Shunji Iwai – Love Letter (1995)

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IMDB plot summary: Hiroko Watanabe’s fiancee Itsuki died two years earlier in a mountain climbing accident. While looking through his high school yearbook, Hiroko in a fit of grief decides to write a letter to him using his old school address. Surprisingly she receives a reply, not from her dead husband, but from a woman also named Itsuki whom had known Hiroko’s husband in school. A relationship develops between the two women as they continue to exchange letters and share memories of the dead Itsuke. Continue reading

Seijun Suzuki – Tôkyô nagaremono AKA Tokyo Drifter (1966)

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Quote:
Tokyo Drifter stands with Branded to Kill as one of the best-known and most acclaimed films of Seijun Suzuki, one of Japan’s most talented maverick directors. A colorful riot of an action drama, Tokyo Drifter, like many of Suzuki’s films, transforms a standard gangster film plot into a vehicle for his own loopy brand of filmmaking, featuring gorgeous cinematography, unconventional storytelling techniques, and a dark sense of humor. This particular example centers on Tetsu, a yakuza member who, when his gang is disbanded, remains loyal to his boss and attempts to go straight. This is no easy task, however, as the yakuza are determined to get him back into the life — or kill him if he refuses. The pressure soon forces Tetsu to go on the road, becoming the “Tokyo drifter” of the title, but even this is not enough to prevent his past from violently catching up with him. The film’s choreographed action and vibrant color palette make the frequent action sequences, including one of the most raucous barroom brawls ever put on film, seem almost like musical numbers, resulting in a spectacularly entertaining and truly original take on the gangster drama. Continue reading

Teinosuke Kinugasa – Jigokumon aka The Gate of Hell (1953)

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Plot :
In 1159, during an attempted coup, one of the court’s ladies in waiting disguises herself as the lord’s wife, and a loyal samurai conveys her from the city. This diversion allows the royal family to escape. After the coup fails, the samurai asks his lord to let him marry the woman as his reward. The lord grants the request and then discovers she is already married to one of the ruling family’s lieges. The samurai clings to his desire, importuning her to leave her husband, then challenging the husband to release her. Although the husband stays calm and she stays faithful, the samurai remains intemperate and stubborn, with tragic consequences. Continue reading

Hideo Sekigawa – Hiroshima (1953)

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“Hiroshima” is a feature film directed by Hideo Sekigawa and was independently produced outside of major studio system in 1953. In fact the film was supported by the Teacher’s Union of Hiroshima who helped finance the production and organized about 90,000 Hiroshima citizens who acted in the film.

The film begins with Hiroshima in the early 1950s and flashes back to scenes of the horrific aftermath following the detonation of an atomic bomb on humans for the first time in history. Continue reading

Seijun Suzuki – Tantei jimusho 23: Kutabare akuto-domo aka Detective bureau 23 (1963)

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Japanese director Seijun Suzuki solidified his growing cult following with this offbeat adaptation of Haruhiko Ooyabu’s crime novel. Jo Shishido stars as Det. Tajima, a smug investigator who nabs a pair of criminal gangs with flamboyant aplomb while the police remain baffled. Suzuki treats the rather hoary plotline as an excuse for dark-humored camp, and young audiences were delighted with his irreverent approach, which made him one of the few distinctive names in the ’60s assembly-line of Nikkatsu Studios. ~ (Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide) Continue reading

Hirokazu Koreeda – Umi yori mo mada fukaku AKA After the Storm (2016)

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A prize-winning author that wastes his money on gambling struggles to take back control of his existence as his aging mother and ex-wife move on with their lives, until a stormy summer night offers him a chance to bond with his young son once again.

Tara Judah wrote:
From sentiment to scenario and across his characters, places, imagery and impressions, Kore-eda’s films have a melancholic tonality that represents the aching of the human soul.

Familiar themes are revisited here including; broken families, the problem of the patriarch, strained relationships between fathers and sons, coming to terms with grief, as well as the unutterable bond that is created and strengthened through taking time to share a meal together. Continue reading