Shunji Iwai

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 »

Shunji Iwai – Hana to Arisu AKA Hana and Alice (2004)

Synopsis:
Upon entering high school, two best friends named Hana and Alice notice a boy a year older them while waiting for the train, and they both develop a pretty strong crush on him. One day while secretly following him home, Hana witnesses the boy walk right into a wall and pass out. When he wakes up, she lies and convinces him that he must have amnesia, because he doesn’t remember the fact that she was his girlfriend. After this, hilarity ensues as the two girls attempt to run with the lie. Of course, complications soon arise. Read More »

Shunji Iwai – Rabu reta AKA Love Letter AKA When I Close My Eyes [+commentary] (1995)

Synopsis:
Hiroko Watanabe’s fiancé Itsuki died two years earlier in a mountain climbing accident. While looking through his high school yearbook, Hiroko in a fit of grief decides to write a letter to him using his old school address. Surprisingly she receives a reply, not from the dead Itsuki, but from a woman with the same name whom had known Hiroko’s fiancé in school. A relationship develops between the two women as they continue to exchange letters and share memories of the dead Itsuki. Read More »

Shunji Iwai – Hana to Arisu AKA Hana and Alice [+Extra] (2004)

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“DVD Talk” wrote:
Though overlong at 135 minutes, Hana & Alice (Hana to Arisu, 2004) is another intriguing effort by its jack-of-all-trades filmmaker, Shunji Iwai, who not only wrote and directed the film, but also produced it and wrote its fine score. (He probably could enjoy a prolific career doing just that.) Near the forefront of a very short list of promising 40-something Japanese directors, Iwai has won a well-deserved following for such films as Love Letter (also known as When I Close My Eyes, 1995), Swallowtail Butterfly (Swallowtail, 1996), and All About Lily Chou-Chou (Riri Shushu no subete, 2001). For those unaccustomed to Iwai’s work, Hana & Alice is a lot like Terry Zwigoff/Daniel Clowes Ghost World (2001), minus the suffocating smugness of that film’s main characters, and with a decidedly Japanese take on its title protagonists, two 15-year-old girls. Read More »

Shunji Iwai – Riri Shushu no subete AKA All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)

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Quote:
Shunji Iwai’s Lily Chou-Chou offers eternal peace. She’s ethereal, the rebirth of death (indeed, she was born the moment Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon), and all-powerful, a voice for a pop-cyber culture that feeds on her Björkness. In All About Lily Chou-Chou, fans of the fictional singer use her “amniotic” music to detach themselves from the violence that consumes Japanese culture. Yuichi (Hayato Ichihara) is obsessed with Lily: He gets busted for shoplifting one of her CDs and engages in endless conversations on the website Liliphilia with fellow Lily-heads, “connecting” with the so-called ether that is Lily, just like he melds into colorful rice fields whenever he listens to Lily sing. While Yuichi is quiet and reserved, his online handle (“philia”) suggests a boy erupting with adult emotions, and though his friendship with “blue cat” is elusive it still feels within reach. Such is the dreaminess and possibility the film taps into. Read More »

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 »

Shunji Iwai – Love Letter (1995)

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IMDB plot summary: Hiroko Watanabe’s fiancee Itsuki died two years earlier in a mountain climbing accident. While looking through his high school yearbook, Hiroko in a fit of grief decides to write a letter to him using his old school address. Surprisingly she receives a reply, not from her dead husband, but from a woman also named Itsuki whom had known Hiroko’s husband in school. A relationship develops between the two women as they continue to exchange letters and share memories of the dead Itsuke. Read More »