Categories
Features Live Action Movies

To The Ends Of The Earth (Tabi No Owari Sekai No Hajimari)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2019 – Japan – 120m

****

As a Japanese TV journalist works with a Japanese camera crew in Uzbekistan, she meditates on her life and career – from the BFI London Film Festival 2019 and the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2019 – and from Wednesday, November 11th on MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Yoko (Atsuko Maeda) is a TV journalist working with a production company trying to find magazine format stories as they travel around Uzbekistan. None of them speak Uzbek, so they rely on a local interpreter Temur (Adiz Rajabov). When not shooting, Yoko explores the local city.

The prodigious Kiyoshi Kurosawa is best known for his horror films Cure (1997) and Pulse/Kairo (2001) yet has dabbled in a wide variety of genres. This one is, for want of a better description, a travelogue with a hint of a musical. The heroine desperately wants to be a singer, but has found herself in the job of roving TV presenter – not exactly what she wanted to do, but it’s certainly show business. She wonders if she’s lost her way. Her boyfriend Ryo who we never see is a firefighter working back at Tokyo harbour with whom she periodically communicates by text.… Read the rest

Categories
Live Action Movies Shorts

Beautiful New Bay Area Project

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2013 – Japan – 29m

****

A company director steals a woman worker’s name tag and she fights and kickboxes him and his people to get it back – currently on MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa

A young man (Emoto Tasuku) is president of the company he has inherited from his father. His right hand man encourages him to pitch on a development project on the side of the river. He hangs out on a construction site and watches the workers go about their jobs. He is particularly taken with woman worker Takako (Mita Moa).

So much so that he tries to strike up a conversation with her, but she ignores him. Indeed, she goes out of her way to vanish from his sight to where he can’t find her. So he later in her full view steals her name tag from a board and hides it in his office. He instructs his security that if the woman appears in his building, she is to be thrown out.

That sets up the final ten plus minutes of the short in which to access his office and her purloined name tag she must physically kickbox her way past several guards to fight him for the tag.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Creepy (Kuripi: Itsuwari no rinjin)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 130m

****

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s new crime thriller Creepy draws on Vertigo, Psycho and Audition.

The latest film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa to receive a UK cinema release is an extraordinary and highly original crime thriller with more than a passing nod to two better known Alfred Hitchcock films. Its opening reworks that of Vertigo (1958) while certain later narrative elements owe much to Psycho (1960) although not the parts of that film which are usually aped or recycled in other movies. It also recalls Takashi Miike’s notorious Audition (1999) in its overall structure. Yet despite these clear influences, Creepy is very much its own film.

Vertigo‘s first scene opens with the rung of a ladder grasped moments afterwards by a human hand. This develops into a chase sequence in which the vertigo of Detective ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart) causes a cop to fall to his death. Creepy‘s first scene opens with bars over a window.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Tsukamoto – Killing – Haze – The Adventures of Denchu Kozo

Killing (Sawamura)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 79m

***

The Adventure of Denchu Kozo (Denchu kozo no boken)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1987 – Japan – 45m

****

Haze

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2005 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 48m

*****

Shinya Tsukamoto’s latest feature, the samurai movie Killing comes to UK Blu-ray in a two-disc edition, along with two fascinating shorts: the Super-8 epic The Adventure of Denchu Kozo and the later masterpiece Haze. All three feature informative audio commentaries by Tom Mes, author of Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto (2005). The director is probably best known for cyberpunk epics Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and its sequel/reboot Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) which concern the fusion of flesh and metal into a new evolutionary human weapon form. His new film similarly explores the samurai and his metal blade becoming as one in a deadly human fighting machine. Read the rest…

Review published in All The Anime.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi-toride no san-akunin)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1958 – Japan – Cert. PG – 138m

***

Currently streaming on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of the now extended Japan 2020 programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies

Captured by soldiers, two wandering bumpkin farmers (Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara) are put waist deep in a waterlogged pit with scores of other prisoners and ordered to dig for treasure. Before they can find it, however, they manage to escape. In the middle of nowhere, one of them slings away a useless, sodden branch from their attempted campfire. It goes chink. Inside the wood is concealed gold with a royal seal upon it.

So begins Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 foray into chambara (Japanese popular historical epic genre) which also features a beautiful princess in exile (Misa Uehara) and her heroic general (Toshiro Mifune) intent on restoring her with the clan’s gold. If the story sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s George Lucas’ main source for his Star Wars (1977) (and one or two elements in its sequels), which today lend Kurosawa’s film an added interest. The Hidden Fortress puts hero, heroine and their two unlikely companions through a series of set piece adventures including lance duels, a spectacularly choreographed folk fire festival, horseback pursuits and, indeed, the discovery fairly early on in the proceedings of the eponymous hidden fortress.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

ManHunt (Zhui bu)

Director – John Woo – 2017 – China, Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

Hong Kong action director John Woo’s return to form – currently on Netflix.

The late Japanese actor Ken Takakura who died in 2014 appeared in more than 200 films and made his name playing ex-cons and gangsters for Toei studios between the mid-fifties and mid-seventies. He was a major inspiration for Hong Kong director John Woo who here remakes the 1976 Takakura vehicle Manhunt.

Du Qiu (Chinese actor Zhang Hanyu) finds himself in a Japanese bar swapping notes on movies with the mama-san Rain (Korea’s Ha Ji-won). Almost immediately, a loutish group of men in suits storm into the same bar to demand he leaves so she can give them her full attention. Once he’s gone, Rain and her partner Dawn (the director’s daughter Angeles Woo) proceed to gun down the suits, the camera whirling around them as Woo choreographs the mayhem.

Du is a lawyer working for a pharma company. The morning after a huge corporate event he wakes up to find a dead woman (Tao Okamoto) lying next to him in his bed. Implicated in her murder, he goes on the run.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Journey To The Shore (Kishibe no tabi)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2015 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 127m

****

Currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

Review published in All The Anime.

Loner Mizuki (Fukatsu Eri) is alone one evening when her husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano) appears out of a dark corner into the light as if through a door. There doesn’t seem to be anything odd about this even though as she says, “it’s been three years”. “I’m dead,” he affirms. “In the sea off Toyama. My body’s been eaten by crabs. You wouldn’t find it even if you searched.”

Before departing, the dead come to terms with their death and help those close to them do the same.

This quiet, subtle, underplayed affair works as a gentle romance… Read the rest

Currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

Review published in All The Anime.

Categories
Live Action Television

A Day-Off Of Kasumi Arimura (Arimura Kasumi No Satsukyu)

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2020 – Japan – 42m

****

In the first episode of director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s TV series A Day-Off Of Kasumi Arimura, the actress Kazumi Arimura plays herself in a fictionalised version of her life – on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 from 13:00 Saturday, October 10th to 13:00 Tuesday, October 13th

This is a curiosity, one-off festival screening that admirers of contemporary Japanese cinema are going to want to see. Kore-eda (Shoplifters, 2018) is one of the highest profile, contemporary directors in Japan and like many other directors around the world in between his theatrical cinema films he also works in small screen television. This is the first of eight episodes of the TV series A Day-Off Of Kasumi Arimura in which actress Kazumi Arimura plays herself in a fictionalised version of her life. As the subtitle of the end title indicates, this drama is fictional. It has nothing to do with Kazumi Arimura’s real life. 

There’s a little pre-amble in which Kazumi learns that tomorrow’s shoot is cancelled because someone has gone down with the ‘flu. Which you might think makes the episode rather close to or currently perilous pandemic times, but it doesn’t really.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Akira 4K (IMAX)

Director – Katsuhiro Otomo – 1988 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 124m

*****

Manga artist turned director Katsuhiro Otomo’s cyberpunk classic returns to the big screen in a brand new 4K IMAX print – in cinemas from Wednesday, October 7th #AKIRA4K

When Akira first appeared in the UK at the start of the nineties, Disney was busy reinventing the animated cartoon as a platform for the Broadway musical (Beauty And The Beast, Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 1991; The Lion King, Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers, 1994) and there were debates about whether comics (or ‘graphic novels’) could be created for adults as well as kids.

As so often in technology and media, Japan was ahead of the game. Otomo had published his long running comic book or manga Akira in 1982 and turned it into a feature six years later, challenging widely held Western notions of what animation was. You could make SF in movies (Voyage To The Moon, Georges Méliès, 1902) and you could make serious SF (2001, Stanley Kubrick, 1968), but animation was strictly for kids, at least in the English-speaking mainstream, and that as what Disney did.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies Music

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tetsuo)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

Now on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest