Genkina hito’s Top Fourteen Films of 2020

祖谷物語 おくのひと Rina Takeda

Wow, I had no idea that 2020 would turn out like this when I wrote last year’s end post. We’re a few days away from the end of what has been a plague year. I almost got caught out at the start when I was in Japan and the borders were going to be closed, back at the end of March, but I escaped with the help of some friends. Since then, I have been in work on reduced duties or at home waiting to be called in for odd jobs. When not working, I was doing shopping with my mother and checking in on my grandmother.

During this time of waiting, I watched a lot of films, some as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Nippon Connection, Japan Cuts and the New York Asian Film Festival, a lot just for pleasure. I took part in a physical film festival in Japan and I helped organise and execute an online film festival twice and during all of this I wrote a lot of reviews. Probably more reviews than in previous years. On top of it all, I also helped start a podcast about Asian films called Heroic Purgatory where I discuss films with fellow writer John Atom (the Christmas special is already out and the second season coming in 2021!).

When I was able to go to the cinema I watched a wide variety of things. In the UK, the last film I watched was Parasite with my mother. In Japan, I went to numerous screenings at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and an animation festival at the Yujiku Asagaya (just before Tokyo’s lockdown). At home with a lot of time on my hands I got into the cinema of Mario Bava and re-watched lots of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento movies. I waded through hours of 70s and 80s horror movies from America and I went back to some tried and trusted Japanese classics. Most of all, I tried to get more Japanese indie films out there and so I think this is reflected in my list of top films from 2020.

So, what are they?.  

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Top Fourteen Films of 2020”

Genkina hito’s Top Ten Films to Get in 2020

I have been writing about films here for a decade and ever since I started writing badly translated synopses to highlight interesting films, I have had a list in my mind of titles that I want to watch. I add and subtract films from said list but many listed here have remained in my mind. These ten films I have never forgotten and since it has been ten years since I first started blogging, I want to make an effort and track them down to review them the next time I am in Japan. Which is… SOON!

Will I see any of these films? Who knows, but I want to watch them.

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Top Ten Films to Get in 2020”

Films Released in 2014 I will Hopefully See in 2015

The Pinkie Here Comes 2015

I post trailers of Japanese films released in Japan every weekend and some stay with me even months after their release has come and gone. Like last year I want to start the year by looking back at the trailers that make me wish these were films I had seen in 2014 and hope I can see in 2015.

Just to jump back to the last list of films from 2013, out of the 14 Seeds of Anxiety Yoko and Daiichi at the Restaurant Moncherifilms listed, I saw two – Patema Inverted and Fuan no Tane. Patema Inverted exceeded my expectations when I saw it at a cinema and I now have the Ultimate Edition home DVD/Bu-ray release that came from backing the Kickstarter campaign so I get the OST, art book and a variety of other extras. I’ll get a review of the film out before the end of January 2015! Fuan no Tane was a fun little horror film that did justice to the manga. You can read what I thought of it in my review.

The other films I listed? Well, the chances of me watching some of them were slim since they were the indiest of indies and without major studio backing, film labels with lots of money or film festivals selecting them, they would have been unlikely to get a cinema or home release in the UK. Raindance and Terracotta would have been the best places to see them but they weren’t screened.

I am kinda disappointed that I did not get to see Uzumasa Jacopetti, JacopettiGFP Bunny, A Fairy Tale, and Shin Shin Shin so I’m going to start investigating ways of getting these films. My usual import routes don’t stock them… Other indie films I’m interested in cost around £20 so it’s not impossible, just expensive. It’s at times like this when I wish Japanese film and anime companies would embrace digital distribution because I know I’d make many purchases to build up my library (and regrets over spending so much).

This list of films contains entries I have cherry-picked from my trailer posts that caught my eye over the year. I doubt I’ll see many of these but who knows…

Here’s the list and music you can listen to while reading/ignoring the blurb:

Continue reading “Films Released in 2014 I will Hopefully See in 2015”

Japan Cuts 2014 Preview

Japan Cuts Logo

New York, New York, what a wonderful town. I have never wanted to live in New York as much as I did after reading the line-up for Japan Cuts 2014.

The Japan Society will host a series of awesome Japanese films from July 10th to July 29th with titles like Sion Sono’s ultra-violent black comedy Why Don’t You Play in Hell? coupled with crime thriller The Devil’s Path and recent (controversial) World War II blockbuster The Eternal Zero. These are just some of the headline titles, there are even more listed, many of which were released in the last few weeks and some of which are crazy and bizarre and speak to the sharp and unique sense of cinema that the curators have – respect has to be paid for the programming of the documentaries on this list. There’s definitely something for everyone! Here’s a trailer:

I am blown away by the titles and the guests that have been announced with many actors coming over for Q&As (FUMI NIKAIDO!!!). For a fan of cinema in general and Japanese cinema in particular, this is a festival rich with great films and events!

Here’s a list of the films and trailers with comments from me. Click on the title for more info such as times and buying tickets. Tickets are already on sale!

 

Thursday July 10th, Opening Night

 

6 P.M.

The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji   The Mole Song Film Poster

Japanese Title: 土竜の唄 潜入捜査官 REIJI

Romaji: Mogura no Uta Sennuu Sosakan REIJI

Running Time: 130 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Kudo Kankuro (Screenplay), Noboru Takahashi (Original Manga)

Starring: Toma Ikuta, Ren Osugi, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Riisa Naka, Takayuki Yamada, Mitsuru Fukikoshi

This is based on a comedy manga by Noboru Takahashi and directed by Takashi Miike (For Love’s Sake). The film has a great cast of characters like Shinichi Tsutsumi (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?), Ren Osugi (Exte) and Mitsuru Fukikoshi (Cold Fish). It seems like a great way to open the film festival since it looks absolutely funny.

Reiji Kikukawa (Ikuta) has a strong sense of justice but graduates at the bottom of his class from the police academy. He is so useless his superiors send him on what should be a suicide mission. First the police chief fires him for disciplinary issues and then sets him up as a mole in the Sukiyaki gang, the largest crime group in the Kanto area. His target is Shuho Todoroki, the boss, and so Reiji goes through hell to get his man!

 

8:30 P.M.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?
Why Don't You Play In Hell Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄 で なぜ 悪い Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Romaji: Jigoku de Naze Warui Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Running Time: 126 mins

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kotou Lorena, Gen Hoshino, Tak Sakaguchi

Sion Sono blew my mind with this one. After a short run of issue films like the critically lauded Himizu and The Land of Hope, he made this hilarious and blood-thirsty film which was both entertainment and a love letter to cult films and yakuza classics. I found it absolutely hilarious and one of the best films of last year.

Muto (Kunimura) and Ikegami (Tsutsumi) are rival gangsters who despise each other especially since Muto’s wife Shizue (Tomochika) butchered a boss in Ikegami’s gang. She gets sent to prison which jeopardises her daughter’s acting career. Ten years later and days before Shizue is due to be released, Muto is desperate to make his daughter a big-screen star as a reward for Shizue’s loyalty and kidnaps Koji (Hoshino), a timid passer-by who is mistaken for being a film director.

When dealing with gangsters you don’t mess about so Koji recruits the help of a mad-cinephile Hirata (Hasegawa) who dreams of being a movie director and has a ragtag film crew named The Fuck Bombers. Hirata seizes his chance and loses his mind as he casts Mitsuko in a fictional gang war but it soon goes wrong when it turns real.

Introduction and Q&A with actress Fumi Nikaido (I so want to be in her presence!!!)

Followed by the LET’S PLAY IN HELL Opening Night Party!

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The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, The Tale of Iya, Fankī Katō My Vu~oisu Fan Mon kara Aratana Mirai E, Exte Girl The Movie, `Taberu koto’ de Miete Kuru mono, Dear Girl Stories THE MOVIE2 ACE OF ASIA Japanese Film Trailers

An Actors Revenge Film ImageThe first trailer post of the week features all sorts of different films but the most impressive is The Tale of Iya. Watch the trailer and tell me you aren’t impressed by it. I’m so impressed that I’m tempted to attend a UK screening. It’s a temptation that is hard to resist much like women, meat, and uniforms (that’s a Wooser reference, by the way, and Wooser continues being funny). It looks better than The Mole Song, Takashi Miike’s latest title, the big-budget release of the week. The rest of the trailers include documentaries and awful J-hora. There are more films tomorrow.

The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji  The Mole Song Film Poster

Japanese Title: 土竜の唄 潜入捜査官 REIJI

Romaji: Mogura no Uta Sennuu Sosakan REIJI

Running Time: 130 mins.

Release Date: February 13th, 2014

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Kudo Kankuro (Screenplay), Noboru Takahashi (Original Manga)

Starring: Toma Ikuta, Ren Osugi, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Riisa Naka, Takayuki Yamada, Mitsuru Fukikoshi

When I first read the synopsis I thought of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs but this is based on a manga by Noboru Takahashi. The trailer is crazy but that’s par for the course with Takashi Miike (For Love’s Sake). The film has a great cast of characters like Shinichi Tsutsumi (Why Don’t You Play in Hell? – review coming next week), Ren Osugi (Exte) and Mitsuru Fukikoshi (Cold Fish). The film was at this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival!

Reiji Kikukawa (Ikuta) has a strong sense of justice but graduates at the bottom of his class from the police academy. He is so useless his superiors send him on what should be a suicide mission. First the police chief fires him for disciplinary issues and then sets him up as a mole in the Sukiyaki gang, the largest crime group in the Kanto area. His target is Shuho Todoroki, the boss, and so Reiji goes through hell to get his man!

Website

Continue reading “The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, The Tale of Iya, Fankī Katō My Vu~oisu Fan Mon kara Aratana Mirai E, Exte Girl The Movie, `Taberu koto’ de Miete Kuru mono, Dear Girl Stories THE MOVIE2 ACE OF ASIA Japanese Film Trailers”