Sawa, a home helper for a middle class family with an elderly infirm grandfather, is forced to stretch her morals to keep her job. As a result, she finds herself broke and out on the street. She survives her first night by striking up an ambiguous friendship with a kindly old man, gaining access to a portion of the immense wealth held by Japan’s aging population. She continues with similar encounters, and while these begin as scams or revenge on rampant sexism, they ultimately become vulnerable intergenerational exchanges. Director Momoko Ando (Kakera: A Piece of Our Life, 2009) masterfully crafts this journey through Japan’s embattled sexual landscape, confronting aging, class and patriarchy. Adapted from the director’s first novel, 0.5mm features Sakura Ando (the director’s sister), who charges each scene with as much humanity as its impeccably photographed frames can handle. This is a dark and profound comedy of the best sort. Continue reading
In recent years, director Toshio Masuda has worked on the international stage with action-oriented movies such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and the Space Cruiser Yamato films. But he began his career in the middle-late 1950s with The Perfect Game (aka Kanzen Na Yuugi), a shockingly amoral tale of delinquency, rape, and murder that was to Japan, what In Cold Blood was to American cinema. It was among the earliest works in the career of a director who has generated little except major box office hits in Japan since the 1950s. …says Criterion. Or in short: young Akira Kobayashi of Nikkatsu’s diamond line fame’s cool combined with a tale about a heist which goes terribly wrong. Continue reading
To the many ways in which the career of Japanese auteur and action star Takeshi Kitano resembles that of Clint Eastwood, we can now add another: Both have made the increasingly obligatory geezer-comeback film. It was retired astronauts in Eastwood’s Space Cowboys; in Kitano’s Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen, we get yakuza who hobble out onto not-so-mean-anymore streets attempting to regain their fearsome reputations. A bit sillier than it needs to be to earn the laughs it winds up getting, the likeable picture (which got a Japanese release in April) isn’t colorful enough to reach beyond the director’s established fan base here. Of those who follow Kitano, some will lament his small role onscreen. Continue reading
There are three sisters: 29-year-old Sachi Kouda (Haruka Ayase), 22-year-old Yoshino Kouda (Masami Nagasawa) and 19-year-old Chika Kouda (Kaho). They live at a house in Kamakura, Japanese. Their house was left by their grandmother.
One day, they receive news of their father’s death. When the sisters were young, their parents divorced and their father left them. They haven’t seen their father in 15 years. Upon hearing the news on their father’s death, the sisters attend their father’s funeral.
At the funeral, they meet their stepsister Suzu Asano (Suzu Hirose). She is 14-years-old and there are no one to take care of her. Oldest sister Sachi invites Suzu to live with them. Continue reading
This is the last film of the ATG trilogy of the director Akio Jissoji, who sought the roots of inner psychology and eroticism. It’s a story of a young man who turns his back on the modern world, seeking to be a protector of a family and heads to his destruction. Continue reading
The Wayside Pebble is an effective drama about the hardships of a childhood spent with a brusque, cold-hearted father and a submissive mother. The year is 1910 and the place is a small Japanese village. Goichi is suffering because he wants to go to school, but his family is too poor to afford that luxury. Even when a kind friend agrees to help out, Goichi’s father refuses to give in to his son’s request for an education. Instead, he sends Goichi off to work as an indentured servant for a cold-hearted merchant and his family. As tragedy strikes and the suffering of the young boy increases, he begins to look for some way out of his bleak situation. Continue reading
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