Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Crazy Thunder Road (Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo, 狂い咲きサンダーロード)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1980 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

Following on from Arrow’s superb BD of Sogo Ishii’s Burst City (1982) comes Third Window’s equally impressive BD release of its predecessor in the Ishii canon Crazy Thunder Road (1980) – on Blu-ray from Monday, February 21st

This was Ishii’s Nihon University student graduation project, his first to be shot on 16mm rather than Super 8, which somehow got picked up for distribution by major Japanese Studio Toei which led to their giving him a budget for Burst City. Tom Mes, who as with Burst City supplies a commentary for the film, describes Crazy Thunder Road as “one of the Holy Grails of Japanese film releases if not the Holy Grail.”

When Toei presented Ishii with what seemed like astronomical funding for Burst City, it led him to overreach himself. In retrospect, he considers Burst City unfinished… [Read the full review at All The Anime]

Crazy Thunder Road was out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, February 21st.

Opening scene:

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Weald (Somaudo Monogatari, 杣人物語)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 1997 – Japan – 73m

***

Serial elderly residents of Japan’s Yoshino Mountains go about their daily business and talk about life’s joys and hardships – online in the UK as part of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) from Monday, January 17th to Sunday, February 6th, 2022.

Prior to making such features as The Mourning Forest (2007), Sweet Bean (2015) and Japan’s 2021 International Oscar entry True Mothers (2020), independent Japanese film maker Kawase cut her teeth on intensely personal, low budget documentaries, first shorts then both shorts and features.

For this her third feature length documentary, Kawase took her camera up the Yoshino Mountains at the Southern end of Japan’s two island mainland to shoot the lives of elderly locals recording them and presenting her footage as a series of straightforward portraits. There’s no attempt to impose any narrative or outside agenda; rather, her camera gives space to these people to talk, reminisce and, ultimately, simply to be.

A woman who has spent her entire life farming a small plot of land keeps herself to herself, claims she isn’t lonely and that she likes being at home. “How much longer can I do this,” she asks the camera as she walks up a woodland slope.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Still The Water (Futatsume no Mado, 2つ目の窓)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2014 – Japan / France – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

Two childhood sweethearts living on an island beset by storms must come to terms with the mortality and fallibility of their mothers – on BFI Player (rental) and MUBI.

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 AbeSamurai Marathon, Bernard Rose, 2019) loves swimming in the sea. Her friend Kaito (Nijiro MurakamiIsle 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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sweet Bean (An)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2015 – Japan – Cert. PG – 113m

****

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan.

A chef (Masatoshi Nagase) carefully pours just the right amounts of pancake mixture onto a hotplate to make dorayaki – two small, burger bun sized pancakes with a filling of sweet bean paste in the middle. An old lady (Kirin Kiki) asks if his part-time post is still vacant. To get rid of her he offers an outrageously low hourly rate. She proposes to work for half that. He makes excuses as to why it won’t work. “Thanks,” she says, “I’ll come again,” and disappears. Thus begins director Naomi Kawase’s Sweet Bean, a bittersweet tale of suburban life across the generations… [Read the rest]

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan.

Full review at All The Anime.

Trailer:

2020

Monday, September 12th: MUBI

2016

August: Eureka! cinema then BD/DVD release

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Mourning Forest (Mogari no mori)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2017 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 97m

****

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan.

Wind. Trees. Tall grass. A road barely discernible but for the occasional top of a hedge. A fluttering, white banner of a funeral procession moves imperceptibly across the landscape, a futile ritual for an unknown person.

A room’s corner between two windows. Beyond them: wind and trees. Against the corner leans the sleeping Mr Shigeki (Shigeki Uda). The boss of this old people’s home Wakako (Makiko Watanabe) is showing new care worker Machiko (Machiko Ono) the ropes. “There are no rules here”, she tells her. Machiko is in emotional free-fall. At home, a candle beside a photograph of a young boy. Berated by her husband for letting go of her child’s hand, Machiko has never got over the incident.

Kawase is a master of understatement… [Read the rest]

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan.

Full review at All The Anime.

Trailer:

2020

Monday, August 24th: MUBI

2017

August: Eureka! Video released the film on BD/DVD

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

True Mothers (Asa ga Kuru, 朝が来る)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 140m

*****

An unmarried mum hands her child over to adoptive parents only to later decide that she wants the child back – Japan’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars is screening on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, April 16th

Naomi Kawase’s new film True Mothers deals with the interface between unwanted teen pregnancy and infertility among married couples and was Japan’s entry for this year’s Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. Sadly, it didn’t make the Academy’s shortlist. However, UK audiences up and down the land will now be able to see it on Curzon Home Cinema. It had a brief UK big screen outing late last year at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), which, after several months of touch-and-go somewhat incredibly went ahead days before the UK went back into total lockdown.

Former documentarian Kawase has been getting a lot of exposure in the UK in recent years with both Sweet Bean (2015) and The Mourning Forest (2007) released here on Eureka! Video and Still the Water (2014) currently available on MUBI and BFI Player. I like Kawase but I must admit True Mothers sounded like it might be terrible.… Read the rest