Over the Fence (オーバー・フェンス, Nobuhiro Yamashita, 2016)

over the fence posterNobuhiro Yamashita maybe best known for his laid-back slacker comedies, but he’s no stranger to the darker sides of humanity as evidenced in the oddly hopeful Drudgery Train or the heartbreaking exploration of misplaced trust and disillusionment of My Back Page. One of three films inspired by Hakodate native novelist Yasushi Sato (the other two being Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Sketches of Kaitan City and Mipo O’s The Light Shines Only There), Over the Fence (オーバー・フェンス) may be among the less pessimistic adaptations of the author’s work though its cast of lonely lost souls is certainly worthy both of Yamashita’s more melancholy aspects and Sato’s deeply felt despair.

Shiraiwa (Joe Odagiri) wants nothing to with anything or anyone. His wife has divorced him and he doesn’t see his child but he still wears his wedding ring and feels like a married man, unable to move on from the suspended end of his marriage. Having no place else to go, Shiraiwa has come back to his home town of Hakodate – a run down harbour town on the southern point of Hokkaido. For no particular reason other than it allows him to continue claiming unemployment benefits, he’s enrolled in a back to work scheme at a vocational school which teaches carpentry skills. Keeping himself aloof and explaining to anyone that takes an interest that he’s “human scum” and they’d best keep away, Shiraiwa is eventually convinced to go drinking with fellow student Dajima (Shota Matsuda) at his favourite bar.

Dajima introduces him to a much needed motivating factor in his life, a free spirited hostess girl with the strangely manly name of Satoshi (Yu Aoi). Satoshi argues loudly with customers in the street and dances with wild abandon in the middle of a room of quiet drinkers but on getting to know her better her rapidly changeable moods and occasional fits of violent despair speak of a more serious set of problems which Satoshi herself feels as ill equipped to deal with as Shiraiwa has been with the failure of his marriage.

Failure is something which hangs heavily over the film as the grey dullness and stagnant quality of the harbour town seems to bear out its inescapability. Unsurprisingly, in one sense, everyone at the vocational school is there because they’ve already failed at something else though some of them have more success with carpentry than others. Shiraiwa takes the work seriously even if he doesn’t really see himself heading into a career as a carpenter but there’s an additional reason why the environment is so oppressive and the uniforms not unlike those of a prison. Everyone is here because they have to be and they can’t leave until they’ve completed their re-education. The teacher at the school is always quick to remind everyone how it was when he worked in the field, only he never did, he’s a failure and a prideful fantasist too.

The other men face various problems from age and dwindling possibilities, to intense pressure to succeed leading to eventual mental breakdown, and trying to build a new life after leaving the yakuza, but Shiraiwa is unique among them in the degree to which he has internalised his essential failures. Having convinced himself that he’s “human scum” Shiraiwa wants everyone else to know too as he intentionally refuses any sense of forward motion or progress in his life to reassure himself that there is no possible future for him. Satoshi has convinced herself of something similar though her dissatisfaction and fear of rejection are deeply ingrained elements of her personality which are permanent personal attributes. Pushing Shiraiwa to address the questions he could not bear to face, she helps him towards a more positive position whilst simultaneously refusing any kind of reciprocal self analysis.

There’s an additional cruelty in Satoshi’s manic declaration that Shiraiwa drove his wife insane that’s in part self directed and raises a mutual anxiety between them as Shiraiwa may be falling for a woman who already feels herself to be “mad”. Satoshi’s strange impressions of birds and animals point to her closeness to nature and separation from conventional society but also perhaps of her fear of hurting other people through her periodic descents into self destructive cruelty. As caged as the animals in the zoo where she works, Satoshi decides to try letting them out only to discover that the eagle has no desire to leave his perch.

Hakodate becomes a kind of purgatory for all as they each attempt to conquer their demons and win the right to move on to better and brighter things. Melancholy as it is, Yamashita adds in touches of his trademark surrealist humour but even in its sadness Over the Fence leaves room for hope. Climaxing in an inconsequential yet extremely important softball game the meaning of the film’s title becomes apparent – you’ll never know if you can hit that ball over the fence until you find the courage to take a swing but you may never be able to find it without the help and support of a kindred spirit.

Over the Fence was screened as part of the Udine Far East Film Festival 2017.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

My Uncle (ぼくのおじさん, Nobuhiro Yamashita, 2016)

My-Uncle-p1Crazy uncles – the gift that keeps on giving. Following the darker edged Over the Fence as the second of two films released in 2016, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s My Uncle (ぼくのおじさん, Boku no Ojisan) pushes his subtle humour in a much more overt direction with a comic tale of a self obsessed (not quite) professor as seen seen through the eyes of his exasperated nephew. “Travels with my uncle” of a kind, Yamashita’s latest is a pleasantly old fashioned comedy spiced with oddly poignant moments as a wiser than his years nephew attempts to help his continually befuddled uncle navigate the difficulties of unexpected romance.

Yukio (Riku Ohnishi) has been given one of the most dreaded homework assignments ever – he’s supposed to write an essay about an “interesting” family member. This is a problem because Yukio thinks his family is very boring – dad is a civil servant, mum is a housewife, and his little sister is very frank but fails to generate sufficient interest for a whole essay. At this point, Yukio’s eccentric Uncle (Ryuhei Matsuda) enters the scene to enquire if the next edition of a children’s manga magazine has been released yet. Yukio says it has but he doesn’t buy it anymore because he’s grown out of it. Uncle hasn’t and wants him to buy one as soon as possible, convincing Yukio to pay 30% of the sticker price in the process. Annoyed, Yukio starts chronicling his Uncle’s strange adventures in school essay which proves a hit with his teacher (Erika Toda) who has accidentally become Uncle’s biggest fan.

Uncle lives with the family because he’s “a philosopher” which involves a lot of rejecting capitalist ideals and lying on his futon “thinking” or reading manga to give his brain a rest. Though Uncle’s brother and the father of the family (Kankuro Kudo) is content not to rock the boat, his wife (Shinobu Terajima) is often fed up with Uncle’s behaviour and is trying to set him up with proposals for an arranged marriage to get rid of him. Uncle is having none of it but is instantly smitten after being introduced to Japanese-Hawaiian photographer Eri (Yoko Maki). Eventually chasing her all the way to Hawaii with Yukio in tow, Uncle tries his luck with romance but only seems to get himself mixed up in even more unpredictable mischief.

There’s something so pleasantly innocent about My Uncle with its almost nostalgic tone and embrace of the surreality of everyday life. As seen through the eyes of Yukio, Uncle is not an entirely sympathetic figure at the beginning of the film. A part-time professor, Uncle talks big but spends his life rooting through ashtrays looking for smokable cigarette butts and collecting coupons to use for cheap dinners. Attempts to entertain the children backfire when he gifts them a very realistic plastic toy of a giant millipede though he does sometimes take Yukio out on “thinking expeditions” – usually on weekends and holidays to not be in the house to be shouted at by Yukio’s parents who are rapidly loosing patience with Uncle’s inability to progress in life.

If this were a series (and one could only hope) you could easily call the first instalment “Uncle Falls in Love” as Uncle finds himself finally thinking about settling down with the beautiful and outgoing Eri. Eri does seem to be among the few people who finds Uncle’s unusual qualities charming though he might need to rethink his plan of action if he’s finally to win her heart. Unfortunately, Eri is about to move back to Hawaii but invites Yukio and Uncle to visit. Uncle is desperate to go but as he can’t even afford to buy cigarettes, international travel is out. Undeterred, Uncle comes up with a number of labour intensive schemes to get there rather than actually working for the money but eventually makes it with Yukio’s help. There is, however, a rival on hand in Eri’s former boyfriend Shinsuke (Shigeyuki Totsugi) who is equally determined to win her back.

Life with Uncle may be one of constant exasperation but as Eri points out it’s never boring. Whether he’s getting himself arrested for accidentally buying weed or making up wild stories about himself in a misguided attempt to impress people, Uncle lives on a different plane of existence. Yukio reflects on all of this with a world weariness worthy of a 70 year old man but eventually comes to a kind of grudging affection for his silly old Uncle who is quite clearly setting himself up for a fall even if he has his heart in the right place. Yamashita mixes in poignant moments such as a reflective look over Pearl Harbour which gives rise to a discussion of life as a Hawaiian citizen of Japanese descent during the war, but broadly the tone is a bright one of zany humour and ironic one liners. Hilariously funny in a gentle, old fashioned way, My Uncle is Yamashita in full on comedy mode but all the better for it even as he leaves us desperate to find out what other strange adventures befall Uncle in the continuing saga of his existence.

My Uncle was screened as part of the Udine Far East Film Festival 2017.

Original trailer (no subtitles)

Scoop! (Hitoshi One, 2016)

scoop!Hitoshi One has a history of trying to find the humour in an old fashioned sleazy guy but the hero of his latest film, Scoop!, is an appropriately ‘80s throwback complete with loud shirt, leather jacket, and a mop of curly hair. Inspired by a 1985 TV movie written and directed by Masato Harada, Scoop! is equal parts satire, exposé and tragic character study as it attempts to capture the image of a photographer desperately trying to pretend he cares about nothing whilst caring too much about everything.

Shizuka (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a man out of time. Once the best photojournalist on his paper, he’s ridden the waves of a changing industry and become a high earning freelance paparazzo. Shizuka’s nights are spent in all of the fashionable if occasionally squalid drinking holes of the city in which the elites of the entertainment world attempt to disappear. Sadako (Yo Yoshida), the editor of Scoop! – a once proud publication now a seedy scandal rag, worries about her old friend, his debts, and his legacy. Offering to pay him well above the going rate for anything useable, she saddles him with the latest new recruit – Nobi (Fumi Nikaido), a naive young woman dressing in the bold childhood nostalgia inspired fashion trends of Harajuku. As might be assumed the pair do not hit it off but gradually a kind of closeness develops as Nobi gets into the thrill of the paparazzo chase.

In keeping with his inspiration, One shoots with a very ‘80s aesthetic of a city bathed in neon and moving to the beat of electropop and synth strings. Grainy and grungy, the images are seedy as is the world they capture though this is the Tokyo of the present day, not the bubble era underground. Shizuka claims his major inspiration came from the famous war photographer Robert Capa though now he can’t even remember if he really meant to become a photographer at all. Chasing cheating celebrities and exposing the odd politician for the kind of scandal that sells newspapers is all Shizuka thinks he’s good for, any pretence of journalistic integrity or the “people have a right to know” justification was dropped long ago.

Sadako, however, has more of a business head than her colleagues and is starting to think that Scoop! could be both a serious news outlet and nasty tabloid full of gravure shots and shocking tales of the rich and famous. Getting Shizuka to mentor Nobi is an attempt at killing to two birds with one stone – unite the plucky rookie with the down on his luck veteran for a new kind of reporting, and help Shizuka return to his better days by paying off those massive debts and getting his self esteem back.

Unfortunately Shizuka is his own worst enemy, hanging around with his strange friend Chara-Gen (Lily Franky) who is intermittently helpful but a definite liability. The world of the newspaper is certainly a sexist one – Sadako and Nobi seem to be the only two women around and the banter is distinctly laddish. An ongoing newsroom war leaves Sadako lamenting that the men only think about their careers and promotions rather than the bigger picture while the suggestion that she may win the position of editor has other colleagues bemusedly asking if a woman has ever helmed such a high office. The men ask each other for brothel recommendations and pass sexist comments back and fore amongst themselves with Shizuka trying to out do them all even going so far as to put down the new girl by describing her as “probably a virgin”.

Sadako’s plan begins to work as Shizuka and Nobi become closer, she becoming the kind of reporter who files the story no matter what and he finally agreeing to work on a more serious case. Having spent so long believing everything’s pointless, Shizuka’s reawakening maybe his undoing as a noble desire to help a friend who is so obviously beyond help leads to unexpected tragedy. Nevertheless, the presses keep rolling. A throwback in more ways than one, One’s 80s inspired tale of disillusioned reporters and mass media’s circulation numbers obsessed race to the bottom is all too modern. Unexpectedly melancholy yet often raucously funny, Scoop! is an old fashioned media satire but one with genuine affection for the embattled newsroom as it tries to clean up its act.

Scoop! was screened as part of the Udine Far East Film Festival 2017

Original trailer (no subtitles)

Close-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは, Naoko Ogigami, 2017)

close knit posterWhile studying in the US, director Naoko Ogigami encountered people from all walks of life but on her return to Japan was immediately struck by the invisibility of the LGBT community and particularly that of transgender people. Close-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは,  Karera ga Honki de Amu Toki wa) is her response to a still prevalent social conservatism which sometimes gives rise to fear, discrimination and prejudice. Moving away from the quirkier sides of her previous work, Ogigami nevertheless opts for a gentle, warm approach to this potentially heavy subject matter, preferring to focus on positivity rather than dwell on suffering.

11 year old Tomo (Rinka Kakihara) is home alone, again. Her mother rolls in late, dead drunk, and promptly flops down onto the futon next to Tomo’s still in her work clothes. A note left the next day explains that Tomo’s mother has quit her job and won’t be coming home for a while. This is not the first time she’s done this and the money she’s left is at least enough for a train ticket to visit uncle Makio (Kenta Kiritani). When Tomo slaps a collection of manga down in front of him at the bookstore where he works, Makio immediately realises what’s going on and is both infuriated with his sister and glad to take his niece in for a while until her mother comes to her senses.

There’s one potential problem. Makio now has a live-in girlfriend only she’s not quite what Tomo might be expecting. On meeting Rinko (Toma Ikuta), Tomo is indeed shocked but is soon won over by Rinko’s warm and loving nature. Rinko is a transgender woman who’s experienced her share of hardships in life but finally found fulfilment in her relationship with Makio though she has a lot of love to give and would dearly love a child of her own.

Used to being left to her own devices, Tomo is a tough and resourceful child but also one with a thick protective shell. Unused to being mothered, Tomo finds Rinko’s attempts to reach out to her difficult to bear, cycling back and forth through a pattern of affection and rejection. Where her mother left her only store bought onigiri (which she has come to hate) and cash, Rinko makes beautiful character bentos complete with octopus frankfurters and adorable panda faces. So touched is Tomo by this gesture that she can’t quite bring herself to eat it and eventually makes herself ill by finally deciding to enjoy it long after it’s past its best.

Nevertheless even if Tomo comes to bond with Rinko, there are still those who don’t approve of her existence. Tomo has a, well, not quite friend at school, Kai, who is somewhat ostracised by the other children who call him “gay” and write homophobic slurs on the classroom blackboard. Tomo, whilst sometimes hanging out with Kai who lives near to her outside of school, refuses to have anything to do with him in class lest she be rendered guilty by association. Growing closer to Rinko, Tomo also comes to an acceptance of and willingness to fight for Kai who has confided in her about his crush on another boy in their class. Kai’s mother (Eiko Koike), however, is not so understanding and so when she catches sight of Tomo in the supermarket with Rinko she offers to save her from the “weirdo” and later bans Kai from hanging out with his only friend in case he somehow catches “weirdness” from their atypical family setup. This attitude of hers eventually has potentially tragic consequences for her young son, left with nothing other than the prospect of maternal and later societal rejection eased only by Tomo’s firm insistence that there’s nothing wrong with him at all.

Unlike Kai’s mother, Rinko’s instantly understood and remained fully supportive of her child even whilst hauled into school for an explanation of why “Rintaro” has been skipping P.E.. Rinko’s mother not only goes out and buys lacy bras for her daughter, but even knits her a pair of fluffy pink breasts so she won’t feel so depressed about not developing in the same way as all the other girls. Tomo’s mother has a lot of problems of her own but many of these stem back to her own upbringing, unintentionally threatening to pass on some of these same qualities to her own daughter as she allows her to feel just as worthless and unloved as her mother did her. Yet, Ogigami’s camera remains resolutely unjudgemental in trying to understand each of these various facets of motherhood from the immense maternal love of Rinko as it finally finds an outlet in Tomo to the far less positive image of Kai’s mother who presumably thinks she’s doing the best for her son in trying to prevent him veering from the norm but only succeeds in making him feel his life is not worth living.

The title of the film, as grandly punned as it is, refers not just to the quickening family bonds among this idealised yet unusual family but also to Rinko’s favourite method of stress relief – knitting. Like the cooking she is often seen providing for the family, Rinko’s knitting is also largely about warmth in making something for a particular person which is tailor made to keep them warm in the cold, but it also works as a multilayered metaphor as she brings people together, binding them tightly with her own wamth and generosity of spirit. Rather than fighting back with angry words (or well aimed dish soap as a provoked Tomo eventually does), Rinko channels her frustrations into her knitting, using them to create something positive rather allowing negativity to overwhelm her. Ogigami’s film seems to want to do the same, arguing for tolerance, understanding, and acceptance as a pathway to a better world even if it’s clear the road is long and we’re not so far along it as we should be.

Close-Knit was screened as part of the Udine Far East Film Festival 2017

There’s also an interesting interview with director Naoko Ogigami and producer Kumi Kobata in the Nikkei Asian Review in which they discuss the casting of actor Toma Ikuta.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

The City Of Betrayal (裏切りの街, Daisuke Miura, 2016)

city of betrayalWhat is it that makes one person betray another? Following Love’s Whirlpool, playwright and Be My Baby author Daisuke Miura returns to the world of messy modern love with a tale ridden with infidelity and the impossibility of trust. Despite being in outwardly successful relationships, the central characters find themselves seeking something, trying to eclipse some element of dissatisfaction which is more with themselves than with their partners by burying it in a meaningless affair which only becomes less meaningless as time goes on. Formerly a TV drama now recut for the big screen The City of Betrayal (裏切りの街, Uragiri no Machi) is a melancholy and contemplative piece but one which shares Miura’s rather depressing view of romance with its inherent difficulties and contradictions.

Yuichi (Sosuke Ikematsu) is a young man with a part-time job he never bothers to go to and a successful girlfriend, Satomi (Eriko Nakamura), who is content to pay all the bills and even give him pocket money to out drinking with his friends. Bored at home, Yuichi checks porn sites and chats on a meet up board for casual sex. When he sees a message from “Tomo” popup wondering if anyone nearby is up for some no strings fun, he jumps right on it. Yuichi tells “Tomo” that he works in mass communications and reassures her that he’s not all that bad looking so there’s nothing to worry about.

“Tomo” claimed to be 30 and in the fashion business, but really she’s Tomoko Hashimoto (Shinobu Terajima), a 40 year old housewife who is convinced her husband has been having an affair. Tomoko is not unhappy with Koji (Mitsuru Hirata) – a salaryman of a similar age to herself, he’s a good man, considerate and well mannered if a little dull. Like Yuichi and Satomi, Tomoko and Koji enjoy a full relationship and get on pretty well even if there are the usual little niggles hiding beneath the cheery facade.

Despite having met up for casual sex, the start of Yuichi and Tomoko’s affair is a slow one in which Tomoko originally changes her mind, aware of the large age difference between herself and Yuichi and afraid it would put him off. Spending time together just as friends, the pair grow closer before heading into a love hotel for an experience which is not altogether successful. Still, they continue to meet up at regular intervals behind their partners’ backs.

The cheating and the subterfuge doesn’t sit well with either of them, but their secret affair fulfils needs which weren’t being met elsewhere. Neither Yuichi or Tomoko is particularly unhappy in their relationships but each were in their own way deeply unhappy. Yuichi’s masculine pride is hurt by his girlfriend’s status as the breadwinner while he cannot seem to get his act together, find a job, and make a success of himself. Later on he tells Tomoko that part of the reason he liked spending time with her was that she never scolded him for being the way he is, she just accepted him at face value. Tomoko by contrast, was perhaps looking either for revenge against her possibly adulterous, sometimes neglectful husband or a something more straightforward than her slightly strange marital arrangements. Though Koji is generally attentive and a goodhearted, kind person his ministrations sometimes have the whiff of manipulation and Tomoko has reasons to be suspicious of his ongoing friendship with someone called “Tamura” from “work” whom no one else at work seems to know.

In actuality it turns out that there are no faithful relationships, as one character puts it “there are many truths”. A man can love his wife and his mistress and that’s not necessarily a contradiction, much as it might seem so to the accidentally adulterous Yuichi. Despite the bond generated by their shared loneliness, the relationship between Yuichi and Tomoko remains casual, in one sense, though Yuichi eventually contemplates leaving his girlfriend and suggesting Tomoko leave her husband to allow them to start a new life together, probably knowing that it’s impossible. A lengthy post-credits sequence seems to provide a melancholy if reassuring coda as the lovers return to their respective spheres each having achieved a kind of “success”, though perhaps are no more fulfilled in themselves than they had been before. Another despairing look at modern love from Miura, The City of Betrayal is human at heart, rather than moralistic, arguing for the mature view whilst at the same time offering an ambivalent defence of conventionality.

The City of Betrayal was screened as part of the Udine Far East Film Festival 2017.

Original trailer (no subtitles)

Survival Family (サバイバルファミリー, Shinobu Yaguchi, 2017)

survival family posterModern life is full of conveniences, but perhaps they come at a price. Shinobu Yaguchi has made something of a career out of showing the various ways nice people can come together to overcome their problems, but as the problem in Survival Family (サバイバルファミリー) is post-apocalyptic dystopia, being nice might not be the best way to solve it. Nevertheless, the Suzukis can’t help trying as they deal with the cracks already present in their relationships whilst trying to figure out a way to survive in the new, post-electric world.

Receiving a package from grandpa fills the Suzukis with horror more than gratitude. Mum Mitsue (Eri Fukatsu) can’t bring herself to cut the head off a fish and the sight of the giant bug that crawls out of the lettuce is just too much to bear. Her teenage daughter, Yui (Wakana Aoi), is not very excited either, tapping her smartphone with her fake nails, while her son Kenji (Yuki Izumisawa) spends all his time alone in his room with headphones permanently attached. Mr. Suzuki, Yoshiyuki (Fumiyo Kohinata) – the family patriarch, is a typical salaryman, obsessed with work and often in bed early.

All that changes one day when Yoshiyuki’s alarm clock does not go off. There’s been a power outage – nothing works, not the TV, not the phone, not even the tower block’s elevator. Being the salaryman champ he is, Yoshiyuki tries to make it into to work in other ways but the power’s out across the city and there’s nothing to be done. Everyone is sure the power will come back on soon, but days pass with the consequences only increasing as supermarket shelves become bare and water frighteningly scarce. After his boss decides to take his chances in the mountains and a neighbour dies as a direct result of the ongoing power shortage, Yoshihyuki decides to take the family on the road to find Mitsue’s country bumpkin father in the hope that he will have a better idea of how to survive this brave new world.

Yaguchi is quick to remind us all of the ways electricity defines our lives, even if we’ve begun to forget them. Not only is it a question of mobile phones being out and lifts being out of order, but gas appliances are also electric ignition as are the pumps which drive the water system. So used to the constant stream of electricity, no one quite realises what its absence means hence Yoshiyuki’s big idea is to get a plane from Haneda airport. Ridiculous as it may seem, he’s not the only one to have underestimated the part electricity plays in flight and the aviation industry as the airport is swamped by people trying to escape the rapidly disintegrating city. Credit cards no longer work leading to long checkout lines as the old ladies with their abacuses make a startling return to checkouts while bemused shoppers attempt to use the ATM machine to get more cash.

Cash itself still has worth, at least for a time. Eventually the barter system takes over as food and water become top price commodities. A very flash looking man tries to trade genuine Rolex gold watch and later the keys to his Maserati for food but is roundly informed that none of his hard won prizes is worth anything in this new back to basics era. Thanks to Mitsue’s housewife skills of frugality and haggling, the family are able to get themselves a small stockplie of resources but find themselves tested when the less fortunate ask them for help.

The crisis brings out both the best and the worst in humanity. As the family make their escape from the city on a series of bicycles, they pass a succession of salesmen all upping the price of bottled water by 100% each time. Profiteering is rife as the unscrupulous procure ordinary foodstuffs to be sold for vast amounts of money. Yet the Suzukis rarely find themselves on the wrong side of trickery and even encounter a few kindly souls willing to help them on their journey such as a gang of cycle wear clad survival experts and a very forgiving farmer who takes the family in when they help themselves to one of his escaped pigs (a sequence which allows Yaguchi to go on another Swing Girls-style pig chase only without the slo-mo and classical music).

Forced to reconnect, the family become closer, gradually coming to know and accept each other whilst finding new and unknown talents. Living simply and harmoniously has its charms, ones that don’t necessarily need to disappear if the power ever comes back on. The only certainty is that you can’t survive alone, and who can you count on if you can’t count on family?

Screened as the opening night movie of the Udine Far East Film Festival 2017.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

Survival Family to Open Udine Far East Film Festival 2017!

udine 19 bannerThe premier European showcase for East Asian cinema, Udine Far East Film Festival, has now announced the complete programme for the 19th edition set to take place from 21 – 29th April, 2017.

There are a total of 83 movies in the lineup this year from Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam including narrative, documentary, brand new and classic films.

Survival family landscaepThe festival will open with the latest film from Shinobu Yaguchi (Water Boys, Swing Girls, Wood Job) – Survival Family (サバイバルファミリー) in which an ordinary Tokyo family decides to escape from the city following a long term power outage.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

Herman Yau’s Shock Wave (拆彈專家) – a HK thriller starring Andy Lau will close the festival on April 29

shock wave posterTake a look at Andy in action in the official trailer (English subtitles)

Other highlights include Feng Xiaogang’s I Am Not Madame Bovary (我不是潘金莲, Wǒ Búshì Pān Jīnlián)

I-Am-Not-Madame-Bovary-posterStarring Fang Bingbing, this story of a small town woman taking on the Chinese legal system after her husband falsely accuses her of having an affair has been picking up awards all along the international festival trail.

Trailer (English subtitles)

The latest film from Naoko Ogigami (Kamome Diner, Megane) Close-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは, Karera ga Honki de Amu Toki wa)

close knit posterA heartwarming tale of a little girl who takes refuge at the home of her uncle and his transgender girlfriend, Close-Knit marks a welcome return to the warm and quirky Ogigami world.

Trailer (English subtitles)

Another director making a welcome return is Nobuhiro Yamashita whose two 2016 releases both arrive at the festival.

my uncle posterMy Uncle (ぼくのおじさん, Boku no Ojisan) stars Ryuhei Matsuda as an eccentric philosophy lecturer who leeches off his nephew’s family until he unexpectedly meets a woman, falls in love, and follows her to Hawaii!

Trailer (no subtitles)

Yamashita’s Over the Fence (オーバー・フェンス) is also featured in the festival

over the fence posterAmong Yamashita’s more serious films, Over the Fence stars Joe Odagiri as a broken hearted young man who returns to his hometown after his wife leaves him.

Trailer (English subtitles)

There will also be a special screening of one of Yamashita’s earliest efforts, Ramblers – you can check out our review here but this tale of two not quite friends lost in the mountains is filled with Yamashita’s trademark laidback style and laconic humour.

Hitoshi One’s Scoop! which scooped up a few awards of its own will also be a part of the Japanese strand.

scoop!Loosely based on a 1985 film by Masato Harada, Scoop! Stars Masaharu Fukuyama as an amoral paparazzo.

Trailer (no subtitles)

Korean films on offer include The Last Princess, and Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned, both of which we’ve reviewed previously.

Park Kwang-hyun’s Fabricated City (조작된 도시, Jojakdwen Doshi) is set to bring some high-tech thrills to the cinema screen

fabricated city Ji Chang-wook plays a top gamer who suddenly finds himself trapped in a real world conspiracy when he is framed for a shocking crime.

Trailer (English subtitles)

Meanwhile fans of gothic horror can content themselves with Lim Dae-woong’s House of the Disappeared (시간위의 집,  Shiganwiui Jib)

House of the DisappearedThis mystery/thriller stars Kim Yunjin as a former housewife released from prison 25 years after her husband and son disappeared leaving her accused of a crime.

Trailer (English subtitles)

The festival will also be marking 20 years since the Hong Kong hand over with a selection of cinema hits released between 1997 – 2017. The new 4K restoration of Fruit Chan’s long neglected Made in Hong Kong is a definite highlight.

made in hong kongThere will also be a small strand of recent Chinese indie including Knife in the Clear Water (清水里的刀子) which we reviewed thanks to Festival Scope’s partnership with International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Restored classics include a screening of the late Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill, as well as three Philippine films from the ’70s and ’80s, Brocka’s Cain and Abel, De Leon’s Moments in a Stolen Dream, and O’Hara’s Three Years Without a God.

The full list of 83 movies includes:

Jailbreak, Jimmy HENDERSON, prison-martial arts-dark comedy, Cambodia 2017, International Premiere

CHINA  (6)
Duckweed, HAN Han, time-warp nostalgic drama, China 2017, International Festival Premiere
Hide and Seek, LIU Jie, class-struggle thriller, China 2016, European Premiere
I Am Not Madame Bovary, FENG Xiaogang, eternal lawsuit dramedy, China 2016, Italian Premiere
Mr. Zhu’s Summer, SONG Haolin, bitter-sweet school drama, China 2017, World Premiere
Someone to Talk to, LIU Yulin, divorce drama, China 2016, Italian Premiere
Soul on a String, ZHANG Yang, Tibetan-western road movie, China 2016, Italian Premiere (with Trento Film Festival)

Kung Fu Yoga, Stanley TONG, Jackie-Bollywood style-action comedy, China/HK /India 2017, Italian Premiere
Extraordinary Mission, Alan MAK, Anthony PUN, drug-war-action-drama, China/HK 2017, International Festival Premiere
Soul Mate, Derek TSANG, girls-best friends drama, HK/China 2016, European Premiere

Love Off the Cuff, PANG Ho-cheung, crazy cool comedy, China/HK 2017, International Premiere
Mad World, WONG Chun, mental illness drama, HK 2016, Italian Premiere – “Creative Visions: Hong Kong Cinema 1997-2017”
A Nail Clipper Romance, Jason KWAN, surf and steel romance, HK/China 2017, International Premiere
Shed Skin Papa, Roy SZETO, quirky father-son drama, China/HK 2016, European Premiere
The Sleep Curse, Herman YAU, blood-splattered horror, HK 2017, European Premiere
Shock Wave, Herman YAU, explosive action drama, HK/China 2017, International Festival Premiere – Closing Film
Vampire Cleanup Department, CHIU Sin-hang, YAN Pak-wing, hopping vampire comedy-romance, HK 2017, Italian Premiere

My Stupid Boss, UPI, zany office comedy, Indonesia 2016, European Premiere

LAOS (1)
Dearest Sister, Mattie DO, Laotian psycho-thriller, Laos/France/Estonia 2016, Italian Premiere

JAPAN  (13)
At the Terrace, YAMAUCHI Kenji, sophisticated drama, Japan 2016, International Premiere
The City of Betrayal, MIURA Daisuke, extramarital romance, Japan 2016, International Premiere
Close-Knit, OGIGAMI Naoko, transgender-family, Japan 2017, Italian Premiere (with Torino Festival LGBTQI Visions)
Hamon: Yakuza Boogie, KOBAYASI Syoutarou, cinephile gangster dark comedy, Japan 2017, International Premiere
Hirugao – Love Affairs in the Afternoon -, NISHITANI Hiroshi, starred-crossed romance, Japan 2017, World Premiere
Love and Other Cults, UCHIDA Eiji, offbeat youth drama, Japan 2017, World Premiere
My Uncle, YAMASHITA Nobuhiro, hipster comedy, Japan 2016, European Premiere
Over the Fence, YAMASHITA Nobuhiro, not-longer-young love story, Japan 2016, European Premiere
Policeman and Me, HIROKI Ryuichi, age-inappropriate romance, Japan 2017, European Premiere
Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow, MORI Yoshitaka, Japanese chess drama, Japan 2016, European Premiere
Scoop!, ONE Hitoshi, paparazzi thriller, Japan 2016, International Festival Premiere
Survival Family, YAGUCHI Shinobu, ecotherapy disaster movie, Japan 2017, European Premiere – Opening Film
TEIICHI – Battle of Supreme High -, NAGAI Akira, manga-like political satire, Japan 2017, World Premiere

Mrs K, HO Yuhang, grindhouse western comedy, Malaysia/HK, 2016, European Premiere

Bluebeard, LEE Soo-youn, serial killer at large, SK 2017, Italian Premiere
Canola, CHANG, lost daughter-drama, SK 2016, European Premiere
Confidential Assignment, KIM Sung-hoon, North-South buddy-buddy cops, SK 2017, International Festival Premiere
Derailed, LEE Sung-Tae, Young&Dangerous drama, SK 2016, International Premiere
Fabricated City, PARK Kwang-hyun, high-tech videogame thriller, SK 2017, International Festival Premiere
House of the Disappeared, LIM Dae-woong, haunted house thriller, SK 2017, International Premiere
The Last Princess, HUR Jin-ho, period melodrama, SK 2016, Italian Premiere
Master, CHO Ui-seok, political crime thriller, SK 2016, International Festival Premiere
New Trial, KIM Tae-yun, wrongly-accused legal drama, SK 2017, International Festival Premiere
The Prison, NA Hyun, jailhouse action drama, SK 2017, Italian Premiere
Run-Off, KIM Jong-hyun, zero-to-hero ice hockey drama, SK 2016, European Premiere
Split, CHOI Kook-hee, bowling-action-drama, SK 2016, International Festival Premiere
Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned, UM Tae-hwa, lost-in-frozen-time, SK 2016, Italian Premiere

Die Beautiful, Jun Robles LANA, multicolour transgender dramedy, The Philippines 2016, Italian Premiere (with FVG Pride)
Mercury Is Mine, Jason Paul LAXAMANA, black violent comedy, The Philippines 2016, International Premiere
Seclusion, Erik MATTI, religious horror, The Philippines 2016, European Premiere

52Hz, I Love You, WEI Te-sheng, St. Valentine musical, Taiwan 2017, European Festival Premiere
At Café 6, Neal WU, coming-of-age dramedy, Taiwan 2016, European Premiere
Godspeed, CHUNG Mong-hong, gangster meets taxi-driver, Taiwan 2016,  European Premiere
Mon Mon Mon Monsters, Giddens KO, school bullying comedy horror, Taiwan 2017, European Premiere

One Day, Banjong PISANTHANAKUN, romance on the snow, Thailand 2016, European Premiere
Siam Square, Pairach KHUMWAN, ghost-youth-drama, Thailand 2017, International Premiere
Take Me Home, Kongkiat KHOMSIRI, homecoming horror, Thailand 2016, European Premiere

Tam Cam: The Untold Story, Thanh Van (Veronica) NGO, Cinderella meets wuxiapian, Vietnam 2016, European Premiere

Out Of Competition

Mifune: The Last Samurai, Steven OKAZAKI, director’s cut, Japan/USA, 2016, Italian Premiere
Old Days, HAN Sun- hee, SK 2016, Italian Premiere
Sunday Beauty Queen, Baby Ruth VILLARAMA, The Philippines/HK 2016, Italian Premiere

Ramblers, YAMASHITA Nobuhiro, from the manga of Tsuge Yoshiharu, Japan 2004, Italian Premiere

Made in Hong Kong, Fruit CHAN, HK 1997 – restored version 2017, International Premiere

A Simple Life, Ann HUI, HK 2012
Accident, Soi CHEANG, HK 2009
After This Our Exile, Patrick TAM, HK 2006
Infernal Affairs, Alan MAK, Andrew LAU, HK 2002
Ip Man, Wilson YIP, HK 2008
Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen CHOW, HK 2004
Love in a Puff, PANG Ho-cheung, HK 2010
The Mission, Johnnie TO, HK 1999
The Grandmaster, WONG Kar-wai, HK 2013

Fish Tank, LIU Haoge, experimental animation short, China 2016, Italian Premiere
Knife in the Clear Water, WANG Xuebo, drama, China 2016, Italian Premiere
The Road, ZHANG Zanbo, documentary, China/Denmark 2015, Italian Premiere
What Happened in the Past Dragon Year, SUN Xun, experimental animation short, China 2014, Italian Premiere

Even Ants Strive for Survival,    REN Xia, HK 2017, European Premiere
First of May, LAM Chi-yu, HK 2017, European Premiere
Life on the Line, Ashley CHEUNG, HK 2017, European Premiere
Speak Low, WONG Fong-yi, HK 2017, European Premiere

Branded to Kill, SUZUKI Seijun, Japan 1967 – restored version 2016, International Festival Premiere
Cain and Abel, Lino BROCKA, The Philippines 1982 – restored version 2016, International Premiere
Moments in a Stolen Dream, Mike DE LEON, The Philippines 1977 – restored version 2016, European Premiere
Three Years Without God, Mario O’HARA, The Philippines 1976 – restored version 2016, Italian Premiere

The festival takes place in the Northern Italian town of Udine from April 21 – 29, and you can find out all about how to attend via the official website which also includes details of the extensive program of special events running alongside the main film festival.