Click the links below for coverage of:
BFI Japan 2021 – on now
MUBI New South Korean Cinema season – on now
Or click any of these tags:
Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1954 – Japan – Cert. PG – 207m – Oscar nominated
Seven samurai must defend a poor village of farmers from bandits in one of the greatest action movies ever made – both released in cinemas in a brand-new restoration from Friday, October 29th and currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan 2021 programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.
Seven Samurai opens with a group of horsemen on a horizon. Notwithstanding the Japanese titles on the screen, you could be watching a Hollywood Western. Although what follows is a tale of samurai, bandits and farmers, it’s so close to ideas in a Western that Hollywood replaced sword with guns and retooled it as the hugely successful The Magnificent Seven (1960).
The plot concerns a small farming village threatened by bandits, who attack at harvest time and take all the crops. The farmers find a group of samurai prepared to defend them against the bandits in return for food and lodging. From a script co-written with two others Kurosawa delivers a measured epic which explodes into action in its final hour and a bit… [Read more]
Full article: All The Anime.
So, Scotland Loves Anime is over (save a few stragglers at the Film House) and you’re wondering where you can see more Japanese movies. Today, the BFI finally kicks off its major Japan season originally scheduled for 2020 at London’s BFI Southbank. Originally intended to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics, the programmers rejigged the programme and put parts of it out online from May to September 2020 via the excellent BFI Player platform while Sight & Sound’s wonderful anime special was out on the shelves for around three months thanks to lockdown.
Alongside the BFI’s online coup of numerous Kurosawa movies including Seven Samurai (1954), reissued as a brand new print in UK cinemas from 29th October along with prints of Throne of Blood (1957) and Yojimbo (1961), comes a similar quantity of Yasujiro Ozu movies, a rare chance to get an overview of one of Japan’s most popular domestic talents. Ozu (1903-1963) is best known for Tokyo Story (1953, pictured)… [Read more]
I review the BFI’s Japan 2021 season and the films of Yasujiro Ozu for All The Anime.
Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1957 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 110m
Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays. In 1957, Kurosawa reworked it against the backdrop of feudal, 16th Century Japan. Ascendant samurai Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) hear from an old crone at a spinning wheel in the forest that Washizu will become Lord of Cobweb Castle, later to be succeeded by Miki’s son. Washizu’s wife Asaji (Isuzu Yamada, her face rigidly fixed in Noh mask poses) preys on his insecurities to convince Washizu to murder his way to the top. Slayings, ghost sightings, hand washing and his demise duly ensue.
Not only does Kurosawa jettison all Shakespeare’s dialogue, he also makes the material thoroughly his own even while remaining true to its essence. For instance, when Washizu, eating in public, sees Miki’s ghost, Mifune with the camera following him starts running around like a man possessed, slashing wildly at an unseen apparition.… Read the rest
Director – Yasujiro Ozu – 1953 – Japan – Cert. U – 136m
Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan programme alongside 24 other Ozu films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.
Elderly couple the Hirayamas (Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama) live in the seaside town of Onomichi, a day’s train ride from Tokyo at the time the film was made. Of their five children, Kyoko (Kyoko Kagawa) still lives at home with them and works locally as a primary school teacher, two live in Tokyo, one in Osaka and one went missing in action during the war, presumed dead. The son and daughter in Tokyo, Koichi (So Yamamura) and Shige (Haruko Sugimura), work as a doctor and a beauty parlour owner respectively. Both are married while the missing son has left behind a widow Noriko (Setsuko Hara). The fifth child is a son Keizo (Shiro Osaki) in Osaka which is on the train between Onomichi and Tokyo. The couple want to visit their offspring and see how they are doing for themselves.… Read the rest
Director – Hideo Nakata – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m
Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Currently available to view on Amazon Prime, BFI Player and Shudder.
Review originally published in Funimation UK to coincide with the UK Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release date 14/10/2016.
Jeremy Clarke on Hideo Nakata’s urban ghost story.
At the centre of Hideo Nakata’s film Dark Water (2002) is the powerful bond that exists between a mother and her child. Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of divorce proceedings and while all the financial arrangements have been agreed, the question of who gets custody of the couple’s daughter has yet to be settled. Yoshimi is assured that in cases where the child is less than six years old, the mother tends to get custody. However, her former husband is attempting to discredit her to prevent this happening.
This is all very stressful to Yoshimi. For the time being however she and her almost six year old daughter Iku (Rio Kanno) need to find a place to live.… Read the rest
Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2001 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 119m
Pulse aka Kairo (2001) has long been considered one of the key J-Horror films of the late 1990s and early 2000s alongside Ring (1998) and The Grudge (2002). It remains one of the two films for which director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is most highly regarded, the other being his earlier Cure (1997).
In a fascinating forty minute-odd interview on Arrow’s new, extras-stuffed release Kurosawa describes Pulse as a rehash of Ring. That observation doesn’t spring immediately to mind. Ring is about a VHS videotape, a death threat by phone and a deadly ghost named Sadako who crawls creepily out of a TV set. Pulse is about internet and mobile phone images before present day smartphones with their image-sending capabilities became commonplace. People seeing these images slowly lose their grip on reality and vanish into thin air by for example turning into a stain which then falls off the wall as little particles to be blown away on an air current.… Read the rest
Director – Hideo Nakata – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 96m
Director – Joji Iida – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m
Director – Hideo Nakata – 1999 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 95m
Director – Norio Tsuruta – 2000 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 99m
You watch a short, scary video on the VCR. Then your phone rings… you have a week to show it to someone else – or die! Ring (1998) took the world by storm.
A single parent, TV journalist investigates a cursed videotape…
I review Arrow’s Ring Collection for All The Anime.
Director – Juzo Itami – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 114m
Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season, December at BFI Southbank.
This review was first published on All The Anime.
This so-called ‘Noodle Western’ always sounded somewhat off-the-wall. It impressed when it first appeared in 1985 and viewing it again on Criterion’s new Blu-ray, Tampopo has stood the test of time well. “This’ll be famous in the history of cinema” says cast member Fukumi Kuroda in director Juzo Itami’s 90-minute edited diary of making the film, one of many excellent extras on the new disc.
Kuroda plays the girlfriend of an unnamed, white-suited gangster (a pre-Shall We Dance Koji Yakusho) and the couple share a number of scenes involving sex and food. One involves him putting an egg yolk in his mouth which the couple then pass back and forth between them from mouth to mouth until it finally breaks and spills out onto her dress. You can find out the finer points of how they filmed this by watching the diary. Yakusho also gets a memorable death scene, bloodily gunned down by unseen assailants in a rain-swept. He then proceeds to tell his lady love about wild boar being hunted and turned into yam sausage on account of their diet, before he passes away in her arms.… Read the rest
Director – Naomi Kawase – 2014 – Japan / France – Cert. 15 – 119m
The ocean roars and then, just as suddenly, is quiet. The wind howls through the trees, then sunlight is glimpsed through tranquil branches. Welcome to the sleepy yet storm-battered island of Amami Oshima, part of the Southern Japanese Archipelago, a place of paradox and contradiction seen through the eyes of two teenaged friends and their families.
Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga aka Junko Abe – Samurai Marathon, Bernard Rose, 2019) loves swimming in the sea. Her friend Kaito (Nijiro Murakami – Isle Of Dogs, Wes Anderson, 2018, Destruction Babies, Tetsuya Mariko, 2016) is less keen – he’d rather be in the safety of a swimming pool. She uses him and his bicycle to get around the island if and when he’s nearby. She is rather keen on him and would happily have sex. He can’t explain why, but is less enthusiastic about the idea.
Once we move on to their parents, there are fascinating observations regarding motherhood – especially in the light of adoption / unwanted pregnancy outing True Mothers (Naomi Kawase, 2020) – and, to a lesser extent, fatherhood.… Read the rest