Oh Lucy! To Open Raindance 2017

Oh Lucy still oneLondon’s Raindance International Film Festival returns from 20th September to 1st October 2017 with the best of recent independent cinema from across the world. East Asian titles have been thin on the ground for the past few years, but this time around Japan in particular is back with a vengeance.

oh lucy still 3The festival will open with Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Cannes sleeper hit Oh Lucy! which stars Shinobu Terajima as a 55 year old woman trapped in a boring office job who discovers a whole new side to herself after being given a blonde wig and the alternate identity of Lucy by an unorthodox English teacher (played by Josh Hartnett) whom she later becomes obsessed with.


boys for saleThe only feature documentary on the list, Boys for Sale takes a look at the young men who have sex with men for money in Tokyo’s red light district. Produced by frequent Raindance guest Ian Thomas Ash (A2-B-C, -1278), this innovative documentary mixes animation and straight to camera interviews to explore the various reasons why these young men have made a decision to work as “boys” and the nature of their lives in this hidden part of Tokyo nightlife.


ghost roads poster.jpgA haunted guitar amp promises a struggling musician everything he’s ever dreamed of in Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost Story!


junkhead still 1It has been centuries since humanity’s clones rebelled and went to live underground. Now an intrepid band of humans must venture into their world to investigate the the fate of the self exiled creatures in Takahide Hori’s impressive stop motion animation, Junk Head.


love and other cultsEiji Uchida’s Love and Other Cults receives its UK premiere at Raindance. The story of a young girl’s journey through cult devotee to mixed up kid and a life in the adult entertainment industry, Love and Other Cults is the latest Uchida/Third Window Films production. Review.


mukoku horizontal.jpgKazuyoshi Kumakiri (My Man, Sketches of Kaitan City, Antenna) returns with a tale of familial love and kendo in Mukoku as Go Ayano puts down his sword following a traumatic incident and proceeds to waste his life drinking and working as a security guard until a chance meeting with a talented high schooler shakes him out of his malaise.


noise posterYusaku Matsumoto’s Noise takes place eight years after a killing spree as three residents of Akihabara including the daughter of a murdered woman, an underground idol, and a delivery driver attempt to find meaning in their lives.


Perfect Revolution still one.jpgIn Junpei Matsumoto’s Perfect Revolution, Lily Franky plays a man with cerebral palsy who is an activist for the sexual rights of disabled people and falls in love with a sex worker who suffers from a personality disorder.


swaying mariko still 1Ordinary housewife Mariko is married to a younger man with whom she has a son, but Tomoharu is often away from home and she is beginning to believe he is having an affair. Meanwhile, her manager harasses her at work and the customers are constantly rude. Under such strains, Mariko’s perception of reality starts to disintegrate in Koji Segawa’s indie drama Swaying Mariko.


The foolish bird still 1.jpgThe only non-Japanese East Asian film on offer is Huang Ji & Ryuji Otsuka’s The Foolish Bird – a story of a “left behind child” forced to bring herself up in an unforgiving Chinese village.


The Raindance International Film Festival takes place at Vue West End from 20th September to 1st October and tickets are already on sale via the official website.

Love and Other Cults (獣道, Eiji Uchida, 2017)

love and other cultsEiji Uchida’s career has been marked by the stories of self defined outsiders trying to decide if they want to move towards or further away from the centre, but in his latest film Love and Other Cults ( 獣道, Kemonomichi), he seems content to let them linger on the margins. The title, neatly suggesting that perhaps love itself is little more than a ritualised set of devotional acts, sets us up for a strange odyssey through teenage identity shifting but where it sends us is a little more obscure as a still young man revisits his youthful romance only to find it as wandering and ill-defined as many a first love story and like many such tales, one ultimately belonging to someone else.

Our lovelorn hero and narrator, Ryota (Kenta Suga), observes the heroine from afar as he tells us her story, which is also his story in a sense. Ai (Sairi Itoh), a neglected child, drifts aimlessly in an uncaring world forever seeking a place to belong but finding no safe space to drop anchor. Ai’s mother, as drifting and aimless as her daughter, attempts to find salvation through religion but her quest for self-fulfilment drags her from one spiritual fad to the next all the while pulling little Ai along with her. The pair finally end up in a cult commune where Ai is a favourite of the leader – a Westerner called Lavi (Matthew Chozick) who preaches free love but only for himself.

Eventually, the cult is raided by the police, Lavi flees, and Ai is “rescued” but the next stage in her odyssey is no less disruptive than the last as she finds herself adrift in the mainstream world. Dropped into a regular high school, Ai tries to play the regular high school girl but can’t shake the cult member inside her. Semi-adopted by an ordinary family, her life gains some normalcy but it is short-lived and before long Ai finds herself in another sort of commune altogether before ending up in teenage prostitution followed by the porn industry.

If girls like Ai end up in AV, boys like Ryota end up in gangs. So it is that Ryota gets mixed up with two equally lost wannabe gangsters in Kenta (Antony) – an outsider by virtue of non-Japanese heritage, and the blond-headed Yuji (Kaito Yoshimura) who’s watched too many movies. Kenta is the de facto head of a little band of petty delinquent kids but he’s getting bored with gangster stuff and yearns for something more real while Yuji trails around after the lollipop sucking local chieftain (Denden). Ryota looks on casually without striking out in either direction, pining for Ai but either unwilling or unable to install himself as a permanent part of her reality.

As Ryota puts it, they’re all just looking for a place to belong. They don’t care where or what that place is, but what they long for is a sense of belonging born of owning their own identities. What may be a typical teenage problem of figuring oneself out takes on a larger dimension given the general instability of the world these youngsters find themselves in. Another in the long line of recent films losing faith with the family, Love and Other Cults finds no room for a familial solution to social woes. Ai has been so definitively let down that her very idea of family is so hopelessly warped as to permanently remove the possibility from her future.

Neglected in favour of her mother’s ongoing and inconclusive search for meaning, Ai’s major attachment is to unclear spirituality but even this becomes horribly misused thanks to her involvement with a shady cult. Having become the favourite of cult leader Lavi, Ai is used to trading herself for affection and security and so when she finds herself semi-adopted by the kindly family of a friend she attempts to use these same familial mechanisms to secure her position only to end up ruining the whole thing. Re-encountering Lavi (now an AV producer) again as an adult, Ai is still unable to see the way that she has been used and misused, quickly resuming her childhood role but without the spiritual pretence.

Ryota and Ai meander aimlessly outside of each other’s orbit, neither finding the place they feel they ought to be. Tellingly, the only real story which obeys narrative rules is that of depressed thug, Kenta, who finds an unlikely soul mate in a chance encounter with a photography loving deep-sea diver, Reika (Hanae Kan). Kenta and Reika are kindred spirits whose place to belong presents itself randomly and without warning yet is found all the same. There is no cult in this love, only mutual salvation. Ai and Ryota, however, are each trapped in their respective quests for fulfilment, disconnected, visible to each other only in brief, fragmented episodes and set to drift eternally yet always in search of a place to call home.


Love and Other Cults was screened as part of the 19th Udine Far East Film Festival.

Original trailer (English subtitles)