Cinema of Japan

Japanese Films at the Cannes Film Festival 2019


The 72nd Cannes Film Festival will run from May 14th until the 25th and themain programme was announced a couple of weeks ago. There are around 47 premieres at the fest with familiar names like Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, Ghost Dog), Ken Loach (Kes) and Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In) walking on the Croisette along with a slight uptick in female directors – Jessica Hausner and Mati Diop are the names to watch – and there is a decent Asian contingent.

Prominent names for me are South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho, a masterful director with titles like Mother, Memories of Murder and The Host in his filmography. He is at Cannes with Parasite, which has a family tragi-comedy unfold as one “parasitic” family gets involved with a well-to-do one for nefarious reasons. The trailer looks brilliant. Then there is China’s Diao Yinan who made the electric neo-noir Black Coal, Thin Ice which won the Golden Bear at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival. He has a story of a biker and a desperate woman trying to escape their situations. What of Japan? Nothing much that can secure a Palm d’Or.

Hirokazu Koreeda Cannes 2018 Shoplifters Palme d'or
(Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

Following his success at last year’s Cannes, it looks like Hirokazu Kore-eda won’t be returning because his latest film, the France-set film The Truth won’t be ready in time. This is Kore-eda’s first film set outside Japan and it stars Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke and Ludivine Sagnier. Kiyoshi Kurosawa does have a film due for release this year but it doesn’t look like it will be shown at Cannes. Thankfully, there is still a Japanese presence at the festival and it comes from Takashi Miike and a classic!

First Love Hatsukoi Early Film Poster

初恋 Hatsukoi

Running Time: 108 mins.

Release Date: 2020

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Masaru Nakamura (Screenplay)

Starring: Becky, Masataka Kubota, Jun Murakami, Nao Omori, Sakurako Konishi, Sansei Shiomi, Seiyo Uchino, Shota Sometani,

IMDB Festival Page

Not much is known about this one at the moment other than who it stars and that includes Masataka Kubota, who worked with Miike on 13 Assassins (2010), Nao Omori, the titular Ichi in Miike’s classic Ichi the Killer (2001), Shota Sometani, who appeared in Miike’s As the God’s Will (2014) and Lesson of the Evil (2013) and it is set for release in 2020. It was selected for “Director’s Fortnight” which will be running parallel to Cannes.


Synopsis from the festival site: Set over one night in Tokyo, we follow Leo, a young boxer down on his luck as he meets his ‘first love’ Monica, a callgirl and an addict but still an innocent.

Little does Leo know, Monica is unwittingly caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme, and the two are pursued through the night by a corrupt cop, a yakuza, his nemesis, and a female assassin sent by the Chinese Triads.

All their fates interwine in spectacular Miike style, at his most anarchic and fun.

Located in the Cannes Classics section is a restoration of a landmark anime

The White Snake Enchantress The White Snake Enchantress Film Poster


Release Date: October 22nd, 1958

Running Time: 78 mins.

Director: Taiji Yabushita

Writer: Shin Uehara, Taiji Yabushita, Seiichi Yashiro (Screenplay)

Starring: Hisaya Morishige, Mariko Miyagi,

Animation Production: Toei

MAL Website IMDB

This is the first animated feature film in colour and it has been given a 4K scan and restoration job by Toei Animation Company and the National Archive of Japan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Japanese animation and 60th anniversary of this film’s original theatrical release. Only two voice actors were cast for the film which would be one of the first three anime features released in North America.

Original negative, 35mm print, tape materials, and animation cels were used by Toei lab tech and Toei digital centre to produce restored data which is in 2K.

Synopsis from ANN: As a young boy, Xu-Xian is forced to free his pet, a small snake. Unbeknownst to him, the snake is actually a young snake goddess named Bai-Niang and she is in love with him. Many years later, when they are both adults, the princess is magically transformed into a human and sets out to find her love. But the local wizard believes her to be a vampire, and banishes Xu-Xian from the village in order to save him. Xu-Xian’s pet pandas Panda and Mimi set out to save him and bring him, in the process becoming leaders of an animal gang.

Here’s past coverage of the film festival:

Cannes 2012 Preview

Round-up – Like Someone in Love

Round-up – Ai to Makoto

Round-up – 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate

Cannes 2013 Preview

Cannes 2013 Press Round-up

Cannes 2014 Preview

Cannes 2015 Preview

Cannes 2016 Preview

Cannes 2017 Preview

Round-up – Blade of the Immortal

Round-up – Before We Vanish

Round-up – Radiance

Round-up – Oh Lucy!

Cannes 2018 Preview

Round-up – Shoplifters

Round-up – Asako I & II

Round-up – Mirai

Kore-eda wins the Palme d’Or in 2018

Ira Ligar
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