Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2018

The 68th Berlin International Film Festival, running from February 15th to the 25th, has a pretty good line-up of films but I’m super interested in the Japanese contingent. Thanks to the great media communication, the last few weeks have been building up lots of anticipation. I’ve been covering this festival for a while now and this year is as strong as many others.

Here are the Japanese films that have been programmed, just click on the titles to be taken to the festival listing.

Berlinale 2018 Logo

The Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art has programmed the Forum as part of the Berlinale, selecting 44 films, 35 of which world premieres. The International Forum of New CinemaForum is a bit like the wild west in the sense that the filmmakers selected come from different backgrounds and practice different forms of cinema from drama to avant garde, experimental works closer to art pieces to to observational documentaries, with subjects like political reportage and drama being given equal importance. There are a huge variety of films and topics few formal limitations when it comes to the selection of films, resulting in even greater freedom.

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2018”

Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama During the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema

There will be a season of films dedicated to the female actors who dazzled as stars during the Golden Age of Japanese cinema at the BFI Southbank from October 16th to November 29th It is called, Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama. Billed as “an opportunity for audiences to explore the cinema of Japan’s ‘Golden Age’, with a distinctly female focus,” there are thirteen films programmed and several of those titles are rarely screened in the UK so this is a good opportunity to get acquainted with them.

The season opens with a double bill of films by Kenji Mizoguchi and that will followed up by a season introduction on October 17th, – Women in Japanese Melodrama – during which experts including Alexander Jacoby and Alejandra Armendáriz will discuss the work of the female stars who dazzled at the heart of mid-century Japanese cinema. Following that will be the rest of the films from directors such as Yasujiro Ozu. Keisuke Kinoshita, Mikio Naruse and others who made powerful female led dramas such as Setsuko Hara, Hideko Takamine and others who are now becoming well-known across the world.

I’ve only seen one of these films so I’m using the synopses from the BFI’s site.

It’s a great line-up! Here is what has been programmed:

Continue reading “Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama During the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema”

Goodbye Debussy, Strawberry Night, Tsuya’s Night, See You Tomorrow, Everyone, Judas, Happiness Come On, Okinawa Sunflower: The Sky Will Not Forget that Day, Night People, Tokyo Twilight, Blankey Jet City [Vanishing Point], Trailers and the Japanese Film Box Office Chart

Shinjuku DoroboAh, after the snow of last week it is all over and the only thing left is ice. I did not miss a day of work. I spent the week watching anime in the form of Cuticle Detective Inaba which is actually pretty funny in a surreal Bobobo-bobobo/Excel Saga sort of way. In blogging terms… this week I posted an obituary for Nagisa Oshima and then rounded up my preview of the Japanese films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival (lots of short films and two television shows) and coverage of the Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme which I will be attending in its London run next month. I’ll have two reviews lined up for next week.

The Woodsman & the Rain


What does the Japanese film chart look like for this week (January 19/2o)

  1. Ted
  2. Les Miserables
  3. Tokyo Family
  4. One Piece Film Z
  5. Gekijouban Hunter x Hunter
  6. Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters vs. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: The Movie
  7. Looper
  8. Taken 2
  9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  10. Skyfall

The chart is dominated by a lot of western films this week with the likes of Ted, Looper and Skyfall but two of the Japanese films released last week enter the top ten with Tokyo Family and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters vs. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.

What is released in Japan this week? Lots of films!

Goodbye Debussy                                         Goodbye Debussy Film Poster

Japanese Title: さよなら ドビュッシ

Romaji: Sayonara Dobyusshi

Release Date: January 26th 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 131 mins.

Director: Tsuyoshi Toshishige a.k.a. Go Riju

Writer: Keisuke Makino, Tsuyoshi Toshishige (Screenplay), Shichiri Nakayama (Original Novel)

Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Shinya Kiyozuka, Yu Yoshizawa, Mickey Curtis, , Keiko Toda, Akiko Aitsuki

Writer/Actor/director Tsuyoshi Toshishige (Vital, SPEC: The Movie, Eureka) adapts Shichiri Nakayama’s Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! Prize winning novel Goodbye Debussy! Rising star Ai Hashimoto (Another, Control Tower) takes the lead role of a girl scarred by a mysterious crime. She had a busy 2012 and there looks to be no let up in 2013 with plenty of projects waiting to get screened. She acts opposite pianist Shinya Kiyozuka who makes his film debut here. They are supported by Yu Yoshizawa (One Missed Call 2, Sunshine Ahead), Keiko Toda (Angel’s Egg, The Magic Hour, A Wind Named Amnesia, Kiki’s Delivery Service)

16-year-old Haruka (Hashimoto) lost her parents, grandfather and cousin in a fire that left her emotionally and physically scarred. Despite this she holds on to her dream of becoming a pianist and win a contest. However, when a string of ominous events occur around her, music student Yosuke (Kiyozuka) who teaches piano to Haruka tries to solve the problems.

Strawberry Night                                             

Strawberry Night Film Poster

Japanese Title: ストロベリーナイト

Romaji: Sutoroberi-Naito

Release Date: January 26th 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Yuichi Sato

Writer: Makoto Hayashi, Yukari Tatsui (Screenplay), Tetsuya Honda (Original Novel)

Starring: Yuko Takeuchi, Takao Osawa, Tomokazu Miura, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Takashi Ukaji, Renji Ishibashi, Keisuke Koide, Kenichi Endo, KAtsuhisa Namase, Masahiko Tsugawa, Tetsuya Takeda

Tetsuya Honda’s popular police novel series had a TV adaptation that has spawned a movie. Both the TV series and this movie are directed by Yuichi Sato who was the chap who helmed Waterboys back in 2003. Yuko Takeuchi (A Ghost of a Chance, Tomoko from Ringu? My how you’ve grown!) is acting alongside her Midnight Eagle co-star Takao Osawa who was a voice in The Wolf Children and will be seen in Takashi Miike’s next film Straw Shield. There is a lot of talent in the support with the likes of Tomokazu Miura (Adrift in Tokyo, Outrage) and Hidetoshi Nishijima (Zero Focus, Licence to Live) and Kenichi Endo (The Happiness of the Katakuri’s, Azumi, One Missed Call).

Reiko Himekawa (Takeuchi) has worked her way through to the homicide squad and is investigating the murder of a gangster. Reiko believes the killing was gang related but there is little evidence and so the case grinds to a halt but when a phone call is received with the caller claiming to know who the killer is, Reiko’s superior officer tells her not to investigate. Not that this stops Reiko who continues investigating and meets a high ranking gangster named Isao Makita (Osawa) who is also investigating. The two join forces and their attraction to one another grows.

Tsuya’s Night                                                    Tsuya's Night Film Poster 2

Japanese Title: つやのよる ある 愛 に かかわった、 女たちの物語

Romaji: Tsuya no Yoru Aru Ai no Kakawatta, Onna-tachi no Monogatari

Release Date: January 26th 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 138 mins.

Director: Isao Yukisada

Writer: Chihiro Ito, Isao Yukisada (Screenplay), Areno Inoue (Original Novel)

Starring:Hiroshi Abe, Kyoko Koizumi, Maho Nanami, Jun Fubuki, Yoko Maki, Shiori Kutsuna, Shinobu Otake, Yuichi Haba, Keiko Oginome, Goro Kishitani, Eiji Okua, Tomojo Tabata, Hitomi Takahashi Izumi Fujimoto

Oh my God… Look at all of those hot Japanese actresses on that poster… Er. I mean… Ahem. All joking aside it is based on Areno Inoue’s 2010 novel Tsuya’s Night and despite the synopsis the trailer makes it look like it could be very entertaining. The cast is full of big names which is another draw.

Taking the lead role as the perfect man who is handsome, sensitive and ready to forgive his wife everything is the brilliant Hiroshi Abe (Thermae Romae, Still Walking, Summer of Ubume, Survive Style 5+). He is joined by Kyoko Koizumi (Tokyo Sonata, Adrift in Tokyo), Jun Fubuki (Séance, Rebirth), Maho Nonami (Scarecrow, 2LDK), Yoko Maki (The Grudge, one of the foxy nurses in Infection), Shinobu Otake (Welcome to the Quiet Room) and the totally foxy Tomoko Tabata (The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky, The Hidden Blade).

Matsuoi (Abe) is married to Tsuya and they live in Oshima City. He is a devoted husband. She is a woman who has numerous affairs. When Tsuya is diagnosed with cancer and falls into a coma Matsuoi informs the men she had affairs with about her condition. The women in the lives of these men are shocked and begin to re-examine their relationships.


See You Tomorrow, Everyone                  See You Tomorrow Everyone Film Poster

Japanese Title: みなさん、 さようなら

Romaji: Minasan, Sayonara

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura

Writer: Tamio Hayashi, Yoshihiro Nakamura (Screenplay), Takehiko Kubodera (Original Novel),

Starring: Gaku Hamada, Kana Kurashina, Kento Nagayama, Kei Tanaka, Nene Otsuka, Bengal, Haru

The director of The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck & God in a Coin Locker reunites with Gaku Hamada, one of the leads from that film. This is their fifth time working together and, as stated in my preview of releases for 2013, Third Window Films will release it later this year. Gaku Hamada acts alongside Kana Kurashina (Dreams for Sale), Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), Kei Tanaka (one of the school pupils on the roof in Suicide Club), Bengal (Boiling Point) and Nene Otsuka (Film Noir, Bashing). This is yet another adaptation of a book and it is written by Takehiko Kubodera. It deals with loneliness and change. If this were a British film it would most likely be directed by Mike Leigh or Ken Loach and have sections which are totally miserable but there looks to be a decent amount of well-observed comedy with a serious aspect behind it in this film. And some crying.

Satoru Watari (Hamada) lives in an apartment complex. After graduating from elementary school he decides to stay in the complex for the rest of his life. True to his word he stays at home instead of going to middle school and gets a job in a cake shop in the complex and gets engaged to a friend. His other friends have other ideas and one by one they leave.

Continue reading “Goodbye Debussy, Strawberry Night, Tsuya’s Night, See You Tomorrow, Everyone, Judas, Happiness Come On, Okinawa Sunflower: The Sky Will Not Forget that Day, Night People, Tokyo Twilight, Blankey Jet City [Vanishing Point], Trailers and the Japanese Film Box Office Chart”