The Land of Hope 希望の国 (2012)

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The Land of Hope                               The Land of Hope Movie Poster

Japanese: 希望 の 国

Romaji: Kibou no Kuni

Release Date: October 20th, 2012 (Japan)

UK Release Date: August 26th, 2013

UK Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 133 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Starring: Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka, Yutaka Shimizu, Hikari Kajiwara, Denden, Mariko Tsutsui, Yusuke Iseya, Mitsuru Fukikoshi,

When Sion Sono’s last film Himizu came to its stunning open ending it was clear that he was far from finished addressing the issues surrounding the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tusnami. The Land of Hope is the powerful and important follow-up which is epic in scale and drama. For daring to take on such a taboo subject in Japan, Sono had to go to foreign investors but what has resulted is a film that is a key way of seeing the effects of a disaster. At two hours it captures all sorts of aspects about the disaster but remains incredibly humane as it centres on the travails of two families.

An old couple named Yasuhiko and Chieko Ono (Natsuyagi and Otani) live on a farm with their son Yoichi (Murakami) and his wife Izumi (Kagurazaka) near Ohara town in Nagashima prefecture.

 The Land of Hope Ono and Suzuki Families

It is a peaceful place whose only claim to fame is the nearby Nagashima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Yasuhiko’s days are spent farming land owned by his family for generations, taking care of Chieko who suffers dementia and talking with the neighbouring Suzuki family made up of father Ken (Denden), mother Meiko (Tsutsui), son Mitsuru (Shimizu) and his girlfriend Yoko (Kajiwara). 

Continue reading “The Land of Hope 希望の国 (2012)”

Terracotta Far East Film Festival Round-Up

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This has been a long time in coming. I attended the festival a couple of months ago and in the meantime I have only published a review for one of the four films I saw, The Berlin File. Now’s the time to get the three other films I watched. Here are previews:

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These were the main reasons I was attending the festival. All three are Japanese and come from directors whose films I have reviewed before. Two of the three were also released in Japan earlier this year, one last year, so this is a great slice of what Japanese film culture can produce. Furthermore, all three will be released by Third Window Films during the rest of this year. 

First up is THE LAND OF HOPE  is from Sion Sono, one of my all-time favourite directors who I frequently post about. Released last year, this is his follow-up to the mighty drama Himizu. Like that film, The Land of Hope also deals with the after-effects of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami that occurred on March 11th back in 2011 but it’s more of a disaster epic as it pretty much covers what happened to a larger number of people in the areas affected by the tsunami and nuclear power plant explosion. After I first watched it I was bewildered and I did not like it at all but I put that down to the fact that I was tired after a day packed full of tourist activities so I was in no condition to absorb what was going on. A second viewing has proven vital in improving my understanding and I think the film is a pretty staggering achievement. The DVD is released at the beginning of next week by Third Window Films. The review is published on Wednesday.

 

Next is Yoshihiro Nakamura’s SEE YOU TOMORROW, EVERYONE which was released in Japan in January. This one stars Gaku Hamada who has appeared in a number of his previous titles like Fish Story and The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck & God in a Coin Locker , I was very impressed by the latter title and placed it near the top of my Top Ten for 2013 (there’s going to be a major shake-up of that soon) and it received great review from Mark Schilling over at The Japan Times so I was confident that I would enjoy it and discussed the films merits (director/actors) with other festival attendees I had never met before. Would I walk out feeling the same things? Review on Friday.  

 

The final title I’ll review is THE STORY OF YONOSUKE which comes from Shuichi Okita who really (really!) impressed me with his title The Woodsman & the Rain, a film which contained a wonderfully observed and rather touching comedy about filmmaking and human bonds where he got great performances from his actors including the two lead stars, Koji Yakusho and Shun Oguri. The Story of Yonosuke was released in Japan back in February. Out of the films I saw in the festival this was easily my favourite because Okita once again brought all of the warmth, quirks and humanity out of his characters and created wonderful comedic scenes. Review on Sunday.

 

There’s a lot of nostalgia, love and drama over the next week on the cards but that’s okay because the rest of August and September sees an upsurge in dark yakuza tales due to a Takashi Ishii and a Kiyoshi Kurosawa season.

5TH ANNUAL TERRACOTTA FAR EAST FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FULL LINE-UP

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Tickets are now on sale for the fifth edition of the annual Terracotta Far East Film Festival. Due to Japanese language studies this post is about two weeks late but there is still time to order tickets.

The festival this year looks genuinely impressive with many UK premieres and a selection of films that cover a wide variety of genres and countries. There is strength and depth in this selection and it is heartening to see that the UK is getting to see these films.

For my part I have got four tickets thanks to fellow blogger Alua. I’m pretty hyped up at the prospect of seeing three Japanese films (A Story of Yonosuke, See You Tomorrow, Everyone, Land of Hope) and one Korean one (The Berlin File). Without further ado here is a word from the organisers followed by the line-up with some comments on the films I am familiar with and a preview of the Japanese films I will watch. Click on the titles to head over to the festival site for more information on the film and to order tickets!

5TH ANNUAL TERRACOTTA FAR EAST FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FULL LINE-UP

Over the years the festival has seen the event go from strength to strength. This year is set to be the biggest yet, expanding to 27 films spread over 4 sections and 2 venues from 06 – 15 June 2013.

The core of the festival will remain a hand-picked selection of the best CURRENT ASIAN CINEMA at The Prince Charles Cinema. This all UK Premiere section reflects the vibrancy and energy in Asian filmmaking today. Ranging from realist dramas to romance, light comedies to spy action thrillers, swordfighting epics to gothic fairytales, the festival aims to balance the representation of Asian countries.

Terracotta Festival 2013 (TFEFF13) will open with Hong Kong action COLD WAR on Thursday 06 June 2013. 

This year’s edition will also see a return to last year’s Terror Cotta Horror night on Friday 07 June in association with Film 4 Frightfest. The triple bill has now extended to an all-night horror marathon.

The organisers also have added the “IN MEMORY OF” section to mark the tenth anniversary of two of Hong Kong’s best loved and most missed stars: Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui.

Terracotta Festival 2013 will close out at the ICA with “SPOTLIGHT ON: Indonesia”.  11 – 15 June will be an entire week dedicated to Indonesian cinema, from the country’s freshest emerging talent alongside work by established filmmakers. This new section will bring rare insight into one of Asia’s rising film powerhouses.

 

Terracotta Far East Film Festival full Programme:
IN MEMORY OF: Leslie Cheung & Anita Mui 

Both Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui were wonderful actors, two of the biggest stars in HK cinema, and they both died untimely deaths. It is pleasing to see that they will be remembered with this retrospective.

DAYS OF BEING WILD Dir: Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong – Wed 29 May 2013, 20:45

1994/ Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles/ 94 mins/ starring Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai

Days of Being Wild was one of Wong Kar Wai’s (WKW) earliest films and it contains all of WKW’s familiar from gorgeous cinematography to characters going trough deep existential self-questioning in a story about a man searching for his birth mother. It stars a whole gamut of HK stars.

ROUGE Dir: Stanley Kwan, Hong Kong – Thurs 06 June 2013, 17:50

1988/ Cantonese with English subtitles/ 96 mins/ starring Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung

Stanley Kwan’s film is described as Part Romeo & Juliet, part ghost story, an outstanding and timeless classic. It stars both Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung.

HAPPY TOGETHER Dir: Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong – Fri 07 June 2013, 12:30

1997/ Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles/ 96 mins/ starring Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Chen Chang

I really like this film. I have watched it numerous times and I just love (and own) the soundtrack which is inspired by its Argentinian setting and don’t get me started about the ending.

 

The film follows the story of a gay love triangle slowly fragmenting and dislocating amidst the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.

CURRENT ASIAN CINEMA 

COLD WAR by Sunny Luk, Longman Leung, Hong Kong – Opening Film Thurs 06 June 2013, 19:50

UK Premiere/ 2012/ Cantonese with English subtitles/ 102 mins/ starring Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Andy Lau

This is a police thriller which reminds me a lot of Infernal Affairs and it looks to have similar impressive production values. It won big at the recent Hong Kong Film awards and UK film fans get to see it on the big screen with its premiere at the festival.

When police deal with a sophisticated hijacking of a police van they are outwitted at every turn and all the while the guys leading the police investigation are battling each other for positions of power in a tale of police corruption and politics.

Continue reading “5TH ANNUAL TERRACOTTA FAR EAST FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FULL LINE-UP”

Penguin Fufu, The Land of Hope, Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story, Space Sheriff Gavan The Movie Trailers and the Japanese Movie Box Office Charts

Last Exile Fam-the Silver Wing Fan-Fan Giselle Collette Vingt Grunge Range MurataThis week started with my revamp of my Top Ten Films page (now with pretty pictures and comments!), continued with a review for the surprisingly pleasing Korean rom-com Petty Romance, an announcement for the release of Return to Burma and a review of Sogo Ishii’s wonderfully absurdist chat-pocalypse Isn’t Anyone Alive? I have also been planning my next festival excursion but I face a dilemma… The London Korean Film Festival or Premiere Japan? While the dates and times for the former have been released I am still waiting for an announcement from the latter. You can count on me to bring you the news (not least because I tend to report about it for Anime UK News, which I have started writing for again). I know I am leaning towards Premiere Japan because they will pack more films in fewer days and I am hoping that Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s TV drama Penance gets screened since it was at Venice and Toronto.

What are the new entries in the Japanese movie box-office this week?

  1. Tsunagu
  2. Outrage Beyond
  3. Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final New Hope
  4. Resident Evil: Retribution
  5. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  6. The Mystical Law
  7. The Raven
  8. Bakarea High School
  9. Intouchables
  10. The Bourne Legacy

Predictably, the two indie features released last week did not enter the top ten. In the case of The End of Puberty, that looked like a festival film but I would have thought A Road Stained Crimson might have stood a better chance not least because of the big stars. What changes there are come from big budget films like the American entry The Raven (despite liking the works of Edgar Allen Poe, I thought it looked boring) and Bakarea High School which is based on a TV show and full of young idols. Other changes come from Tsunagu knocking Outrage Beyond off the top spot… and Intouchables improving it place again and hanging on in the top ten.

What Japanese films are released in Japan today?

Penguin Fufu                                                       Penguin Fufu Poster

Japanese Title: 夫婦 の 作りかた

Romaji: Penguin Fufuu no Tsukurikata

Release Date:  20th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 90 mins.

Director: Katsutoshi Hirabayashi

Writer: N/A

Starring: Eiko Koike, Kingone Wang, Motoki Fukami, Tomoji Yamashiro, Susumu Taira, Taeko Yoshida

This is the second feature film from Katsutoshi Hirabayashi who has a much longer filmography as an assistant director, most notably on The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker. The plot is quite an interesting one considering it comes at a time when relations between China and Japan are at a low. The film stars Eiko Koike (Penance, 2LDK, Kamikaze Girls), Motoki Fukami (The Land of Hope, Hi-Zai, Love Exposure).

Ayumi Matsuda (Koike) is a freelance writer who has spent five years being married to a Chinese cameraman named Xiaoxuan Fan (Wang). When his employers go bankrupt, Xiaoxuan and Ayumi move to Ishigaki island and Xiaoxuan applies for Japanese citizenship. To prove they are a genuine married couple they have to go through an interview but it proves far more difficult than expected.

 

The Land of Hope                               The Land of Hope Movie Poster

Japanese: 希望 の 国

Romaji: Kibou no Kuni

Release Date: 20th October, 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 133 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Starring: Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka, Yutaka Shimizu, Hikari Kajiwara, Denden, Mariko Tsutsui, Yusuke Iseya, Mitsuru Fukikoshi,

I am a major fan of Sion Sono as two seasons dedicated to his films show (tonight, I watch Strange Circus). Sion Sono’s latest film, The Land of Hope, got its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September where it received mixed but generally positive reviews – his films usually get that reaction since some critics have a hard time dealing with his sudden changes in tone. This is the first fiction film to address the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tusnami and features footage shot at Fukushima. The film is apparently inspired by a true story and deals with a family struggling to survive. While I really love Sono’s horror work like Suicide Club and Cold Fish, I have to acknowledge that his drama titles like Himizu and Noriko’s Dinner Table are very powerful. This looks like it will be a stunning film and I will definitely see this not least because Third Window Films are co-producers on this film so I expect it to get a release in the U.K. soon! Maybe Premiere Japan…?

 

An old couple named Yasuhiko and Chieko (Natsuyagi and Otani) live on a farm near a peaceful village in Nagashima prefecture with their son Yoichi (Murakami) and his wife Izumi (Kagurazaka). When an earthquake strikes the nearby nuclear power plant explodes and the village’s residents are forced to evacuate since the village is in the twenty-kilometre evacuation radius. The family are soon faced with a tough decision: evacuate with the rest of the village or stay on the land that generations of their family have lived on. Yoichi and his wife decide to head to a nearby urban community while Yasuhiko and Chieko remain on the farm. Both couples are beset by doubts and problems.

Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story       Fuse: A Gun Girl's Detective Story Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 伏 鉄砲娘の捕物帳

Romaji: Fuse Teppō Musume no Torimonochō

Release Date: 20th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Masayuki Miyaji

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi (Script), Kazuki Sakuraba (Original Writer),

Starring: Minako Kotobuki (Hamaji), Mamoru Miyano (Shino), Hirofumi Nojima (Iesada Tokugawa), MHiroshi Kamiya (Makuwari), Kanako Miyamoto (Meido), Katsuyuki Konishi (ousetsu), Maaya Sakamoto (Funamushi)

 

The story follows a teenage girl named Hamaji who joins her brother in hunting dog-human hybrids known as Fuse as part of a karmic cycle of retribution. The movie is based on the novel Fuse Gansaku: Satomi Hakkenden which was written by Kazuki Sakuraba, author of the Gosick light novels. She was inspired by a 19th century epic novel series named Nansō Satomi Hakkenden written by late Edo Period popular author Kyokutei Bakin. His tales dealt with themes based on Buddhist philosophy, Confucianism, and Bushido as it followed eight samurai serving the Satomi clan during the Sengoku (Warring States) period. These samurai are the reincarnations of the spirits that Princess Fuse mothered with a dog named Yatsufusa and they each represent a Confucianist virtue.

Although this isn’t the first time Kyokutei’s story has been adapted into modern mediums like anime – it had a 1999 sci-fi TV anime series named Shin Hakkenden and the story wasadapted for the video game Okami – it is the first time it has been made into a movie. The film is directed by Masayuki Miyaji (Eureka Seven,Xam’d: Lost Memories). The script comes from Ichiro Okouchi who is the scriptwriter for episodes of Azumanga Daioh and the Berserk movie adaptations. Music comes from Michiru Oshima who has composed the music for Production I.G.s historial fantasy Le Chevalier D’Eon. Okama is in charge of design and he has worked on the recent Evangelion anime movies.

Hamaji is voiced by Minako Kotobuki (Yūko Nishi in A-Channel) and she is supported my Mamoru Miyano (Rintarō Okabe in Steins;Gate), Maaya Sakamoto (Hitomi in Escaflowne and Akashi in Tatami Galaxy), and Hiroshi Kamiya (Kou in Arakawa Under the Bridge).

 

Space Sheriff Gavan The Movie                        Space Sheriff Gavan

Japanese Title: 宇宙刑事ギャバン THE MOVIE

Romaji: Uchuu Keiji Gyaban Za Mubi

Release Date:  20th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 83 mins.

Director: Osamu Kaneda

Writer: Yuji Kobayashi

Starring: Yuma Ishigaki (Geki Jumonji/Space Sheriff Gavan Type G), Kenji Ohba (Space Sheriff Gavan/Retsu Ichijoji), Yukari Taki (Itsuki Kawai)

I do not pay attention to tokusatsu movies so this one caught me off-guard after I posted this trailer selection so I have few details to give. Here’s a trailer instead.

Japanese Films at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival LogoThe Toronto International Film Festival is about to launch soon and the number and quality of Japanese films is ABSOLUTELY BLOODY BRILLIANT! Forget Venice, London, Berlin and Cannes. I wish I were living in Toronto! While there are a few titles that were screened at the Venice Film Festival, there are even more which are premieres and have yet to be released in Japan. They are all interesting. Whether you want the number one Japanese movie box office smash (Thermae Romae), a forthcoming drama involving otaku and sex (The Cowards Who Look to the Sky) or Yakuza tearing chunks out of each other (Outrage Beyond), it is all here.

Here is the line-up!

The Cowards Who Looked to the SkyThe Cowards Who Looked to the Sky Movie Poster

Japanese Title: ふがいない 僕 は 空 を 見た

Romaji: Fugainai Boku wa Sora wo Mita

Release Date: 17th November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 142

Director: Yuki Tanada

Writer: Kosuke Mukai, Misumi Kubo (Novel)

Starring: Tomoko Tabata, Kento Nagayama, Masataka Kubota, Mieko Harada, Takahiro Miura

Otaku have proven fertile ground for but when I read more of the plot it sounded quite miserable. I haven’t read the original novel by Misumi Kubo but judging by the trailer, emotions are running very high! It stars the beautiful Tomoko Tabata (Blood and Bones, The Hidden Blade), the handsome Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), the young Masataka Kubota (13 Assassins), Takahiro Miura (Tokyo Playboy Club), and Mieko Harada (Helter Skelter).

Anzu (Tabata) is a depressed housewife who lives with a nagging mother-in-law and indifferent husband. When she attends an anime convention in cosplay she meets Takumi (Nagayama). The two start an affair at Anzu’s home. At this point, those already in Takumi’s life go through emotional upheaval of their own as a classmate confesses her love for him and his friend Fukuda (Kubota) finds himself at the mercy of a loan shark who has come to collect his mother’s debts. This is just the start of the emotional turmoil for all characters involved.

 

Dreams for SaleDreams for Sale Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 夢 売る ふたり

Romaji: Yume Uru Futari

Screening Dates: Monday, 10th September, 6:30 P.M. – TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, Wednesday 12th September 2:00 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 2, Sunday 16th September 2:45 P.M. – Scotiabank 3

Running Time: 137 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: N/A

Starring: Takako Matsu, Sadao Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Tamae Ando, Yuka Ebara,  Tsurube Shoufukutei, Tae Kimrua, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yusuke Iseya,

The first of two films at the festival which stars Teruyuki Kagawa and both are dark comedies… but I’m getting ahead of myself here. This one involves a couple who scam lonely women out of money through conning them into marriage. The principal cast are lead by Takako Matsu (9 Souls, Confessions, April Story), Sadao Abe (Paikaji Nankai Sakusen, After Life), Sawa Suzuki (Loft), Tae Kimura (My House, Kaidan, Starfish Hotel, Infection), and Tamae Ando (Noriko’s Dinner Table, Phone Call to the Bar).

When Kanya (Abe) and Satoko (Matsu) celebrate the fifth anniversary of their restaurant they had no idea it would end with the place burning down. This disaster forces Satoko to take on a job at a noodle shop while Kanya gets depressed and does what most movie men do in such a situation: drink and gamble. Then, one night, he returns home with cash and claims he got it by spending time with a lonely woman.  Satoko is initially angry but then realises the full potential of the scame and so the two embark on a series of sham relationships to get money together to re-open their restaurant. Surely it wont go that smoothly?

  Continue reading “Japanese Films at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival”

Land of Hope Trailer

The Land of Hope                                 The Land of Hope Poster

Japanese: Kibou no Kuni

Release Date: Autumn 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Starring: Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka, Yutaka Shimizu, Hikari Kajiwara, Denden, Mariko Tsutsui, Yusuke Iseya, Mitsuru Fukikoshi,

There are a lot of documentaries that directly tackle the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tusnami (as the selection at the Berlin Film Festival revealed) and they far outweigh the number of fiction films. The biggest title to address the events of March 11th that I have seen has to be Sion Sono’s Himizu, a movie which went to great pains to weave elements of the disaster into its story which was made before the tragic events. Well Sono is back with another title that takes a look at the disaster and its effects on Japan and its people.

An old couple (Natsuyagi and Otani) live on a farm near a peaceful village with their son (Murakami) and his wife (Kagurazaka). When an earthquake strikes the nearby nuclear power plant explodes and the village’s residents are forced to evacuate. Things are different on the farm since only half of the farm is in the evacuation zone. The family are soon faced with a tough decision: evacuate with the rest of the village or stay on the land.

I first heard about this film when I attended a screening of Himizu organised by Third Window Films earlier this year. Judging by the content of Himizu Sono has a LOT to say and he will say it in his usual dramatic way. The cast includes many actors who crop up in Sono’s films including Denden, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Hikari Kajiwara and Sono’s own wife Megumi Kagurazaka who all starred in Cold Fish. Interestingly Third Window Films is co-producing this. Filming began earlier this year in January and concluded in April.

 

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