Japan Foundation London’s Celebration of Culinary Cinema Returns for Second Helpings!

A-Tale-of-Samurai-Cooking-teaserFollowing their recent series of foodie films, The Japan Foundation London is back with a few more tasty morsels this August.

tale of samurai cooking still 2First up, A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story proves that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach (rather than through his chest with a sword). Headstrong Haru (Aya Ueto) gets “sent back” from her first marriage and then receives an interesting proposal from the Emperor’s own samurai cooks thanks to her awesome skills in the kitchen. Her husband to be, Yasunobu (Kengo Kora), is very unhappy about this seeing as he still wants to be a “real” samurai and is nursing a broken heart. Review.

A Tale of Samurai Cooking screens at Courthouse Cinema, 23rd August, 6.30pm.

chef of south polar stillBased on the writings of the real Jun Nishimura, Shuichi Okita’s The Chef of South Polar follows a put upon chef as he’s forced to leave his family and become the sole cook for seven research scientists marooned at the South Pole for a whole year. Despite the hazardous conditions Nishimura keeps churning out beautifully presented dishes while the guys all go slowly mad together. Review.

Chef of the South Polar screens at Courthouse Cinema on 24th August, 6.30pm

An stillNaomi Kawase’s An (Sweet Bean) is a less comedic tale of inter-generational friendship, social injustice and continuing stigma towards those suffering illness, and a celebration of tradition passed from one era to the next. Masatoshi Nagase plays a struggling doriaki chef who gets a few tips from a strange old lady (Kirin Kiki). He originally turns her down for a job at his stand because of her age and gnarled hands, but tasting her bean paste, there is no way he can refuse.

An (Sweet Bean) screens at Rich Mix on Saturday 26th August, 12.45pm.

tampopo stillAnd finally the greatest food movie of them all – Juzo Itami’s Tampopo! This iconic comedy follows the titular widow as she tries to make a success of her ramen stand with the help of lonely truck drivers Goro and Gun. While Tampopo is busy with her noodles, Itami ventures off on a cultural odyssey to explore the various ways food is used and misused in Japanese society. Review.

Tampopo screens at Rich Mix on Saturday 26th August, 3.15pm.

You can find further details for all the films on the Japan Foundation London website. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance and you can only register to attend two of the four screenings (if you apply for more than two you will be placed on the waiting list for the extra ones). A Tale of Samurai Cooking and Chef of the South Polar are currently fully booked but you can still apply to join the waiting list and be notified should spaces become available.

The First Lap, Sweating the Small Stuff Screen at Locarno 2017

Sweating the Small StuffNow in its 70th year, the Locarno Film Festival returns with another celebration of auteurist cinema from 2nd to 12th August, 2017. As usual there are a number of arthouse films from East Asia included in the programme hailing from China, Japan, Korea, and Myanmar.

dragon fly eyes stillVisual artist Xu Bing’s first debut feature Dragonfly Eyes is entirely composed of images taken from China’s many CCTV surveillance cameras as they capture the lives of two young people – Qu Ting, a young woman training to become a buddhist nun who returns to the secular world and takes a job at a dairy farm, and Ke Fan a young man who falls in love with her but finds himself sent to jail in the quest to win her heart. On his release he searches for her desperately only to discover she has reinvented herself as an online celebrity.

mrs fang stillWang Bing’s documentary Mrs. Fang tells the story of an elderly woman suffering with Alzheimer’s who is sent back to her rural village from the nursing home in which she had been living after it is decided they can offer no further treatment.

first lap stillIn Kim Dae-hwan’s The First Lap Su-hyeon and Ji-young have been living together for the last six years but the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy forces the pair to reassess their relationships with their old families before starting a new one.

sweating small stuff still 2Ryutaro Ninomiya directs himself in Sweating the Small Stuff as he plays a 27 year old mechanic who decides to pay a visit to the terminally ill mother of a friend he has been avoiding seeing despite knowing of her illness.

blood amber stillThe first feature documentary from Lee Yong Chao, Blood Amber takes a look at a Burmese forest controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in which the inhabitants eke out a living mining hoping to find a way out whilst also living in fear of military action.

There are also two short films from East Asia:

crossing river stillHan Yumeng’s Crossing River follows a group Chinese construction workers

signature stillKei Chikaura’s Signature centres on a young Chinese man lost in the middle of Shibuya.

The 70th Locarno Film Festival runs from 2nd – 10th August, 2017. You can find full details for all films as well as the complete lineup on the official festival website, and you can keep up with all the latest developments via the Festival’s Facebook Page, Twitter account, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Outrage Coda to close Venice 2017

outragebyond-決a02The Venice Film Festival has unveiled the full lineup for 2017. Sadly, it is a poor showing for East Asian cinema with only four films in total included in this year’s programme (bar the possibility of a few late additions announced as the festival gets closer) and only Japan and China represented.

outrage coda stillThe biggest hitter in terms of the festival as a whole is Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Coda. The third in Kitano’s Outrage saga, Coda follows Otomo (played by Kitano himself) as he returns to Japan following gang trouble in South Korea. Outrage Coda will screen as the closing night gala.

third murder horizontal posterThe only other Japanese film included in the programme this year is the latest from festival favourite Hirokazu Koreeda – The Third Murder. A departure from Koreeda’s usual focus on drama, The Third Murder is a crime thriller in which Masaharu Fukuyama (Like Father, Like Son) plays top lawyer Shigemori working on the defence of a murder/robbery suspect (Koji Yakusho) who previously served time for murder 30 years before. The defendant admits his crime and wants to plead guilty even if he will almost certainly get the death penalty but the more Shigemori looks into the case the more doubts he accrues.

1260733_Human-FlowMoving on to China, Ai Weiwei’s documentary Human Flow charts the global scale of the ongoing refugee crisis. Playing in competition.

©22 HOURS FILMSFinally Vivian Qu’s Angels Wear White is the story of two teenage girls assaulted in a hotel room by a middle aged man, and the receptionist who says nothing in fear of losing her job. Sadly, Vivian Qu is also the only female director with a film playing in competition.

The Venice Film Festival runs from 30th August to 9th September.

Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver to Close Fantasia 2017

Taxi Driver stillNow in its 21st year, Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival is back with some of the best genre movies from across the world. Like every other year, the festival has a large and varied selection of East Asian cinema on offer beginning with opening night movies The Villainess and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and continuing right until the closing gala, Jang-hoon’s A Taxi Driver. The full complement of East Asian feature films runs as follows:


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  • Extraordinary Mission – undercover cop action drama from Infernal Affairs’ Alan Mak and Anthony Pun
  • The Final Mastermartial arts drama from Xu Haofeng
  • Free and Easy – winner of the Special Jury Award for Cinematic Vision at this year’s Sundance, Geng Jun’s Free and Easy is an absurd crime caper and exposé of small town life.
  • God of War – historical action from Gordon Chan
  • Have a Nice Day – animated crime drama from Liu Jian
  • Wu Kong – Eddie Peng stars as the titular Monkey King in Derek Kwok’s take on the classic tale.

Hong Kong

vampire cleanup department still

  • Bastard Swordsman – classic Shaw Brothers action from 1983 directed by Tony Liu Chun-Ku (screening on 35mm Shaw Scope)
  • Made in Hong Kong – Fruit Chan’s tragic tale of alienated youth in handover over Hong Kong screens in the brand new 4K restoration premiered at the Udine Far East Film Festival.
  • Shock Wave – Andy Lau plays a valiant bomb disposal officer in Herman Yau’s impressively staged action drama. Review.
  • Vampire Cleanup Department – a vampire hunter falls in love with a vampire in this retro comedy from Yan Pak-Wing and Chiu Sin-Hang.


mole song still

  • Almost Coming, Almost Dying – New Year’s Eve goes very wrong for the protagonist of Toshimasa Kobayashi’s surreal comedy.
  • Death Note: Light up the NEW World – the Death Note saga continues in Shinsuke Sato’s big budget sequel starring Masahiro Higashide, Sosuke Ikematsu, and Masaki Suda. Review.
  • Genocidal Organ – sci-fi techno thriller and third in the series of anime adaptations of novels by Project Itoh.
  • Gintama – Yuichi Fukuda adapts the much loved manga for the big screen with Shun Oguri in the lead role.
  • The H-Man – classic Toho special effects thriller directed by Ishiro Honda in which a radiation enhanced threat reemerges to stalk the rain drenched streets of Tokyo. Review.
  • Innocent Curse – Takashi Shimizu’s latest slice of J-horror complete with creepy ghost kids and a shady avenger.
  • Japanese Girls Never Die – the disappearance of a young woman sparks a mini revolution in Daigo Matsui’s exuberant drama.
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable – Takashi Miike picks up Hirohiko Araki’s classic manga about a long running family feud in which heroes and villains duke it out by proxy with a power known as Stand.
  • Junk Head – witty steampunk themed stop motion from Takahide Hori.
  • Kodoku Meatball Machine – another slice of splatter horror from Yoshihiro Nishimura
  • Love and Other Cults – youth drifts in search of safe resting place in Eiji Uchida’s latest irreverent drama. Review.
  • The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio – Reiji’s got himself into another mess in this sequel to the original Mole Song directed by Takashi Miike and scripted by Kankuro Kudo.
  • Mumon: Land of Stealth – an ace ninja has to attend to the encroaching threat of Oda Nobunaga as well as being recently married in Yoshihiro Nakamura’s jidaigeki.
  • Museum – Shun Oguri stars as a maverick cop in Keishi Otomo’s noirish adaptation of the Ryosuke Tomoe manga.
  • Napping Princess – Kenji Kamiyama returns with a strange story of a young girl dreaming her life (and perhaps that of many others) away.
  • Night is Short, Walk on Girl – Masaaki Yuasa adapts another of Tomihiko Morimi’s novels in this surreal, animated romantic comedy.
  • Rage – Lee Sang-il adapts another Shuichi Yoshida novel as a Tokyo murder provokes three stories of suspicion and mistrust.
  • Shin Godzilla – Godzilla is back and bigger than ever in Hideaki Anno and Shin Higuchi’s reboot.
  • Shinjuku Swan II – Sion Sono returns to the red light district for another round of turf wars in the Shinjuku Swan sequel.
  • Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High – politics rules at an elite Japanese high school where teenager Teiichi is plotting his path to the prime-ministership of Japan. Review.
  • Tokyo Ghoul – Kentaro Hagiwara adapts Sui Ishida’s hidden zombie manga in which a young boy suddenly finds himself half-ghoul after a near fatal accident leaving him with a craving for human flesh.
  • The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue – Yuya Ishii’s poetic love/hate letter to Tokyo inspired by the poems of Tahi Saihate. Review.
  • What a Wonderful Family 2 – the Hirata family is back for another round of hilarious family drama in Yoji Yamada’s comedy sequel.


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  • Confidential Assignment – a North Korean special forces officer chases a suspect into the south and teams up with a bumbling but good hearted policeman in this action packed buddy cop comedy. Review.
  • A Day  – a father desperately tries to save his daughter in this time loop drama.
  • Fabricated City – a disillusioned young man makes a hero of himself online but gets caught up in a real world conspiracy when he’s framed for murder, prompting his online squad to step out of the shadows in his defence. Review.
  • House of the Disappeared – A woman tries to find the truth behind the disappearances of her husband and son in this creepy haunted house horror movie.
  • The Senior Class – a group of art students approach graduation in Hong Deok-pyo’s gritty adult animation.
  • The Sheriff in Town – An ex-cop decides its time to clean up his seaside town in this comedy action movie.
  • Split – a washed up former bowler takes in an autistic boy for his savant bowling skills in this warmhearted sports drama.
  • A Taxi Driver – Song Kang-ho drives a German photo journalist into the Gwanju Massacre in this hard-hitting yet lighthearted historical venture.
  • The Villainess – a sleeper assassin’s life is threatened by the reappearance of two men from her past.


bad genius still

  • Jailbreak – Cambodian prison break action.
  • Town in a Lake – atmospheric Philippine thriller
  • Mon Mon Mon Monsters – horrible kids torture monsters in this oddly funny nihilistic teen drama from Taiwan
  • Bad Genius – a group of brainy Thai teens attempt to fly to Australia, take an exam, and then fly back to give their friends the answers before the time difference catches up with them.
  • Broken Sword Hero – Thai martial arts drama.

Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in Montreal from July 13 – Aug. 2, 2017. You can find full details for all the films as well as ticketing information on the official website,  and you can keep up with all the latest festival news via the official Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and Vimeo channels.

Japan Foundation London’s Summer Explorers 3 to Serve up a Selection of Food Themed Treats

there is no lid on the sea stillJapan Foundation London is back with another early summer series of free film screenings and this time the focus is very much on food! Summer Explorers 3 takes place over two Saturdays – 15th and 22nd July, 2017, at the Prince Charles Cinema and BAFTA respectively. Tickets are free but you can only reserve seats at one film on each day (if you apply for more than one film you’ll be placed on the waiting list for your second choice). Full details on how to apply can be found on the Japan Foundation’s website.

The lineup for Saturday 15th includes:

KAKI_B5_SHIRO_CS5Kazuhiro Soda’s documentary The Oyster Factory which examines a local oyster fishing community as it welcomes two workers from China.

Akanezora - Beyond the Crimson Sky posterCo-written by Masahiro Shinoda, Masaki Hamamoto’s Akanezora – Beyond the Crimson Sky stars Masaaki Uchino as a tofu maker who travels from Kyoto to Edo, sets up a shop and marries a local girl.

Moving on to 22nd:

silver spoonInspired by Hiromu Arakawa’s popular manga, Silver Spoon is the story of city boy Yugo who enrols in an agricultural college in Hokkaido to get away from his overbearing parents.

There is no lid on the sea poster

Adapted from the novel by Banana Yoshimoto, There is no Lid on the Sea follows a young woman who decides to return to her hometown to sell shaved ice after growing bored with her life in Tokyo.

Drop of the Grapevine posterYukiko Mishima’s Drop of the Grapevine is the second in the director’s Hokkaido series and stars Yo Oizumi and Shota Sometani as two farming brothers one of whom operates a vineyard while the other grows wheat to make bread.

The screenings on 15th July take place at The Prince Charles Cinema near Leicester Square while those on 22nd July take place at BATFA on Piccadilly. At BAFTA on 22nd there will also be a selection of food themed language activities taking place between the films. You can find full details for all the films as well as screening times and information regarding reservations via the official website, and you can all keep up with the all the latest Japan Foundation London news via the official Twitter account and Facebook page.

Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess Makes UK Premiere at FrightFest 2017

the villainess posterFresh from its Cannes premiere, Jung Byung-gil’s action thriller The Villainess will get its first UK screening at FrightFest 2017. The horror-centric film festival takes place at Cineworld Leicester Square and the Prince Charles Cinema in Central London across the August bank holiday from 24th to 28th August, 2017.

the villainess horizontal postThe Villainess stars Kim Ok-bin as a young woman trained as an assassin from an early age and living a double life as a theatre actress and hit woman. Her existence is threatened by the reappearance of two very different men from her past.

crow's blood horizontal posterOther East Asian offerings include a preview of the Japan produced TV series which originally ran on streaming service Hulu, Crow’s Blood. The series focuses on a “mysterious transfer student” whose touch proves deadly! Episodes one and two will be shown back to back.

MEATBALL MACHINE KODOKU posterThe final film on offer, Meatball Machine Kodoku is the latest from splatter director Yoshihiro Nishimura and a sequel to the original Meatball Machine. A terminally ill debt collector finds he has an unexpected advantage when the world is taken over by necroborgs!

FrightFest takes place in Central London from 24th – 28th August, 2017 at Cineworld Leicester Sq and the Prince Charles Cinema. Festival and Day Passes will be available from 12pm on 1st July with single tickets for individual films available from 9am on 29th July. You can find full details for all the films included in this year’s programme on the official website, and you can keep up with all the latest news via the official Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram and YouTube channels.

Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF) Honours Seijun Suzuki with Retrospective

suzukiThe complete programme for the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival 2017 has now been revealed and as reported, the festival will be paying homage to the late director Seijun Suzuki with a retrospective featuring ten of his best loved films.

detective 2 3 go to hell bastards stillDetective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards is everything its name suggests – crazy, cartoonish fun as a Joe Shishido goes undercover, hangs out in Christmas themed cabaret bars and sings a few songs all the name of justice (and a paycheck). Review.

youth of the beast stillYouth of the Beast proved a turning point in Suzuki’s career. No longer content to play along with restrictive studio codes, Suzuki embraces his talent for colourful absurdism as Shishido once again finds himself undercover in the yakuza underworld.

tokyo drifter stillTokyo Drifter found few fans among studio bosses, but takes Suzuki’s psychedelic use of colour to all new highs in the story of a gangster unable to escape from his violent past.

gate of flesh stillMaking another foray into wartime desperation, Suzuki adapts Taijiro Tamura’s Gate of Flesh with Shishido as a washed-up former soldier driving a wedge between a group of fiercely loyal prostitutes. Review.

branded to killThe one that got him fired from Nikkatsu, Branded to Kill is the absurd story of a steely hitman with an addiction to the smell of cooking rice who finds his life derailed by a beautiful woman and a butterfly. Review.

ZigeunerweisenZigeunerweisen marks Suzuki’s return to filmmaking after the long series of court battles following his dismissal from Nikkatsu. The first in the Taisho Trilogy, Zigeunerweisen stars Yoshio Harada as one third of an eerily surreal love triangle. Review.

SuzukiKageroza1The follow up to Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za stars Yusaku Matsuda in a ghostly tale of love and writer’s block. Review.

fighting elegy stillSuzuki takes a wry look at the origins of fascism in Fighting Elegy as the young men of his age engage themselves in “manly” pursuits but are obliged to sublimate their other desires into a lust for violence. Review.

princess raccoon stillJoe Odagiri and Zhang Ziyi star in the bizarre yet infectious folktale inspired musical, Princess Raccoon.

pistol Opera stillFor his final film, Pistol Opera, Suzuki revisits Branded to Kill but replaces Shishido with a female assassin longing to be number one.

The full programme for the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival which takes place between 30th June and 8th July, 2017 is now available on the official website. You can also keep up with all the latest news via the festival’s Facebook page, and Twitter account.