OUT OF MY HAND
Solid film about a Liberian plantation worker trying to get along. When he realizes that the company he works for will never let him or his fellow workers get ahead he makes the move to America. Decidedly a film I did not want to see at JAPAN CUTS turned into a good afternoon at the movies. A film filled with great characters that you care about this is a film that would gladly see again.
HARUKO'S PARANORMAL LABORATORY
Gloriously off the deep-end film about a young woman whose television comes to life. Its the sort of crazy anything goes that isn't done well in America. The film knows it's bent and just goes with it. While not for all tastes this is the perfect film for anyone who love wacked out comedy anf their TVs a little too much.
THE LIGHT SHINES ONLY THERE
The Light Shines Only There is a bleak look at life on the fringes of the fringes. – is a slacker drowing his sorrow in the pain caused by being part of a gory industrial accident some time earlier. Making friends with a a young man in a pachinko parlor --- meets his sister and is smitten. She wants nothing to do with him, her time as a prostitute and her down trodden life wiping out her ability to trust men. However sparks fly and the pair are soon in orbit around each other as they try to find a reason to live. Bleak Charles Bukowski like film is as emotionally raw and painful as they come. You feel everyone’s pain and bleed for them. One of the best films at this year’s Japan Cuts was not something I wanted to see. Given a screener by mistake I descided to give it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. Its now a film I want to see again when I can see it on its own away from the flood of films from the festival and I can appreciate it more on its own terms.
Teenager and salaryman, both with a kind of punk ethic, become embroiled in a corrupt political campaign and the disappearance of a baby. Along the way they have to battle the forces of law and disorder in order to try and do the right thing.
Wonderful off kilter tale of the sort that Japanese directors only seem to manage to pull off with out resorting to put their tongue in their cheek. There is humor and danger and great characters all rolling around in this film - and I really wish this wasn't the first film of a long movie day because all of the superlatives I had to say about the film got lost in the passage of time. Perhaps the best thing I can say is I want to see this again soon and you should see it too.
SNOW ON THE BLADES
Very good film examining the changes in Japanese society as samurai who allowed his master to be killed in an ambush is tasked to hunt down the assassins. Over the next 13 years we watch as both the country and the man change.
Very recommended look at the plight of a man of one age being forced to del with the world that is changing around him. Where does he go? What does he do? What can he hold on to? The film does a solid job at showing the inner conflict of both the samurai and of society that is better than many recent films set in the same period (the remake of UNFORGIVEN for example). If I have any complaint with the film its simply that it feel a bit too much like a TV drama for my tastes rather than a big screen movie.
CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH
Nagisa Oshima's second film was the first of his many cage rattlers (IN THE REALM OF THE SENSE anyone?). A gorgeously shot widescreen tale about disaffected youth go go down the wrong road just to relieve the boredom changed Japanese and world cinema forever. Borrowing the style of some of the Euro New Wave filmmakers but adding widescreen and eye popping color Oshima upped the ante for everyone.
While the film has always been bit too mannered for me CRUEL STORY is very much a must see for any film lover simply because it's one of those times where, even today, you can see the lightning that had been captured in the bottle. This is a game changer from 55 years ago that is still affecting filmmakers today.
PIETA IN THE TOILET
Based on the last page of the diary of Osamu Tezuka, this is a moving film about life and art in the face of death. I'm going to do a long review down the road but you really want to make an effort to see this film. The film is the story of a young window washer who collapses at work. He is told he has only months to live. Hooking up with a high school girl he reconnects with life and his love of painting. Forgive me for leaving it there but I'm so overwhelmed with Japan Cuts films that I can't give you the discussion this film deserves now.I can tell you that you reall should make the effort to see this when it plays Saturday at the Japan Society.
THE VANCOUVER ASAHI
True story of the final days a baseball teamed formed by second generation Japanese immigrants to Canada. Set in the 1930's as the world marched toward the Second World War we watch as the players struggle with life, with prejudice and questions of which country to be loyal to. This is a good but kind of unremarkable film. While the film sheds light on a story I was unaware of, the film seems at times to be more interested in looking good and recreating the time then it is in playing our heart strings. I was never moved the way I should have been. Don't kid yourself, it is a good little film, it's just not a great one. (though to be completely honest I have to say that all I could think about when watching this was the much better KANO which is also Japanese related baseball story but set in Taiwan)
For more information and tickets to any of these films go to the Japan Cuts page here.