Cinema of Japan

A Preview of of the Japanese Film Festival Ireland 2019

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Ireland will get a slew of the latest cinematic delights from Japan when the Japanese Film Festival Ireland gears up for its latest run. It all starts on April 6th and last until the 20th with screenings of a selection of films at venues in Dublin, Galway, Tipperary, Limerick, Cork, Sligo, Waterford and Dundalk.

There are many highlights, many of which have set screens ablaze at the likes of Japan Cuts 2018, three of the biggest titles to get a release in 2019 from Third Windows Films and the latest anime to be licensed Anime Limited. There is also a slew of indie films, only a couple of which have been screened at something like the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019.

As is always the case, whether new or old, whether confirmed for a home format release or not, seeing these films on the big screen and sharing it with others is an exciting proposition and I hope you can find something that sparks your imagination.

Here are the films:

Diversity from Third Window Films

2018/9 has been a phenomenal year for Third Window Films what with the ongoing mega success of One Cut of the Dead which has charmed audiences around the world (including this reviewer) and won many, many major awards. This is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser that you can take anybody along to see so it’s a definite highlight of the festival. That loving tributes to B-movies aside, here are two films which the label will release later on in 2019 which show how willing they are to bank on diverse stories.

Killing Killing Film Poster

斬、 Zan」

Running Time: 80 mins.

Release Date: November 24th, 2018

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Sosuke Ikematsu, Yu Aoi, Shinya Tsukamoto, Tatsuya Nakamura, Ryusei Maeda Zen Killing Film Poster

Website IMDB

Shinya Tsukamoto is back writing, directing, editing and producing his own films after a short spell acting in features like Shin Godzilla and Over the Fence. I’m a big fan of his works thanks to Nightmare Detective(2007), Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), Tokyo Fist (1995), and Vital(2003) and his film A Snake of June, which was given the Special Jury Prize at the 2002 Venice Film Festival.

Synopsis: The ronin Mokunoshin Tsuzuki (Sosuke Ikematsu) is alive during the end of the Edo period where many samurai like him are finding their way of life losing its edge as the country exists in a state of peace. He lives in the suburbs of Tokyo where he helps out farmers and is acquainted with one farmer’s son named Ichisuke (Ryusei Maeda) who dreams of being a samurai. Tsuzuki spends his days farming and sparring with Ichisuke but, despite the tranquillity, Tsuzuki’s heart is in tumult because he is concerned about the questions of whether he could follow a lord’s orders and kill a man and, more importantly, passions are brewing as he is falling in love with Ichisuke’s sister Yu (Yu Aoi). Passions from further afield are also growing as the country is on the verge of a civil war when a mild-mannered and skilful ronin Jirozaemon Sawamura (Shinya Tsukamoto) arrives in town looking for warriors to take to Edo.

Legend of Stardust Brothers / Hoshikuzu kyodai no densetsu The Legend of the Stardust Brothers Film Poster

星くず兄弟の伝説 「Hoshikuzu kyodai no densetsu

Running Time: 100 mins.

Original Release Date: June 15th, 1985

Director: Macoto Tezuka

Writer: Macoto Tezuka (Screenplay), Haruo Chikada (Original Story)

Starring: Ryosuke Miura, Kohei Takeda, Tadanobu Aasano,, Shingo Kubota, Kan Takagi, Kyoko Togawa, Issay, Kiyohiko Ozaki, Miwako Fukushima, Mie Akatsuka, Motoko Arai,

Website IMDB

This one has been licensed by Third Window Films and it has played at a couple of festivals already. As the release dates above show, it originally comes from 1985 and got a re-release last year. It was directed by Macoto Tezuka, son of manga legend, Osamu Tezuka.

Synopsis from Third Window Films: In 1985, Macoto Tezuka met musician and TV personality Haruo Chicada who had made a soundtrack to a movie which didn’t actually exist: The Legend of the Stardust Brothers. At the time Macoto was just 22 years old, a film-student with many short experimental films under his belt, but, with Chicada as producer, Tezuka would make his feature-film debut by adapting this “fake soundtrack” into the real movie story of “The Stardust Brothers”.

With inspiration from “Phantom of the Paradise” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Tezuka assembled a cast of some of Japan’s most famous musicians of the time, including such greats as Kiyohiko Ozaki, ISSAY, Sunplaza Nakano and Hiroshi Takano, alongside many famous names in Manga such as Monkey Punch (Lupin the 3rd), Shinji Nagashima (Hanaichi Monme), Yosuke Takahashi (Mugen Shinsi) and even many upcoming film directors of the time such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Tokyo Sonata, Cure) and Daihachi Yoshida (The Kirishima Thing, The Scythian Lamb). The resulting film “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers” is the exact definition of a cult film. Despite the huge array of talent on board with a large budget, the film is totally unknown even to this day in both Japan and worldwide. More than 30 years since its release, The Stardust Brothers will finally make itself known worldwide with a new master and a brand new Director’s Cut!

Highlights of the Film Festival Circuit

There are quite a few titles that have popped up at places like Japan Cuts 2018 and the Glasgow International Film Festival as well as the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019. At least one was at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, as well. Essentially, auds in Ireland are getting some of the choicest picks of films that have earned their stripes and been shown around the world. Titles like Mori, the Artists Habitat, Tremble All You Want, and Ten Years Japan. There’s also The Blood of Wolves which won many awards for acting at the recent Japan Academy Awards (here’s my review). While I haven’t seen Mori or Ten Years, I highly recommend the ones I have highlighted below because they will enrich your soul and make you feel better about the world:

Of Love & Law Of Love and Law Film Poster

愛と法 「Ai to hou」

Running Time: 94 mins.

Release Date: 2018

Director: Hikaru Toda

Writer: N/A

Starring: Kazuyuki Minami, Masafumi Yoshida, Yae Minami, Kazumi Tsujitani, Rokudenashiko, Hiroko Tsujitani, Masae Ido, Natsuo Yamamoto,

Website IMDB JFDB

Hikaru Toda is a documentary director/editor based in London and Osaka who has had her worked screened on BBC Storyville, France Televisions, NHK, The Guardian and at major international film festivals, including Hot Docs, CPH DOX and Melbourne International Film Festival. Hikaru moved back to Japan for the first time in 22 years to make Of Love & Law. Here’s my review. This is a truly wonderful film and one of my favourites of last year.

Synopsis: Fumi and Kazu are partners in love and law; they run the first law firm in Japan set up by an openly gay couple. Together for 15 years, the lawyers want to raise a family of their own in a country where their partnership has no legal recognition or protection. Driven by their own experience of being ‘outsiders’, they attract a range of clients who reveal the hidden diversity of a country that prides itself on its obedience, politeness and conformity. Tired of being silenced and made to feel invisible, the lawyers and their misfit clients expose and challenge the archaic status quo.

Born Bone Born Born Bone Born Film Poster

洗骨Senkotsu

Running Time: 111 mins.

Release Date: February 09th, 2018

Director: Toshiyuki Teruya

Writer: Toshiyuki Teruya (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayame Misaki, Eiji Okuda, Michitaka Tsutsui, Yoko Oshima, Akira Sakamoto, Kyutaro Suzuki, Mariko Tsutsui,

This film was originally a short before being expanded into a feature film. It explores the “senkotsu ceremony”, an Okinawan custom involving the cleansing of the bones of the dead by relatives and loved-ones in seawater or sake after burial in the ground or open air, and then re-burying the bones. This ceremony passes on life from the dead to the living and the film uses it to show how a matriarch unites a family even in her death. Here’s my review. It stars Ayame Misaki, a former model who is making waves as an actor as seen in Hikari (2016).

Trailer for the feature:

Here’s one for the short:Born Bo

Synopsis: Yuko Shinjo (Ayame Misaki) has taken a vacation from her job as a hairdresser in Nagoya to head home. She is pregnant and alone but that’s not going to stop her journey to Aguni Shima, a small island which lies to the west of the Okinawa. It is here that Senkotsu is still performed even though it is a tradition that has largely died out. Her mother Emiko recently passed away and so she will perform the ceremony with her family, her father Nobutsuna (Eiji Okuda), who is quietly devastated and nursing his grief with alcohol while living alone, and her argumentative older brother Tsuyoshi (Michitaka Tsutsui). Rumours swirl around the family but friends come to their defence as the trio find the time to face each other and themselves and overcome their individual hardships.

ANIME

There are three anime at the festival, a drama and two fantasies. The drama, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, which is based on a novel and has already been turned into a live-action drama, has an anime adaptation which is getting cinema screenings. Word is that this is good although you might want to take a hanky. There’s also Penguin Highway which is supposed to be a lot of fun. There’s one film I can definitely recommend:

Mirai of the Future Mirai of the Future Film Poster

未来のミライ Mirai no Mirai

Running Time: 100 mins.

Release Date: July 20th, 2018

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Writer: Mamoru Hosoda (Screenplay/Original Work)

Starring: Haru Kuroki (Mirai-chan), Moka Kamishiraishi (Kun-chan), Gen Hoshino (Father), Koji Yakusho (Father), Kumiko Aso (Mother), Mitsuo Yoshihara (Mysterious Man), Yoshiko Miyazaki (Grandmother)

Animation Production: Studio Chizu

Website ANN MAL

This charmed audiences at last year’s Cannes film festival and was one of the top Japanese films at the festival. Much like his compatriot, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hosoda delivered a film that pretty much takes all of the themes and animation techniques he has worked with in the past and wrapped it up into an easy to understand story.

Synopsis: A family living in a small house in a corner of a Yokohama dotes on a spoiled four-year-old boy named Kun-chan. When he gets a little sister named Mirai, he feels that his new sister stole his parents’ love from him. Jealousy and resentment well up until he meets an older version of Mirai, who has come from the future and takes him on an adventure.

A Rare Screening Has Been Sighted…?

These next films are ones that are not going to get home releases and, as far as I am aware, have not been picked up at many other festivals (at least in the UK) so this makes Japanese Film Festival Ireland your best chance to see them!

The Gun The Gun Film Poster

Juu

Running Time: 97 mins.

Release Date: November 17th, 2018

Director: Masaharu Take

Writer: Masaharu Take, Hideki Shishido (Screenplay), Fuminori Nakamura (Original Novel)

Starring: Nijiro Murakami, Alice Hirose, Lily Franky, Kyoko Hinami, Risa Niigaki, Junpei Goto, Moemi Katayama, Amane Okayama,

Website IMDB

This one played at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival and earned plaudits from critics. It’s by the director of 100 Yen Love.

Synopsis: University student Toru Nishikawa (Nijiro Murakami) has one think on his mind and that is Yuko Yoshikawa (Alice Hirose), a pretty girl on the same campus. His attention is diverted when he finds a gun by a river one rainy day. Instead of turning it in to the police he takes it home and becomes fixated by it. He gets a sense of euphoria looking at it and thrills over having it. Then he is visited by a detective (Lily Franky) whose presence pushes him to make a bad decision…

The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine Film Poster

菊とギロチン 女相撲とアナキスKiku to Girochin Onnazumo to Anakisuto

Running Time: 189 mins.

Release Date: July 07th, 2018

Director: Takahisa Zeze

Writer: Takahisa Zeze, Toranosuke Aizawa (Screenplay),

Starring: Hanae Kan, Masahiro Higashide, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Maho Yamada, Takashi Yamanaka, Yoko Kamon, Shun Sugata, Shohei Uno, Yota Kawase,

Website

Synopsis: This is billed as Takahisa Zeze’s first original project in eight years and takes place in Tokyo in the Taisho era, immediately after the Great Kanto Earthquake. A group of women join a female sumo wrestler stable to escape bad backgrounds such as domestic violence and prostitution and they practice hard with the intention of “becoming stronger and living with their own power”. Anarchist groups and those who advocate “an equal society without disparity” are fascinated by the female wrestlers’ fighting and support them.

Jesus Jesus Film Poster

僕はイエス様が嫌い Boku ha Iesu sama ga kirai

Running Time: 76 mins.

Release Date: May 31st, 2019

Director: Hiroshi Okuyama

Writer: Hiroshi Okuyama (Screenplay),

Starring: Yura Sato, Kenichi Akiyama, Mari Hatsumi, Yuko Kibiki, Masayasu Kitayama, Chad Mullane, Kouichi Nihei, Hinako Saeki,

Website IMDB

Synopsis from the festival site: When nine-year-old Yura moves from the city to a small town, he immediately feels lonely and isolated in his new environment. All that changes during a school prayer session. Yura opens his eyes, and spots a small, silent Jesus Christ dancing on the altar. The miniature Jesus, who nobody else can see, quickly becomes a regular presence in the young boy’s life. He also starts answering Yura’s prayers – including one for a new friend. However, the miraculous changes in Yura’s fortunes don’t last forever. After events take an unexpected turn for the worse, he finds himself questioning how effective his prayers really are.

75 Years in Japan

Running Time: 99 mins.

Release Date: N/A

Director: James Creedon

IMDB

Synopsis from the IMDB page: One of Ireland’s last missionary nuns, Sr. Paschal (Jennie) O’ Sullivan, returns to her homeland after 75 years in Japan. Just after her 100th birthday, her young cousin embarks on a year-long voyage retracing her life story in a bid to capture the end of an era in Irish history. What began as a simple interview became a life-changing journey for them both.

Ira Ligar
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