Description: Yûkoku deals with the ritual suicide of high-ranking naval officer Takeyama. His harakiri is spun out as a long, emotional, romantic ritual in which he is joined (all the way to the bitter and graphically bloody end) by his wife Reiko. The film is based on Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima’s own novel of the same name, which was in turn inspired by the true events of ‘Ni ni roku’ – a failed, patriotically-motivated, attempted coup by a group of officers on February 26, 1936.
At a “half-open” detention facility and work camp on the island of Imrali, a group of hopeful, but resigned men ritualistically converge on the entrance of the main penitentiary ward: first, for the disbursement of weekly mail and subsequently, for the eagerly anticipated posting of the list of prisoners authorized for a one-week furlough. A soft-spoken, unassuming man named Yusuf (Tuncay Akça), dispirited by the scarcity of letters from home, seemingly finds his fortune changed when he finds his name among the privileged list of furloughed prisoners. Mehmet (Halil Ergün), a pensive and conflicted man faces his trip to Diyarbakir with great trepidation and anxiety, having found his marriage increasingly strained when his wife begins to question his role in her brother’s death during a bungled robbery.
A vibrant and self-assured young man, Mevlat (Hikmet Çelik), finds his romantic notions to reunite with his fiancée Meral (Sevda Aktolga) thwarted when her family dispatches chaperones in order to prevent the couple from being alone. An idealistic and apolitical man named Omer (Necmettin Çobanoglu) who daydreams of his idyllic life amid the lush, grazing open fields of his beloved village in south-eastern Turkey returns home to the chaotic sight of his town under siege by the military as they attempt to root out suspected insurgents in the closely knit community. Continue reading
Alex, 27, lives in a working-class Paris neighborhood and sells drugs for a living, continuously paying off the debts of his brother Isaac (played by French auteur Cedric Kahn), who’s becoming a real burden. When his cousin, who has just returned from completing his military service in Israel, tells him he’s opening a restaurant in Tel Aviv, Alex thinks that joining him might be the life-changing opportunity he was waiting for. But in order to leave, Alex must quickly find enough money and accomplish his “aliyah” (the term for Jews emigrating to Israel) which involves, among other things, Hebrew lessons and connecting with his Jewish roots. He also has to leave behind his beloved city of Paris, his former lover Esther, his lifelong friend Mathias, and Jeanne, a woman whom he’s just met but has the potential of becoming someone important in his life. Torn between making his aliyah, his drug selling, his complicated love life and a destructive brother, Alex will have to find his own way and make a final decision. Continue reading
One of the most visually beautiful movies ever made, Maboroshi no Hikari (1995) is reality filmmaker Kore-eda Hirokazu’s impressive first foray into fictional storytelling. For Maboroshi, Kore-eda turns his documentary director’s eye on the rugged landscape of the Western Japanese coast, which serves as a starkly sublime backdrop for a tale of one young woman’s grievous loss and promise for spiritual renewal. The film draws on the traditions of Japan’s past directorial masters Ozu and Mizoguchi, but it’s also full of gorgeous moments that are purely Kore-eda’s own. Maboroshi no Hikari anticipates the director’s later narrative filmmaking masterpieces After Life and Nobody Knows, as well as featuring an early performance from international star Asano Tadanobu.
Twentysomething Yumiko (Esumi Makiko) and her husband Ikuo (Asano) live in a small, run-down apartment in Osaka with their infant son. The young couple seems content with their life, but when Ikuo inexplicably commits suicide, Yumiko’s entire world falls apart around her. Accepting an arranged marriage in a small fishing village on the Sea of Japan, Yumiko and her child attempt a fresh start. Although she soon comes to love the raw beauty of her new home, Yumiko remains haunted by the memory of Ikuo and the mystery surrounding his sudden death. (~YesAsia) Continue reading
Review from senses of cinema by Dan Harper :
A Tale of Springtime is, appropriately enough, the first of Rohmer’s “Tales of the Four Seasons”, and bears out its title with a portrayal of incipient love. It also reveals, somewhat playfully, how impossible it is to force love to conform to our designs. Jeanne is a high school philosophy teacher who meets Natacha at a party in Montmorency. Since neither of them knows anyone else at the party, they strike up a conversation.
Jeanne shares an apartment in Paris with her boyfriend, who is out of town. But he’s left the apartment in a shambles and Jeanne stays just long enough to take some clothes and two books with her – Plato and Kant. She then stops at her own apartment, but her cousin Gaelle is using it with her boyfriend, who is on furlough from the military. Continue reading
French director Alain Corneau delves into the painfully irrational world of office politics, which are further complicated by a severe case of culture clash in his 2003 comedy, Stupeur et Tremblements (Fear and Trembling). Based on the similarly titled memoirs of author Amélie Nothomb and her employment experiences with a Japanese mega-corporation, Fear and Trembling begins with Amélie (Sylvie Testud) landing in Tokyo shortly after receiving her college education. The young Belgian chose to return to Japan — where she spent the first five years of her life before her family relocated back to Europe — for her first job in an entry-level position with the Yumimoto Corporation. Amélie diligently accomplishes her daily tasks with invention and ambition, but her work ethic proves threatening to her immediate supervisors who single her out as a deviant within the corporation’s firmly entrenched power hierarchy. As she is led through a series of humiliations and demotions designed to destroy her individuality, Amélie is forced to submit to an endless stream of unreasonable demands issued by nearly every supervisor with seniority over her. Determined to complete her one-year contract with the company in spite of the vicious power struggles, Amélie wages a kind of culture war from her irreversible position as lowest rung on the power ladder. Continue reading
One of the best of Wiseman’s documentaries, an impressionistic account of the daily police routine in a predominantly black neighbourhood of Kansas City, Missouri. Although violence abounds, with a black prostitute almost strangled by a vice-squad cop, the film avoids grinding axes about police brutality. Instead, sitting back and coolly observing the situation from multiple perspectives, it suggests that any sickness in the forces of law and order is a symptom of disease in the society that breeds them. Continue reading