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?.  

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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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