Hajime Anzai – Hentaida (2016)

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This directorial debut from art director Anzai Hajime adapts a short story from popular writer and music personality Miura Jun. A guy (Maeno Kenta) spends an extra year studying for college entrance exams but ends up at a second-rate university, and becomes a musician after randomly getting involved with a misguided university rock ‘n roll club. Eventually the guy gets married, has a child, and builds an ordinary life for himself, but he hasn’t been able to break off his college romance with Kaoruko (Tsukifuna Sarara), his S&M dominatrix. When he and Kaoruko go off to one especially shitty gig, existential angst erupts and the trajectory of weirdness goes parabolic, leading to an ending you will never forget. Continue reading

Kichitaro Negishi – Enrai AKA Distant Thunder (1981)

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AMG wrote:
Mitsuo Wada (Toshiyuki Nagashima) works at raising tomatoes in a greenhouse, next to a big public housing complex. Because his father has moved out to go live with his girlfriend, Mitsuo lives alone with his mother and grandmother, a situation that does not particularly curb his romantic life. First he becomes involved with Kaede (Rie Yokoyama) a cafe manager, but that is not going to be a very permanent relationship once he discovers she is married. Next, he goes through slightly more formal channels to meet Ayako Hanamura (Eri Ishida) and the two decide that marriage might be the best option for both of them. Unfortunately, his former lover Kaede has run off with his best friend, Hirotsugu Nakamori (Johnny Ogura) — who is in a lot of trouble already because of stealing some money — and the two are not heard from again until the day of Mitsuo’s wedding. Hirotsugu shows up alone at the wedding, bearer of a tragic tale — not the kind of auspicious beginning Mitsuo and his bride would have wanted for their new life together. Continue reading

Kaneto Shindô – Daigo Fukuryu-Maru aka Lucky Dragon No. 5 (1959)

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Daigo Fukuryū Maru (第五福龍丸?, Lucky Dragon 5) was a Japanese tuna fishing boat, which was exposed to and contaminated by nuclear fallout from the United States’ Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954. Kuboyama Aikichi, the boat’s chief radioman, died half a year later, on September 23, 1954, suffering from acute radiation syndrome. He is considered the first victim of the hydrogen bomb of Operation Castle Bravo.

Five years after the accident, the Japanese film director Shindo Kaneto made a film titled Daigo Fukuryu Maru. The actor Uno Jukichi played the role of Kuboyama Aikichi. Director Kaneto Shindo spoke at a screening of his 1959 film ”Daigo Fukuryu Maru” (Lucky Dragon No. 5), emphasizing the need to abolish nuclear weapons and to continue educating youth about the devastation they cause. ”Nuclear arms have been an issue since World War II,” the 91-year-old told an audience of over 90 people, citing this week’s multilateral talks in Beijing on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. ”They can wipe out the human race.” Continue reading

Kon Ichikawa – Taiheiyo hitori-botchi aka Alone on the Pacific (1963)

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Synopsis:
Director Kon Ichikawa’s (An Actor’s Revenge, The Burmese Harp, Tokyo Olympiad) incredible real-life tale of one man’s epic journey across the Pacific Ocean is based on Kenichi Horie’s best-selling book of the same name. A year previously, at only 23 years old, Horie took his basic sailboat (named ‘The Mermaid’) and set off from Nishinomiya in Japan, arriving in San Francisco, California 94 days later. Man’s battle against nature is amongst the timeless themes of Ichikawa’s beautifully shot, inspiring film. Continue reading

Kazuo Kuroki – Ryoma ansatsu aka The Assassination of Ryoma (1974)

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This was also voted No.55 on 1999’s Kinema Jumpo Poll of Top 100 Japanese Films of All Time.
It’s a samurai film but its style is rather different from those Toei & Daiei jidaigeki in 50s & 60s (probably not surprising as an ATG production), It has a non-heroic (or at least, unorthodoxy) portrait of the protagonist: Ryoma, at times even a parody, with the wry humor everywhere in the film. But it also looks a bit like a documentary, as the film is very grainy and the cinematographer is Masaki Tamura, who’s responsible for the look of many Shinsuke Ogawa & later, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films. Continue reading

Shinji Sômai – Ohikkoshi AKA Moving (1993)

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Renko’s mum and dad are splitting up, and her heart is burning. So she plays with fire, tears up the rule book, holds herself hostage, even starts talking to the weird girl in school who’s the only other one with divorced parents. But as Renko watches her childhood go up in flames, she learns how to forge a new self from the embers. Director Shinji Somai is hugely regarded in Japan, but only starting to be known in the West, more than a decade after his death. Formally surprising and emotionally thrilling, Moving is the work of a remarkable filmmaker at the height of his powers. Continue reading

Sion Sono – Eiga: minna! Esupâ da yo! AKA The Virgin Psychics (2015)

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High school student Kamogawa Yoshiro wakes up one day to discover that he has psychic superpowers. He also soon discovers that others in the city have the gift, only some of them are hellbent on causing trouble. He becomes embroiled in several strange incidents and eventually overcomes those seeking to do the city and its people harm, meeting the woman of his dreams along the way. A film that takes a different approach to the superhero genre by introducing a joyful young man who becomes a hero not by boasting of his superpowers but by overcoming temptation. Continue reading