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Third Window Films Release “SUFFERING OF NINKO” on July 23rd on DUAL FORMAT Blu-ray/DVD

Third Window Films are having a cracking year releasing great films what with three Sono titles The Whispering Star/The Sion Sono and Antiporno and the Osamu Tezuka anime. Here’s a great title which I reviewed last year called Suffering of Ninko which will get released on July 23rd on Blu-ray and DVD.

Special Features:
Dual format DVD & BLURAY
45 minute interview with the director
“Strawberry Jam” Short film

Director Norihiro Niwatsukino trades in combining animation and live-action to make a fun horror comedy with shades of shunga and samurai action as well as plenty of earthy humour. With beautiful women and ghosts aplenty, this comes close to being like the 70s exploitation films many fans of Japanese cinema will recognise. Here’s more about the film:

Continue reading “Third Window Films Release “SUFFERING OF NINKO” on July 23rd on DUAL FORMAT Blu-ray/DVD”

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Antiporno アンチポルノ Dir: Sion Sono (2016)

Antiporno

アンチポルノ 「AnchiporunoAntiporno Film Poster

Running Time: 78 mins

Release Date: January 28th, 2017

Director:  Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Ami Tomite, Mariko Tsutsui, Asami, Fujiko, Ami Fukuda, Honoka Ishibashi, Yuya Takayama,

Website IMDB

The Roman Porno Reboot is a celebration of the series of softcore films put out by Nikkatsu from the 70s to the late 80s. Roman Porno is a realm where writers and directors can exercise creative freedom in content so long as they adhere to tight shooting deadlines and insert a sex scene in the proceedings every so often. Sion Sono is one of the veteran directors who took part in this reboot and he has taken this freedom to creative extremes and made a challenging film, an overwhelming visual and aural assault on the senses that delivers a feminist diatribe against the subjection of women.

The story starts with Kyoko (Ami Tomite), a highly-strung celebrity novelist and artist who also considers herself a super whore exploring the furthest reaches of sex. She is feeling the nerves before an interview and photo shoot with a major magazine writer and fashion photographer so she decides to take her insecurities out on her older eager-to-please assistant Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui) whom she sadistically humiliates through various lewd acts. The intensity ratchets up through the actual interview as Noriko, in an effort to be a whore like Kyoko, allows herself to be violated by the photographer’s assistants whilst being denigrated by Kyoko.

Continue reading “Antiporno アンチポルノ Dir: Sion Sono (2016)”

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The Sion Sono 園子温という生きもの Dir: Arata Oshima (2016)

Jonetsu tairiku Presents Sono Shion to iu ikimono    

Sono Shion to iu ikmono Film Poster
Sono Shion to iu ikmono Film Poster

園子温という生きもの Sono Shion to iu ikmono 

Running Time: 97 mins.

Release Date: May 14th, 2016

Director: Arata Oshima

Writer: N/A

Starring: Sion Sono, Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaido, Megumi Kagurazaka, Eri, Naoto Tanobe, Takuji Yasuoka,

Website    IMDB

Third Window Films’ recent release of The Whispering Star (2016) was paired up with The Sion Sono, a documentary directed by Arata Oshima, son of legendary filmmaker Nagisa Oshima. Both films were originally released on the same day in Japan and prove to be the perfect partners for a home format release since they capture moments in the evolving career of Sion Sono, Japan’s most maverick multi-hyphante talent.

Sono is a poet, painter, writer, filmmaker, and rebel who decries convention and has taken on the role of subversive provocateur daring to tackle all manner of subjects and genres in his films. Gory horror, family drama, political and social diatribes, comedy, and everything in between have been mined to create a truly unique filmography of over 40 films and this documentary traces the origins of his work ethic, his love of films, and give a glimpse of the real character behind the cult figure.

Continue reading “The Sion Sono 園子温という生きもの Dir: Arata Oshima (2016)”

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The Whispering Star  ひそひそ星 Dir: Sion Sono (2016)

The Whispering Star    

The Whispering Star Film Poster
The Whispering Star Film Poster

ひそひそ星「Hiso Hiso Boshi

Running Time: 101 mins.

Release Date: May 14th, 2016

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay)

Starring: Megumi Kagurazaka, Kenji Endo, Yuto Ikeda, Mori Kouko,

Website    IMDB

The Whispering Star was originally created and screened as part of an art exhibition which had the theme of dystopia running through it. That theme is more than adequately captured in this black fable about a robot travelling amidst the remnants of humanity. It was shot in different locations in Fukushima prefecture, turning depopulated and irradiated areas into a futuristic landscape that speaks of hopelessness, pollution, and abandonment delivered in slow sketches until the film ends on a touching note of human contact. It shows good control of material from Sion Sono but that’s to be expected from a man who has been in the industry since the 80s.

At the start of the film we learn that multiple nuclear disasters and other mistakes have forced people to migrate to the stars. Humans are scattered across a myriad of planets and are on the verge of extinction as their will to live and explore flickers out in the face of technology and ennui. What keeps people hanging on are robots with AI who operate an interplanetary delivery system, facilitating a new sort of human contact.

Continue reading “The Whispering Star  ひそひそ星 Dir: Sion Sono (2016)”

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Third Window Films Release “Whispering Star / The Sion Sono” on April 16th on DUAL FORMAT Blu-ray/DVD

Regular readers of this blog will know that Sion Sono is a favourite director of mine so it is with some joy that I can report that Third Window Films are helping film fans get closer to one of the best directors in Japanese cinema with a release of his sci-fi arthouse film The Whispering Star which will be paired with the feature-length documentary The Sion Sono. The two will be released as a DUAL FORMAT blu-ray/dvd on April 16th.

Sion Sono, the director of Himizu, Love Exposure and Cold Fish

Check out the webpage over at the Third Window Film site for more details. Scroll down for trailers and details!

Continue reading “Third Window Films Release “Whispering Star / The Sion Sono” on April 16th on DUAL FORMAT Blu-ray/DVD”

Love and Other Cults 獣道 Dir:  Eiji Uchida (2017)

Love and Other Cults   Love and Other Cults Film Poster

獣道 「Kemonomichi

Running Time: 95 mins

Release Date: March 26th, 2018

Director:  Eiji Uchida

Writer: Eiji Uchida (Screenplay),

Starring: Sairi Ito, Kenta Suga, Kaito Yoshimura, Hidenobu Abera, Antony, Denden, Hanae Kan, Leona Hirota, Tomoko Hayakawa,

Website IMDB

Not every romance is clean and tidy but the latest film from Eiji Uchida, director of Greatful Dead (2014) and Lowlife Love (2016) is the messiest and grimiest one you will see without Takashi Miike levels of gore and craziness involved. This story of star-crossed lovers is, however, everyday crazy as we see the lowest of Japanese society try and claw their way out of small town criminality and exploitation.

The film’s central couple are Ai (Sairi Itoh) and Ryota (Kenta Suga). The two meet in school and sparks start flying almost immediately but their passion is of the confrontational kind where arguments flare up. Unable to recognise love or express it, they part ways and meet up again at various points in their lives. The reason for their fractious relationship is that neither has had a stable home. We get Ai’s story for the most part and glimpses of Ryota’s while he also offers narration over the entire film which acts like a Greek chorus summing up what has gone wrong for the characters. Indeed, Ai’s story is one of constant tragedy and a search for a family.

Continue reading “Love and Other Cults 獣道 Dir:  Eiji Uchida (2017)”

Destruction Babies ディストラクション・ベイビーズ Dir: Tetsuya Mariko (2016)

Destruction Babies   

destruction-babies-film-poster
destruction-babies-film-poster

ディストラクション・ベイビーズ 「Deisutorakushon Beibi-zu

Running Time: 108 mins.

Director:  Tetsuya Mariko

Writer: Tetsuya Mariko, Kohei Kiyasu (Screenplay),

Starring: Yuya Yagira, Masaki Suda, Nana Komatsu, Nijiro Murakami, Sosuke Ikematsu, Denden,

Website IMDB

Writer-director Tetsuya Mariko’s fourth feature film is a realistic take on the idea of anger begetting more anger with nothing to break the cycle as a teen named Taira terrifies Shikoku with a wave of violence that draws a variety of innocents and other outsiders into a twisted game.

Continue reading “Destruction Babies ディストラクション・ベイビーズ Dir: Tetsuya Mariko (2016)”

“Love and Other Cults” Plays at Derby QUAD and Deptford Cinemas before release on dual-format Blu-ray/DVD in the UK

Love and Other Cults is one of the latest in films produced Third Window Films and it is about to hit cinemas and homes in the UK very soon. This is the latest film from Eiji Uchida, director of Greatful Dead (2014) and Lowlife Love (2016). It was produced by Adam Torel of Third Window Films, a person who did a lot to build up the profile of Japanese films in the UK and he has made another cracking title with this twisted romantic saga set in small town Japan and featuring a set of broken characters. 

The film is slightly less darker than Eiji Uchida’s earlier works due to its sprightly rhythm and quirky humour but it still gets dark and female characters don’t have a fun time – this was shot under police supervision and the cast features real teen delinquents and the story deals with child neglect, cults, crime and the AV industry – but the never say die attitude of Sairi Itoh is great as she gives a loveable performance as a lost lamb looking for love in all the wrong places. Uchida builds on his earlier work with confidence and there is plenty here to charm audiences.

It will play at the Deptford Cinema on February 13th

It will then be screened at the Derby Quad on March 16 and there will also be a Q&A with director Eiji Uchida!!!

The film will then be released on dual-format Blu-ray/DVD on March 26th. Here’s a trailer:

Continue reading ““Love and Other Cults” Plays at Derby QUAD and Deptford Cinemas before release on dual-format Blu-ray/DVD in the UK”

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

Continue reading “Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2017”

Getting Any? みんな~やってるか! (1995) Dir: Takeshi Kitano

Getting Any?   Getting Any Film Poster

みんな~やってるか!Minna~ Yatteru ka

Running Time: 108 mins.

Release Date: February 11th, 1995

Director:  Takeshi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),

Starring: Dankan, Moeko Ezawa, Takeshi Kitano, Susumu Terajima, Kanji Tsuda, Yurei Yanagi, Ren Osugi, Taka Guadalcanal, Hakuryu, Yojin Hino, Yoneko Matsukane,

IMDB Website

Takeshi Kitano the director and Beat Takeshi the performer meet together in a manic film about a young man’s increasingly desperate attempt to get laid which becomes a series of prurient slapstick sketches that push the boundaries of good taste.

Getting Any Film Image

The story follows middle-aged layabout Asao (Dankan). His one and only goal in life is to have sex. To do this, he embarks upon a series of misadventures ranging from buying a car to impress a woman enough for car sex to becoming an actor to get a seat in first class on a jet because, in his narrow-minded world, he thinks sex is one of the services on offer from air-hostesses. His antics get bigger and bolder and wackier the more desperate he becomes. Pretty soon they involve armed robbery, becoming the next Zatoichi in a movie production, a yakuza hitman, and an invisible man and worse because of crazy scientific experiments.

Getting Any? uses an episodic structure to launch a scattershot satire of Japanese society and popular culture through the lens of Kitano’s unique sense of humour which he takes to extremes in terms of the inanity and stupidity. Every situation start off at some reasonable level of idiocy initiated by Asao before becoming a series of bizarre, over the top and absurd slapstick gags at the expense of the central character and a cast ranging from serious actors to Kitano’s army of fans, his Gundan who appear in many of his films and TV shows, all of whom throw themselves into the skits with gusto. Even Kitano shows up to take part.

Kitano finds comedy in every situation thanks to Asao being of a character with a one-track mind with a brain straight out of dullstown. This leads to tremendous sight gags especially in the first part of the film. In order to get money Asao figures he needs to rob a bank. So he needs a gun. Who has guns? Cops. Asao imagines stealing a gun and getting blown away. When he acquires a gun, one of his targets is a bank run by cops.

As the film ticks along, his imagination gets only slightly bigger but his luck get much better. Seeing Asao graduate from being a bit-part player stuck full of arrows in a samurai movie to playing Zatoichi by way of accidentally getting the original actor to almost drown is hilarious and then taken to the next level as the central fool plays the blind swordsman by closing his eyes and engaging in physical slapstick such as dousing people with manure and much more dangerous liquids while in the presence of a naked flame.

Kitano managed to work in references to and mock films as diverse as Ghostbusters, Branded to Kill, Ultraman, Mothra, Zatoichi, Michael Jackson’s song Beat It and Akira Kurosawa as Asao travels across Tokyo and gets into misadventures. Having a knowledge of Japanese pop-culture adds a lot of depth to the gags and makes them funnier, the laughs last longer, but towards the end of the film, many of them have a habit of going on way too long (especially the tokusatsu stuff), past the point where the joke is funny. This was deliberate on Kitano’s part since he made the n’est plus ultra of bad jokes to scandalise the Japanese entertainment industry and also to destroy his own career.

This a film with which some Japanese fans of Kitano feel he tried committing suicide as public figure since he went to such great lengths to be absurd audiences wondered if he had lost the plot. It was filmed at a time when he was at the height of his fame and fortune in Japan as Beat Takeshi, the comedian, radio star, writer and so forth but not taken seriously as Takeshi Kitano, the film director and serious actor. With so many TV shows, books, and other projects he was working on and an eventful private life to say the least, he was finding it difficult to manage the stress of fame and public interest as well as his excessive work and partying. This was compounded by the box-office failure of the 1993 gangster film Sonatine, which he personally saw as his first major artistic achievement as a director. With fame and pressure mounting, he let the comedian, Beat Takeshi tear up the screen with this film and the results are scandalous. Further adding to the dramatic context of the film, Kitano finished production on it before the motor-scooter accident which left the right side of his face paralysed. No wonder some interpret Getting Any​? as something he made unconsciously to help him deal with his career frustrations and anxiety over his fame as well as being a rebel yell against an industry not taking him seriously. 

Getting Any? may have been made out of frustration but there is enough comedy and shock value and bizarre prurient humour here to justify viewing it. It is easy to imagine fans at the time being scandalised by some of the scenes packed full of nudity and violence but also there’s a sense of dangerousness and liberation in seeing people gleefully engaging in the anarchy on screen. Kitano is pushing back against good taste and does so effectively.

Getting Any Film Image 2

Kitano leads actors and his Gundan who he worked with in previous films astray as everyone throws themselves into this nonsense. It is fun seeing the likes of Yurei Yanagi, Susumu Terajima, and Ren Osugi from Boiling Point and Sonatine reprise roles as gangsters and weirdos who only show up to get bumped off or take part in sight gags based on societal quirks and erotic games that will lead to audience-members doing spit takes. Leading the cast is Dankan who plays Asao with a vacant gaze perfect for a man so shallow he is unable to see where his disastrous schemes go wrong and why women don’t like him. He would come off as a sexual predator of the worst kind if he wasn’t so inept at everything he put his hand to and Kitano didn’t keep slapping him in stupid situations that break off his ardour or totally subvert it.

Getting Any? is a solid comedy and interesting to engaging with when you consider this as Kitano’s mid-career crisis film. We should be glad he survived it and his accident because he went on to make even more films and gain a serious following in Japan as an auteur and we are now able to watch his films get re-released in wonderful 4K and enjoy his idiosyncratic sense of humour and direction. Even if it doesn’t always work, most of it is amusing to watch and a great time-capsule of pop-culture hits from the 80s and 90s.

Third Window Films continue to release the newly restored films of Takeshi Kitano on sparkly blu-ray in the UK with Getting Any?. Prior to this release, it was only available in the UK via Second Sight Films and their Kitano box-set. The Third Window Films release is a massive improvement in terms of visuals and sound and the subtitles have been given a unique UK spin with money translated from yen to pounds and there’s an interesting interview with Kitano.

Getting Any? みんな~やってるか! (1995) Dir: Takeshi Kitano is erotic nonsense of the highest order and presented perfectly here so if you have to get any version, then this is the one.

This review was originally written for VCinema.