Oh Lucy! (オー・ルーシー!, Atsuko Hirayanagi, 2017)

Oh Lucy! posterDespite its rich dramatic seam, the fate of the lonely, long serving Japanese office lady approaching the end of the career she either sacrificed everything for or ended up with by default has mostly been relegated to a melancholy subplot – usually placing her as the unrequited love interest of her oblivious soon to be retiring bachelor/widower boss. Daihachi Yoshida’s Pale Moon was perhaps the best recent attempt to bring this story centre stage in its neat contrasting of the loyal employee about to be forcibly retired by her unforgiving bosses and the slightly younger woman who decides she’ll have her freedom even if she has to do something crazy to get it, but Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Oh Lucy! (オー・ルーシー!) is a more straightforward tale of living with disappointment and temporarily deluding oneself into thinking there might be an easier way out than simply facing yourself head on.

Middle-aged office lady Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is the office old bag. Unpopular, she keeps herself aloof from her colleagues, refusing the sweets a lovely older lady (herself somewhat unpopular but for the opposite reasons) regularly brings into the office, and bailing on after hours get togethers. Her life changes one day when the man behind her on a crowded station platform grabs Setsuko’s chest and says goodbye before hurling himself in front of the train. Such is life.

Taking some time off work she gets a call from her niece, Mika (Shioli Kutsuna) to meet her in the dodgy maid cafe in which she has been working. Mika has a proposition for her – having recently signed up for a year’s worth of non-refundable English classes, Mika would rather do something else with the money and wonders if she could “transfer” the remainder onto Setsuko. Despite her tough exterior Setsuko is something of a soft touch and agrees but is surprised to find the “English School” seems to be located in room 301 of a very specific brothel. John (Josh Hartnett), her new teacher, who has a strict English only policy, begins by giving Setsuko a large hug before issuing her a blonde wig and rechristening her “Lucy”. Through her English lesson, “Lucy” also meets another man in the same position “Tom” (Koji Yakusho) – a recently widowed, retired detective now working as a security consultant. Setsuko is quite taken with her strange new hobby, and is heartbroken to realise Mika and John are an item and they’ve both run off to America.

Setsuko’s journey takes her all the way to LA with her sister, Ayako (Kaho Minami), desperate to sort her wayward daughter out once and for all. As different as they are, Ayako and Setsuko share something of the same spikiness though Setsuko’s cruel streak is one she deeply regrets and only allows out in moments of extreme desperation whereas a prim sort of bossiness appears to be Ayako’s default. Setsuko’s Tokyo life is one of embittered repression, having been disappointed in love she keeps herself isolated, afraid of new connections and contemptuous of her colleagues with their superficial attitudes and insincere commitment to interoffice politeness. Suicide haunts her from that first train station shocker to the all too common “delays caused by an incident on the line” and the sudden impulsive decision caused by unkind words offered at the wrong moment.

“Lucy” the “relaxed” American blonde releases Setsuko’s better nature which had been only glimpsed in her softhearted agreeing to Mika’s proposal and decision to allow Ayako to share her foreign adventure. John’s hug kickstarted something of an addiction, a yearning for connection seemingly severed in Setsuko’s formative years but if “Lucy” sees John as a symbol of American freedoms – big, open, filled with possibilities, his homeland persona turns out to be a disappointment. Just like the maid’s outfit Setsuko finds in John’s wardrobe, John’s smartly bespectacled English teacher is just a persona adopted in a foreign land designed to part fools from their money. Still, Setsuko cannot let her delusion die and continues to see him as something of a saviour, enjoying her American adventure with girlish glee until it all gets a bit a nasty, desperate, and ultimately humiliating.

Having believed herself to have only two paths to the future – being “retired” like the office grandma, pitied by the younger women who swear they’ll never end up like her (much as Setsuko might have herself), or making a swift exit from a world which has no place for older single women, Setsuko thought she’d found a way out only to have all of her illusions shattered all at once. “Lucy” showed her who she really was, and it wasn’t very pretty. Still, even at this late stage Setsuko can appreciate the irony of her situation. That first hug that seemed so forced and awkward, an insincere barrier to true connection, suddenly finds its rightful destination and it looks like Setsuko’s train may finally have come in.


Screened at Raindance 2017

Expanded from Atsuko Hirayanagi’s 2014 short which starred Kaori Momoi.

Clip (English subtitles)

Rage (怒り, Lee Sang-il, 2016)

rage posterVillain, Lee Sang-il’s 2011 adaptation of a novel by Shuichi Yoshida, used a crime story to investigate the wider effects of social stigma and emotional repression – themes which are recurrent in the author’s work. Rage (怒り, Ikari) attempts to do something similar but its aims are larger, reflexively tacking the vicious cycle of social oppression and emotional repression in a society which actively suppresses the desire for expression in the aim of maintaining an illusion of harmony. A brutal, senseless killing has occurred and three suspects present themselves. The killer could be any one or none of them, but the fact of the matter is that when you cannot speak the truth, you cannot truly believe in anything or anyone.

In the blazing summer heat with its noisy cicadas and uncomfortable humidity, a young couple has been brutally murdered in their Hachioji home. There are few clues to be found save that the killer has painted the kanji for “rage” in blood on the wall. The police do, however, come up with a suspect and circulate a photofit which is anonymous enough to look like any youngish man who might make you feel uncomfortable for a reason you can’t articulate.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man from Chiba, Maki (Ken Watanabe), anxiously wanders around Kabukicho until someone finds him and takes him to a brothel where his runaway daughter, Aiko (Aoi Miyazaki), has been working and has been very badly injured through her “eagerness to please her clients”. The father, trying to comfort his daughter who seems cheerful enough despite her ordeal, inwardly seethes with rage and is both relieved and worried when she begins a relationship with a secretive drifter, Tashiro (Kenichi Matsuyama).

Back in Tokyo, Yuma (Satoshi Tsumabuki) visits a gay bathhouse and roughly forces himself on a nervous man hunched in a corner. Despite the slight unpleasantness of their meeting, the two men eat dinner together and Yuma invites his new friend, Naoto (Go Ayano), to live with him in his well appointed apartment despite knowing nothing more about him.

Further south, a teenage couple enjoy a day out on what they think is a deserted island but the girl, Izumi (Suzu Hirose), discovers a backpacker, Tanaka (Mirai Moriyama),  living in some local ruins. Strangely drawn to him, Izumi keeps meeting up with Tanaka but an encounter in the city turns sour when her friend, Tatsuya (Takara Sakumoto), works himself into a jealous rage. Trying to get the drunken Tatsuya to the ferry, Izumi is raped by GIs from the local military base.

The Okinawan episode is, in many ways the key. Tetsuya invites Izumi to see a movie in Naha but they’re really going to observe a protest about the continued presence of the US military bases. Tatsuya wanted to be there to see it but pressed for an answer he doubts protest will achieve anything. Izumi, after her brutal encounter, says the same thing. She doesn’t want anyone to know. “Protesting won’t change anything”. No matter what she says, nothing will be done, no one would listen, nobody really cares.

Or, perhaps they simply care about the wrong things. Aiko gets home from her horrible ordeal in the city but everyone knows what she did there; her “sordid” past is the talk of the town. Her father says nothing, because like Izumi he knows it will do no good, but still he berates himself for it and his internalised anger grows.

Izumi does not want the stigma of being a rape victim, and Aiko does not want the stigma of being a “fallen woman”, their secrets are already out, but Yuma is jealously guarding his – living as a cautious gay man with his life strictly divided, his true nature walled off from his professional persona. Too afraid to be open about his sexuality, he projects his sense of unease and discomfort onto Naoto – first going overboard by inviting someone he just met and knows nothing about to live with him and then refusing to let him in all the way. Yuma asks Naoto not to attend his mother’s funeral despite the fact they had been friends because he doesn’t want the awkwardness of deciding how to introduce his boyfriend to a set of relatives he doesn’t really know. What he doesn’t do is ask any questions about Naoto’s past, jumping to conclusions and angrily slinging accusations when he thinks he’s caught Naoto out in a lie but his reaction and subsequent behaviour only bear out his own insecurities in his inability to trust the man the loves.

Each of the trio begins to doubt their friends or lovers with little more to go on than a police photofit which only superficially resembles them. The suspicion, however, is reflexive. It’s born of a society in which one is obliged to keep secrets and emotional honesty is frowned upon. No one speaks the truth because no one wants to hear it – it will only bring more suffering with additional social stigma. Sooner or later, when all of these unexpressed emotions reach a critical mass, they will explode. Such crimes could so easily be avoided were it easier to live a more open, less fearful life, but as long as it is impossible to trust oneself, there can be no unguarded trust between people.

Neatly in line with the self-centred narrative viewpoints, Izumi’s rape is relegated to a plot device as she herself disappears from the screen only to return briefly in the final coda. The effects of the rape are then explored as they impact on Tetsuya and Tanaka whose self images of masculinity are (seemingly) damaged by their failures to protect her. Izumi’s rape is viewed as something that happened to the men, as if she were a car that was scratched or a jacket torn. Self-involved as this is, it plays into the central theme – no one cares very much about anybody else’s feelings until those feelings are visited upon them by means of violence.

The murder occurs essentially because of a betrayal followed by unbearable, unexpected kindness. A woman felt sorry for a man, and so she trusted him and was betrayed. Two parties fail to trust the one they love because of a failing in themselves, their own sense of personal inadequacy will not allow them to believe in the other person’s faith in them, while another misplaces his trust in his need to find an ally and confidant to feel less alone and powerless. Prevailing social stigmas, selfishness, and a need to maintain the status quo have left all running scared, craving connection but too afraid to engage. When the system won’t let you be, violence, of one sort or another, is an inevitable consequence.


Original trailer (English subtitles)

The Day After Opens London Korean Film Festival 2017

The day after posterFollowing a long series of teaser screenings which culminated with Cannes hit The Villainess, the London Korean Film Festival has now revealed the complete lineup for this year’s event which runs from 26th October to 19th November 2017.

Opening Gala

The day After Still 2The London Korean Film Festival 2017 will open with one of three films released this year by prolific director Hong Sang-soo – The Day After. Another whimsical comedy of manners from Hong, The Day After stars Kim Min-hee as the new girl at a publishing firm completely unaware that she’s taken the place of the previous new girl who has been “let go” after an affair with the boss ended badly.

Closing Gala

first lap stillClosing the festival will be the second film from Kim Dae-hwan who picked up the best new director award at Locarno for this awkward tale of familial disconnection. The First Lap revolves around young couple Ji-young and Su-hyeon who are not married but have been living together for a few years. Discovering they might be about to have a child of their own, the pair decide to try and reconnect with their old families before starting a new one.

Special Focus: Korean Noir, Illuminating the Dark Side of Society

The Merciless still 1The special focus for this year’s festival is Korean Noir and Korean cinema has certainly had a long and proud history of gritty, existential crime thrillers. Running right through from the ’60s to recent Cannes hit The Merciless, the Korean Noir strand aims to illuminate the dark side of society through its compromised heroes and conflicted villains.

  • Black Hair – Lee Man-hee’s 1960s genre hybrid neatly mixes noir with melodrama as a gang boss’ wife is blackmailed after having been raped by one of her husband’s underlings only to be facially disfigured and cast away when her husband learns of her assault. Read the Review.
  • The Last Witness – Lee Doo-young’s 1980 mystery thriller follows a police officer’s investigation into the murder of a brewery owner which leads him back to events of 25 years earlier and into the darkest parts of his own soul. Director Lee Doo-young will be in attendance for a Q&A.
  • Dead End – Darkly humorous 19 minute short directed by City of Madness’ Kim Sung-soo.
  • The Rules of the Game – released in 1994, the second film from Jan Hyun-soo follows a young man who comes to the city to join a gang but ends up selling his girlfriend into prostitution.
  • Green Fish – the 1997 debut from the now legendary Lee Chang-dong follows a recently demobbed soldier who returns home to find nothing waiting for him and eventually falls in with gangsters.
  • Nowhere to Hide – Lee Myung-se’s experimental 1999 noir stars Ahn Sung-ki as a ruthless gangster.
  • KilimanjaroThe Shameless director Oh Seung-uk’s 2000 debut also stars Ahn Sung-ki as a gangster alongside Park Shin-yang playing a pair of twin brothers one of whom is a criminal and the other a policeman. Director Oh Seung-uk will be in attendance for a Q&A.
  • Die badVeteran / Battleship Island’s Ryoo Seung-wan made his debut with this 2000 four part crime themed portmanteau film.
  • A Bittersweet Life –  Kim Ji-woon’s 2005 existential hitman thriller stars Lee Byung-hun as a conflicted mobster.
  • A Dirty Carnival – Yoo Ha’s celebrated gangland thriller from 2006
  • New World – an all powerful policeman tries to bring down a crime syndicate through underhanded means while an undercover cop begins to wonder if his mission will ever end in Park Hoon-jung’s tense psychological thriller.
  • Coin Locker Girl – a baby found in a coin locker gets sold to a gangland organ trafficker who decides to raise her as her own in Han Jun-hee’s dark 2013 drama
  • The Merciless – Premiered at Cannes in 2017 Byung Sung-hyun’s The Merciless is a violent thriller in which an undercover cop and the leader of a prison gang team up for gangland domination.

The Noir section will also feature a panel event, Forum on Korean Noir, featuring Eddie Muller (president Film Noir Foundation), Huh Moonyoung (film critic), Last Witness director Lee Doo-young, and Kilimanjaro director Oh Seung-uk.


Cinema Now 

master still one.jpgThe best in recent cinema across the previous year ranging from period drama to financial thriller, gangland action, social drama, and horror.

  • Come, Together – Shin Dong-il examines the destructive effects of financial pressures on a middle class family.
  • Crime City – turf war drama starring  Ma Dong-seok. Director Kang Yoon-sung will be present for a Q&A.
  • In Between Seasons – Intimate family drama following a mother’s reaction to discovering the relationship between her son and his best friend is closer than she thought.
  • Warriors of the Dawn – historical drama set in 1592 in which a group of mercenaries attempt to protect the newly crowned prince on a perilous journey.
  • Master – corporate thriller in which a team of fraud specialists led by Gang Dong-won attempt to unmask a dodgy financial guru played by Lee Byung-hun. Read the Review.
  • The Mimic – horror movie in which a monster lures children away to eat them by impersonating familiar voices.

Indie Fire Power

Bamseom Pirates Seoul InfernoProgrammed by Tony Rayns, this year’s indie strand has a special focus on documentary filmmaker Jung Yoon-suk who will be attending the festival in person to present his films.

  • Non Fiction Diary – 2014 documentary directed by Jung Yoon-suk centring on a notorious clan of serial killing cannibals. Director Jung Yoon-suk will be present for a Q&A
  • The White House in My Country – documentary short by Jung Yoon-suk. Director Jung Yoon-suk will be present for a Q&A
  • Ho Chi Minh – documentary short by Jung Yoon-suk. Director Jung Yoon-suk will be present for a Q&A
  • Bamseom Pirates Inferno – 2017 documentary by Jung Yoon-suk focussing on an underground punk band. Director Jung Yoon-suk will be present for a Q&A
  • Merry Christmas Mr. Mo – indie comedy/drama from Lim Dae-hyung in which a dying barber’s only wish is to star in a short film directed by his estranged son.
  • A Confession Expecting a Rejection – witty drama following characters on and off screen as they discuss various topics from failed relationships to disappointing film courses.

Women’s Voices 

jamsil still 1Focussing on female viewpoints this year’s Women’s Voices strand includes one narrative feature and four short films.

  • Jamsil – drama focussing on the lives of two women. Director Lee Wanmin will be present for a Q&A.

Shorts

  • Candle Wave Feminists – an examination of the misogyny hidden inside the campaign to unseat Park Geun-hye Director Kangyu Garam will be present for a Q&A.
  • My Turn – 15 minute drama focussing on pregnancy in the workplace.
  • Mild Fever – 36 minute drama in which a secret comes between a husband and wife.
  • Night Working – 28 minute drama exploring the relationship between a Korean factory worker and a Cambodian migrant.

Classics Revisited: Bae Chang-ho Retrospective

whale hunting still 2Three films from legendary director Bae Chang-ho each starring Ahn Sung-ki.

  • People in the Slum – drama revolving around a single mother who always wears black gloves and has a rebellious son with a tendency to steal things.
  • Whale Hunting – a boy gets rejected by his crush and runs away to hunt whales but ends up wandering round with a tramp and helping a mute girl find her voice again.
  • The Dream – a monk breaks his vows of chastity, attacks a young woman, leaves the monastery to start a family with her, but never captures her heart.

Documentary

good bye my heroWorkers’ rights and examinations of the Yongsan tragedy in which five civilians and one police officer lost their lives during a protest against redevelopment dominate the feature documentary strand.

  • Two Doors – documentary examining the Yongsan tragedy. Director Kim Il-rhan will be present for a Q&A.
  • The Remnants – documentary examining the Yongsan tragedy. Director Kim Il-rhan will be present for a Q&A.
  • Goodbye My Hero – an unemployed father battles for reinstatement
  • Dream of Iron – industrial ship building documentary

Animation

lost in the moonlight still 1Two charming yet very different animated adventures aimed at a younger/family audience.

  • Lost in the Moonlight – a shy young girl dreaming of the spotlight gets lost in a fantasy world.
  • Franky and Friends: A Tree of Life – Franky and Friends head off on a journey to save the world after nearly destroying it through wastefulness

Mise-en-scène Shorts

tombstone refugee still 1A selection of shorts from the Mise-en-scène International Short Film Festival.

  • Tombstone Refugee – alternative burial drama.
  • Home Without Me – a young girl looks for familial love
  • Thirsty – a man struggles to makes ends meet
  • Between You and Me – behind the scenes comedy drama.
  • Dive – drama about a boy’s love of water
  • The Insect Woman – centres on a young girl obsessed with insects.
  • 2 Nights 3 Days – follows a couple on the eve of their wedding anniversary.

Artist Video

This year’s collaboration with LUX | Artists’ Moving Image focusses on the work of two artists – Lim Minouk and Koo Dong-hee.

Lim Minouk

  • New Town Ghost
  • Wrong Question
  • Portable Keeper
  • The Weight of Hands
  • The Possibility of the Half
  • S.O.S. – Adoptive Dissensus

Koo Dong-hee

  • Tragedy Competition
  • The King Fish
  • Under the Vein: I Spell on You
  • Crossxpollination
  • What’s Not There

The London Korean Film Festival runs from 26th November to the 19th October at multiple Central London venues before heading out on tour to Glasgow Film Theatre, Manchester HOME, Sheffield Showroom, Nottingham Broadway Cinema, and Belfast Queen’s Film Theatre.

The full programme including details for all the films, screening times and ticketing information will be available on the official website in due course but you can also keep up with all the latest developments via the festival’s Facebook page, Twitter account, Flickr, YouTube and Instagram channels.

Feng Xiaogang’s Youth Headlines Impressive East Asian Lineup at TIFF

Feng Xiaogang Youth still 2Toronto International Film Festival (affectionately known as TIFF) has always been a proud champion of East Asian cinema and this year is no exception with a number of eagerly awaited films from high profile directors including the World Premiere of the latest from Feng Xiaogang and highly anticipated return to action cinema for John Woo alongside interesting debuts from up and coming new directors.

China

Youth still 4

  • Youth  Feng Xiaogang’s followup to I am Not Madame Bovary makes its World Premiere at TIFF. A national coming of age story, Feng’s drama focusses on a ’70s military arts troupe as one particular dancer suffers at the hands of her peers but later emerges as a heroine.
  • Angels Wear White – Featured in competition at Venice, Vivian Qu’s Trap Street followup focusses on a pair of teenage girls assaulted in a hotel room and the receptionist who says nothing for fear of losing her job,
  • Dragonfly Eyes – the debut feature from artist Xu Bing, Dragonfly Eyes uses footage assembled from China’s many surveillance cameras to tell a sad love story.
  • Manhunt – John Woo returns to the realms of heroic bloodshed with a remake of a ’70s Japanese action classic starring Masaharu Fukuyama and Zhang Hanyu.
  • Mrs Fang – Wang Bing’s affecting documentary focusses on an elderly woman left alone to die in a small Chinese village.
  • Struggling – TIFF teams up with China Film Archive for a screening of this recently restored Chinese silent film from 1932.
  • The Conformist – Set on the Sino-Russian Frontier, Cai Shangjun’s The Conformist is an existential crime thriller revolving around a double agent working for the police whilst inhabiting the local underworld.

Indonesia

marlina the murderer in four acts still one

  • Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts – an Indonesian feminist western, Mouly Surya’s third feature follows a young widow out on a quest of revenge after a gang of bandits storm her farmhouse, rape her, and steal all her cattle. Armed only with a sword and a severed head, she takes to the road.
  • The Seen and the Unseen – making its World Premiere at TIFF Kamila Andini’s The Seen and the Unseen is a magical tale of a young girl retreating into a fantasy world to cope with the impending death of her twin brother.

Japan

oh lucy still 2

  • Birds Without Names – Kazuya Shirasishi’s Dawn of the Felines followup stars Yu Aoi as a young woman living with an older man (Sadawo Abe) but pining for her violent ex-boyfriend.
  • Oh Lucy! – Atsuko Hirayanagi’s sleeper Cannes hit is the story of a lonely middle-aged office lady who discovers a new side to herself when a charismatic English teacher (Josh Hartnett) gives her a blonde wig giving birth to the alter ego Lucy.
  • Radiance – the latest from festival favourite Naomi Kawase, Radiance stars veteran actor Masatoshi Nagase as a photographer losing his sight.
  • The Third Murder – a departure for director Hirokazu Koreeda, The Third Murder is a tense courtroom thriller starring Koji Yakusho as the defendant in a seemingly open and shut murder case but his lawyer (Masaharu Fukuyama) has his doubts about his client’s testimony.
  • Vampire Clay – veteran makeup artist Soichi Umezawa makes his directorial debut with this B-movie inspired tale of plasticine demons devouring the students at a rural arts school.
  • Wolf Guy – another special treat, Kazuhiko Yamaguchi’s 1975 Sonny Chiba starring tale of werewolf detectives gets a screening as part of the farewell to Midnight Madness’ Colin Geddes. Review.

Korea

poet and the boy still

  • The Poet and the Boy – Kim Yang-hee’s Jeju set character drama stars Yang Ik-june as a melancholy poet whose life changes when he encounters a handsome young man at a local donut shop.
  • The Day After – Hong Sang-soo’s third release in 2017 stars Kim Min-hee as a recent recruit to a publishing company where (unbeknownst to her) she’s taken over from a woman let go after an affair with the boss ended badly.

Philippines

Dark is the Night

  • Dark is the Night – Independent filmmaker Adolfo Alix Jr returns with an urgent look at life in Duterte’s Philippines as a middle-aged couple make a little on the side selling drugs but decide to give it up because of the danger only for their addict son to go missing.

Taiwan

fish out of water

  • A Fish out of Water – A young boy becomes fixated on the idea of finding his “past parents” in the debut feature from Lai Kuo-An.
  • The Great Buddha+ – an extension to director Huang Hsin-Yao’s 2014 short, The Great Buddha+ follows two security guards as they spy on their womanising boss for kicks but find out something they were not supposed to know.

Thailand

samui osng still one

  • Samui Song – the highly anticipated return of Last Life in the Universe’s Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Samui Song is a violent thriller in which a soap opera actress plots to escape her wealthy husband who has been brainwashed by a cult.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from 7 – 17th October. The complete festival programme as well as full information on all the films can be found on the festival’s official website, and you can keep up with all the latest details through the official Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and YouTube channels.

A Day Makes UK Premiere at Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival

A Day posterCho Sun-ho’s time-loop drama A Day (하루, Haroowill make its UK premiere at Nottingham’s genre leaning film festival, Mayhem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJun-young, a successful surgeon but less than successful father, witnesses a car accident involving his daughter only to wake up as if it were just a dream. Realising that the events of his dream are proceeding as he saw them, Jun-young tries to save his daughter only to fail and have the exact same events repeat themselves over and over again until he meets another man in the same position who has been trying to save the life of the other victim. Together, the two men unite to save the lives of their loved ones and escape the nightmarish temporal loop in which they are both trapped.

Fantasia film festival trailer

A Day screens at 1.45pm on 14th October.

The festival will also play host to Sion Sono’s surreal sci-fi/horror odyssey Tag which receives a long awaited UK DVD/blu-ray release from Eureka this November.

tagTag screens on 14th October at 12pm. Check out our review of the film here.

Mayhem runs at Nottingham’s Broadway cinema from 12th – 15th October, 2017. You can find the complete lineup as well as ticketing information on the official website and you can also keep up with all the latest festival news via the official Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Camera Japan Announces Complete Programme for 2017

At the terrace テラスにてCamera Japan, the premier Dutch showcase for Japanese film, returns for 2017 with more than 40 films screening in two cites over two weekends – Rotterdam 21st – 24th September, and Amsterdam from 29th September to 1st October. With so many films on offer it get can a bit overwhelming, so here’s a handy list broken down by genre and/or medium.

Current Cinema – Indie / Arthouse

bangkok-nitesAs usual Camera Japan has brought together some of the most eagerly anticipated recent independent and arthouse features including the latest from festival darlings Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Miwa Nishikawa, to Naoko Ogigami’s family comedy/drama Close-Knit, sleeper Cannes hit Oh Lucy! and a host of soon to be classics from up and coming directors.

  • At the Terrace – Adapting his own stage play, Kenji Yamauchi’s At the Terrace is a scathing satirical comedy charting the gradual disintegration of the bourgeoisie over the course of one very awkward post dinner party drinking session. Review. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 2.30pm, 23rd Sept. 5pm
  • Bangkok Nites – The latest from Saudade director Katsuya Tomita who also stars in the film, Bangkok Nites is a sideways look at the continuing effects of colonialism. ReviewRotterdam only, Sept. 24, 1pm. Producers will be present for a Q&A.
  • Before We Vanish – Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns to the sci-fi genre for the first time since 2013’s Real with an idiosyncratic take on the alien invasion movie. Screening with Dutch subtitles only at Rotterdam 21st Sept, 9.30pm / 23rd Sept. 7pm , and at Amsterdam 30th Sept., 7pm. 
  • Close-Knit – Less surreal than her previous films, Ogigami’s heartwarming family drama follows a neglected 11 year old girl who is taken in by her uncle and his transgender girlfriend, Rinko (played by Toma Ikuta). ReviewScreening at Rotterdam 21st Sept. 7.30pm, 22nd Sept. 4.30pm, and Amsterdam 29th Sept. 7pm.
  • Eriko Pretended – Eriko can’t bring herself to admit to her family that her career as an actress has stalled but discovers a new talent after a trip home for a funeral introduces her to the world of professional mourning in the debut feature from Akiyo Fujimura. Screening at Rotterdam only – Sept. 22, 2.30pm, and Sept. 24, 7.15pm.
  • Going the Distance – Asahi is about to marry the love of his life when a face from the past reappears and threatens to come between them. Forced to choose between his wife-to-be, and a “brother” who grew up with him in the same orphanage, Asahi’s life reaches a crisis point in this comedy/drama debut from Yujiro Hamamoto. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 4.30pm, 22nd Sept. 4.45pm
  • Hello/Goodbye – A young girl accidentally discovers her classmate is pregnant whilst trying to steal something from her bag leading the pair to encounter an old woman with alzheimer’s and a mystery she needs solving in this indie feature from Takeo Kikuchi. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 3pm, 24th Sept. 3pm
  • Her Love Boils Bathwater – Capturing Dad’s Ryota Nakano takes a good look at mum in this heartbreaking comedy/drama which stars Rie Miyazawa as a long suffering wife and mother who learns she has a terminal illness and decides to mend her fractured family while she still can. ReviewScreening at Rotterdam 24th Sept., 12.30pm, and Amsterdam 1st Oct. 12.30pm.
  • Journey of the Tortoise – First time feature director Tadashi Nagama draws inspiration from his own relationship with his father as a boy, his dad, and the pet turtle, join an uncle and his fiancée for an anarchic cross country road trip. Screening at Rotterdam only – 21st Sept. 10.15, 24th Sept. 5pm.
  • Kuro – Directed by Joji Koyama and Noriko Tujiko, Kuro is the story of a Japanese woman living in Paris who works in a karaoke bar and cares for her paraplegic lover at home. When a mysterious Mr. Ono arrives, he threatens to destabilise their previously settled lives. Screening at Rotterdam only 23rd Sept., 8.30pm & 10.30pm. The directors will be present for a Q&A.
  • Life and Death on the Shore – Hikari Mitsushima stars in a tale of wartime romance. Part of the festival’s Kyushu focus. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 22nd Sept. 7pm.
  • The Long Excuse – Miwa Nishikawa’s adaptation of her own novel examines the destructive effects of chronic insecurity as a self centred writer loses his wife in an accident but feels nothing only to have his emotional walls knocked down by the grieving family of her best friend. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 21st Sept. 4.45, 23rd Sept. 7.15, and at Amsterdam on 30th Sept., 12.30.
  • Love and Other Cults – Eiji Uchida returns with another tale of wandering youth as a young girl raised in a cult craves real love but struggles to find it in an increasingly strange world. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 21st Sept., 5pm, 22nd Sept. at midnight, and Amsterdam 29th Sept. at midnight. Director Eiji Uchida will be attending the Amsterdam screening for a Q&A.
  • Noise – 12 years after a spate of random stabbings in Akihabara three ordinary people attempt to deal with the longterm effects in Yusaku Matsumoto’s debut feature. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 24th Sept., 7pm. Director and members of the crew will be present for a Q&A.
  • Oh Lucy! – A sleeper hit in Cannes, Atsuko Hirayanagi’s debut is the story of a lonely middle-aged office lady who decides to spice up her life with English lessons but discovers a whole new side of herself when the charismatic teacher (played by Josh Hartnett) gives her a blonde wig and the alter-ego Lucy. Screening once only at Rotterdam, Sept. 24, 12.30pm. 
  • Over the Fence – The last of three films inspired by novels of Yasushi Sato, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence is a tale of new beginnings and the courage it takes to find them. Review. Screening at Rotterdam, 24th Sept. 4.35pm, and Amsterdam 9.30pm.
  • Parks – Set in Inokashira park, Natsuki Seta’s charming drama centres on three youngsters who bond through the discovery of a tape featuring an unfinished lovesong.  Review. Screening at Rotterdam only, Sept. 23, 14.30.
  • Poolsideman – A timely look at a life of quiet desperation from Hirobumi Watanabe. Review. Screening once only at Rotterdam, Sept. 23, 9.45pm.
  • Rage – The latest from Lee Sang-il, Rage is a tale of three possible murderers, doubt, suspicion and violence. ReviewScreening at Rotterdam 22nd September, 9.30pm, 23rd Sept. 9.30pm, and Amsterdam 30th Sept. 9.30pm.
  • Same Old Same Old – Rikiya Imaizumi’s reflexive drama is the story of a director in over his head, a grieving son, and an actress trying to cover up the suicide of her boyfriend. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. 4.30pm.
  • The Sower – A powerful film about guilt, responsibility, and redemption, The Sower is a painful tale of a family’s disintegration when a long lost brother returns home from a mental hospital only to encounter a family tragedy. Review. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 22nd Sept., 9.45pm.
  • Seto & Utsumi – Tatsushi Omori’s adaptation of the popular manga is a predictably charming affair comprised of brief vignettes as the two high school boys of the title chat their days away hanging out on the way home from school. Review. Screening at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept., 5pm, 22nd Sept. 5pm.

Current Cinema – Mainstream / Genre

death note light up the new world stillOf course there’s plenty of blockbuster fare on offer too from the latest in the Death Note franchise to cat-centric dramas, tales of Shogi playing geniuses, splatter horror, and one family’s strange journey to familial harmony when all the lights go off.

  • Death Note – Premier blockbuster director Shinsuke Sato brings his typically polished visuals to this spin-off of the main series following officers from the Death Note Taskforce as they face the increasingly global Death Note threat. Review. Screening at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. 9.30pm and Amsterdam, 1st October 2.45pm.
  • Meatball Machine Kodoku – Yoshihiro Nishimura returns with another splatter fuelled assault on the senses. Screening at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. at midnight, and Amsterdam, 30th Sept. at midnight.
  • Neko Atsume House – Adaptation of the popular smartphone game in which a blocked writer moves to the country for inspiration but finds his life overtaken by cats! Screening at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept., 7.30pm, and 23rd Sept. 2.30pm. 
  • Neko Ninja – A young ninja completes his first mission but gains an unexpected follower in the form of a pudgy cat he thinks might be the reincarnation of his long lost father. Screening at Rotterdam on 23rd Sept. 5pm, 24th Sept. 10pm, and Amsterdam on 30th Sept. 3pm.
  • Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow – A biopic of the real life shogi player who battled serious and life long illness to reach the top of the shogi tree. Review. Screening at Rotterdam on 22nd Sept., 7pm, and Amsterdam on 1st Oct. 7.30pm.
  • The Sun – Yu Irie’s sci-fi/horror takes place in a world in which vampirism rules the Earth and the only path to survival is to become a vampire. Screening at Rotterdam, 24th Sept. 9.30pm, and Amsterdam 1st Oct., 9.45pm.
  • Survival Family – Shinobu Yaguchi returns with another ensemble comedy following one Tokyo family’s attempts to survive in a post-electric world. Review. Screening at Rotterdam on 24th Sept. 7.30pm and 30th Sept, 4.45pm.

Classic Cinema

blind woman's curse stillAlongside latest releases, Camera Japan has also brought together some classic movies from the recent and not so recent past.

  • Blind Woman’s Curse – Starring Meiko Kaji this ero-guro tale of female revenge features some very strange black cat/tattoo action. Screening at Rotterdam only, 22nd Sept., 10pm. Introduced by Midnight Eye’s Tom Mes whose Meiko Kaji book, Unchained Melody, is released on 11th Sept.
  • Eureka – Screening as part of the Kyushu focus, Shinji Aoyama’s 3.5hr masterpiece from 2000 stars Koji Yakusho as a bus driver attempting to live with the effects of a hijacking. Screening once only at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept. 7pm. 
  • Naoko: Winning Runners – Also part of the Kyushu focus, this 2008 sports movie follows a young man hoping to fulfil his father’s legacy by competing in the marathon relay race with his high school team. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 22nd Sept. 4.30pm
  • A Page of Madness – Teinosuke Kinugasa’s landmark silent screens with live score from Bruno Ferro Xavier da Silva. Screening at Rotterdam 24th Sept. 7.30pm.

Documentary

boys for saleDocumentary fans also have a lot to look forward to with three very different explorations of modern Japanese life.

  • Boys for Sale – Produced by Ian Thomas Ash (A2-B-C, -1287), Boys for Sale mixes animation and talking heads interviews to explore the lives of the (mostly straight) young men working in the sex industry in Tokyo’s Shinjuku 2-chome. Screening at Rotterdam only, Sept. 22, 7.30pmProducer Ian Thomas Ash will present for a Q&A. 
  • Mother I’ve Pretty Much Forgotten Your Face – fascinating documentary following Michiru Endo, the lead singer of one of Japan’s most high profile ’80s punk bands, The Stalin, still on tour at 60 when the Great East Japan Earthquake strikes. Screening at Rotterdam only , Sept. 24, 9.30pm.
  • Start Line – Ayako Imamura, who was born deaf, charts her long distance bike ride. Screens at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept. 9.30pm.  

Anime

napping princess stillThere’s no shortage of animation either with four new releases including the award winning In this Corner of the World, and Studio Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke.

  • Ancien and the Magic Tablet (AKA Napping Princess) – The latest from Ghost in the Shell’s Kenji Kamiyama, this family friendly, sci-fi infused tale follows a young girl’s attempt to stop an international conspiracy from within her dreamworld. Review. Screening at Rotterdam only, 21st Sept. 7.15, 22nd 7.15pm.  
  • In This Corner of the World – Award winning animation from the director of Mai Mai Miracle following the early life of a young woman of Hiroshima during the war. Review. Screening at Rotterdam 22nd Sept., 2pm, 23rd Sept. 4pm, and at Amsterdam on 1st Oct. 5.15pm.
  • Princess Mononoke – Classic Studio Ghibli animation features in the festival’s Kyushu focus. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 24th Sept. 5pm.
  • A Silent Voice – Heartrending tale of a girl with hearing difficulties and the boy who bullied her. Review. Screening once only at Rotterdam, 23rd Sept. at 7pm.
  • Your Voice – High school girl Natsuki is unsure what to do with the rest of her life until she wanders into a radio station and enjoys a stint as a DJ leading her to wonder if her grandmother’s stories of spirits from other worlds could really be true. Screening at Rotterdam only, 23rd September, 2pm, and 24th Sept, 3pm.

WARM-UP @ WORM: concert + movie

GUI AIUEO-S A STONE FROM ANOTHER MOUNTAIN TO POLISH YOUR OWN STONE stillTrippy psychedelic road movie, Gui aiueo:S A Stone from Another Mountain to Polish Your Own Stone, produced by and starring Gui aiueo:S, will screen at WORM Rotterdam alongside a live performance from Krautrock band Minami Deutsch on 15th Sept. as a special warm-up event.

The festival will see two more live concerts by Yasuhito Arai and Noriko Tujiko whose film Kuro is also playing in the festival, as part of a series of special events including beer tasting, sencha and miso workshops, and the film brunch.

Full information on all the films as well as ticketing links can be found on the official website. You can also keep up to date with all the latest news via Camera Japan’s official Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram channel.

Follow our ongoing coverage and find reviews for all the films covered so far in our Camera Japan 2017 category.

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl Opens Kotatsu 2017

The Night is Short posterWales’ premier showcase for Japanese animation returns this September with some of the best in recent anime plus events and special guests. This year the festival runs for three bumper days at Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff (29th September – 1st October) before moving on to Aberystwyth Arts Centre for one day only, October 28th 2017.

Cardiff

night is short still 2Opening the festival will be the latest from Tatami Galaxy’s Masaaki Yuasa – The Night is Short, Walk on Girl in which a dark haired girl roams the dark city streets while her secret admirer waits patiently for an opportunity to reveal himself, little knowing that the dark haired girl feels exactly the same way…

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 29th September 6pm.


Hirune still 1Next up on Saturday 30th, Napping Princess sees the return of Ghost in the Shell SAC’s Kenji Kamiyama with a much more family friendly effort than might be expected. Regular teenage girl Kotone is sleeping her life away but her final summer vacation will provide unexpected adventures as she sets out to save the Tokyo Olympics from becoming an international disaster whilst solving the long buried mystery of her family origins. Review.

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 30th September, 11am

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 28th October, 11am


your name stillThis one likely needs no introduction, but for the uninitiated Makoto Shinkai’s latest effort, Your Name, is a body swapping tale of star crossed lovers which has a much happier conclusion than Shinkai’s generally melancholy fare. Review.

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 30th September, 4.15pm


genocidal organ stillThe third in a series of three feature animations inspired by the works of late science fiction author Project Itoh (the other two being Harmony and Empire of Corpses), Genocidal Organ is a cyberpunk infused tale of global conspiracies in which nefarious forces have decided genocide is an unavoidable human evil that they need to ensure is remains in the category of “terrible things happening far away”. Review.

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 30th September, 6.30pm

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 28th October, 3.35pm


Belladonna of Sadness 
© Cinelicious PicsProduced by Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto’s Belladonna of Sadness has been little seen since its 1973 release but a recent 4K restoration is helping to change that for the better so this psychedelic exploration of sex, witchcraft, and folklore can finally be properly appreciated. Review.

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 30th September, 9pm


silent voice still 1Sunday’s first offering is a heartrending story of friendship and redemption between a girl with hearing problems and the boy who mercilessly bullied her in childhood only to get a taste of his own medicine and intensely regret it. Read our review of A Silent Voice here.

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 1st October, 11am


pigtails stillProduction I.G. is one of the most well regarded animation studios currently in operation this and series of four shorts by different directors demonstrates its strengths and versatility.

  • Pigtails – directed by Yoshimi Itazu and adapted from the manga by Machiko Kyo.
  • Drawer Hobs – directed by Kazuchika Kise
  • Lil’ Spider Girl – directed by Toshihisa Kaiya
  • Kickheart – directed by Masaaki Yuasa

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 1st October, 2pm


mind game horizontalMasaaki Yuasa’s 2004 debut, Mind Game, will also be screened as the closing movie in Cardiff on 1st October. Adapted from a manga by Robin Nishi, the anime follows an aspiring mangaka, also named Nishi, who runs into his teenage crush only to find out she is about to marry someone else, gets mixed up with yakuza, goes all the way to heaven and back, and then gets trapped inside a whale where he meets God…

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 1st October, 5pm

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 28th October, 6.15pm


In addition to the films on offer, there will also be a selection of special events taking place across the weekend including:

  • Japanese Marketplace
  • Kotatsu Festival Stand
  • Kotatsu display where you can try out a kotatsu for real! (Saturday night only)
  • Super Tomato – Cardiff based retailer of retro games and otaku goods
  • Keep It Secret – Bristol based store specialising in all things cute. (Saturday only)
  • Cherry Slug – handmade artwork inspired by manga and anime
  • Iconic Toos – tatooist specialising in otaku designs

That’s in addition to a Manga Drawing Workshop at 1.30pm on Saturday with manga artist Asuka Bochanska Tanaka, the Neo Craft Animation – A Certain Japanese Stop-motion Animation masterclass with Professor Yuichi Ito of Tokyo National University of Arts Graduate School, and a Japanese calligraphy workshop at 3pm on Sunday 1st October.


Aberystwyth

sword art online ordinal scale stillFollowing a second screening of Napping Princess at 11am, the festival continues at Aberystwyth Arts Centre with a screening of the Sword Art Online movie, Ordinal Scale, which follows Kirito and co. into the latest game using the brand new Augma system.

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 28th October, 1.15pm


Sword Art Online will be followed by repeat screenings of Genocidal Organ (3.35pm) and Mind Game (6.15pm), and there will also be a raffle at 6pm!

Kotatsu 2017 runs at Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff from 29th September to 1st October and Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 28th October. Tickets are available from the respective box offices. You can find more information on all the films and the festival itself on the official website and you can keep up with all the latest news via the official Facebook Page and Twitter account.