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Features Live Action Movies

Wife Of A Spy (Supai no Tsuma, スパイの妻)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2020 – Japan – 115m

****1/2

A Japanese businessman’s wife decides to help her husband after discovering he is passing inflammatory state secrets to the Americans – out on MUBI in the UK and Ireland on Wednesday, September 8th

1940, Kobe, Japan. British silk trader John Fitzgerald Drummond is arrested by the Kenpetai then released thanks in part to his friend and business associate Yusaku Fukuhara (Issey Takahashi from Shin Godzilla, Hideaki Anno, 2014; Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2, Quentin Tarantino, 2003 & 4; Whisper Of The Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995), who defends him against Officer Taiji Tsumori (Masahiro Higashide from Foreboding, 2017; Before We Vanish, 2017; Creepy, 2016 – all Kiyoshi Kurosawa), a childhood friend of Yusaku’s wife Satoko (Yu Aoi from Killing, Shinya Tsukamoto, 2018; Journey To The Shore, Kurosawa, 2015 and much else). (Europeans are systematically being arrested, with the exception of Axis power nationals Germans and Italians.)

As Fukuhara and his nephew Fumio Takeshita (Ryota Bando) travel abroad to Manchuria, Satako invites Taiji to her house for a whisky, but once there he berates her for the drink being Western- not Japanese-made and suggests she should wear traditional Japanese clothes rather than Western dresses.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Minamata

Director – Andrew Levitas – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 114m

****

A dramatisation of celebrated photographer W. Eugene Smith’s investigation of Japan’s Minamata environmental atrocity in 1971 – out in cinemas and on digital from Friday, August 13th

This feels like a Hollywood actor-led project with laudable aims which comes unstuck somewhere in the execution. That said, there’s still much to admire.

Minamata is the name of a Japanese coastal town which became synonymous with Mercury poisoning caused by the Chisso chemicals factory in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Following a celebrated career as a war photographer in WW2, W. Eugene Smith photographed the series Country Doctor for Life magazine, now recognised as a landmark in the medium of the photo-essay. In the early 1970s, he and his Japanese-American wife Aileen were introduced to the town of Minamata and its dark secret, and collaborated on a photographic book about it. When we meet him in 1971, played by Johnny Depp (from such films as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2005; Sleepy Hollow, 1999; Edward Scissorhands, 1990, all Tim Burton) he has his own darkroom in a New York loft and has clearly seen better days as he is constantly on the whisky and amphetamines.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Josee, The Tiger And The Fish (Joze to Tora to Sakanatachi)

Director – Kotaru Tamura – 2020 – Japan – Cert. PG – 99m

****1/2

A college student obsessed with fish and diving gets a job looking after a girl confined to a wheelchair – out in cinemas from Wednesday, August 11th

A disorienting opening for an anime. Bubbles. Underwater. Fish swimming. Frogmen. A male college student Tsuneo is working at a diving shop over the Summer. He dreams of going to Mexico, having plenty of time to dive and seeing the rare Clarion Angel fish.

Then, out walking late one night, the entire course of his life changes as a girl in an out-of-control wheelchair comes hurtling at him down a narrow street on a hill, flying out of the wheelchair and crashing into his arms in a frozen time special effect moment straight out of The Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999). Her horrified grandmother turns up seconds later asking the young man if he saved her.

The girl immediately accuses the boy of being a pervert who’s groping her, then that he’s following them (because his house is in the same direction they’re going). The grandmother invites him in for a meal with her grandaughter Kumiko who immediately objects to the name, preferring to be called Josee.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Witches Of The Orient (Les Sorcières De L’Orient)

Director – Julien Faraut – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. U – 100m

*****

A look through a prism of anime and archive footage at the Japanese women’s volleyball team that won the 1964 Olympics – out in cinemas and online in the UK and Ireland on Friday, July 16th

You don’t really expect a documentary about a women’s volleyball team to open with a scene from the anime short Danemon’s Monster Hunt At Shojiji (Yoshitaro Kataoka, 1935) in which the hero, trying to save the damsel in distress from the web of the evil spider witch, learns too late that the damsel is the evil spider witch and has lured him to his fate. Even if the team in question has become known as ‘the Witches of the Orient’. “To refer to people as witches is not very kind,” says Katsumi Matsumura, a surviving member of the team. “But then, witches have supernatural powers. So that suited us fine.”

The nickname originated in the Russian newspaper Pravda when the Japanese women’s team faced the Russians in the 1962 volleyball championships… [Read the rest]

Full review at All The Anime.

The Witches Of The Orient is out in cinemas and virtual cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Friday, July 16th 2021.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Lupin III The First

Director – Takashi Yamazaki – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 93m

****

Master thief Lupin III sets out to steal a diary protected by a lock with a fiendishly complex mechanism and becomes embroiled in an occult, Nazi plot to take over the world – out on BD, DVD and BD/DVD combi on Monday, September 20th

A character with a long history in Japan in anime, manga artist Monkey Punch’s celebrated gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III is a descendant of Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc‘s Arsène Lupin character. LeBlanc’s bona fide character recently featured in the French live action Netflix series Lupin (creator: George Kay, 2021). 

For this Japanese reboot, Lupin III and his fellow franchise characters are back on the big screen, now lovingly animated in state of the art 3D animation which has never looked quite like this. The nimble movements of Lupin as he typically evades the grasp of Interpol’s Inspector Zenigata by firing a climbing line at a ceiling, outwits an ingénue girl thief on Paris rooftops and finally has his stolen object taken off his hands by the shapely Fujiko Mine as she dangles from a helicopter rope ladder would look good in drawn animation – for similar antics look no further than earlier Lupin III outing The Castle Of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1980) – but they look considerably better rendered in full 3D CG here. … Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Violet Evergarden The Movie (Gekijouban Violet Evergarden)

Director – Taichi Ishidate – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 139m

***1/2

Violet Evergarden struggles to come to terms with the loss of the man she loved in the war… then discovers that he may still be alive – in cinemas for six days from Thursday, July 1st

Being a companion piece / coda to a long-running anime series, it’s possible this may leave the newcomer feeling somewhat adrift, at least for the first reel or so. Young girl Daisy’s grandmother Ann has just died. We learn very little about Ann beyond the fact that she used to regularly receive letters from her own mother beyond her mother’s death.

This was accomplished by Auto Memory Dolls, not as you might suppose some sort of animate toys but rather girl employees of the CH Postal Service who wrote letters for people close to death for their loved ones to receive and read afterwards. That business is on the verge of disappearing as the new technology of the telephone takes hold, wiping out the market for the Dolls’ services.

One such Auto Memory Doll was Violet Evergarden who had previously worked in the war where she was weaponised by Major Gilbert.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Deliver Us From Evil (Daman Akeseo Guhasoseo, 다만 악에서 구하소서)

Director – Hong Won-chan – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 108m

*****

An assassin trying to rescue his ex-girlfriend’s child from organ thieves discovers a rival is after him for killing his brother – a teaser screening for the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF), also available to rent on Sky Go, Sky Store, iTunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play

In a darkened building somewhere in Japan, former South Korean government agent turned professional assassin In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) surprises and pacifies then kills his terrified, Japanese-Korean mob boss target. Meanwhile, his former girlfriend Young-joo (Choi Hee-Seo) is in Thailand in the process of putting down the deposit to buy a golf course when her small daughter Yoo-min (Park So-yi) is kidnapped. Desperate, Young-joo attempts to contact In-nam through his boss over the phone, but In-nam has long since told her she must decide between her child and him and as far as he is concerned, she made her decision. He instructs his boss to inform her he is dead.

When her corpse turns up in a Thai morgue shortly afterwards and he is named as next-of-kin, however, In-nam resolves to go to Thailand to find and rescue the child.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Reason I Jump

Director – Jerry Rothwell – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 82m

*****

The inner world of the autistic, explored through the writings and lives of autistic people and innovative cinematography and sound design – in cinemas from Friday, June 18th (Autistic Pride Day)

Originally this was a remarkable book in which autistic teenager Naoki Higashida communicated to the rest of the world in prose what it’s like to be autistic. It had already been widely read in Japan when author David Mitchell and his wife Keiko Yoshida, whose son is autistic, were so taken with it that they undertook an English translation. International acclaim followed. For Mitchell, the book provided the opportunity to understand his son’s interior world like nothing before it.

A film is a very different media from a book. That begs the question, if you wanted to make the book into a film, how would you go about it? Seasoned documentary filmmaker Jerry Rothwell (Deep Water, co-directed with Louise Osmond, 2006; How To Change The World, 2015) had some innovative ideas. One was to use Higashida’s writings as a through line for the film, augmenting it with the experiences of several other autistic people.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

One Cut Of The Dead In Hollywood (Kamera Wo Tomeruna!, supin-ofu: Hariuddo daisakusen, カメラを止めるな!スピンオフ ハリウッド大作戦)

Director – Yuya Nakaizumi – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 57m

The first 16 minutes **1/2; the rest ***1/2

A zombie film being shot in one long, single take and set in a restaurant in Hollywood is attacked by zombies… or is it? – out as an extra on a One Cut Of The Dead Hollywood Edition Blu-ray on Monday, May 31st

Spoiler alert. The film is basically a copy of the first film, slightly tweaked but not really adding anything much to it. Similarly, this review is basically a copy of the review of the first film.

With a title that translates literally as “Don’t Stop The Camera! Spin-off: a great strategy for Hollywood!”, this is another loving homage to both the movie shot in one take and to the zombie movie. Or so it appears for its first 16 minutes, after which it turns into a comic drama about film making.

Let’s start where the film does, with its first 16 minutes. “6 Months after the tragedy, Chinatsu is a waitress in Hollywood. Struck dumb, she died her hair blond (sic) and renamed herself Holly.” Thus reads the opening title as waitress Holly / Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) ignores customer comments about her inability to speak.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

One Cut Of The Dead (Kamera Wo Tomeruna!, カメラを止めるな!)

Director – Shinichiro Ueda – 2017 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 96m

The first 37 minutes *****; the rest ***1/2

A zombie film being shot in one long, single take and set in an abandoned warehouse is attacked by zombies… or is it? – on a Hollywood Edition Blu-ray on Monday, May 31st

With a title that translates literally as “Don’t Stop The Camera!”, this is a loving homage to both the movie shot in one take and the zombie movie. Or so it appears for its first 37 minutes, after which it turns into a comic drama about film making.

Let’s start where the film does, with its first 37 minutes. Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) is defending herself with an axe from her boyfriend Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) who has turned into a zombie. However, like the girl facing a knife-wielding maniac at the start of Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981) the actress playing her is not very good and the illusion of the film collapses much as the illusion of Blow Out does when the actress delivers the most pathetic scream you’ve ever heard.

As the film delivers its first revelation – that this is not a woman defending herself against a zombie but the shooting of a movie scene of an actress portraying a woman defending herself against an actor playing a zombie – director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) storms into the scene to berate her for her shortcomings.… Read the rest