Japan

Sogo Ishii – Bakuretsu toshi AKA Burst City (1982)


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Those looking for examples of the importance of Sogo Ishii in the development of Japanese cinema, and his abilities as a filmmaker, need to look no further than Burst City. At first sight a rather eclectic mix of Mad Max-style imagery with yakuza elements, filtered though a punk sensibility, on closer inspection Burst City reveals the seeds of many of the developments in contemporary Japanese cinema and beyond. It foreshadows everything from the works of Shinya Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike to two decades’ worth of MTV music videos. And quite a few things in between. Read More »

Yoichi Higashi – Mo hozue wa tsukanai aka No More Easy Life (1979)



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Mariko (Momoi Kaori) is living the life of a typical Japanese college student in the 70’s, spending far more of her time balancing boyfriends and part-time jobs than on her schoolwork. She finds herself torn between a former boyfriend (Morimoto Leo) who’s the tough, insensitive-but-sexy, type, and a new acquaintance (Okuda Eiji) who’s more sensitive to her feelings, but who still acts childishly selfish at times. Will she choose one of them, or decide to go her own way? Read More »

Yûya Ishii – Yozora wa itsudemo saikô mitsudo no aoiro da AKA The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (2017)



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A love story between a building-site labourer, whose best friend suddenly drops dead, and an overstressed, underpaid nurse. Read More »

Shinji Sômai – Yuki no dansho – jonetsu AKA Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion (1985)



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The story deals with a young girl getting adopted by a family that holds her like a slave and then being “freed” by a young man working for this family´s company. 10 years later she gets involved in the murder of one of her step-sisters. Read More »

Hiroshi Shimizu – Kanzashi aka Ornamental Hairpin (1941)


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Synopsis
Based on an Ibuse Masuji short story, this delightful escapist drama is set at a hot spring resort providing sanctuary to people of vastly different backgrounds and personalities bounded by one thing: their common desire to not leave. The resort’s patrons include a Tokyo woman (Tanaka Kinuyo) with a mysterious past who develops a brief relationship with a wounded soldier (Ryu Chishu). A comedic piece filmed and set during wartime Japan, Kanzashi makes a statement with its lightness. Read More »

Zenzo Matsuyama – Na mo naku mazushiku utsukushiku aka Happiness of Us Alone (1961)



The directorial debut of longtime screenwriter and frequent Masaki Kobayashi
collaborator Zenzo Matsuyama, Happiness of Us Alone is a tour de force of humanist
cinema that stands as a landmark of the changing attitudes towards people with
disabilities in Japan. A sympathetic portrayal of the suffering of a deaf couple (played by
Matsuyama’s own wife, Hideko Takamine, and frequent co-star Keiju Kobayashi) at the
hands of a shell shocked postwar society that treats them like wayward children to be
at turns pitied or exploited, the film prefigures the wave of activist documentaries of the
1970s exploring mistreatment of the disabled by such filmmakers as Kazuo Hara, Noriaki
Tsuchimoto and Mariko Miyagi. Amidst a culture that traditionally sought to hide those
with disabilities from public view, Happiness of Us Alone charts the often disastrous
consequences of attempting to live an independent life in a society that isn’t yet prepared
to accommodate those who are different. Read More »

Takashi Miike – Chûgoku no chôjin aka The Bird People of China (1998)

Those who know Japanese cult director Takashi Miike only through his shock and gore films – Ichi the Killer and Audition are both absolute classics of the genre – will be in for a surprise with The Bird People of China. Bird People stands as absolute proof that, although Miike will likely always be best known for his more extreme films, the man has a surprising degree of depth to him and is more than capable of turning out world class serious film. Read More »