Japan

Junji Sakamoto – Zatôichi: The Last (2010)

MARK SCHILLING wrote:
Junji Sakamoto’s “Zatoichi: The Last,” the latest revival, doesn’t feature Katsu, who died in 1997 after a wild, riotous life. Instead it stars the hyper SMAP singer Shingo Katori, who has mostly appeared on the big screen in comedies (“The Uchoten Hotel”) or kiddie actioners (“Saiyuki”).

Also, instead of portraying Ichi as an outcast and loner, the film gives him a wife, friends, a community — and strong feelings for all of them. Read More »

Yasuzô Masumura – Kuro no tesuto kaa AKA Black Test Car (1962)

Synopsis:
Two car manufacturers spy on each other to try to find out details and prices of a new sports car each is about to launch.

Review:
Yasuzo Masumura’s 1962 spy thriller Black Test Car pits rival agencies against each other in an escalating game of theft, deceit, and sabotage. And no, the title isn’t a mistranslation. The movie opens with the Tiger corporation suffering through a disastrous test run for its latest sports-car model, the Pioneer. Read More »

Daisuke Itô – Chokon [Incomplete] (1926)

Chokon depicts the tragic lives of two brothers in the late Edo period; the title is a word borrowed from the Chinese, meaning “the grudge that one cannot forget.”

Only the last reel of this feature survives, but even a fragment vividly demonstrates Daisuke Ito’s visual style. Read More »

Jun Ichikawa – Tôkyô Marîgôrudo AKA Tokyo Marigold (2001)

21-year-old Eriko breaks up with her boy friend after their date at the circuit. But life without a boy friend is indeed dull. Boredom occupies her even after she completely switches her job. Then she meets Tamura at a party. Eriko takes a liking to Tamura. A few days later, when Eriko asks him out on date, Tamura happily accepts. However, during their date Tamura abruptly announces that he had a girlfriend studying in the U.S. Tamura’s innocent look enhances Eriko’s shock, as she returns home completely dumb struck. After this incident Eriko tries to give up on Tamura, but fate plays with her. A few days later, Eriko bumps into Tamura at a mini theater in. In seeing Tamura innocently laughing at the play, Eriko realizes her true feelings for him. Read More »

Seijun Suzuki – Oretachi no chi ga yurusanai aka Our Blood Will Not Forgive (1964)

Though Suzuki created it in the midst of his stylistic breakthrough, «Our Blood Will Not Forgive» has never received the same amount of attention as other films he made around the same time. Nikkatsu icons Hideki Takahashi and Akira Kobayashi star as brothers — one a gangster, the other an ad man — who unite to avenge their yakuza father’s death eighteen years before. The film features a bold use of colour; an absurdist concluding gunfight; and, in one memorable scene, an impressively illogical use of rear projection as the brothers argue in a car while ocean waves rage around them. Read More »

Shunji Iwai – Suwarôteiru AKA Swallowtail Butterfly [+Extras] (1996)

The struggles of a group of immigrant outcasts living in an alternative-future, xenophobic Japanese metropolis.

After a young girl’s mother dies, she is cared for by Glico, a brassy hooker, who gives the girl the name “Ageha” (Butterfly). Ageha goes to work for a collection of oddballs who run a junkyard and salvage business. Read More »

Satsuo Yamamoto – Niguruma no uta AKA Song of the Cart-Pullers (1959)

Synopsis:
In Song of the Cart-Pullers (Niguruma no uta, 1959) one of his most visually captivating works, Satsuo Yamamoto resurrected, through the struggles of three-generation family in rural Hiroshima Prefacture, an intimate history of Japanese peasant life, from the harsh late Meiji years to the Taisho Rice Riots and the tragedies of the pacific war. Read More »