Youth, Hanagatami, Land at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018


Always a staunch champion of East Asian cinema, the International Film Festival Rotterdam has revealed its full lineup for 2018. You can find full details for the complete program on the official website, but there are plenty of films from China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand to feast on in this year’s selection.


Feng Xiaogang Youth still one

  • Dragonfly Eyes – Chinese artist Xu Bing assembles a modern story from China’s myriad CCTV cameras in which a young woman leaves a Buddhist monastery and meets a young man…
  • Impermanence – A monk with a shady past, a haunted innkeeper, and a lonely retiree are drawn to a remote Buddhist temple where their karmic debts are weighed in the debut from Zeng Zeng.
  • Mrs Fang – Winner of the Golden Leopard in Locarno, Wang Bing’s hardhitting documentary charts the last days of an ordinary woman in rural China.
  • Silent Mists – A small town is plagued by a series of violent rapes but no one seems very interested in catching the culprits in Zhang Miaoyan’s gritty drama.
  • Stammering Ballad – portrait of itinerant folk musician Ga Song.
  • The Widowed Witch – A widow is raped by her brother-in-law and takes to the road with her husband’s deaf brother.
  • Youth – Feng Xiaogang takes a nostalgic look back at turbulent ’70s China through the story of the revolutionary ballet division. Review.


Sweating the Small Stuff

  • Ambiguous Places – Akira Ikeda’s third feature follows the adventures of a woman who wakes up on a beach and finds an insect stuck to her head…
  • Funeral Parade of Roses – Toshio Matsumoto’s avant-garde classic in its new 4K restoration.
  • Hanagatami – a project 40 years in the making, Nobuhiko Obayashi tells the story of a generation about to be engulfed by the oncoming storm of war.
  • The Hungry Lion – Takaomi Ogata’s understated drama focusses on a teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student and the school girl who is rumoured to be in the leaked sex tape.
  • Night is Short, Walk on Girl –  Masaaki Yuasa returns to the surreal world of Tatami Galaxy’s Tomihiko Morimi for another drunken night in Kyoto as a girl chases her future and a boy chases a girl. Review.
  • Outrage Coda – Takeshi Kitano returns for the third in his “Outrage” series of violent yakuza action movies.
  • Radiance – The latest from Naomi Kawase, Radiance stars Masatoshi Nagase as a photographer slowly losing his sight.
  • Sweating the Small Stuff – Ryutaro Ninomiya stars in a semi-autobiographical tale of a small town loner dealing with the long buried trauma of the death of his mother from illness when he was a child. Review.


marlina the murderer in four acts still one

  • Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts – A woman takes to the road seeking revenge after her ranch is raided in Mouly Surya’s Eastern western.
  • Satan’s Slaves – Joko Anwar remakes an ’80s Indonesian classic in which a young woman and her siblings are left alone in a creepy old house following the death of their mother and soon begin receiving mysterious visitations…


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  • The Day After – One of three films Hong Sang-soo released in 2017, The Day After focusses not on an egotistical film director but on an egotistical publisher who takes on new girl Kim Min-hee after having to fire his last assistant because his wife found out about their affair… Review.
  • The Fortress – Lee Byunhun stars in Hwang Donghyuk’s historical epic in which the King has retreated in order to protect himself from the encroaching Qing but is left only with a choice of graceful defeat.
  • Hit the Night – Jeong Gayoung’s Bitch on the Beach followup promises more Hong Sang-soo inspired sorrow and soju but infused with the actor/director’s characteristic bite and flair.
  • I Have a Date With Spring – Baek Seungbin’s hopeful drama follows three people as they each receive visitations from someone who returns something important to them and thereby holds off the end of the world.
  • A Lion in Winter – the latest from Lee Kwang-kuk (Romance Joe, A Matter of Interpretation), A Lion in Winter follows failed writer Gyeongyu when he’s kicked out by his girlfriend on the same day a tiger escapes from the zoo…
  • The Villainess – a young girl is raised as an assassin but starts to fall in love with her cover life just as the past returns to haunt her in Jung Byung-gil’s impressively choreographed action thriller. Review.


The Ashes and Ghosts of Tayug 1931

  • The Ashes and Ghosts of Tayug 1931 – Christopher Gozum looks back to a tragic episode of Philippine history in the failed revolt of 1931.
  • Neomanila – Mikhail Red tells a story of youth betrayed on the streets of Duterte’s Manila.
  • Nervous Translation – a shy girl in ’80s Manila hears tell of a magical pen that will make her life wonderful…
  • Respeto – underground rapper Hendrix tries to make it in Pandacan while the Duterte regime hovers all around the edges…
  • Those Longhaired Nights – transgender sex workers Tuesday, Amanda, and Barbie live their ordinary lives in Manila’s red light district.


The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful

  • The Bold, the Corrupt and the Beautiful – ambitious widow Tang Yue-ying’s world threatens to come crashing down in Yang Ya-che’s Golden Horse winning drama.
  • Father to Son – a 60 year old man is diagnosed with a serious illness but decides to travel to Japan and look for the father who abandoned him rather than get treatment.



The International Film Festival Rotterdam runs from 24th January to 4th February at various venues in Rotterdam city centre. Tickets are available from 8pm (local time) on 19th January via the official website and you can also keep up to date with all the latest news via the official Facebook Page, Twitter account, Instagram, and YouTube channel.

The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue Tops Kinema Junpo’s 2017 Best 10 List

tokyo night sky posterKinema Junpo, the prestigious Japanese film magazine, has announced its top 10 films of 2017. In a happy surprise two female directors have been included in this year’s Best 10 list in which veteran directors jostle with comparative newcomers.

10. Close-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは)

close-knit still 1Naoko Ogigami’s touching family drama snatches the last spot on Kinema Junpo’s list. A departure of sorts from the director’s earlier career, Close-Knit drops the whimsy but not the heart in telling a story of changing family dynamics and pleading for a kinder, more understanding world where all are free to live the way they choose without let or hinderance. Review.

9. Birds Without Names (彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち)

birds without names still 2Dawn of the Felines director Kazuya Shiraishi returns to the world of mystery in a tale of dark romance and destructive desires. Yu Aoi stars as a young woman, Towako, living with an older man (played by Sadao Abe) whom she despises but tolerates because he continues to support her. Tawako, however, cannot forget a violent ex-lover who has been missing for the last eight years. Screening in the upcoming Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme.

8. The Third Murder (三度目の殺人)

third murder horizontal posterHirokazu Koreeda makes a rare detour from the family drama for a high stakes legal thriller in which a veteran lawyer takes on the seemingly impossible task of defending a murder suspect who has already served time for violent crime and freely confesses his guilt, but the more the lawyer looks into the case the less confident he feels that his client is telling the truth.

7. Side Job (彼女の人生は間違いじゃない)

Side Job still 1Fukushima native Ryuichi Hiroki adapts his own novel for an exploration of precarious rural life on the edge of a disaster zone. Newcomer Kumi Takiuchi stars as a young woman with a regular office job living in temporary housing with her father (Ken Mitsuishi) after being displaced by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. For unexplained reasons, the young woman travels to Tokyo at weekends and engages in casual sex work which brings her into contact with Kengo Kora’s conflicted driver.

6. Bangkok Nites (バンコクナイツ)

bangkok-nitesKatsuya Tomita’s Saudade followup has been doing the festival rounds for over a year now but finally getting its Japanese release lands in sixth place in Kinema Junpo’s 2017 list. Picking up threads from the earlier film, Tomita travels to Bangkok and examines the legacy of colonialism and exploitation in a land many see as a “paradise”. Review.

5. Before we Vanish (散歩する侵略者)

©2017 BEFORE WE VANISH FILM PARTNERSKiyoshi Kurosawa rolls back on the nihilism of Pulse for a tale of love and survival masquerading as an alien invasion movie. The Earth, it seems, is doomed – three alien scouts have been sent as a vanguard to log “humanity” before it is forever destroyed. Stealing and assimilating “concepts” from people’s brains as if playing a giant game of psychic Jenga, the alien invaders become more human by the day but the essence of the human soul remains a mystery to them… Review.

4. Dear Etranger (幼な子われらに生まれ)

Dear Etranger still 1Yukiko Mishima’s adaptation of the Kiyoshi Shigematsu novel stars Tadanobu Asano in a tale of family and the modern society. A middle-aged man, Makoto, leaves his first wife for a younger woman after they disagree about adding to their family – he wanted another child and she didn’t. His second wife has two children already and when she announces she is pregnant, Makoto is not so sure about becoming a father again…

3. Wilderness Parts 1 & 2 (あゝ、荒野)

wilderness still 1Released in two parts, Wilderness adapts the classic 1966 novel by Shuji Terayama in which two men seek release in the boxing ring but also discover friendship and brotherhood in the shared connection of violence. Up and coming director Yoshiyuki Kishi builds on the promise of the impressive A Double Life and makes it into Kinema Junpo’s top three with only his second feature.

2. Hanagatami (花筐)

hanagatami still 1The latest from veteran director Nobuhiko Obayashi, Hanagatami is a project forty years in gestation. An adaptation of the wartime novel by Kazuo Dan, the film is a timely warning against the follies of war as a collection of youngsters dance along the edge of an abyss which will eventually engulf their entire generation.

1. The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ)

THE TOKYO NIGHT SKY IS ALWAYS THE DENSEST SHADE OF BLUE stillTaking the top spot, Yuya Ishii’s melancholy romance is a love/hate letter to Tokyo and a poetical mediation on connection in the modern city. A depressed young woman and an anxious young man miraculously encounter each other thanks to the magic of the metropolis but their shared cynicism and distrust of feeling soon becomes a barrier to their growing romance. Review.

Individual Awards:

Best Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi (Hanagatami)

Best Screenplay: Yuya Ishii (The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue)

Best Actress: Yu Aoi (Birds Without Names)

Best Actor: Masaki Suda (Wilderness)

Best Supporting Actor: Yang Ik-june (Wilderness)

Best Female Newcomer: Shizuka Ishibashi (Tokyo Night Sky / Parks / Misshi to Bannin)

Best Male Newcomer: Ryosuke Yamada (Miracles of the Namiya General Store / Fullmetal Alchemist)

Source: Kinema Junpo official website

Ann Hui’s Our Time Will Come Opens Five Flavours 2017

our time will comePoland’s Five Flavours Film Festival returns for the 11th year from 15th to 22nd November bringing with it more of the best in recent Asian cinema plus retrospectives and classic screenings. This year’s festival will open with Ann Hui’s latest epic of Hong Kong history, Our Time Will Come and Hui will also be honoured with a retrospective featuring seven more films from throughout her Career.

Portrait: Ann Hui

our time will come bannerA giant of Hong Kong cinema, Hui began her time in the director’s chair in the late ’70s following a two year stint at the London Film School. Throughout her long and varied career which has featured both commercial and more personal cinema, Hui’s work is noted for its probing social commentary and political fearlessness.

  • Our Time Will Come – Opening the festival, Hui’s latest work once again returns to the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and to the resistance fighters who risked all to free their homeland. Review.
  • The Secret – A murder mystery, Hui’s cinematic debut is inspired by a real life crime which leads its detective into an investigation of Hong Kong at a cross-roads of tradition and modernity.
  • Boat People – Hui’s best known work is also among her most political in examining post-war Vietnam through the eyes of a Japanese photographer.
  • Summer Snow – A humorous examination of Hong Kong’s ageing society and the developing social problems accompanying it.
  • The Way We Are – a portrait of those struggling to get by in Hong Kong’s impoverished Tin Shiu Wai.
  • A Simple Life – Deanie Ip’s elderly nanny/housekeeper suffers a stroke and is looked after by her employer (Andy Lau) in a moving examination of modern family ties.

Focus: Bhutan

golden cousin still.jpgShining a light on a new, under appreciated film culture, Five Flavours presents a series of new films from Bhutan.

  • Golden Cousin – two cousins growing up in a small village are destined for marriage but when one travels to the city for university he comes to understand the dangers of such close familial relationships.
  • Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait – every 12 years people meet in the mountains to take part in a religious cleansing ritual…
  • Honeygiver Among the Dogs – A policeman investigating the disappearance of a prioress is directed to a solitary newcomer whom the villagers believe to be demonically possessed…
  • In a Defiled World – Two men fall for the same girl in this modern city story.
  • Norbu, My Beloved Yak – A guru and his daughter move into a village where the girl makes friends with a local boy whose best friend is a yak!
  • Prophecy – a young girl studying in the city returns home to care for her sickly mother only to discover her return may not have been as unexpected as she assumed…
  • The Next Guardian – an ordinary family is tested by changing times.
  • Travellers and Magicians – Dondup wants to go to America but he has to travel the Himalayas to get there..
  • Short films from Bhutan – collection of five short films.



  • Bangkok Nites – Katsuya Tomita’s Saudade followup picks up on latent themes in the first film for another look at the destructive effects of colonialism ancient and modern. Review.
  • A Bride for Rip Van Winkle – a timid school teacher is sent on a strange odyssey of self discovery in Shunji Iwai’s long awaited return to feature filmmaking. Review.
  • Close-Knit – a neglected child goes to live with her uncle and his transgender girlfriend in Ogigami’s heartfelt drama. Review.
  • Yamato California – Daisuke Miura’s drama examines Japanese/American relations through the story of a hip hop obsessed teen played by Hanae Kan. review.
  • Vampire Hotel – feature length cut-down of Sion Sono’s nine hour vampire themed TV drama.
  • Tokyo Drifter – Seijun Suzuki’s surreal gangster drama.

Roman Porno Reboot

dawn of the felines stillAs cinema receipts dwindled in the early 1970s, Japanese studios considered the best way to stay afloat. Nikkatsu, whose output had largely skewed towards youth drama, decided to reboot itself wholesale and embark on production of levelled up “pink film” only with better production values. 40 years later, Nikkatsu’s “Roman Porno” line has been resurrected with four films directed by four of today’s most interesting directors. Five Flavours presents two of the four reboot movies paired with an original from the 1970s.

  • Dawn of the Felines – Kazuya Shirashi’s somber reworking of Night of the Felines centres around three women working in Tokyo’s red light district. Review.
  • Night of the Felines – the original sex comedy from Roman Porno master Noboru Tanaka.
  • Wet Woman in the Wind – a blocked writer moves to the country for a spot of peaceful contemplation only to be confronted with the persistent attentions of a nymphomaniac waitress in Akihiko Shiota’s take on the Roman Porno genre.
  • Lovers are Wet – an impulsive rebel returns home in Tatsumi Kumashiro’s 1976 classic.




soulmate still 1

  • Crosscurrent – Poetic Chinese odyssey shot by Mark Lee Ping-bing. Review.
  • Free and Easy – an unidentified body is discovered in a moribund Chinese town…
  • Soul Mate – tragic story of female friendship lost and found. Review.

Hong Kong

mad world still 1

  • Mad World – an estranged father and son are brought back together when the son is released from a mental institution after treatment for bipolar disorder.
  • Made in Hong Kong – Fruit Chan’s classic 1997 tale of alienated youth in its new 4K restoration.


Godspeed still

  • Godspeed – a down on his luck petty gangster gets in the wrong taxi in this absurd black comedy.


the promise still 1

  • The Promise – two wealthy girls decide on a drastic solution to Thailand’s 1997 financial crisis…


Dark is the Night

  • Dark is the Night – An ordinary couple in Duterte’s Philippines take to drug trafficking to make ends meet with tragic consequences.


marlina the murderer in four acts still one


Mrs. K still 1

  • Mrs. K – Kara Hui plays a former assassin whose past comes back to haunt her.


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  • KFC – arthouse leaning cannibal drama.

Five Flavours takes place in Warsaw from 15th to 22nd November 2017. More information on all the films as well as screening times and ticketing links can be found on the official website, and you can keep up to date with all the latest news via the festival’s Facebook Page, Twitter Account, Instagram, and YouTube Channels.

Abertoir 2017 to Screen Vampire Clay, Tokyo Ghoul, The Mimic

Abertoir 2017 posterWales’s premier horror festival, Abertoir, returns for 2017 with another varied selection of chillers old and new. This year there are quite a few East Asian titles on offer including festival favourites Mon Mon Mon Monsters, The Sleep Curse, and The Mimic.

Meatball Machine Kodoku

Meatball Machine Kodoku still 1Another addition to the Meatball Machine universe, Kodoku follows a debt collector recently diagnosed with terminal cancer who realises his condition makes him immune to the mind control of invading alien Necroborgs. More splatter action from Yoshihiro Nishimura.

Screening Tuesday 14th November at Midnight.

Mon Mon Mon Monsters

Mon Mon Mon Monsters still 1.jpgA group of horrible kids capture a strange creature and then mercilessly torture it in Giddens Ko’s surprising foray into the world of teen horror.

Screening Wednesday 15th November, 5.30pm.

The Housemaid

The Housemaid (vietname) still 1Set in 1953, Derek Nguyen’s The Housemaid is a classic gothic horror story in which an orphaned Vietnamese country girl, Linh, finds work on a plantation and later love with the owner of the estate, Captain Sebastien Laurent. Resented by the other members of staff, Linh’s world is further shaken by Sebastien’s late wife and some very strange goings on…

Screening Sunday 19th November, 12pm.

The Mimic

The Mimic still 1Hee-yeon moves to a small village near Mt. Jang with her husband after their son goes missing. Bonding with a little girl who seems to be lost herself, Hee-yeon soon becomes embroiled in the strange events occurring around the mountain.

Screening Friday 17th November, 3.45pm

The Sleep Curse

the sleep curse’90s neurologist Lam Sik-ka (Anthony Wong) can’t sleep. Contacted by a fellow insomniac former girlfriend, he begins investigating and finds the answer lies all the way back in the Japanese occupation…

Screening Thursday 16th November, 5pm

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul still 1.jpgAn adaptation of the manga by Sui Ishida, Tokyo Ghoul is the story of Ken Kaneki who wakes up in hospital to discover he’s been given transplants from a “Ghoul” and is now part Ghoul himself which means he needs to eat human flesh to survive…

Screening Wednesday 15th November, 8pm

Vampire Clay

vampire clay still 1Students at a remote art school start mysteriously disappearing, could the creepy clay statues possibly be to blame?

Screening Wednesday 15th November, 12.15

The Abertoir Film Festival takes place in Aberystwyth from 14 – 19 November, 2017. Passes for the festival (£60) are currently available from Aberystwyth Arts Centre in person or by phone with individual tickets released at a later date.

You can keep up with all the latest Abertoir news via the official website, Facebook Page, Twitter Account, and Flickr.

Archipelago: Exploring the Landscape of Contemporary Japanese Women Filmmakers

©Little More Co.

wild berries posterFollowing the last series of free film screenings which took place over the summer, the Japan Foundation London is back this winter for a season of films dedicated to female filmmakers. Archipelago: Exploring the Landscape of Contemporary Japanese Women Filmmakers features two narrative films and a documentary as well as a panel discussion chaired by Kate Taylor with Jasper Sharp, Alejandra Armendáriz Hernández, and the season’s curator Irene Silvera.

Bare Essence of Life

©Little More Co.Released in 2009, the second feature from Satoko Yokohama stars Kenichi Matsuyama as Yojin – an Aomori farm boy who lives on a slightly different plane of existence to everyone else. When a pretty school teacher (played by Kumiko Aso) arrives from Tokyo, Yojin becomes determined to win her heart, whatever the eventual costs may be!

Screening at Courthouse Cinema on 30th November, 6.30pm.

Death of a Japanese Salesman

ending note still 1.jpgAlso known as Ending Note, Mami Sunada’s documentary follows the last days of her father, a lifelong salaryman who retired aged 67 only to be diagnosed with terminal cancer soon after. Realising that he had only a short time left to live, Sunada began preparing for his death, creating his own bucket list and thinking about the “ending note” (a kind of personal testament) that he would leave behind for his family.

Screening at Courthouse Cinema, 1st December 6.30pm

Wild Berries

wild berries still 1Miwa Nishikawa whose The Long Excuse has been doing the festival rounds this year began her career as a student staff member on Koreeda’s Afterlife before ADing on Yoshimitsu Morita’s Black House and then again for Koreeda on Distance. Released in 2003 and produced by Koreeda, Wild Berries is her debut feature and neatly mixes the influences of both her mentors in an anarchic family drama. The Akechis had been getting along just fine until prodigal son Shuji decided to return bringing a few chickens home to roost with him.

Screening at Rich Mix, 2nd December 12pm

Panel Discussion

©Little More Co.Directly after the screening of Wild Berries, there will be a panel discussion examining the rise of female filmmakers over the last 15 years. Chaired by Kate Taylor – East Asian programmer for the BFI London Film Festival, the panel will also feature film scholar Jasper Sharp (co-founder of Midnight Eye, author of Behind the Pink Curtain), film researcher Alejandra Armendáriz Hernández, and the season’s curator, Irene Silvera.

The Panel Discussion takes place at Rich Mix, 2nd December, 2.30pm.

In conjunction with the series, there will also be a screening of Naoko Ogigami’s Rent-a-Cat as part of the regular free screenings programme at the Japanese Embassy on 22nd November. Tickets are free and can be booked by the usual methods following the instructions on the Embassy’s Filmshow page.

More information can be found on Japan Foundation London’s website – each of the screenings is free to attend but tickets must be booked in advance.

You can also keep up to date with all the latest Japan Foundation events via their official Twitter account and Facebook Page.

Creative Visions: Hong Kong Cinema 1997-2017

paradox posterThe latest in a series of events marking the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover, Creative Visions: Hong Kong Cinema 1997-2017 will feature free screenings of nine films from the last 20 years including three UK premieres taking place from 17th to 19th November.


paradox still 2The latest instalment in Wilson Yip’s SPL series stars Louis Koo as a Hong Kong cop on a mission to rescue his daughter from Thai kidnappers. Co-star Gordon Lam will be in attendance to present the film’s UK premiere.

Ordinary Heroes

ordinary heroes still 1Ann Hui’s 1999 drama documents the struggle of a group of idealists fighting for the rights of boat people and their mainland wives.


ptu still 1Simon Yam and Lam Suet star in Johnnie To’s missing gun thriller.

Mad World

mad world still 1Eric Tsang plays the estranged father of a young man (Shawn Yue) recently released from psychiatric care in Wong Chun’s powerful debut. UK Premiere.


gallants horizontalA tribute to the kung-fu classics of the ’60s and ’70s, 2010’s Gallants follows two martial artists patiently waiting for their master to wake up from the coma he’s been in for the last 30 years. Co-star Gordon Lam will be in attendance.

Made in Hong Kong

made in hong kongFruit Chan’s 1997 story of tragic youth in its 2017 restoration which premiered at the Udine Far East Film Festival.

Echoes of the Rainbow

echoes of the rainbow still 1.jpgDirector Alex Law paints an autobiographical tale of growing up in a working class family in late ’60s Hong Kong.


Trivisa still 1Three infamous criminals smuggle themselves into Hong Kong for the biggest heist ever in a crime thriller produced by Johnnie To and directed by three proteges from his Fresh Wave short film programme.

The Brink

the brink still 1A grizzled cop chases a gold smuggling fisherman through storms literal and metaphorical in Jonathan Li’s feature debut. UK premiere – Co-star Gordon Lam will be in attendance.

The screenings take place from 17th to 19th November at Ham Yard and Soho Hotels and are free to attend but places must be booked in advance via Eventbrite. You can book one ticket only for each film and for a maximum of four films per person.

In addition to the London event, Creative Visions will also visit Udine, Vancouver, Toronto, Berlin, Seoul, Moscow, Paris, Manchester and Prague.

Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama

blue sky maiden stillRunning at BFI Southbank through October and November, Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama aims to showcase the changing roles of women in Japanese cinema in the pre-war and post-war eras through a series of films starring some of the best known actresses of the time including Ayako Wakao (who features on the poster in her first role working with director Yasuzo Masumura in Blue Sky Maiden), ’30s megastar and later director Kinuyo Tanaka, Ozu’s muse Setsuko Hara, Rashomon’s Machiko Kiyo, wife and muse of Kiju (Yoshishige) Yoshida Mariko Okada,  and the iconic Hideko Takamine who began as a child star and went on to work with most of the age’s finest directors.

Season Introduction: Women in Japanese Melodrama

The season will kick off with an introductory lecture on 17th October featuring contributions from Alexander Jacoby and Alejandra Armendáriz-Hernandez who will discuss some of the actresses featured in the season.

Osaka Elegy + Women of the Night

osaka elegyStarring Mizoguchi’s frequent leading lady Isuzu Yamada, Osaka Elegy centres on a switchboard operator who finds herself trapped in a ruinous relationship with her boss in an effort to save her father who has ruined himself through gambling debts.  16mm. Now screening on blu-ray due to poor quality of 16mm print.

women of the night stillWomen of the Night, completed in 1948, will screen along side Osaka Elegy (1936) and stars Kinuyo Tanaka in a tale of two sisters trying to survive in the ruined Osaka one of whom is a war widow and the other dangerously involved with a drugs smuggler. 35mm.

Wedding Ring

(c) Shochiku Co., LtdKinuyo Tanaka also stars in Keisuke Kinoshita’s 1950 melodrama Wedding Ring. Starring opposite Toshiro Mifune, Tanaka plays a housewife who travels back and fore from the seaside, where her sickly husband convalesces, to Tokyo where she runs her family’s jewellery store. A chance encounter with a strapping doctor (Mifune) on a train has unforeseen consequences as the pair grow closer and the husband begins to realise that he cannot provide the happiness his wife is seeking. 35mm.

Clothes of Deception

「偽れる盛装」(C)KADOKAWA1951Clothes of Deception is directed by Kozaburo Yoshimura who was the subject (along with Kaneto Shindo) of the BFI’s previous Japanese director retrospective in 2012 in which the film was also screened. Rashomon’s Machiko Kyo stars opposite Yasuko Fujita as a geisha in Kyoto’s historic Gion district whose life contrasts strongly with that of her sister who works for the tourist board. 35mm.

The Mistress (aka Wild Geese)

toyoda wild geese still 1Shiro Toyoda’s melodrama stars Hideko Takamine as a divorced woman who becomes the mistress of an elderly money lender to support her father but dares to dream of a happier future after falling for a young student. 35mm.

An Inlet of Muddy Water

inlet of muddy water still 2Tadashi Imai’s adaptation of a number of stories by 19th century writer Ichiyo Higuchi came top in Kinema Junpo’s best of list for 1953 and features three stories of women suffering at the hands of men. 35mm.

The Eternal Breasts

eternal breasts still 1Kinuyo Tanaka, one of Japan’s great actresses, was not the nation’s first female director as she is sometimes described, but she was the first to have a career as a film director. The Eternal Breasts is Tanaka’s third directorial effort (following Love Letter and The Moon has Risen) and tells the story of tanka poet Fumiko Nakajo who passed away from breast cancer in 1954 at only 31 years old. 35mm.

Floating Clouds 

floating clouds still 1Hideko Takamine and Masayuki Mori play two former lovers cast adrift in the new post-war world world where their love is both impossible and impossible to escape. Naruse’s melancholy melodrama is the story of a woman who strives for self-determination while chasing a man who craves only respectability, as trapped and confused as her still divided nation. 35mm.

Elegy of The North

elegy of the north stilll 1Masayuki Mori stars again in another romantic melodrama this time for Heinosuke Gosho (Where Chimneys are Seen), opposite Yoshiko Kuga who falls for Mori’s conflicted architect as an escape from her moribund marriage while Mori’s wife, played by Mieko Takamine, is having an affair with a young student. 16mm.

Tokyo Twilight

tokyo twilight still 1Among the darkest of Ozu’s post-war movies, Tokyo Twilight is a less forgiving family drama in which Setsuko Hara plays the older of two sisters who has returned home from a failing marriage with her little girl in tow only to find out that her unmarried student younger sister is facing an unwanted pregnancy. 35mm.

The Blue Sky Maiden (aka The Cheerful Girl)

blue sky maiden still 2Blue Sky Maiden, Masumura’s second film, is his first in colour and his first to star the radiant Ayako Wakao who would later become something like his muse. Light and bright and youthful, Blue Sky Maiden is not without the Masumura bite in its tale of an illegitimate child deposited in her cowardly father’s home and among his unpleasant family but bearing all of her sorrows with a cheerful determination which resolutely refuses to allow them to rob her of her happiness. 35mm.

An Affair at Akitsu (aka Akitsu Springs)

akitsu springs still 1Soon after An Affair at Akitsu, also known as Akitsu Springs, Mariko Okada would marry the film’s director, Kiju (Yoshishige) Yoshida, and the pair would go on create a series of “anti-melodramas” which adopted typical melodrama storylines but shot them in a deliberately detached manner. An Affair at Akitsu is Yoshida’s attempt at Shochiku’s most representative genre but, aided by the astonishing performance of Okada, he conjures a deeply felt meditation on post-war malaise as its lovers find themselves unable to escape the false paradise of Akitsu Springs. 35mm.

The Shape of Night

Shape of the night still 1Recently restored, Noburu Nakamura’s The Shape of Night stars Miyuki Kuwano as a young woman forced into prostitution by a no good boyfriend. 35mm.

Tears and Laughter: Women in Japanese Melodrama runs at BFI Southbank from 17th October to 29th November and tickets are already on general sale.