuza Apocalypse Film Poster
Yakuza Apocalypse Film Poster

Release Date: June 20th, 2015 (Japan)

UK Release Date: January 06th, 2016

UK Distributor: Manga Entertainment

Running Time: 125 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Yoshitaka Yamaguchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Hayato Ichihara, Riko Narumi, Lily Franky, Reiko Takashima, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Sho Aoyagi, Mio Yuki, Pierre Taki, Denden, Yayan Ruhian, Yuki Sakurai,

Website IMDB UK Website

Criminals and vampires are essentially the same thing: parasites. Criminals live off regular people by robbing them much like vampires suck the blood of the innocent to stay alive. This is an analogy exploited to the fullest by Yakuza Apocalypse when a small town comes under assault from yakuza goons, vampires and, yes, yakuza vampires. It’s a hit and miss affair where fantasy and potential fun are hampered by average writing.

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Yakuza Apocalypse in UK Cinemas

Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld was at many of last year’s international film festivals and it has finally made its way to Britain via the UK anime distributor Manga Entertainment. It starts its cinema run from January 06th and it will be screened at various cinemas across the country. To see if your cinema is going to play it and to book tickets, check the film’s UK website.

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As the Gods Will 神さまの言うとおり Kami-sama no Iutoori (2014)

As the Gods Will      

As the Gods Will Film Poster 1
As the Gods Will Film Poster 1

Japanese: 神さまの言うとお

Romaji: Kami-sama no Iutoori

Release Date: November 15th, 2014 (Japan)

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Hiroyuki Yatsu (Screenplay), Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Akeji Fujimura (Original Manga)

Starring: Sota Fukushi, Hirona Yamazaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mio Yuki, Shota Sometani, Nao Omori, Lily Franky

Website

As the Gods Will is the big-budget adaptation of a horror-survival manga series written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and illustrated by Akeji Fujimura. I picked up on it at the end of last year because it looked great and was directed by Takashi Miike who has gone back to his V-cinema horror/action roots as of late. The DVD/blu-ray was released at the end of May and I’m happy to report that this film doesn’t disappoint fans of Miike. The film is a star-studded affair with talented actors like Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shota Sometani, Lily Franky being led by Sota Fukushi in a tale about a bored schoolboy who wants a bit of excitement in his life and gets more than he bargained for.

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Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2015

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!

Here’s the line-up of films:

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Third Window Films Releases Takashi Miike Film Lesson of Evil

Third Window Films will release Lesson of Evil on September 28th and I have had mine on pre-order since it became available on day one. I’ll wait until I get it before I review it but I am anticipating a barn-storming bit of entertainment. It’s a title I have kept track of ever since it played at the Rotterdam film festival and I was excited by the buzz because the reviews pointed to it as evidence that he was going back to his roots in gory horror and action titles and those are the films I first go to know him by. The film is based on a book written by Yusuke Kishi, an award winning novelist who specialises in horror and stars a lot of great actors.

Also, awesome DVD case!

Here are the release details:

LESSON OF EVIL

Lesson of Evil DVD Case

A film by Takashi Miike (Audition, 13 Assassins, For Love’s Sake)

Japan / 2012 / 129 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour

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As the Gods Will Teaser Trailer and Information

As the Gods Will   As the Gods Will Film Poster 1

Japanese: 神さまの言うとおり

Romaji: Kami-sama no Iutoori

Release Date: November 15th, 2014 (Japan)

Running Time: 83 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Hiroyuki Yatsu (Screenplay), Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Akeji Fujimura (Original Manga)As the Gods Will Film Poster 2

Starring: Sota Fukushi, Hirona Yamazaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mio Yuki, Shota Sometani, Nao Omori, Lily Franky

When Takashi Miike announced he was going back to making gory and funny films I couldn’t help but grin. When I saw this trailer I replayed it a dozen times and possibly (probably) cackled with glee at the comedy! This trailer is just fun!

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