Kirin Kiki (January 15, 1943 – September 15, 2018)

It has been over a month since veteran actor Kirin Kiki passed away. Fans of Asian cinema are still mourning her passing and I’d just like to add a couple of thoughts.

Kirin Kiki 1960s

Kirin Kiki was born in Tokyo in 1943 and started her acting career fresh from graduating from high school in the early 1960s. Her first steps were to become a member of the Bungakuza theatre troupe using the stage name Chiho Yuki and taking on two early screen roles, the first being a TBS drama Seven Grandchildren (Shichinin no mago 七人の孫) in 1964 and then two film roles, the drama Gentlemen Beware (Tonogata Goyoujin 殿方御用心), released in June 1966 and the comedy Drunken Doctor Continues (Zoku Yoidore hakase 続・酔いどれ博士), written by Kaneto Shindo and released in September of the same year. She continued working throughout the years and showed her versatility when she collaborated with the likes of Seijun Suzuki on Zigeunerweisen (1980) and Pistol Opera (2001) and Nobuhiko Obayashi on Sabishinbo (1985), continuing on to titles like Villain and Arrietty (both from 2010) where she played grandmother types. She had a diverse range but I, and many Japanese film fans, would come into contact with her due to her work with Hirokazu Kore’eda.

Koreeda and Kirin Together

An interesting life and deep experience in the world of acting gave her a quality of wisdom and endurance and also brusqueness, something she called upon when working with Kore-eda. Usually playing a grandmother or an old friend of a family with a flinty personality, she became a reassuring and welcome presence who was like a steady hand at the tiller when all around her were adrift *even if you disagreed with her) whenever she was on the screen in titles such as Kiseki (2011), Like Father, Like Son (2013), and Our Little Sister (2015), and After the Storm (2016) but her most iconic role will be Still Walking (2008).

In it, lead actor Hiroshi Abe plays Ryota Yokoyama, the unpopular second son and an art restorer who returns to his parent’s home to commemorate the death of the beloved eldest son. Everyone is struggling with barely suppressed emotions as we find that the Yokoyama family are riven by the death and the healing process is glacial. Audiences will wonder if it will ever occur as comments and actions are full of personal slights and resentment that show a lifetime of hurt. Kirin’s character probably has the sharpest moments where her harshness is well-hidden by the jollity she brings to her performance. 

That mother and son double-act she formed with Abe was brought back with After the Storm as the two worked together perfectly to showcase another quietly dysfunctional family but with less of a sharper and darker edge as Abe’s character tries to deal with his separation from his wife. Hope springs eternal for these characters but they eventually have to let go of the past. Kirin steals the show in a tear-inducing scene where she tries to revive her son’s happy family. A nice thematic link between the two is the butterfly...

After the Storm Koreeda Kirin Abe

Perhaps her best performance in recent years is to be found in the Naomi Kawase film Sweet Bean (2015) where she starred alongside granddaughter Kyara Uchida and she finds another perfect acting partner in the superb Masatoshi Nagase. While he is all stoicism and bitterness, she is the hopeful and delightful ray of light that balances him and helps the film make a point about people needing to understand the world around us. 

Kirin’s death was not unexpected. She had been diagnosed with cancer back in 2004 and had undergone operations for it. In an interview with reporter Mai Yoshikawa for The Japan Times earlier this year she commented,

My cancer has spread throughout my entire body and there’s nothing the doctors can do,” Kiki added. “There’s no point in comparing myself now to my old healthy self and feeling miserable. . . . Rather than fighting reality, I choose to accept what’s in front of me and go with the flow.”

To think that she went through cancer treatment and still put in these great performances! 2018 was the year of Kirin as she starred in Kore-eda’s latest film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and she was feted at his year’s Japan Cuts where she won the CUT ABOVE award for her services to the Japanese film industry.

This isn’t the last we have heard of her as audiences in Japan can see her in a Tatushi Omori film in October called Nichinichi Kore Kojitsu (2018).

Every Day A Good Day   Every Day A Good Day Film Poster

日日是好日 Nichinichi Kore Kojitsu

Running Time: 100 mins.

Release Date: October 13th, 2018

Director: Tatsushi Ohmori

Writer: Tatsushi Ohmori (Screenplay), Noriko Morishita (essay)

Starring: Haru Kruoki, Mikako Tabe, Kirin Kiki, Shingo Tsurumi, Mayu Tsuruta, Mayu Harada, Saya Kawamura, Chihiro Okamoto,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Noriko (Haru Kuroki) is a 20-year-old university student who has lost her way in life. Noriko’s mother suggests that she attends a Japanese tea ceremony near her house with her cousin Michiko (Mikako Tabe). Michiko is enthusiastic about it but Noriko doesn’t seem so certain. However, once there, Noriko learns from the teacher, Takeda (Kirin Kiki) and experiences a whole new world. It stays with Noriko throughout her life, during frustrations while job hunting, moments when she suffers a broken heart, and during the death of someone important. The tea ceremony always offers her something to return to…

Kiki Kirin’s final screen appearance in a drama. Here is a clip from her performance, Erika 38, which is released next year:

My words don’t really do her justice but through her films, family, friends, and fans, she will live on.

Kirin Kiki, Rest in Peace.

Villain UK DVD Release

Third Window Films has announced the DVD release date of the multi-award winning Japanese film Villain.

Villain DVD

UK DVD Release Date: 5th of December 2011

Running time: 140 mins

Certificate: 15

Director: Lee Sang-il

Starring: Eri Fukatsu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Masaki Okada,


Anamorphic Widescreen Transfer with 5.1 Surround Sound and optional English subtitles

1 Hour long ‘Making Of’

Discussion between director Lee Sang-il and actor Satoshi Tsumabuki

Theatrical Trailer

I personally liked this film a lot as my review shows and I wasn’t alone as it was nominated for 15 Japanese Academy Awards and won for Best Actress, Actor, Supporting Actress Supporting Actor and Music Score, beating out the magnificent 13 Assassins! Just look at the talent involved:

Eri Fukatsu: one of Japan’s best actresses and the lead in the current number one film in the Japanese box office, Once in a Blue Moon. For her performance in Villain she won the Best Actress at the Montreal Film Festival.

Continue reading “Villain UK DVD Release”

Villain Theatrical Release from the 19th of August

When Third Window Films announced that it had acquired the Japanese film Villain back in May/June I was intrigued by the film’s genre combination of thriller, character study and doomed romance so I reported it in my weekly trailer post. Now I’ve got more information on the film I’m very excited at the prospect of it being released theatrically across the UK, partly due to the awards buzz and critical acclaim but mostly because of the acting talent in it (including the rising talent that is Hikari Mitsushima!).

Villain (2010)

Villain Poster

UK Theatrical Release date: 19th of August 2011

Running time: 140 mins

Certificate: 15

Director: Lee Sang-il (Hula Girls)

Starring: Eri Fukatsu (The Magic Hour, Bayside Shakedown), Satoshi Tsumabuki (Tokyo!, Villon’s Wife, Pandemic), Hikari Mitsushima (Love Exposure, Death Note, Sawako Decides), Masaki Okada (Confessions)

In Japanese with English subtitles; Colour/35mm and Digital release

Villain Doomed Romance


Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a construction worker who has lived his entire life in a dreary fishing village. With no girlfriend or friends, he spends his days working and looking after his grandparents, with no enjoyment in life other than his car. Meanwhile, Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu) also lives a monotonous life pacing between the men’s clothing store where she works and the apartment where she lives with her sister. When the two lonely souls meet using an online dating site, they immediately fall in love with each other. But there’s a secret Yuichi had been keeping from Mitsuyo: Yuichi is the one suspected of killing the woman whose body was found at Mitsue Pass only a few days before…

As Yuichi and his new lover try to elude the police, the events that led up to the murder and its aftermath are revealed. We learn the stories of the victim, the murderer, and their families – stories of loneliness, love hotels, violence and desperation, exposing the inner lives of men and woman who are not everything they appear to be.

The talent behind this film is immense and I haven’t even mentioned that the musical score was provided by Studio Ghibli favourite Joe Hisaishi. Indeed, Villain comes with a lot of award buzz and has been heavily praised in Japan where it was nominated for 15 Japanese Academy Awards and won 5 including:

Best Actress, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor and Music Score

Eri Fukatsu also won the Best Actress at the Montreal Film Festival while Satoshi Tsumabuki won Best Actor at the 53rd Blue Ribbon Awards. The film was also selected by the famous Kinema Junpo critics’ organization as best Japanese film of the year so you can see the high calibre of the film we have here. Just reading some reviews this looks like it could be one of the best films out this summer.

Interestingly, Villain is based on Shuichi Yoshida’s award-winning novel of the same name which sold over half a million copies in Japan. It has recently been translated into English and is due to be released by Random House publishing on the 18th of August – a day before the theatrical release of the film.

After reading the buzz I’m very excited but I was already sold when I heard it starred Hikari Mitsushima.

Hikari Mitsushima Villain

For more information including cinema screenings just go to the Third Window Films site.

Villain and The Last Circus Trailers

Only two trailers this week – although two is enough because these look to be really interesting and exciting.


Release date: 19th of August 2011

Running time: 103 mins

Director: Lee Sang-il

Starring: Eri Fukatsu, Hikari Mitsushima


Third Window Films have announced the acquisition of Japanese film Villain. Based on a novel written by Shuichi Yoshida, the film will be released on the 19th of August.

Starring Eri Fukatsu and Hikari Mitsushima, the film takes place in a dull fishing village where Yuichi, a construction worker, spends his time working and taking care of his grandparents. His life is a lonely one without friendship, his only joy is his car. He is also a suspect in a recent killing of a woman. Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu)is a young woman who is in a similar predicament. Working in a men’s clothing store and living with her sister in an apartment. When Yuichi and Mitsuyo meet when using an online dating site they instantly fall in love. The two take off in an attempt to avoid the police but the journey will reveal the darkness of the characters.

The Last Circus

Release date: Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 19th and 20th June

Running time: 107 mins

Director: Alex de la Iglesia

Starring: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang,

This one has snuck up on me. Released in Spain December last year, The Last Circus (Balada Triste de Trompeta) looks to be a gloriously vulgar exploitation flick mixing the politics of the Spanish Civil War and Spain under the rule of General Franco, sexy dames and violent clowns. All I know is that it looks far more interesting than Transformers.

1937, The Spanish Civil War is raging and a “Happy” clown is recruited by a militia to join battle. Still in his costume. He proves to be deadly as he massacres a platoon of National soldiers.

1973, the Clowns son, Javier, is living in the tail end of the Franco regime and wants to be a clown himself but has seen too much sadness and as a result, is not funny and can only play the “Sad” Clown. Although he joins a circus, he finds himself being humiliated by a “Happy” Clown named Sergio who has a much abused wife named Natalia. Javier falls in love with Natalia and tries to rescue her which puts him in a dangerous love triangle.