New York’s Japan Cuts returns for its 13th edition in 2019, bringing with it another premium selection of the best in recent Japanese cinema. This year’s Japan Cuts Cut Above Award goes to veteran director Shinya Tsukamoto whose latest film, anti-jidaigeki Killing, is screening as the festival’s Centrepiece Gala.
The programme in full:
An ambitious office worker faces career crisis when she is hypnotised to break into song and dance every time she hears music in the latest from comedy maestro Shinobu Yaguchi (Waterboys, Swing Girls, Survival Family). Q&A with director Shinobu Yaguchi and star Ayaka Miyoshi.
The peaceful days of an old man and his cat are disrupted by the arrival of a pretty young woman from Tokyo (Kou Shibasaki) and her newly opened cafe in an adaptation of the manga by Nekomaki.
TV doc director Naoko Nobutomo follows her ageing parents as her mother’s Alzheimer’s-related dementia intensifies.
An aimless middle-aged man’s peaceful existence is threatened when hipster Tokyoites rock up in his tiny rural village looking for the “natural life” only to insist on reforming it to their city bound images of idyllic country living in Tadashi Nagayama’s anarchic satire. Review. Q&A with director Tadashi Nagayama and stars Yota Kawase and Natsuki Mieda.
Anthology film featuring five dystopian visions of near future Japan. Review.
Isshin Inudo takes a trip back to the samurai era as a nerdy librarian (Gen Hoshino) is unexpectedly named relocation officer when his clan is ordered to move to another domain.
Atsushi Kasezawa’s documentary follows a pastor who commits himself to saving the lives of suicidal individuals who find themselves drawn to a particular cliff in Wakayama. Q&A with director Atsushi Kasezawa.
The late Ren Osugi stars as a prison chaplain ministering to those languishing on death row. (No. 10 on Kinema Junpo’s best of 2018 list)
When a yakuza clan’s precious cauldron is stolen a war breaks out in the Osakan working class district of Kamagasaki. Q&A with star Yota Kawase.
High school girl Cocoa has given up on her dreams because she has to support her gambling addict father and no good failed manzai comedian brother, but her fortunes change when she finds out her mother left her money and if she can just top it up a little she could escape her humble life by getting into a top university in Tokyo. Q&A with director Genta Matsugami and star Aya Kitai.
Three slackers struggle to accept love in present day Hakodate in Sho Miyake’s adaptation of the Yasushi Sato novel in which an apathetic bookstore employee (Tasuku Emoto) starts a halfhearted romance with a free spirited colleague (Shizuka Ishibashi) only to introduce her to his infatuated best friend (Shota Sometani). Review.
A small-town carpenter (Kaoru Kobayashi) takes in a drifter (Yuya Yagira) he finds unconscious on the side of the road but their growing paternal bond begins to place a strain on his relationships with his fiancée (Keiko Horiuchi) and employees in Nanako Hirose’s sensitive debut. Q&A with director Nanako Hirose.
Mystery thriller starring Arata and Masatoshi Nagase in which a dogged journalist’s unearthing of a decades old child disappearance in a small rural town opens up old wounds.
A samurai prefers not to raise his sword but finds himself tested by his times in Shinya Tsukamoto’s impassioned anti-violence jidaigeki. Review. Q&A with director Shinya Tsukamoto, with CUT ABOVE Award ceremony.
An ad director becomes obsessed with the idea of finding a gun after his fiancée shoots herself in Tsukamoto’s 1998 classic. Q&A with director Shinya Tsukamoto.
Miyoko Asada stars as Satoko – a con artist whose gradual path to wealth through pyramid schemes and increasingly elaborate scams eventually leads her to reinvent herself in Thailand as a 38-year-old woman named Erica.
A young boy relocates from Tokyo to a sleepy mountain village where he has to bunk with grandma and attend catholic school. His days are eventually brightened through meeting a tiny Jesus who grants all his wishes until an inescapable tragedy colours his view of religion in Hiroshi Okuyama’s whimsical debut. Review. Q&A with director Hiroshi Okuyama.
Kazuhiko graduated from Todai, but he’s now unemployed and living with mum and dad. A chance encounter with a pretty friend from school leads him to a job in a bathhouse but his fortunes change again when he realises the baths double as a yakuza killing ground after hours… Review.
A shogi-loving child prodigy (Ryuhei Matsuda) is devastated when he hits the age limit for becoming a professional player but eventually finds amateur success and then the courage to challenge the system in Toshiaki Toyoda’s surprisingly inspirational drama. Review. Q&A with director Toshiaki Toyoda.
Rohmerian drama in which college friends Sayaka and Yui take a trip to the beach where they meet up with Yui’s old pal Momoko but find their dynamic disrupted by sleazy passersby and mutual awkwardness.
Korean actress Shim Eun-kyung makes the first of two Japanese language performances included in the programme as an earnest Tokyo journalist haunted by her father’s suicide, playing opposite Tori Matsuzaka as a cynical bureaucrat who discovers evidence of coverup and conspiracy.
Long forgotten, Macoto Tezka’s anarchic cult comedy debut has been lovingly rediscovered and restored by Third Window Films. A tale of fame, corruption, and destiny, Stardust Brothers is a whimsical piece of absurdist Showa-era nostalgia . Review. Q&A with director Macoto Tezka.
Three stories of love occur along the the iconic Kyoto tram line as a writer from Kamakura searches for a ghost train while recalling memories of his wife, a local girl helps a Tokyo actor master the Kyoto accent, and a girl from Aomori falls for a trainspotter!
Makoto Sasaki’s documentary follows blind musician Hideyuki Kato as he works on a sci-fi short in which a non-sighted fighter and a telepath search for a mysterious ghost in the far future. Q&A with director Makoto Sasaki, producer Miyuki Tanaka and subject Hideyuki Kato.
A young woman suffering unexplained loss of memory goes in search of a childhood friend after rediscovering a drawing of an elephant in Riho Kudo’s award winning debut.
30-ish Sunada (Kaho) is becoming rapidly disillusioned with city life. She’s worked her way up to directing commercials but finds herself mostly dealing with workplace sexism and difficult stars while she is also carrying on an affair with a married colleague. Taking off on a road trip with her lively best friend mangaka (Korean actress Shim Eun-kyung in her second Japanese language role included in the programme), she is finally forced to reconnect with her rural childhood and rediscovers her sense of self in the process. Review.
Japan Cuts runs from 19th to 28th July 2019 at Japan Society New York. Full details for all the films along with ticketing links are available via the official website and you can also keep up with all the latest details by following the festival’s official Facebook page and Twitter account.