Chuan Lu – City of Life and Death AKA Nanking Nanking (2009)

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The third film from award-winning Fifth Generation director Lu Chuan (Kekexili: Mountain Patrol), City of Life and Death (Nanking Nanking) is a devastating account of the massacre that occurred during WWII when Japanese troops took the city of Nanjing in December 1937, a tragedy remembered as the Rape of Nanking. Shot completely in black and white, this powerful war drama unflinchingly captures the shocking violence and brutality of the Nanjing massacre, from the mass executions of POWs to the raping and slaughtering of civilians, while providing a deeply human portrait of both the victims and the perpetrators. Continue reading

Hsiu-Chiung Chiang – Saihate nite AKA The Furthest End Awaits (2014)

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Misaki Yoshida (Hiromi Nagasaku) runs a roasting coffee shop in Tokyo. She lives alone. In order to find her father, who was separated from her when she was a child, Misaki goes back to her hometown in Noto Peninsula. Misako opens a coffee shop there. Eriko Yamazaki (Nozomi Sasaki) is a single mother and works at a cabaret. Misaki is her new neighbor. While hanging around with Eriko and her children, Misaki slowly changes … Continue reading

Yimou Zhang – Hong gao liang AKA Red Sorghum (1987)

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An old leper who owned a remote sorghum winery dies. Jiu’er, the wife bought by the leper, and her lover, identified only as “my Grandpa” by the narrator, take over the winery and set up an idealized quasi-matriarchal community headed by Jiu’er. When the Japanese invaders subject the area to their rule and cut down the sorghum to make way for a road, the community rises up and resists as the sorghum grows anew. Continue reading

Katsuhito Ishii & Hajime Ishimine & Shunichiro Miki – Naisu no mori: The First Contact AKA Funky Forest: The First Contact (2005)

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Quote:
An outrageous collection of surreal, short attention span non-sequiturs largely revolving around Guitar Brother, his randy older sibling, and the pair’s portly Caucasian brother. Continue reading

Yôjirô Takita – Okuribito AKA Departures (2008)

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Synopsis
Departures follows Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and who is suddenly left without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled “Departures,” thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a “Nokanshi” or “encoffineer,” a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of “Nokanshi,” acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living. Continue reading

Kon Ichikawa – Tokyo orimpikku AKA Tokyo Olympiad [+Extra] (1965)

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Review from the Criterion website :
A spectacle of magnificent proportions, Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad ranks among the greatest documents of sport ever committed to film. Utilizing glorious widescreen cinematography, Ichikawa examines the beauty and rich drama on display at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo, creating a catalogue of extraordinary observations that range from the expansive to the intimate. The glory, despair, passion, and suffering of Olympic competition are rendered with lyricism and technical mastery, culminating in an inspiring testament to the beauty of the human body and the strength of the human spirit. Continue reading