Japanese Films at the New York Asian Film Festival 2016

The 2016 New York Asian Film Festival takes place from June 22nd to July 09th and it is the 15th edition of the event. This year’s run features art-house and mainstream films, crime and romance, and a healthy stock of Japanese titles with guests jetting in from Japan! I’ll be reviewing a couple of these so stay tuned.

What’s on the programme?

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the New York Asian Film Festival 2016”

Genkina Hito and It Came From Japan

The LAMB logoIt is getting close to Halloween and so this post is timely… I am a member of The LAMB (Large Association of Movie Blogs) and occasionally, very occasionally, I take part in some of the events organised by them. Recently I have taken part in Foreign Chops #6: It Came From Japan which hosts a bunch of reviews from LAMB members which are focussed on Japanese horror films.

Apparently this is the second largest edition of Foreign Chops and from what I can see the titles sent in are an interesting mix. There are some obvious titles like, Audition and Ichi the Killer, the splatter-fest Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl and classic kaidan eiga like Jigoku, Kuroneko and Onibaba and more recent J-horror like Ju-On and Ringu.

Onibaba Demon Hag

There are a lot of titles I wouldn’t class as strictly horror since they mix genres. Titles like the kaiju eiga Gamera vs. Guiron and Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla, and the dystopian action thriller Battle Royale.

There are even some non-Japanese films including, Bio Zombie and Three Extremes. While Three Extremes scrapes in (just) since only one section (the best) is Japanese, the others come from Hong Kong and South Korea, Bio Zombie is clearly from Hong Kong. It is also pretty unspectacular. Thankfully there are some interesting reviews of classic titles, notably from Silveremulsion with The Ghost of Yotsuya and Jigoku.

My reviews (picked with help by Goregirl) are for Cure, Retribution (representing Kiyoshi Kurosawa), Suicide Circle (probably the most fun I have had watching and reviewing a Sion Sono film), Tetsuo: The Iron Man (an incredible film from Shinya Tsukamoto) and Audition (Miike represented). Three of Japan’s biggest directors, five films that deserve to be seen and probably three of my more readable attempts at film criticism.

As for Halloween itself… on Wednesday I will post a review of a great horror film, a tradition I started last year with Shinya Tsukamoto’s Nightmare Detective.

Third Window Films Release Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer and Kotoko Tomorrow

The 08th of October 2012 will be a momentous day for Japanese film fans as Third Window Films are going to release three Shinya Tsukamoto films which played a pivotal role in my Shinya Tsukamoto Season.

The first two titles are Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer which stunned me as my reviews show. They are released as part of a 2-disc DVD/Blu-Ray set and this Blu-Ray will be the first time the Tetsuo films have graced the format anywhere in the world. More importantly, Shinya Tsukamoto has been heavily involved with the release which results in a phenomenal set of extras which impressed me so much I felt they merited review themselves. Here are the details:

TETSUO: THE IRON MAN
TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER

 Tetsuo DVDBluRay Cover

A film by Shinya Tsukamoto (Kotoko, Snake of June, Vital)

Two of the most talked-about Japanese cult films of all time makes their way onto a double-disc blu-ray set for the first time in the world with a brand new high definition transfer supervised by Shinya Tsukamoto!

 

TETSUO: THE IRON MAN

Tetsuo Metal FetishistA strange man known only as the “metal fetishist”, who seems to have an insane compulsion to stick scrap metal into his body, is hit and possibly killed by a Japanese “salaryman”, out for a drive with his girlfriend. The salaryman then notices that he is being slowly overtaken by some kind of disease that is turning his body into scrap metal, and that his nemesis is not in fact dead but is somehow masterminding and guiding his rage and frustration-fueled transformation.

TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER

Tetsuo 2More of a companion piece to Tetsuo: The Iron Man than a sequel, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer sees Tsukamoto’s disturbing vision of a world populated by man-machines explode into a stunning colour interpretation.

I gave both films 5/5 because I was left flabbergasted by the arresting images, disturbing soundscapes and inventive use of the medium of film. I ended my review for Tetsuo: The Iron Man with the sentence, “If you consider yourself a cinephile willing to push the boundaries of your experiences then buy this film.” I stand by this because the works are just that great and show the power of film and the inventiveness of Shinya Tsukamoto.

 

Here is the UK trailer:

This 2 disc blu-ray and DVD set includes a brand new exclusive interview with Shinya Tsukamoto that lasts for nearly twenty minutes and goes into detail about how he started making movies, the making of Tetsuo and what film and cyberpunk mean to him. Also included is 45 minute ‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’, an early film Tsukamoto made just before Tetsuo: The Iron Man which is an absolute riot and full of joy and creativity. This is the first English-subtitled release and it has also been remastered.

The release features both a slipcase as well as a reversible sleeve so fans can choose whether they’d rather have an image from Tetsuo I or II on the front of their box.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man – Japan / 1989 / 67 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / B&W / 16mm

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer – Japan / 1992 / 83 minutes / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / 16mm

DVD/BLU-RAY Special Features:

New High Definition Transfer supervised by Shinya Tsukamoto
Exclusive interview with Shinya Tsukamoto
‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’ – Shinya Tsukamoto’s early film
New UK Trailer
Japanese Theatrical Trailers for both Tetsuo I & II

 

The third film released by Third Window Films is Kotoko which won the ‘Best Film’ award in the Orrizzonti at the Venice Film Festival last year, the only Japanese Film to ever win that award. When I watched it I was struck by the difference between Tsukamoto’s earliest films as seen in Tetsuo and the way he has changed his style but retained his visual literacy and kept his ability to use the medium of film to convey so many ideas. I described Kotoko as a harrowing film to watch but worth striving for because it is strong emotionally and visually and powered with a strong central performance from Cocco and I gave it 4.5/5.

Here are the details of the release: 

KOTOKO

 Kotoko DVD Case

A film by Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo, Snake of June, Vital)

Cocco as Kotoko Dancing

Kotoko (Cocco) is a young single mother who lives alone with her baby son. Suffering from an unknown illness that makes her see doubles of people and not knowing which version of the person is real, it severely impacts her day-to-day life, often leading to her lashing out violently. The only time she does not see double is when she is singing. As her situation worsens and she becomes a liability her son Daijiro is taken from her and put in the care of her sister. Kotoko is left alone with her own thoughts and is at a loss as to how to get Daijiro back. Then a man named Tanaka (Tsukamoto) enters her life when he hears her singing on a bus trip and finds something awoken inside himself. Tanaka is a novelist with a hit title called The Man Who Brightened the Moon in bookshops but he leads a lonely life. Despite initial rejections he persists but Kotoko’s mental state is not getting better.

Japan / 2011 / 91 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / HD

DVD/BLU-RAY Special Features:

Exclusive interview with Shinya Tsukamoto
UK Trailer
Japanese Theatrical Trailer

Tetsuo: The Iron Man / Tetsuo II: Body Hammer DVD Extras

Tetsuo DVDBluRay CoverTetsuo: The Iron Man  / Tetsuo II: Body Hammer DVD Extras

UK DVD Release Date: 08th October 2012

UK Distribution Label: Third Window Films

I rarely talk about the extras on a DVD because I am more interested in the film. I do watch the extras but I would rather write about the films. Unless a director says something interesting in an interview or there is something easy or interesting to spot like the quality of the visuals or inaccurate subtitles I tend to leave them alone. I really should get a grip on this situation so now is a good time to start because Third Window Films have pulled out all of the stops for this re-release of the Tetsuo films…

Tetsuo: The Iron Man  / Tetsuo II: Body Hammer

Tetsuo Reversible Cover

The two films are part of a 2-disc DVD/Blu-Ray set. This Blu-Ray will be the first time the Tetsuo films have graced the format. Most importantly is the fact that Shinya Tsukamoto is heavily involved with the project which means that there are a goodly amount of interesting and hard to get extras.

What are the technical details/extras included?

New High Definition Transfer supervised by Shinya Tsukamoto

Tetsuo: The Iron Man Japanese Trailer

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer Japanese Trailer

Tetsuo UK Trailer

Exclusive interview with Shinya Tsukamoto

‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’ – Shinya Tsukamoto’s early film

The technical aspects of the DVD are excellent and extras are extremely fascinating. Even a guy like me who is usually more interested in the films was bowled over by them. Visually, the differences in the colours are startling. Comparing this set’s films to clips and trailers on YouTube, you can see a real difference in terms of the sharpness of the picture and the way colours are highly defined. You can make out the smallest of details. The sound is also excellent, clear and audible which is why I was able to write a lot about the images and sounds for my reviews. Even Tsukamoto’s early indie effort, The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy, sounds and looks good. This clip on YouTube is nothing compared to the version on this DVD set and we get to see the whole thing through in great quality.

What about the extras? I started with the trailers. There are the original Japanese trailers for Tetsuo and Tetsuo II and a UK trailer that combines the two. I never watch a trailer before viewing a film because I want to go in as cold as possible so I am surprised by the film. The two Japanese trailers give away so much about the films, I am thankful I avoided them. The UK trailer manages to be more enigmatic and intriguing without giving too much away.

 

Now we get to the real meat of the extras. Shinya Tsukamoto is interviewed. How did he get his start and where do his weird ideas come from? We get some of those insights in an interview which lasts nearly twenty minutes. It gives excellent background information on Tsukamoto’s early career, the making of Tetsuo and he also addresses being compared to David Cronenberg and what cyberpunk means to him. Tsukamoto explains how he went about working on this new release, how he went back to the original negatives and worked from them, rebalancing colours etc.

The biggest plus I can find is the inclusion of ‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’, an early film Tsukamoto made with the Kaiju theatre just before Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Seeing this film for the first time was interesting because it further reinforced the fact that Tsukamoto is a true filmmaker. The creativity flowing through Tetsuo can be seen in this short film. It is an absolute riot.

Electric Rod Boy MomoHikari, a boy with an electricity pole growing out of his back travels to a dystopian future where he is placed in a battle with a trio of Shinsengumi bio-mechanical vampires who have enslaved humanity.

The best way to describe it might be Tetsuo: Iron Man crossed with Vampire Hunter D and Steins;Gate only far more irreverent, insane and good natured. Sounds like a contradiction but the mixture of time travel, sex, death, mutation, and school comedy antics is a joyful mix in a film which shows more invention than the average Hollywood project. I say that a lot but the low-budget physical effects, the editing, the acting and the story are inventive and enthusiastic and despite the ridiculous narrative and flimsy sets I enjoyed it tremendously. We see scenes and ideas similar to some of the insane sights in Tetsuo such as the stop-motion chase scenes along Japanese streets between the electric rod boy and the vampires, crazy morphing sequences and images of a Electric Rod Boy Vampiresworld heading to disaster. The performances are winningly delivered with the central protagonist being a character straight out of Arakawa Under the Bridge and the villains being goofy Slayers style and all of it is layered with a cute anime soundtrack mixed with hard rock and a nightmare sound-scape. Effectively it all shouts imagination, enthusiasm and effort. Considering the age and nature of the project, the quality of this short film is impressive and it helps to show Tsukamoto’s background. Now this high standard has been set I want to see a Kiyoshi Kurosawa box-set with his un-erotic pink film… for research purposes of course.

I was really impressed by this package and I have been really impressed with the films. The involvement of Shinya Tsukamoto has made this an essential purchase for anyone interested in films. I cannot recommend this set highly enough!

5/5

I may have to look at the extras on Blade Runner (there are lots including different versions of the film) and Retribution now… The extras in the Ringu box-set (which my Japanese teacher currently has) Tartan put out are very impressive as well. Expect a separate review for the extras from that set when I come to do a Hideo Nakata season.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man 鉄男 (1989)

Tetsuo Metal Fetishist Header

Tetsuo: The Iron Man                     Tetsuo DVDBluRay Cover    

Japanese Title鉄男 Tetsuo

Romaji: Tetsuo

UK Release Date: 08th October, 2012

UK Distribution Label: Third Window Films

Original Japanese Release Date: 01st July 1989

Running Time: 67 mins.

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto                                                                       Tetsuo Japanese Poster

Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto

Starring: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shinya Tsukamoto, Renji Ishibashi, Nobu Kanaoka, Naomasa Musaka

When I first watched this I was left stunned. I had no idea what I had just watched but it left me marked. Tetsuo: the Iron Man is considered one of the defining titles in the ‘body horror’ movement and a cyberpunk classic. While it may have been shot in black and white 16mm, the creative force in this film is near overwhelming and totally absorbing and it is easy to see why this became an international cult hit and why many hail this as a classic. Now, thanks to Third Window Films, we get to see why this is so highly regarded in a DVD package which is of brilliant quality.

Continue reading “Tetsuo: The Iron Man 鉄男 (1989)”

TETSUO: THE IRON MAN and TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER Release Details

Third Window Films are all set to release three Shinya Tsukamoto films next month. The first two major titles are Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. These are genuine cyberpunk classics which showcase Tsukamoto’s creativity, dark imagination, and energy. The really exciting thing for cinephiles is the fact that this package comes complete with some of Tsukamoto’s earliest works and with a high definition transfer supervised by the man himself. Here is the information:

 

TETSUO: THE IRON MAN
TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER

Tetsuo DVDBluRay Cover

A film by Shinya Tsukamoto (Kotoko, Snake of June, Vital)
Out on DVD October 8th, 2012

Two of the most talked-about Japanese cult films of all time makes their way onto a double-disc blu-ray set for the first time in the world with a brand new high definition transfer supervised by Shinya Tsukamoto!
TETSUO: THE IRON MAN
Tetsuo Metal Fetishist

A strange man known only as the “metal fetishist”, who seems to have an insane compulsion to stick scrap metal into his body, is hit and possibly killed by a Japanese “salaryman”, out for a drive with his girlfriend. The salaryman then notices that he is being slowly overtaken by some kind of disease that is turning his body into scrap metal, and that his nemesis is not in fact dead but is somehow masterminding and guiding his rage and frustration-fueled transformation.

TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER
Tetsuo 2

More of a companion piece to Tetsuo: The Iron Man than a sequel, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer sees Tsukamoto’s disturbing vision of a world populated by man-machines explode into a stunning colour interpretation.

For a taste of the madness, here is the trailer.

This 2 disc blu-ray and DVD set will include a brand new exclusive interview with Shinya Tsukamoto as well as the first English-subtitled release in the world of his 45 minute pre-Tetsuo student film ‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’ which has also been remastered.

The release will feature both a slipcase as well as a reversible sleeve so fans can choose whether they’d rather have an image from Tetsuo I or II on the front of their box.

 Tetsuo Reversible Cover

Tetsuo: The Iron Man – Japan / 1989 / 67 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / B&W / 16mm

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer – Japan / 1992 / 83 minutes / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / 16mm

DVD/BLU-RAY Special Features:

New High Definition Transfer supervised by Shinya Tsukamoto
Exclusive interview with Shinya Tsukamoto
‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’ – Shinya Tsukamoto’s early film
New UK Trailer
Japanese Theatrical Trailers for both Tetsuo I & II

Shinya Tsukamoto Films at the East End Film Festival

Shinya Tsukamoto, Director of Nightmare DetectiveShinya Tsukamoto (Nightmare Detective, Vital) is going to have three of his films screened at the East End Film Festival next month ahead of their blu-ray release, thanks to Third Window Films, in the UK later this year. The madness kicks off on the 4th of July when the festival screens two of his films, the classic Tetsuo, The Iron Man (1989) and Tetsuo: Body Hammer (1992) at the Hackney Picturehouse. The festival will then be screening his latest film Kotoko which will be shown on the 5th of July at 20:30 at the Rich Mix CinTetsuo, the Iron Manema.

Earlier this year Third Window Films announced that the Tetsuo films will be released together as a Blu-ray double-pack in October with brand new transfers restored from the original negatives by Shinya Tsukamoto and his  45 minute Tetsuo-prototype film ‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’ (Denchu Kozo no Boken) in the package. KOTOKO will also be released in October.

Also screening at the festival is the film Cut, a gritty post-modern tale of a passionate cinephile mixing with the yakuza (this film was released at the end of last year and part of one of my first proper weekly trailer posts), Reed: The Life and Works of Roy Kiyooka, a film which looks at the Japanese-Canadian artist and his influence on North American art, and Radioactivists which looks at the recent changes in protest culture in Japan.

Thanks go out to Kyaputenbanana for the alert an Otherwhere for further information.

Third Window Films Movie Extravaganza – Tetsuo, Himizu, Love Exposure, Are Any of You Alive?

At the beginning of the week Adam Torel of Japanese film distributor Third Window Films revealed to Twitch some great news: Love Exposure on Blu-ray, Tetsuo 1 & 2 on Blu-ray, and Are Any of You Alive? will get distributed in the UK.

Love Exposure Blu-ray

Aya Koike (Ando) and Her Gang in Love ExposureWhen I reviewed the Love Exposure as part of my Sion Sono Season I revealed my love of the film. Many of the commenters were well aware that the four hour masterpiece of love and identity was missing at least an hour of footage and they were curious as to what that might hold. Well they will now get their chance to see it sinceThird Window Films is giving the film is getting the Blu-ray treatment which means way more storage space for way more movie goodness. According to Adam:

The film will be a new transfer to HD (they’re making a new HDCAMSR from the original master and definitely no upconversion or anything like that) and will put the film on 1 Blu-ray, then extras on a separate DVD. This is really going to be an amazing release

Extras are to include:

Nearly an hour of deleted and extended scenes, New exclusive interview with Sion Sono plus the 1 hour long ‘making of’ which was on our original DVD release

Anybody who owns the DVD version will know that they have to swap disks halfway through but thanks to the power of Blu-ray there is no need to do that thus we don’t need to break the spell of the film. Plus we get to see what was cut from theatrical versions on a disc dedicated to extras. Sounds awesome.

Continue reading “Third Window Films Movie Extravaganza – Tetsuo, Himizu, Love Exposure, Are Any of You Alive?”