Japan

Shunji Iwai – Ichikawa Kon monogatari AKA The Kon Ichikawa Story (2006)

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Summary from yesasia – “It has been three years since pop auteur Iwai Shunji’s last film Hana and Alice, and his latest offering may seem a bit surprising. In a marked departure from his previous youth-centric works, his new film is a documentary about legendary director Ichikawa Kon, whom Iwai cites as one of his greatest influences. In a momentous career spanning over fifty years, 91-year-old Ichikawa Kon has long established himself as one of the great masters of Japanese cinema. A lifetime his junior, 44-year-old Iwai Shunji has, through acclaimed films like Swallowtail Butterfly and All About Lily Chou-Chou, emerged with a distinct voice and language of his own amongst the current generation of filmmakers. Read More »

Naoko Ogigami – Kamome shokudo AKA Ruokala Lokki AKA The Seagull Diner (2006)

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On a summer day, a small Japanese restaurant by the name of Ruokala Lokki (The Seagull Canteen) opens for business in the Punavuori district of Helsinki. The restaurant is run by 38-year-old Sachie who wishes to offer her Finnish patrons not only Japanese food but Japanese-style food for the soul, too. Attracting Finns to the small restaurant run by a lone Japanese woman proves quite difficult, however.

Luckily Sachie gets to know Midori and her restaurant’s only customer, Tommi Hiltunen, with the help of whom she slowly begins to bring in more customers and settle down in her new life. Kamome Shokudo is a charming little tale of people in the middle of a foreign culture. The film is based on a novel by popular Japanese writer Yoko Mure. Director Naoko Ogigami received an award at the Berlin International Film Festival for her previous film Barber Yoshino. Read More »

Mitsuo Yanagimachi – Jukyusai no chizu AKA The Nineteen Year-Old’s Map (1979)

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Quote:
Yanagimachi’s first feature film is about a young man who makes a map of a neighborhood in which he delivers newspapers. He keeps a dossier on each family, recording their habits and rating how much he dislikes them. One family, for example, gets an X because their dog barks all the time. Another man gets an X because he refuses to pay his bill. What turns all this scary is that the young man declares “I’m a right-winger!” and starts ruthlessly calling in bomb threats on these families. He psychologically abuses the crippled mistress of his roommate until she is driven to the brink of suicide. Rather than coming up with pat explanations for such anti-social behavior, Yanagimachi only describes the actions and lets the viewer decide why these things are happening. Questions of personal responsibility versus societal influences are completely left to the viewer to sort out. Read More »

Takashi Miike – Ichimei aka Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)

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Plot / Synopsis
Seeking a noble end, poverty-stricken samurai Hanshiro requests to commit ritual suicide at the House of Ii, run by headstrong Kageyu. Trying to dismiss Hanshiro’s demand, Kageyu recounts the tragic story of a similar recent plea from young ronin Motome. Hanshiro is shocked by the horrifying details of Motome’s fate, but remains true to his decision to die with honor. At the moment of the hara-kiri, Hanshiro makes a last request to be assisted by Kageyu’s samurai, who are coincidentally absent. Suspicious and outraged, Kageyu demands an explanation. Hanshiro confesses his bond to Motome, and tells the bittersweet tale of their lives… Kageyu will soon realize that Hanshiro has set in motion a tense showdown of vengeance against his house. ~ (C) Cannes Read More »

Takashi Miike – Kaze ni tatsu raion AKA The Lion Standing in the Wind (2015)

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(from Japanese Film Festival)
Lion Standing in the Wind is based on a real story and chronicles the inspirational life of Dr Koichiro Shimada who sets off to Kenya to serve as a medical doctor. In a turn of events, he finds himself stationed in a hospital in Lokichogio in the heart of the Kenyan conflict. Witnessing death and the grim reality of child soldiers rocks him to the core and propels him on a path that he did not expect. He abandons his life in Japan and devotes himself to saving lives in Kenya.

Released in March this year, this candid drama is the latest instalment from the prolific director Takashi Miike, usually known for his ultra-violent and outrageous works (As the Gods Will, Ichi the Killer). Read More »

Kôichi Saitô – Tsugaru jongarabushi AKA Tsugaru Folksong (1973)

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Quote:
BAM/PFA (Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive) wrote:
In this film of the furusato genre, Isako Nakazato returns to the Tsugaru fishing village where she grew up, bringing with her Iwashiro, a gangster who has been marked for a hit. The two decide to start a new life together in the village, learning from the wisdom of the fishermen, the blind musicians and the other villagers who have made them welcome. Read More »

Kôji Wakamatsu – Namari no bohyo AKA. Lead Tombstone (1965)

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LEAD TOMBSTONE tracks the progress of a young sociopathic rake who had, immediately post-WW2, rescued his country farmer mother from rape by stabbing the offending American soldier in the back with a pitchfork. Once grown, the boy continues his violent life as a hoodlum on the run, repaying an outlaw couple who have sheltered him by raping the wife, then, at his boss’s behest, murdering the husband. He’s also not above strangling a girl in her bathtub for kicks. The one spot of normalcy in his life is his shop girl girlfriend, an innocent who, once she discovers his other life, confronts his boss… (from OUTLAW MASTERS OF JAPANESE CINEMA by Chris D) Read More »