Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Announces Opening/Closing Films

The key visual of OAFF 2021 is an original art by Vancouver-based cartoonist Marc Bell.

The Organisers of the Osaka Asian Film Festival have announced details of the 2021 edition. The top headlines are:

It is going ahead in two forms, one physical and one digital

  • On screen (OAFF 2021 programs in cinemas): March 5 – March 14
  • Online (Selected films from previous OAFF programs): February 28 – March 20

The screen programs will consist of the Competition, Indie Forum, and other sections and special programs dedicated to emerging trends in Asian cinema.

The Online Programs will have a rich selection of works that have been screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in the past. These films will be available to rent for a limited time through VOD (video on demand) services via a streaming platform. The viewing period for these films is from February 28 to March 20 as “Osaka Asian Film Festival Online” and it will be available in Japan. The first title to bee announced for online screening is WHOLE, a drama about biracial people searching for their identity in Japan (here’s my review).

Due to the Coronavirus situation, there will be rules in place at cinemas to keep people safe and the festival’s program might change at short notice, so please keep an eye on the official site and also SNS: Twitter, Facebook etc.

Also announced were the OPENING and CLOSING films.

Continue reading “Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Announces Opening/Closing Films”

The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ (2017) Dir: Yuya Ishii

The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blueyozora-wa-itsudemo-saiko-mitsudo-no-aoiro-da-film-poster

夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ Yozora wa Itsudemo Saiko Mitsudo no Aoiro da   

Running Time: 108 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii (Screenplay), Tahi Saihate (Original Poet)

Starring: Shizuka Ishibashi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ryo Sato, Takahiro Miura, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryuhei Matsuda, Paul Magsalin, Tetsushi Tanaka,

Website   IMDB

Yuya Ishii has gone from indie kid to director of award-winning adaptations of major books with films like Sawako Decides (2010), A Man with Style (2011), Mitsuko Delivers (2012), The Great Passage (2013). Despite the growth in projects, he has kept looking directly at his characters and in his incisive looks at human nature he spots the oddities and uniqueness of everyone regardless of the story and gets the actors to perform perfectly.

Here, he works with newbie actor Shizuka Ishibashi (later to star in Parks) and pairs her up with the more experienced Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!) and Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare Detective, My Little Sweet Pea) who was the lead in The Great Passage. The actors all portray characters caught up in the whirlwind world of Tokyo, a place which is fearsome or fantastically rewarding depending upon a person’s perspective. Film festival synopses paint the characters as alienated, stressed, and looking for relief from the everyday grind making the film sound grimdark. Far from being a miserable time, The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue is a tribute to the magic of Tokyo and the people living in it. It exhorts its audience to seize life and appreciate all the small blessings and all the positives, to work hard no matter the good times and bad times and embrace the people who offer love.

Continue reading “The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ (2017) Dir: Yuya Ishii”

Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2017

This year’s edition of the Berlin International Film Festival takes place from February 09th until the 19th and it features three really interesting directors in the shape of Naoko Ogigami and SABU and Yuya Ishii, all of whom brings their latest films. It’s a nice mix of drama and action from these three. Yuya Ishii is growing as a director and Naoko Ogigami is always one to watch. There is a classic special effects movie and a classic anime and so there’s lots for audiences to take in. It’s another good year for Japanese films in Berlin and SABU’s is really exciting because it looks like one of those great crime films from the ‘90s that used to get ranked out by the likes of Takashi Miike and it is a Japanese-Hong Kong co-production.

Let’s take a gander at the films:mittsu-no-hikari-film-image

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Japan Academy Awards 2014 Results

The 37th Japan Academy Prize results were announced on Friday and two films, Like Father, Like Son and The Great Passage, dominated the proceedings.

37th Japanese Academy Awards

The Great Passage, the film about the making of a dictionary which turned out to be a lot more funnier than anticipate, allowed the cast and staff to win the prizes for best picture, best director (Yuya Ishii), best screenplay (Kensaku Watanabe), best art and editing and for best actor (Ryuhei Matsuda).

The Great Passage Kaguya and Majime

Continue reading “Japan Academy Awards 2014 Results”

The Great Passage 舟を編む (2013)

Genki The Great Passage Review Header

The Great Passage                We Knit Ship Film Poster

Japanese Title: 舟を編む

Romaji: Fune wo Amu

Release Date: April 13th, 2013 (Japan)

Seen at the BFI London Film Festival 2013

Running Time: 133 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Shion Miura (Original Novel), Kensaku Watanabe (Screenplay),

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri, Haru Kuroki, Misako Watanabe, Kumiko Aso, Shingo Tsurumi, Chizuru Ikewaki, Hiroko Isayama, Kaouru Kobayashi, Go Kato, Kaoru Yachigusa, Ryu Morioka, Shohei Uno, Kazuki Namioka

The year is 1995 and the place is the Dictionary Editorial Department of the publisher Genbu Books. The staff include Matsumoto (Kato), a veteran editor in chief of dictionaries who is assisted by his key right-hand man Araki (Kobayashi), a skilled editor who is on the verge of quitting because his wife is ailing and he wants to be by her side. Also in the department are Sasaki (Isayama), the oil for the team ensuring that word entries are logged on computers and filed away and young blade Nishioka  (Odagiri) who, while not as is good at defining words, is a pro at getting more up to date definitions and examples because he has skill with human contact.

And that’s it for the dictionary team. All dedicated to the beauty of words but considered weird by the rest of the staff at the publisher. Fact of the matter is that compiling dictionaries is not hot shot work in publishing terms because such things are boring and costly in an age when digital technology is coming to prominence and everybody else would rather work on glossy magazines.

With Araki seeking to retire it places great strain on the department at a time when Matsuoka wants to initiate a new project called The Great Passage, a 240,000 word dictionary that will capture everything from the most current youth slang to the most technical terms of different fields like theatre and literature making it the most comprehensive and representative dictionary in the country.

Genki-The-Great-Passage-Work-on-the-Jisho

Continue reading “The Great Passage 舟を編む (2013)”

Third Window Films Releases Mitsuko Delivers on DVD

Third Window Films is releasing Yuya Ishii’s “Mitsuko Delivers” on the 9th of July.

Mitsuko Delivers DVD Case

Mitsuko Delivers                                                      Mitsuko Delivers Poster

Romaji: Hara Ga Kore Nande

Japanese Title: ハラ が コレ なんで

Release Date: 05th November 2011 (Japan)

UK DVD Release Date:   09th May 2012

Running Time: 109 min.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii

Starring: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Shiro Namiki, Miyoko Inagawa, Miyako Takeuchi, Momoka Oono, Yoshimasa Kondo, Yukijiro Hotaru, Keiko Saito

 

Mitsuko (Naka) is nine-months pregnant, broke and alone in Tokyo. Her parents (serial failed entrepeneurs) think that she’s in America with the baby’s GI father but she’s actually in dire straits as she is forced to move out of her apartment. Despite all of this she remains positive and believes that things will turn out alright. She doesn’t know where she will go but decides to hop into a taxi she cannot pay for and follows a cloud back to the ramshackle working-class alley where she grew up. This place is a relic from the past and it has had the life sucked out o it with the departure of many of its residents, but Mitsuko’s infectious get-up-and-go attitude soon compels the remaining locals to roll up their sleeves and restore the alley to its former glory.  Mitsuko has so much to do and so little time before her baby arrives but she will find a new assertiveness and help those floundering around her.

DVD Special Features:

Making Of, Theatrical Trailer

Mitsuko (Riisa Naka), Jiro (Ryo Ishibashi) and Yoichi (Aoi Nakamura) in Mitsuko Delivers

Continue reading “Third Window Films Releases Mitsuko Delivers on DVD”

Mitsuko Delivers ハラがコレなんで (2012)

Mitsuko Delivers Review Banner 2

Mitsuko Delivers

Japanese: ハラがコレなんでMitsuko Delivers Poster

Romaji: Hara Ga Kore Nande

UK Theatrical Release Date:   11th May 2012

Running Time: 109 min.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii

Starring: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Shiro Namiki, Miyoko Inagawa, Miyako Takeuchi, Momoka Oono, Yoshimasa Kondo, Yukijiro Hotaru, Keiko Saito

After watching Yuya Ishii’s 2010 film Sawako Decides I was struck by how his sharp script led to humorous and truthful observations of human nature while his naturalistic direction gave the actors ample room to bring out great comic performances so it was something of a surprise when I found Mitsuko Delivers a shallow experience.

Mitsuko (Naka) is a young woman who is nine-months pregnant, broke and alone in Tokyo. Her parents think that she’s in America with the baby’s GI father but she’s actually in dire straits as she is forced to move out of her apartment and yet she remains positive and believes that things will turn out alright. She hops in a taxi follows a cloud back to the ramshackle and destitute working-class alley where she grew up and finds her arrival and her get-up-and-go attitude soon compel the locals to roll up their sleeves and restore the alley to its former glory. Soon, old sweet-heart Yoichi (Nakamura) and his uncle Jiro (Ishibashi) find their restaurant reinvigorated and old landlady, Kiyo (Inagawa) remembers that Mitsuko was always absent-minded.

Mitsuko is not as saccharine sweet as most “home dramas”, its gentle surrealism gives it an edge but it does not imbue it with a vivid identity of its own. Although we get themes such as the importance of family and a championing of back to basics communitarianism of the past, it is put through Ishii’s filter of quirky, satirical humour. The tenement Mitsuko returns to is an old fashioned place (the only place that survived an air raid during World War II). It is an environment engineered to evoke nostalgia but there is an unexploded bomb lurking to keep things interesting. While the characters’ exist in the reality of a country undergoing economic hardship and wallowing in the past they are stylised, aimed at selling the message that “now more than ever we have to help each other and face the future.”

“Clouds drift so aimlessly, just like people.”

Riisa Naka as Mitsuko in Yuya Ishii's 2011 Film, Mitsuko Delivers

Adding to the slyly rebellious feel is our protagonist Mitsuko who isn’t your stereotypical good Japanese girl – forceful and adventurous, she doesn’t have much common sense but overflows with confidence. She radiates a good nature, living with the belief that she has to “be cool” and help those in need even if they don’t want help or it hurts her. She allows herself to become an object to help others – maid, life-coach – and finds herself aiding life’s losers. That someone in a situation like hers forcefully brings comfort to people who would look down on her provides most of the comedy and life of the film.

Continue reading “Mitsuko Delivers ハラがコレなんで (2012)”

Mitsuko Delivers Get UK Theatrical Release

Third Window Films is giving Yuya Ishii’s “Mitsuko Delivers” a UK theatrical release. It opens at selected regional cinemas and the Institute of Contemporary Arts where it will play through until May 24th. For tickets and show times at the ICA visit their site.

The Poster for Yuya Ishii's Mitsuko Delivers

Mitsuko Delivers

UK Theatrical Release Date:   11th May 2012

Running Time: 109 min.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii

Starring: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Shiro Namiki, Miyoko Inagawa, Miyako Takeuchi, Momoka Oono, Yoshimasa Kondo, Yukijiro Hotaru, Keiko Saito

 

Mitsuko (Naka) is a young woman who is nine-months pregnant, broke and alone in Tokyo. Her parents (serial failed entrepeneurs) think that she’s in America with the baby’s GI father but she’s actually in dire straits as she is forced to move out of her apartment and yet she remains positive and believes that things will turn out alright. She doesn’t know where she will go but decides to hop into a taxi she cannot pay for, and follows a cloud back to the ramshackle working-class alley where she grew up. The place reeks of destitution and bone idleness, but Mitsuko’s infectious get-up-and-go attitude soon compels the locals to roll up their sleeves and restore the alley to its former glory.  Mitsuko has so much to do and so little time before her baby arrives but she will find a new assertiveness and help those floundering around her.

Mitsuko (Riisa Naka), Jiro (Ryo Ishibashi) and Yoichi (Aoi Nakamura) in Mitsuko Delivers

Continue reading “Mitsuko Delivers Get UK Theatrical Release”

Mitsuko Delivers, Cut, Ousama Game, Friends Naki on Monster Island 3D Trailers and Japanese Film Chart Top 5

Christmas is just over a week away and my consignment of Japanese horror films has arrived so no more skimping on reviews – I’ll dial it back up to two a week! I’ve got quite a few anime reviews on ice with Noein coming in for New Years Eve – a year after I last watched it.

I’m also going to try and get a little order into my trailer posts so commenting on charts and the latest releases will continue on Saturdays and brand new trailers for future releases get their own posts on Fridays.

Japanese Film Chart Top 5

  1. OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let’s Go Kamen Riders
  2. Kaibutsu-kun The Movie
  3. Real Steel
  4. K-ON! The Movie
  5. Genji Monogatari: Thousand Year Mystery

I have never paid any attention to the Kamen Rider series and I don’t intend to start now even if the number one film is part of the mega popular franchise. Interesting to see that K-ON! Is still hanging in the top five beating Genji Monogatari which debuted last Saturday and entered the charts at number 5.

New Releases for today

The latest Japanese films to be released are a refreshing mix of original ideas and familiar horror and a kids film thrown into the mix:

Mitsuko Delivers

Japanese Theatrical Release: 17th December, 2o11

UK DVD Release Date:   May 2012 via Third Window Films

Running Time: 109 min.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Starring: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Shiro Namiki, Miyoko Inagawa, Miyako Takeuchi, Momoka Oono, Yoshimasa Kondo, Yukijiro Hotaru, Keiko Saito

I only heard about this when I did a little coverage of the BFI London Film Festival where the film was playing. It stars Ryo Ishibashi, a familiar face from many Miike Takashi works including Audition, as well as Takeshi Kitano films like the brilliant Kids Return and Brother. I’m familiar with the lead actress through her work in anime like Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time  Aoi Nakamura was one of the actors in the Third Window Films release  Quirky Guys and Gals.

 

Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) is a young woman who is nine-months pregnant, broke and alone in Tokyo. Her parents think that she’s in America with her boyfriend but she’s actually in dire straits as she is forced to move out of her apartment and yet she remains positive and believes that things will turn out alright. She doesn’t know where she will go but decides to revisit her past including a boy who had a crush on her (Aoi Nakamura).

Cut

Japanese Theatrical Release: 17th December, 2o11

Running Time: 132 min.

Director: Amir Naderi

Writer: Amir Naderi, Shinki Aoyama

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Takako Tokiwa, Denden, Takeshi Sasano, Shun Sugara,

The Iranian director of Cut is unknown to me but the film looks to combine a love of film with gritty violence. Oh, and it stars Denden.

A struggling filmmaker Shuji (Hidetoshi Nishijima) becomes a human punching bag to pay off his brother’s debts. These debts were incurred in order to fund films and the non-payment resulted in the brother being killed by the Yakuza.

Continue reading “Mitsuko Delivers, Cut, Ousama Game, Friends Naki on Monster Island 3D Trailers and Japanese Film Chart Top 5”

Third Window Films Acquires Himizu and Mitsuko Delivers and Latest Trailers

Third Window Films delivered a devastatingly brilliant one-two of news with the announcement that they have acquired Sion Sono’s Himizu and Yuya Ishii’s Mitsuko Delivers. I have been following Himizu for a while now and I am a recent convert to the school of Yuya Ishii’s humanistic comedies after watching Sawako Decides a witty and charming satire of modern Japanese society so let me put out what is known about the films so far.

Mitsuko Delivers

Japanese Theatrical Release: 5th November, 2o11

UK DVD Release Date:   May 2012

Running Time: 109 min.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Starring: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Shiro Namiki, Miyoko Inagawa, Miyako Takeuchi, Momoka Oono, Yoshimasa Kondo, Yukijiro Hotaru, Keiko Saito

I only heard about this when I did a little coverage of the BFI London Film Festival where the film was playing. It stars Ryo Ishibashi, a familiar face from many Miike Takashi works including Audition, as well as Takeshi Kitano films like the brilliant Kids Return and Brother. I’m familiar with the lead actress through her work in the anime Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time  Aoi Nakamura was one of the actors in the Third Window Films release  Quirky Guys and Gals.

 

Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) is a young woman who is nine-months pregnant, broke and alone in Tokyo. Her parents think that she’s in America with her boyfriend but she’s actually in dire straits as she is forced to move out of her apartment and yet she remains positive and believes that things will turn out alright. She doesn’t know where she will go but decides to revisit her past including a boy who had a crush on her (Aoi Nakamura).

  Continue reading “Third Window Films Acquires Himizu and Mitsuko Delivers and Latest Trailers”