A former yakuza killer having served his sentence for murder comes out of prison and attempts to go straight – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023 between Friday, 3rd February and Friday, 31st March
Masao Mikami (Koji Yakusho) completes his prison sentence and comes out on good terms with the prison staff, who helpfully advise him, in an almost friendly manner, of not returning to his former ways. While it is indeed the convict’s intention to live within the law from here on in, there remains a gulf between him and those charged with guarding him. He thinks the courts should have given him a lesser sentence for the killing he committed, i.e. manslaughter motivated by self-defence not murder. However, he doesn’t appear to bear grudges about this. He seems to have a problem with losing his temper and controlling his anger, something he’s going to have to work on if he is to survive as a law-abiding citizen.
The Shojis (Isao Hashizume and Meiko Kaji), a sympathetic couple of around his age, provide him with free bed and board until he can find a job and get back on his feet.… Read the rest
Director – Sadao Yamanaka –1935 – Japan – 92m (longest available version)
Period drama in which various characters palm a worthless pot off on others only to later discover it’s extremely valuable – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023 between Friday, 3rd February and Friday, 31st March
A gorgeous restoration by Nikkatsu, this populist potboiler from 1935 is an excuse to show off the talents of chambara star Denjiro Okochi as the eponymous ronin Tange Sazen, who at one point cheerfully admits himself to be a freeloader off of archery club hostess and geisha house owner Ofuji (Kiyozo).
The equally eponymous pot, however, is in the film from the start, as after he has passed it off to his brother Genzaburo (Kunitaro Sawamura) who has married the daughter of a swordsman in Edo, a regional Yagyu Lord is informed that the pot’s glaze conceals a map to the whereabouts of a treasure chest containing a million ryo hidden by one of his ancestors shortly. Unaware of its considerable value, the latter’s wife Hagino (Hanai Ranko) is embarrassed by this piece of worthless junk and wants her husband to throw it in the shed, so she doesn’t have to look at it.… Read the rest
Believing her manga artist husband is having an affair with their publisher, a manga artist wifedraws a new manga in which she embarks on an affair with her driving instructor – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023 between Friday, 3rd February and Friday, 31st March
When another story assignment for their editor Chika (Nao aka Nao Honda) comes to an end for wife and husband manga artists Sawako (Haru Kuroki) and Toshio Hayakawa (Tasuku Emoto), Sawako lets Toshio drive Chika to the station, listening to them talk after shutting the door behind them because she’s convinced (correctly) that the pair are having an affair. Shortly afterwards, she gets a phone call telling her that her mother (Jun Fubuki) is ill, and the urban couple drive to her home in the countryside to be there for her as she recuperates. She is walking around on a single crutch but seems in good shape.
That is, however, more than can be said for this married couple’s relationship. To keep up appearances, they share a bedroom at her mother’s place, something they haven’t done at home for years.… Read the rest
Director – Tetsuya Nakashima – 2018 – Japan – 133m
A monster relentlessly pursues its victims until one day it comes to take them away forever – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023 between Friday, 3rd February and Friday, 31st March
This is basically a monster film in which the monster is a bogeyman or evil spirit who after taunting potential victims – usually children – for a long time, then turns up and abducts them from this world into its own. You never see the monster: it’s all conveyed by preparation, suggestion and effect, and the characters’ actions and reactions.
And although the monster is apparently intent on abducting the child, various adult characters who appear to be significant protagonists suddenly get abducted by it. While it’s nowhere near the same league, in this respect, the film resembles Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) i.e. a significant character is despatched part-way through leaving another character to step into their shoes for the remainder.
The monster as such never physically appears (or, at least, we in the audience never actually see it) – its appearance is often presaged by following peculiar occult instructions, e.g. laying out multiple bowls of water on a corridor floor, or breaking all the mirrors in the house, accompanied by frenzied editing of quasi-abstract footage including camera-less animation (the sort of thing Len Lye and Norman McLaren used to make in the 1930s at the UK’s GPO Film Unit).… Read the rest
The JPF has a programme that uses a selection of mainly recent releases along with one or two older classics to show present-day Japanese cinema in a wider context. Hence the title of this year’s theme: Always Evolving: Japanese Cinema Then, Now, and for the Future.
Two children separated from their respective parents are taken in by an old woman in a benevolent, magical house with a malevolent monster nearby – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now in the Official Competition section
A younger girl and an older girl find themselves at Kitsunezaki (Fox Cape) Bus Station that’s been wrecked in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. An old lady appears and takes them under her wing. They walk through forests, then up a hill, until eventually they arrive at a huge bungalow with a thatched roof which is to be the girls’ home. Kiwa, the old lady, claims to be their granny.
There’s something odd about the house, though. The older girl Yui accidentally makes a hole when she puts a finger through a paper wall. Later, the hole has mysteriously vanished. Then there are the drinks which appear out of nowhere when Yui says she’d like such and such a drink. At night, outside, strange turtle spirits (kappa) gather.
The younger girl Hiyori never speaks. This appears to be the result of some sort of trauma.… Read the rest
Forward thinkers take on the conservative old guard within a Japanese publishing corporation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March
Megumi Takano (Mayu Matsuoka from One Night, Kazuya Shirashi, 2019; Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018; A Silent Voice, Naoko Yamada, 2016; Lesson Of Evil, Takashi Miike, 2012; Love Exposure, Sion Sono, 2008), daughter of local bookstore owner Takano (Shinya Tsukamoto), is as dedicated an editor as you’ll find anywhere in publishing. Alas, she lacks the political savvy needed to survive in its ruthless, corporate, dog-eat-dog world. When the owner of the publishing company Kunpu which employs her dies unexpectedly, she finds herself caught up in the machinations of a large organisation where some employees resist change while others plan to completely reinvent the business model to ensure the company’s survival, possibly at the expense of some of its employees.
Thus it is that new CEO Tamatsu (Koichi Sato from Fukushima 50, Setsuro Wakamatsu, 2020; Sukiaki Western Django, Takashi Miike, 2007; Where The Last Sword Is Drawn, Yojiro Takita, 2002) comes in with plans to restructure the company.… Read the rest
The intersecting lives of several young Tokyoites suggests they don’t know how to communicate with one another – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March
A young woman hangs out in an amusement arcade. Suddenly she’s aware of a young boy. Running, shouting, “why me”. He needs something. She steps into the breach and – for a moment, at least – provides it by holding him tight, a surrogate mother, an understanding human connection.
How far this understanding goes, it’s impossible to say. We never find out the source of the boy’s malaise, we never learn anything more about the woman who holds him in the arcade. However they have connected on some level – physically and emotionally. And that’s what this film seems to be about.
It’s basically a series of character study vignettes in which the characters occasionally cross paths which could well have been written or conceived as a half dozen of so short films. They connect with or become alienated from one another. It’s set in Tokyo with a title suggestive of complex networks and computer language with the catch-all ‘love’ tacked on the end.… Read the rest
New next door neighbours pose challenges for a man with learning difficulties and his carer mother – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March
Chu-san (Muga Tsukaji) gets up with his alarm, saying “it’s 6.45”. He folds up his bedding into a neat pile, starts to unbutton his pyjamas. By the time he’s saying, “it’s 6.56”, he’s heading for the loo. Everything runs on a rigid time grid. There’s only two minutes for his mother Tamako (Mariko Kaga) to shave him between 7.01 and 7.03; if it doesn’t get done, she has to stop. At breakfast, she tells him, “chew 30 times.”
Outside their modest house and courtyard, an Ume tree overhangs the fence, a public hazard. One of the removal men helping the new neighbours the Satomuras move in next door bangs his head and drops a box of things, out from which, unnoticed, falls a child’s ball. The husband Shigeru (Ikkei Watanabe) tells his wife Eiko (Yoko Moriguchi) that she – or he – needs to talk to the neighbours about the tree.… Read the rest