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

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

Yoshishige Yoshida – Honô to onna aka Flame and woman (1967)

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Quote:
Honoo to onma (lmpasse; the title translates as the more poetic ” Flame and Woman” neatly rendered in the French title, La Femme et la Flamme) made the same year as The Affair (whose Japanese title more poetically translates as “Flame of Feeling”), concerns the inability of a woman to find satisfaction in her traditional family s tructure. The heroine, Ritsuko, is married to Shingo, a design engineer. Shingo is unable to father a child so Ritsuko is artificially inseminated. The birth of a son, Takashi, however, does not help marital relations between husband and wife. When Sakaguchi, a doctor having marital problems with his wife, Shina, is revealed as the sperm donor, Ritsuko develops a passion for the doctor. Eventually, following other complications (Shina kidnaps Takashi and she tries to seduce Shingo), Ritsuko, Shingo, and Takashi are reunited . Ritsuko’s inability to feel erotic attraction toward her husband is literalized by his sterility. Continue reading

Ki-duk Kim – Samaria AKA Samaritan Girl (2004)

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Jae-Young is an amateur prostitute who sleeps with men while her best friend Yeo-Jin “manages” her, fixing dates, taking care of the money and making sure the coast is clear. When Jae-Young falls in love with one of those man she suppresses her feelings towards him in respect of her friend who’s jealous. One Day Yeo-Jin fails in doing her job overlooking police officers looking for under-aged prostitutes. In order to not get caught Jae-Young jumps out of a window almost killing herself. On her deathbed, she wishes to see the man again whom she fell in love with and turned away from. But the man only agrees if Yeo-Jin sleeps with him. She does but as they arrive in the hospital Jae-Young is already dead. Trying to understand her best friend, Yeo-Jin tracks down every man she slept with and does the same. As her father learns about this he gets on revenge with fatal consequences… Continue reading