japan

Review: Dragonball Z: Resurrection 'F'

Jul 31 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219696:42515:0[/embed] Dragonball Z: Resurrection 'F'Director: Tadayoshi YamamuroRated: NRRelease Date: August 4-12, 2015 Sometime after the events of the last film Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods, and a few years after the end of Dragonball Z, the remaining commanders in Frieza's army use the titular dragonballs (seven mystical items that grant anyone who collects them two wishes) to bring the long dead villain, Frieza (Chris Ayres), back to life. Seeking revenge against Goku (Sean Schemmel) for his loss, Frieza trains for a few months for their ultimate showdown. Now that Goku, Vegeta (Christopher Sabat), and Frieza have reached a new level of power, it's time for them to settle years of regret and anger. That's quite a bit of story for an hour of punches, right? That's exactly why the film deserves your attention.  I should state this right off the bat: There isn't a lot to attach to if you're not a regular fan of the series. It's made with a certain demographic in mind, and because of that, there's quite a hurdle to overcome. Not narratively, as what little story therein is easy to follow for both newcomers and old fans of the series drawn for a nostalgic romp, but grasping what exactly Dragonball Z is and why the film's conflict is so special. In terms of introductions, however, there isn't a better encapsulation of the series' tone and characters. So to make this review easier, the rest of this will be written with the intended audience and fans in mind.  There have been numerous Dragonball films over the years, but they've all been non-sequitur works which never tied into the series proper. Resurrection benefits from both past and future influences, and it gives the punches thrown in the film (which you can always argue as superfluous) added weight. The film's enemy, Frieza, isn't some random alien or purple cat god, it's a villain with an entire "saga" worth of backstory and thankfully the character work done here can pull from it. In fact, the villain's even a bit sympathetic as you realize he's just a privileged kid who lost for the first time. The film wonderfully highlights this as Frieza becomes more and more visibly frustrated as the film rolls on (which is why he's one of the better villains of the series). Goku and Vegeta also get some great character work in as Resurrection takes their arcs to the next logical step. Now that they've grown to such a power level they're essentially gods, Goku is now an awesomely condescending fighter brimming with confidence. And although the finale takes away a huge moment for Vegeta (that could've settled a series long character arc, but runs from it) Vegeta and Goku have some great bits with one another. There're also some nice scenes for the rest of the "Z Fighter" gang who're usually pushed to the sidelines. After some explanation (which actually makes sense story wise), every one is on an equal playing field. And without dragging in some of the weaker cast, each fighter gets a chance to shine. It's going to be a major pleasure for fans to see these guys back in action, for sure.  On the technical end, the film is absolutely gorgeous. Fully representative of the series, the fights take characters through various landscapes instead of the standard cliffs you'd usually see, movement is slick, and as one of the last proponents for traditional hand drawn animation it's great to see it succeed fully. Other than some odd looking CG that really take you out of the moment, the main fight between Goku and Frieza is a Dragonball fan's dream. I wish the fight between the two would've looked this way all those years ago.  While it's definitely not for everyone, Dragonball Z: Resurrection 'F' hits all the high points with the folks it's meant for. Capturing both the spirit of the original series and hope for the future, this is a full blown revival. Dragonball used to dominate action cartoons, and it's come back to take the crown once more.  Neither gods, hundred strong armies, or golden alien super monsters can stop this juggernaut. 
Dragonball Z Review photo
A legend reborn
Dragonball Z holds a special place in my heart. It was my first experience with more adult oriented action shows, and it changed my childhood for the better. All these years later, here's a brand new movie featuring one of th...

Japan Cuts Capsule Review: Pieta in the Toilet

Jul 23 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219688:42498:0[/embed] Pieta in the Toilet (Toire No Pieta | トイレのピエタ)Director: Daishi MatsunagaCountry: Japan 
Pieta in the Toilet photo
Don't let the name fool you
Pieta in The Toilet is done a disservice by its name. From the country that brought us Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, there are certain expectations that come with a name of that sort. And the use of such a well-known religi...

Japan Cuts Capsule Review: Strayer's Chronicle

Jul 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219670:42496:0[/embed] Strayer's Chronicle (Sutoreiyazu Kuronikuru | ストレイヤーズ・クロニクル)Director: Takahisa ZezeCountry: Japan 
Strayer's Chronicle photo
X-Men for nihilists
It's hard to make a rip-off of X-Men without hundreds of millions of dollars to back up the production. With a relatively minimal budget, any version of the mutants with superpowers who have to fight other mutants with (bette...


NYAFF Capsule Review: Kabukicho Love Hotel

Jul 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219626:42495:0[/embed] Kabukicho Love Hotel (Sayonara Kabukicho | さよなら歌舞伎町)Director: Ryuichi HirokiCountry: Japan 
Kabukicho Love Hotel photo
No hope for the hopeless
When director Ryuichi Hiroki came out to introduce Kabukicho Love Hotel, he said something to the effect of, “Please stay through the credits. After the credits, you will see some hope.” It wasn’t really adv...

Japan Cuts Capsule Review: I Alone

Jul 21 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219665:42490:0[/embed] I Alone (この世で俺/僕だけ | Kono yo de ore/Boku dake)Director: Sho TsukikawaCountry: Japan 
I Alone Review photo
Save the baby
I Alone is a film about a lot of things. It's about political corruption and kidnapping, sure, but it's also about responsibility and staying true to one's own beliefs. It's about fighting until the bitter end, because i...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Chasuke's Journey

Jul 13 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219663:42484:0[/embed] Chasuke's Journey (天の茶助 | Ten no Chasuke)Director: SabuCountry: Japan 
Chasuke's Journey photo
Mr. Angel's Screenwriting Workshop
Chasuke’s Journey is an indictment of dramatic shortcuts in writing. The head tea server in heaven works among the screenwriters who decide the fates of everyone below, but their stories are trite. The immortal one who ...

NYAFF Capsule Review: Nowhere Girl

Jul 13 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219660:42485:0[/embed] Nowhere Girl (Tōkyō Mukokuseki Shōjo | 東京無国籍少女)Director: Mamoru OshiiCountry: Japan 
Nowhere Girl Review photo
Whup whup whup whup
New York Asian Film Festival co-programmer Samuel Jamier has a tendency to describe films as “interesting,” and he will sometimes say the word five times in half as many minutes when introducing them. He didn&rsqu...

NYAFF Review: Tokyo Tribe

Jul 07 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219610:42463:0[/embed] Tokyo TribeDirector: Sion SonoRating: NRCountry: Japan  If you asked a small child to describe to you what they thought when they heard the phrase "rap battle," you'd probably get something like Tokyo Tribe. This isn't a film about a few MCs spittin' some ill beats in order to prove themselves and ultimately win the respect of their peers; it's a film about a city ravaged by rap-related crime and the ultimate gang war that breaks out. And much of the dialogue spoken between the characters flows against the thumping beats that back the entire film. It's a rap musical; it's a martial arts action film; and it's a sardonic comedy eviscerating systemic issues with Japanese culture. It's everything you could possibly want it to be and a whole lot more shoved into just two hours of screentime. (It's also a manga adaptation. Shocker, that.) I honestly wonder who will find the music more grating: people who hate rap, or those who love it. It's pretty obvious why the former would hate it, but the latter is the more interesting thing to discuss. This is a film that clearly has reverence for rap music, but more often than not it makes a pretty poor case for the genre. Rapping is hard. (I should know. My dream is to be a white rapper some day, but I'm terrible at it, and it definitely won't happen.) I get the impression that a lot of people don't appreciate the linguistic ability and agility required to really get some funky fresh rhymes going. Unfortunately, those are things the general cast of Tokyo Tribe lack. When the credits rolled, a couple of Japanese names (written in Japanese letters) were followed by "Young Dais." I'd been expecting something like that, because I knew right off the bat that Kai, the head of the Peace and Love gang, was actually a rapper. Everyone else had an awkwardness to their rhythm that Kai had on point from start to finish. Everyone else was amateur by comparison. And yeah, of course they were. They're actors, and he's a rapper for one of Japan's various boy bands. It was a good casting choice, but it made me wish that there were more rappers and fewer actors. (There were some others that were clearly rappers as well (I particularly liked the heads of the female gang), but they weren't crucial to the story and didn't get much screentime.) Sion Sono has played up style at the expense of substance in the past, but never so dramatically as here. Tokyo Tribes oozes more character from an average frame than most films in their runtime. Whether it’s the ridiculous and elaborate sets or the bizarre image distortions and lens flares (or a combination of the two), this is a movie that is distinctive and memorable. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny it. You don’t forget that you’ve seen a movie like Tokyo Tribes. You can’t, unless you legitimately have a memory disorder. And if you do… well, you’ll get to see it for the first time all over again, and there’s something magical about that too.  But, of course, form can overtake function, and that undoubtedly happens here. During the film’s final confrontation, one of the characters raps The Point of the movie, and I nearly said (out loud), “Oh! So it’s a film with a message.” It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now, but up until that moment the film wasn’t building up to anything other than a battle. I mean, there’s a “Good vs. Evil” thing in the sense that the bad guys hate Kai's gang because of the peace and love thing, but that never feels like more than a way to artificially build conflict. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but to pretend at the 11th hour that this was all in service of something? Come on.  The only time when style gets away from the film is in the moments of pathetically poor CGI. There are a few moments where it’s so blatantly fake that the veracity of the moment is ruined. You have to suspend a whole lot of disbelief in order to get into this movie, but there’s still a limit. A tank that looks like something a child would make in a My First AutoCAD class is that limit. And it’s not just that tank, though that’s the most obvious example of it. What’s worse is the blood. In the past, Sion Sono films have been horrifyingly bloody, but the blood was real. It felt like a thing that existed in the film. My only real problem with Why Don’t You Play in Hell? was that it took the easy way out on occasion (and lower-budget Asian cinema clearly hasn’t figured out digital blood sprays yet (come on guys, Fincher had this shit down in 2007)). But here it's worse, because even if the initial spray in his previous film was sometimes faked, at least the blood staining the floors and the people after the fact were real. The moment could be forgiven in service of the greater good. Not so here. The film verges on being bloodless, because the red stuff has no feel to it. It's just an effect lazily thrown onto the screen a few times and then forgotten about. But those are all relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. People have said that Tokyo Tribes is too much of a good thing, and I don't think that's quite accurate. It's not too much of a good thing, because it's too many things to be too much of any one of them This film throws the proverbial kitchen sink at the screen and does so with an ungodly amount of technical flair. When you get sick of rapping, it turns into a (fantastic) action movie. The punches may not always land, and the wirework is very clearly wirework, but ya know what? It's freaking awesome. And then there's more rapping. And then there's some rapping and fighting. And it's all awesome. A plausible argument could be made that there's just too much movie, that it could have been cut down by 20 or 30 minutes without much narrative impact. But to what end? The content of the film is nothing if not excessive. Why shouldn't the film itself embody that as well?
Tokyo Tribe Review photo
Well then.
My favorite film to play at last year's New York Asian Film Festival was Sion Sono's cinematic love-letter/masterpiece Why Don't You Play in Hell?. It's a spectacular film, and now that it's seen a domestic release, y'all hav...

DBZ Trailer  photo
DBZ Trailer

Goku has blue hair in newest Dragonball Z: Resurrection of F Trailer


Super Saiyan God Super Patti Mayonnaise
Jun 29
// Nick Valdez
With a new Dragonball TV series taking up after the events of this film, I'm pretty pumped for Dragonball Z: Resurrection of F. The sequel to last year's Battle of Gods where Goku achieves the "Super Saiyan God" form that com...
Japan Cuts 2015 photo
Japan Cuts 2015

2015 Japan Cuts Film Festival lineup unveiled


And it's pretty flipping cool
Jun 05
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
One of the best parts about being an Asian film lover in New York is the late-June-through-mid-July run of Asian-centric festivals. The second half of that time is taken up by the Japan Cuts Film Festival, a showcase at the N...
Death Note  photo
Death Note

Death Note film gets kickass director


Apr 28
// Nick Valdez
If you're not aware the American adaptation of Death Note, a manga about a kid finding a book that magically kills people when you write their name in it, has been floating around for quite some time. The last we heard of thi...
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First trailer for Takashi Miike's Yakuza Apocalypse


It's weird and then it gets weirder
Apr 24
// Matthew Razak
Yakuza, vampires, Takashi Miike and Yayan Ruhian from The Raid and Raid 2? You're sold, I know, but there's also a really weird trailer above that will sell you even more on Yakuza Apocaplyse: The Great War of the Undergroun...
Boy and Beast photo
Boy and Beast

First trailer for Mamoru Hosoda's next anime film, The Boy and The Beast


Apr 23
// Nick Valdez
Mamaro Hosoda's films are always triumphs of animation. Known for Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and even The Digimon Movie, his films have a distinct and flowing art style that's always very pleasing to the eye. On top of that,...

Tribeca Review: The Birth of Sake

Apr 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219229:42341:0[/embed] The Birth of SakeDirector: Erik ShiraiRelease Date: TBD Rating: TBD A second family is essential for the brewers at Yoshida Shuzo. (The brewery has produced Tedorigawa label sake since 1870.) They spend an entire season at the brewery tending to the sake rice, waiting for the precise moment of fermentation, stirring vats or letting them sit still and bubble. They eat meals together, they sleep in on-site quarters, they party together, and they toil. All the while, the camera lovingly considers the winter outside and the activity indoors, making the rice and steam both a counterpoint and a complement to the falling snow. It's not food porn, it's food poetry. The general sentiment from the brewmasters and Shirai is that the brewing process is almost like raising a child. (Hence The Birth of Sake rather than The Making of Sake.) When they're away from their baby, we see the various men in isolation and get to understand the kind of necessary camaraderie that builds through this rearing of sake. At one point, some of the older brewmasters bathe together. In another context, these men ought to be retired, but at Yoshida Shuzo, they're like brothers playing in the tub. There's a generational divide in the sake brewing process, which reflects a change in Japanese drinking habits just as much as the way that most traditions fade generation by generation. The primary seller for Tedorigawa is much younger than the veteran brewers, and he spends his off-season traveling the world to promote the brand. Sake is his life, but he's had to feel his way around the changing market for it. He shares some wine with his fellow brewmasters, and the differences in their palettes are apparent with the first swirl and sniff. The other young brewmasters, when off work, hang out with the other young brewmasters, and they talk about dating women, though maybe "girls" given the teenage tenor of their conversation. The cycle of making sake would get in the way of those plans. It's the difference between a job and a calling, which leaves the future of the craft in question. Shirai captures both the beauty and the melancholy of the sake brewing process, and it's fascinating that The Birth of Sake never feels forced in its various observations. That's probably because the brewmasters have such fondness for what they create, and for the family that's created because of it.
Birth of Sake Review photo
The brotherhood of brewers
At a certain point in Erik Shirai’s documentary The Birth of Sake, it becomes apparent that the film isn't just about the art of making of sake. This is common in movies that are about making something—food, art, ...

When Marnie Was There photo
When Marnie Was There

Here's the US Trailer for Ghibli's When Marnie Was There


Apr 17
// Nick Valdez
Since Studio Ghibli is still stuck in purgatory, and haven't announced a new feature since all of that financial weirdness reared its ugly head some time ago, When Marnie Was There might possibly be the studio's final film. ...
Dragonball Z photo
Dragonball Z

First trailer for Dragonball Z: Fukkatsu no F features a golden Frieza


FREEZER FREEZER FREEZER
Mar 03
// Nick Valdez
I don't think I've ever talked about it here, but Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods was one of the funnest animated films I saw last year. Didn't give it enough credit because it was essentially an hour of a dude punching a giant...

Review: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Feb 24 // John-Charles Holmes
[embed]219012:42246:0[/embed] The Tale of Princess KaguyaDirector: Isao TakahataRelease Date: February 17, 2015 (DVD/Blu-Ray)Rating: PGCountry: Japan The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on the classic Japanese folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which tells of a bamboo cutter and wife who find a small girl inside a stalk of bamboo.  The girl, who eventually comes to be named Princess Kaguya, grows very quickly into a beautiful young woman, which is only exacerbated by the bamboo cutter finding a trove of treasures in other stalks of bamboo in the forests.  The bamboo cutter buys his family’s way into the lap of luxury and refines Kaguya from her quaint mountain life into to the extremely restrictive lifestyle of a feudal princess. As Kaguya matures, word of her beauty spreads across the land and in due time, five overzealous suitors show up at the mansion doors.  What follows is a haunting tale of Kaguya’s struggles for independence and freedom as well as an idea of what the definition true happiness is and what it brings to us.  Is it wealth?  Security?  Beauty?  Or something else altogether? Princess Kaguya launches by wearing its folktale trappings on its sleeves.  Most of the characters act as the everyman for all the roles people play in our lives and logic is thrown to the wind in favor of mysticism and bewilderment.  However, once the stage for the story is set, emotion becomes the guiding force for most of the film.  Each moment of the film is driven by these strong moments of expression, ranging from extremes of happiness to absolute depression.  Even when it seems that the film is setting up an eclectic series of events, the narrative constantly takes a back seat to the emotional state of the film, Princess Kaguya, and the audience. The story itself is actually quite simple to digest, but the true star of the film is the unique and striking animation on display.  The film looks unlike any modern Ghibli film, trading in crisp and strong digital lines for very rough, very human brush strokes.  The visuals evoke the imagery of traditional Japanese ink and watercolor paintings.  You could take a still from any moment of the film and hang it up on a wall. It’s not quite clear through why you’d want to freeze-frame the film, though, as the animation is simply stunning in motion.  As lines are redrawn with every frame this motion implies a great sense of breath and life or quietness and weight when lines stand still.  As motion increases and action climbs, the lines get more and more out of control, as if a master artist loosened his grip on the brush.  Little details like moving accent lines to imply light or restrained palettes to direct attention add that extra polish that makes it a true masterwork. Words truly don’t do these visuals justice and honestly might be the most visually interesting film I’ve ever seen out of Studio Ghibli in years—which given their legendary pedigree, is saying a lot.  This is what makes somewhat upsetting when the film falls prey to the same pratfall of the last few Ghibli productions.  The mood and animation silently tells more of the story than the words ever do, but in the final moments of the film, an immediately pressing impetus emerges to give the film a climax that, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure was necessary.  The film seems to revolve around how Princess Kaguya feels at any given moment as well as asking the existential question of what exactly is the true nature of happiness.  Once we actually get some answers near the end of the film, it’s not exactly an answer for those questions the film sets up.  Honestly, I feel like the emotional impact of the film is so strong and so resonant that it managed to carry me through to the film’s eerie conclusion, but I would be quick to understand if audiences (particularly western audiences) found themselves very confused with final moments of the story.  As easy as it would’ve been to simply rely on the imagery of the animation through to the end, this choice probably stems more from the nature of the source material rather than a misstep of the direction of the film. Story issues aside, the film exudes a restrained and haunting air throughout its runtime.  Shots are framed like paintings in a gallery and music punctuates little moments of the film, only making itself heard with hard piano strikes at some of the more intense scenes.  Ghibli films have usually had an incredible eye for minutia, and Takahata exhibits the same mastery in his portrayal of an old, yet legendary Japan. So if you’re already a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, making a point to see Princess Kaguya is a no-brainer at this point, but for everyone else I’d still say this one is worth checking out.  The simple story keeps the film easy to follow, despite some missteps near the end, but even if the folktale isn’t enough to hold your attention, the animation and atmosphere will certainly keep you glued to your seat.  As one of the better Ghibli films of the past decade, Princess Kaguya will go down as a haunting, yet beautiful piece of work, much like the princess herself.
Princess Kaguya Review photo
Little Bamboo, big style
Isao Takahata is one of the directors out of Studio Ghibli that seems to be less discussed by fans in the west.  Takahata is responsible for directing some of the most riveting and eerie films to come from the Japanese a...

Rurouni Kenshin photo
Rurouni Kenshin

Newest Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends trailer is on fire


Feb 19
// Nick Valdez
I'm not a huge anime or manga fan (I'll stick to One Piece thank you very much), but I really dug Rurouni Kenshin and the films adapted from the series. The story of a former assassin who's turned a new leaf and refuses to k...

Review: R100

Jan 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218709:42046:0[/embed] R100 Director: Hitoshi MatsumotoRating: R100Release Date: January 23rd, 2015 (Theatrical and VOD)Country: Japan Takafumi Katayama (Nao Omori) is your average Joe (or whatever the Japanese equivalent to that is). He's a reasonably competent salesman at a large furnishing store. There's exactly nothing remarkable about him. If you saw him on the street, you wouldn't think twice about it. Unless, of course, he was being abused by a woman in leather. And while for many that seems a bit unlikely, for Katayama it's a daily occurance. You see, Katayama likes pain. Sexually. And since his wife went into a coma, he has had a rather involved method of having this particular desire fulfilled. For one reason or another, he ends up at a club called “Bondage.” The literal merry-go-round that follows convinces him to hire a particularly comprehensive S&M care package. As he goes about his life, various leather-clad "Queens" will come to him and make him feel. And it's not always physical abuse; any sort of humiliation will do. Lovely dinner at a sushi bar? Here comes a Queen to smash the food to bits and make him eat it in front of the extremely uncomfortable guests. And he loves it. You can tell, because his face contorts like a baloon, his eyes turn black, and ripples emanate from his head. By now, you should know if R100 is your type of film. If that previous paragraph sounds either titillating or hilarious, you've already figured out the next screening within 50 miles of you and are planning your weekend around it. If you find that conceptually retched, literally nothing about it is going to change your mind. This is a film intended to appall. But it also wants to make you laugh. And in that objective it is overwhelmingly successful. Right from the outset, I was completely and totally hooked. And so was everyone else. When that first Queen roundhouse kicks Katayama's head into a glass window, it was a taste of things to come but it couldn't prepare us. Nothing could. From there it builds and builds into this amorphous, incomprehensible blob of violent sexual comedy. And it's absolutely brilliant. I'm loathe to say more. Not that I'm really worried about spoilers, because R100 truly has to be seen to be believed. A whole bunch of text on the internet won't tell you shit. I could describe the above trailer – which is really just a clip from Katayama's introduction to his new pastime – in excrutiating detail, but until you actually saw it for yourself, you couldn't comprehend what I'm saying. And that's a pretty basic scene, all things considered. Around the 45-minute mark, things get Meta. People begin to react to the film’s content and note its narrative inconsistencies. I laughed as hard as anyone, but it was also the moment that I began to think that perhaps R100 was trying just a bit too hard. Pulling off Meta humor is extremely difficult, and generally it only works when it's a fundamental part of the narrative. That isn't the case here; the film literally pauses for comment a few times and then resumes. That's an issue in part because, as funny as it is, R100 presents itself seriously. Omori and co. aren’t in on the joke, so when someone flat out states that there are massive contradictions and continuity problems, it doesn’t really jive with the narrative as presented. It seems more like an attempt to shield itself from criticism. “Hey, you can’t criticize this story for being ridiculous, because we did it first. Aren’t we zany?” Calling attention to a story’s flaws rarely works. Rather than being cutesy and playing it off, I'd rather they just fix the problem in the first place. It still bothered me in R100, but it’s less of a problem, because the film was going to have those inconsistencies anyway. The film called attention to them because it does whatever it damn well pleases. Without those moments, nothing would have changed. And so they aren’t really flaws in the way these things usually are. They were clear, albeit insane, directorial decisions to drive forward the little bit of narrative that R100 pretends to have. They didn’t have to draw attention to them. But in the grand scheme of things, none of that really matters. Because this is a film where a platinum-blonde giantess screams American profanities while jumping into a pool on a continuity-shattering loop. I mean, come on. That's fucking amazing. And if that couldn’t inspire someone to literally eat their shirt, I have no idea what could.
R100 Review photo
Viewer discretion advised
Thanks to R100, we know the proper recipe for a shirt: 24 hours in a slow-cooker, with red wine sauce, celery and carrots. Not because the film involves shirt eating (not directly at least), but because it forced Twitch found...

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Japan's Godzilla to return as Toho announces new film


This better be a rubber suit or I'm done with you, Japan
Dec 08
// Matthew Razak
Big news (get it?) out of Japan today as Toho, the wonderful folks behind every Godzilla film that used large rubber suits has announced they will be bringing the giant lizard back once again. This will be the first non-...

Review: Why Don't You Play in Hell?

Nov 05 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217995:41667:0[/embed] Why Don't You Play in Hell? (地獄でなぜ悪い Why don’t you play in hell?)Director: Sion SonoRelease Date: November 7, 2014 (Theatrical and VOD)Rating: 18+Country: Japan If you haven't been on an actual set, seeing a movie about making movies can be kind of intimidating. Films about any industry have the potential to alienate viewers unfamiliar with them, but simply by virtue of the medium, films about films are particularly capable of turning people off. Much of Why Don't You Play in Hell? takes place on film sets, and for a while I was worried that that might create a film that would push away audiences who might otherwise be drawn in by the fact that it's so totally and completely insane. But then I realized something crucial: Why Don't You Play in Hell? isn't really about making movies. It's about the desire to make movies. And I think that's something that most people have had at least once in their life. Maybe when they were younger they picked up a camera and made something dumb with their friends; maybe they walked out of a movie and had an amazing idea of their own that goes nowhere. Those people can't necessarily relate to the creation of a movie, but they can relate to that fundamental desire. And everyone can relate to the need to make something great. This isn't about getting a paycheck; it's about art (or something like it). Whether it's writing the next Great American Novel, developing a new type of string cheese, or Kickstarting Citizen Kane 2: Rosebud's Return, every person has felt the drive to create something. Many people may never take it there, but that makes seeing someone beat the odds and truly succeed all the more satisfying. So let's talk about crazy. Yesterday, we posted our review of R100, which began with a discussion of Twitch founder Todd Brown's decision to eat his shirt. It was a bet he made because he saw Why Don't You Play in Hell? and couldn't fathom anything being even half as crazy. He was wrong, obviously, but it points to just how crazy Sion Sono's film is. Earlier I was talking with someone who said that it is one of the few films that truly can't be classified into a genre. And he's right, because it is a little bit of everything. It's like the Babymetal of movies, and I mean on a technical and conceptual level. If you know Babymetal, you'll get what I mean. If you don't, you're welcome. That music video is Why Don't You Play in Hell? in a nutshell. It's ridiculous, exceedingly Japanese, and absolutely perfect. But not perfect in the way Bad Film is perfect. It's something more. You see, the beauty of Bad Film is the fact that it exists. Against all odds, it's a movie that was finished and then released. Yes, it's riddled with problems, but the sheer fact that I sat in a theater and saw it completely blew my mind. But the reality is that it's a film that requires an audience and a theater. Without the pomp and circumstance of that movie-going experience, the sheer brilliance and insanity of it doesn't really register. My recommendation of Why Don't You Play in Hell? comes with no such caveats. While it's undoubtedly a film that could benefit from a crowd, it could be enjoyed in any scenario. On a first date with the girl of your dreams? Why Don't You Play in Hell? Suffering from some horrible disease and looking for a cinematic respite? Why Don't You Play in Hell? Stuck in bumper to bumper traffic and trying not to turn your road rage into a segment on the nightly news? Why Don't you Play in Hell?  There are exactly zero circumstances under which watching Why Don't You Play in Hell? is not the best possible thing you could be doing. So why are you still reading this? Seriously. Close your computer or throw your phone in a river and go see the movie. And if there's no screening within a 300 mile radius of you, you know what you should do? Make your own goddamn movie.
Why Not Play in Hell? photo
The Babymetal of movies
Last year, Japan Cuts played Sion Sono's Bad Film, a project filmed back in 1995 but not finished until 2012. In my non-review of the film, I unequivocally called it a masterpiece, and I stand by every word. It is a labo...

Sexy Freddy vs. Jason photo
Sexy Freddy vs. Jason

NYCC: So... someone made "sexy" female Freddy vs. Jason figurines


But I'd totally pay to see this movie.
Oct 12
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
You know what I've never once thought? "There should be female versions of Freddie Krueger and Jason Vorhees!" And even if I had, I certainly wouldn't have followed that thought with, "Let's put them in skimpy outfits and sex...
Japan Society Screenings photo
Japan Society Screenings

Dark Side of the Sun film series playing at New York's Japan Society


Monthly series running from October to February
Oct 08
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
New York's Japan Society is awesome. I love the annual Japan Cuts film festival, and while it's definitely their biggest film-related event, there's a lot of other cool film-related (and not film-related) stuff that goes on t...
Rurouni Kenshin photo
Rurouni Kenshin

Trailer for final Rurouni Kenshin film, The Legend Ends


Sep 05
// Nick Valdez
Although we'll never get a proper release here in the states, I can't stop covering the Rurouni Kenshin films. After seeing the first one, I read through the manga it's based off of and I can't wait to see it in action someh...

Fantasia Review: Live (Raivu)

Aug 02 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218140:41727:0[/embed] Live (Raivu | ライヴ)Director: Noboru IguchiRating: NRCountry: Japan  Live (pronounced "lyv" not "lihv") is a new take on an adaptation. Rather than really basing his script on Yusuke Yamada novel of the same name, Iguchi's film uses the book as an integral part of the plot. Naoto Tamura is a not-very-nice person who is forced to finally care about someone when a garbled voice calls him one day and tells him his mother will be killed if he doesn't follow instructions. As proof, he is sent a live feed of his mother in a dark room and men with covered faces holding needles full of poison. (Isn't technology great?) The instructions are simple: Find him. How is Naoto supposed to do that? Why, by reading Yusuke Yamada's novel, of course. The mysterious person on the other side of the phone has effectively recreated the situation in the book, a deadly "triathlon" reminiscent of Battle Royale, and Naoto is not the only player in the game. As he reaches the first destination (note: the book's protagonist is also named Naoto Tamura), he runs into a number of other people running around with copies of Live in their hands. Each and every one of them was given the same order, or a loved one would be poisoned, and so they've all got their phones open to their respective live feeds. (This operation is clearly a big one.) But things take a turn once people start dying. Not the people on the live feeds, the people reading the book. The first death is an accident, a woman's head is crushed in an almost Final Destination-like fashion, set off by an unfortunate chain of events. (The catalyst, by the way, was an exceedingly short miniskirt given to her by the game's director as part of the uniform. Obligatory up-skirt shots are in abundance in the following minutes. (And shots of female behinds are found throughout.)) Soon, though, the accidents are replaced by straight up murders (and the occasional accident). And while I was hoping for some real Rube Goldberg-esque kills, what I got was a bit more straight foward (but no less ridiculous). Eventually, of course, the various people in this game turn on each other, and the director arms them well. In an elevator, beside the only bike in the film (it's a triathlon in name only) are a whole bunch of weapons. And once people get their hands on them, all hell breaks loose. The violence in Live straddles the fine line between funny-stupid and stupid-stupid. There is just enough imagination to keep things fresh throughout and the moments before and after are usually pretty funny (I laughed often and loudly), but the actual implementation leaves much to be desired. Ranged weapons use CGI ammunition and the more dangerous close range weapons cause CGI bloodsprays. The film usually then cuts to a prosthetic or other practical effect, but at the point of contact it just looks bad. It doesn't help that the fight choreography is bland at best. While there's no reason to think that this rag-tag gang would be able to pull off intense fights, the attempts at creating such scenes comes off as laughably bad. Not funny-stupid, just stupid-stupid. So I said this film is reasonably accessible, and I stand by that statement. The premise is crazy, but it's also really not that over the top in the grand scheme of Iguchi's works. Person being told by a voice in his ear what to do, lest someone he loves dies? That's positively Hollywood. Not good Hollywood, but definitely the kind of junk you'd see come from a smaller studio. Live is better than that junk. It's obviously got its Japanese quirks (Iguchi is all about the Japanese quirks), but it's pretty easy to follow along, despite its large cast. And while a couple of things happen that go a bit too far off the deep end (see header image), for the most part it's oddly logical. In fact, for most of the film the weirdest thing is just how bad everyone's aim seems to be (I think if you find fifteen crossbow bolts, you'd hit something. Even by accident.) While this isn't a film for everyone, it could serve as a reasonable introduction to the stranger side of Japanese cinema. The low quality CGI/silly look practical effects mean that its over-the-top violence never takes a turn for the sickening. Plus, it's a comedy at heart and the jokes hit more often than they don't. Having never read Yusuke Yamada's original book, I don't know just how well the characters adhere to it, but on concept alone the meta-adaptation is a brilliant move, and one that I'd like to see explored elsewhere. Live is dumb, fun, and definitely one to see in a crowd. If you can catch it in a theater, do so. If not, though, get a group of friends together and check it out on when it inevitably ends up on Netflix.
Live (Raivu) Review photo
Almost accessible Iguchi
To those who know it, Noboru Iguchi's name brings up a very particular image. In fact, when people with only a tangential knowledge of Japanese cinema, Iguchi's work is probably the first thing they think of. It's exactly the...

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Ghibli's The Tale of Princess Kaguya gets English cast and release date


Jul 17
// Nick Valdez
While I may only like a small selection of Studio Ghibli's films, there's no mistaking their quality. Based on the Japanese tale "The Tale of Bamboo Cutter" and directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), Princess Kag...

NYAFF Non-Review: 3D Naked Ambition is the weirdest movie I've ever seen

Jul 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217959:41660:0[/embed] 3D Naked AmbitionDirector: Lee Kung-lokRating: NR (18+)Country: Hong Kong/Japan Two years ago, Pang Ho-Cheung's excellent Vulgaria (starring Chapman To, who leads 3D Naked Ambition) opened my eyes to a new world of sex comedies, ones that are dirty in concept but clean in practice. I don't know for sure if actor nudity is disallowed, but I can say that I've never seen a HK actor properly naked or an actress in any serious state of undress. During sex they wear shirts and in any other case there are plenty of ways they're covered up. In my reviews of Vulgaria and others (like Golden Chickensss), I noticed the trend and even commented on it, but in reality I find it kind of compelling. It's like watching an American comedy from during the Hay's Code era, back when implication was everything. While obviously more explicit than those films, the HK comedies have a similar need to conform around standards while trying to push the envelope. I assumed that it was actually a grander requirement of Hong Kong films: If they wanted a release, no nudity allowed. Apparently that's not quite the case, because 3D Naked Ambition has a whole lot of exposed breasts. But there's a loophole: each and every one of them is Japanese. Hong Kong actresses still cover up (with one sorta-exception) and the Japanese ones bare it all. And by all, I only mean boobs, because actual genitals are still disallowed (in both Hong Kong and Japan). It's an interesting use of another culture's more lax laws, and – as far as I know – unique. (Golden Chickensss is also partially set in Japan but lacks nudity.) 3D Naked Ambition tells the story of Wyman Chan (Chapman To), a sex writer who is fired thanks to all of those dirty ingrates on the internet who refuse to pay for quality content. But unable to believe that paid-porn is dead, he gets together with some friends and they head off to Japan to make some AVs AKA Adult Videos AKA pornography. As you might expect, the decision to switch to that was a pretty simple one: They wanted to get free access to people having sex. As producers, they get to be on set and push the actors and actresses into whatever weird contortions they so choose. They're horny and excited. But they push the actor away with their requests for positions that may or may not exist/be possible. He simply walks off. But since the show must go on, they choose a new actor from amongst themselves. And, of course, Wyman is the chosen one. But here's where things get weird in a bad way. Let's talk about rape. Yes, seriously. Because 3D Naked Ambition is – perhaps inadvertently – a celebration of rape. Japan stereotypically has a rape culture, especially in their porn (I mean, they hadn't banned the possession of child pornography until last month), so it makes sense that any film about Japanese porn would feature it in some form or another, but you know, it's supposed to be funny. It's not about the rape of women, though; it's about men. Wyman is forced into that encounter, literally shouting "No!" and trying to run away and being thrown back into position by his female partner. It's funny... but it's still rape. And while it would be vaguely uncomfortable just that once, man-rape becomes the focal point of his character. Japanese women go absolutely crazy for this new star who lets women take the reigns, and Wyman is pulled into this new career, playing the awkward guy who gets raped by everybody around him. Like one of his first videos, where he plays a thirteen year old student who gets raped by his school nurse. "Everything that's about to happen is a hallucination," she says, and then off she goes. At that point, Wyman has accepted his fate and even begins to kinda-sorta enjoy his work at times, but I mean... what the fuck? That's not okay on a ridiculous number of levels. If the gender roles were switched, everyone would have been up in arms. The fact that they're technically being sort of subversive doesn't actually make it okay. I laughed along with everyone else because in practice it's pretty darn funny, but conceptually I had serious reservations about what I was watching. Last year, I saw Takashi Miike's Lesson of the Evil. If you look at that review, it's another case where a film goes into something exceedingly fucked up and just feels wrong. Afterwards, I had a discussion with Mike Gingold from Fangoria, and he was absolutely appalled. I wasn't quite as horrified as he was, but I understood where he was coming from. It was ideologically offensive. But that film knew it was fucked up. It may have featured the gleeful slaughter of dozens of schoolchildren, but it did so to offend. 3D Naked Ambition shows no such self-awareness, and plays the rape for comedy. And it succeeds. 3D Naked Ambition, for the most part, is really, really funny. And it's not like all of the comedy is about him being taken advantage of by women, and there are some genuinely nice moments. A particular scene that went a small way towards redeeming the story involved a new porn actress running off set in tears and Wyman running after her. I was expecting it to immediately turn into a, "It's fine. Just come do it!" sort of thing, but it doesn't. What happens is much better than that. But it's also weird that this movie has that moment. It may be the most "normal" scene in the entire film, but it only serves to highlight just how crazy everything else is. I mean, it's not even worth trying to explain how insane it is. Like R100, it needs to be seen to be believed. Sure, I can tell you that 3D Naked Ambition features a woman spinning vertically around a man's genitals, exploding in a terrible 2D animation, and – in the process – causing him to ejaculate so hard it shatters the earth's atmosphere. I can also tell you that the scene is significantly weirder than it sounds and that it's not the weirdest thing that happens in that movie. But what good would that do you? Can you even fathom what I just said? Of course you can't. Also, it's in 3D. Because why the fuck not. What makes 3D Naked Ambition the weirdest thing I've ever seen is a combination of the actual content (like the scene referenced above) mixed with the off-putting conceptual things that shouldn't work but kinda do. There's just nothing else quite like it, and that's honestly a good thing. One film like this verges on being too many. Even so, I recommend it, but I do so with reservations. And that's the reason this is a "Non-review." Were I to attempt to give 3D Naked Ambition a score based on my experience, it would undoubtedly be a very high one. I greatly enjoyed myself and seeing it in a theater setting, in 3D, with a crowd had an intoxicating effect. But I also can't in good conscience give a film that I find so fundamentally upsetting the score it on a practical level deserves. If you were to see 3D Naked Ambition without reading this, much of what I said probably wouldn't even occur to you. And there's a pretty good chance, whether you've seen it or not, that you think I'm taking this whole thing too seriously. You're free to think that. But whatever else you may say, I think everyone can agree that 3D Naked Ambition is completely insane. It truly is the weirdest thing I've ever seen. But I'm not sure if that's a good thing.
3D Naked Ambition photo
There are no words, but I'll try to think of some
It's been an odd week. On Monday, we posted my review of R100, a film so crazy it inspired a man to eat his shirt. On Tuesday, we posted my review of Why Don't You Play in Hell?, a film so insane that it inspired a man to mak...

Japan Cuts 2014 continues where NYAFF leaves off

Jul 07 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
JAPAN CUTS: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema  July 10-20, 2014 at Japan Society New York, NY -- North America’s largest showcase of Japanese film and “One of the loopiest… and least predictable of New York’s film festivals” (New York Magazine),JAPAN CUTS: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema returns for its eighth annual installment. Running July 10-20 and screening 27 features with 8 special guests, JAPAN CUTS 2014 encompasses a thrilling cross section of cinephilic genre oddities, sword-swinging period action, profound documentaries, cathartic melodramas, warped comedies and cutting-edge arthouse cinema made in and around Japan. Guests include superstar performers and independent auteurs opening up in rare Q&As and dynamic parties rocking Japan Society’s historic theater and waterfall atrium. As in past years, the festival dovetails with the 13th New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), co-presenting 13 titles in the JAPAN CUTS lineup July 10-13. JAPAN CUTS 2014 again earns the distinction as “New York’s premiere Japanese cinema event,” every title never before screened in New York City, “unspooling across a kaleidoscopic range of taste and aesthetics” (The Wall Street Journal). Boasting 1 World Premiere, 3 International Premieres, 7 North American Premieres, 6 U.S. Premieres, 5 East Coast Premieres, and 4 New York Premieres, every day of the festival provides a must-see event for the NYC cinephile, follower of Japanese art and culture, and devoted world cinema aficionado alike.  The festival opens July 10 with the U.S. Premiere of Takashi Miike’s candy-colored undercover cop saga The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, followed by the yakuza-turned-filmmaker movie magic that is Sion Sono’s Why Don't You Play in Hell?. The screening is joined by young actress Fumi Nikaido, named by Variety this year as its International Star You Should Know, who joins for an introduction and Q&A, as well as the JAPAN CUTS Opening Night “Let’s Play in Hell!” Party. The festival centerpiece is the World Premiere on July 17 of director Momoko Ando’s masterful dark comedy 0.5mm—a wicked critique of patriarchy following an assisted living caregiver who survives unemployment by taking advantage of elderly men. Ando visits Japan Society to present and discuss her film, as well as participate in the intimate reception after the screening. JAPAN CUTS’ closing film is the magnificent The Tale of Iya, with its North American Premiere July 20. Director Tetsuichiro Tsuta joins to present his renowned work that tells a timeless story on beautiful 35mm, showing a vanishing part of rural Japan through a mode of film artistry which is itself disappearing. A sign of the times, JAPAN CUTS 2014 marks the debut of a new digital cinema projection system in the Lila Acheson Wallace auditorium of Japan Society’s landmark building, continuing to show viewers the best of this vibrant international film scene in the best cinematic conditions possible. The festival also celebrates the career of brave and unpredictable international starKazuki Kitamura, who receives JAPAN CUTS’ annual prize, the CUT ABOVE Award for Excellence in Film. Kitamura has proven to be not only a versatile performer in dramatic and comedic roles in Japan’s Tragedy and Thermae Romae, but a trailblazer in transnational filmmaking in The Raid 2 and Killers, receiving Kinema Junpo's Best New Actor award for his work in Rokuro Mochizuki's Minazuki and Takashi Miike's Ley Lines (Nihon Kuroshakai). Kitamura joins the festival July 19 to share Dave Boyle’s Japanese-American thriller Man from Reno along with the director, including an introduction and Q&A following the East Coast Premiere of this sexy, moody neo-noir. Kitamura will receive the award as part of the International Premiere of the irresistible comedy Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~, in which Kitamura plays a deadly ronin whose heart is melted by his feline target, followed by the Japan CATS Party!. Other festival highlights include the hotly anticipated East Coast Premiere ofUnforgiven, Sang-il Lee’s adaptation of Clint Eastwood’s original Western masterpiece. Starring Ken Watanabe, this samurai-western remains in the realm of greatness, while completely reformed for the new setting. Japan’s controversial mega-blockbuster The Eternal Zero will screen for the first time in the U.S., giving local audiences a chance to see its amazing aerial dogfight sequences as well as confront the film’s contested vision of history. Yuya Ishii’s The Great Passage, a moving tribute to the power of language and Japan’s Oscar entry, receives its awaited New York Premiere, and anime fans get their fix with the North American Premiere of Keisuke Yoshida’s rapturous My Little Sweet Pea, an emotional rollercoaster of a family melodrama about an aspiring anime voice actress otaku. Also slated is the U.S. Premiere of Aya Hanabusa’s Tale of a Butcher Shop and the East Coast Premiere of Yoju Matsubayashi’s The Horses of Fukushima, two remarkable documentaries that tackle inequality and post-3/11 life through the exploration of human-animal relationships. July 18 sees a euphoric night of exceeding depravity, with the International Premiere of Ryoko Yoshida’s must-be-seen-to-be-believed comic tale of sex and possession The Passion adapted from Kaoruko Himeno’s acclaimed novel, U.S. Premiere of Daisuke Miura’s brilliant orgy-cum-psychodrama Love’s Whirlpool, and the East Coast Premiere of Eiji Uchida’s bloody intergenerational battle to the death Greatful Deadwith newcomer Kumi Takiuchi. Zany director Katsuhito Ishii takes on the children’s genre with the North American Premiere of Hello! Junichi (kids get in for only $6 following Ishii’s own efforts to conscript young cinephiles during the Japanese release!). Award-winning writer for the screen and stage Shiro Maeda makes his directorial debut with the hilarious and profound The Extreme Sukiyaki, presented here in its North American Premiere. Maeda will join for a Q&A via live video stream to discuss this remarkable film.  “Curating annual festivals of a national cinema is necessarily problematic, swinging between exhaustive cultural surveys or limited selections of titles with international arthouse appeal, between a lineup that is representative and one that is exceptional. Our tactic at JAPAN CUTS--and I believe this is especially so this year--has been to focus on diversity,” says filmmaker/scholar Joel Neville Anderson, programmer for JAPAN CUTS 2014. “And the results have been surprising, politically incendiary, and always entertaining. I see the festival’s ongoing engagement with high and low genre, mainstream and experimental forms, as an extension of Japan Society’s century old mission of cultural exchange. The lineup demonstrates Japan’s film cultures navigating issues such as discrimination, aging, regional transformation, and widespread social precarity, evincing a nationalist groundswell attempting to revise history, as well as positive political awakenings following the natural and human-made disasters of 3/11." Tickets: $13/$10 Japan Society members, seniors and students, except for the July 10screening Why Don’t You Play in Hell? and the July 19 screening of Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~: $20/$15, including after parties. Tickets for Hello! Junichi are $6 for any child 12-years-old or younger accompanied by an adult. Patrons who purchase more than 5 tickets for at least 5 different films receive $2 off of each ticket (this special offer is available only in person at the box office or by telephone, not with online purchases, and is not valid for the July 10 screening of Why Don’t You Play in Hell?,July 19 screening of Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~, or the discounted $6 ticket forHello! Junichi.) General admission tickets may be purchased in person at Japan Society, by calling the box office at 212-715-1258, or at www.japansociety.org. The box office will be closed July 4-7 in observance of the July 4th holiday weekend. SCREENING SCHEDULE AT-A-GLANCE Thursday, July 10 6:00 – THE MOLE SONG: UNDERCOVER AGENT REIJI 8:30 – WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? + guest intro/Q&A + party Friday, July 11 6:00 – THE SNOW WHITE MURDER CASE 8:30 – MARUYAMA, THE MIDDLE SCHOOLER Saturday, July 12 12:30 – THE GREAT PASSAGE 3:00 – THE ETERNAL ZERO 6:00 – THE DEVIL’S PATH 8:30 – MISS ZOMBIE 10:30 – THE PINKIE  Sunday, July 13 12:30 – WOOD JOB! 3:00 – MONSTERZ 5:30 – ALL-ROUND APPRAISER Q: THE EYES OF MONA LISA 8:00 – UZUMASA LIMELIGHT + guest intro/Q&A    Tuesday, July 15 6:00 – THE HORSES OF FUKUSHIMA 8:30 – UNFORGIVEN Wednesday, July 16 6:30 – THE EXTREME SUKIYAKI + guest intro/Q&A Thursday July 17 6:30 – 0.5MM + guest intro/Q&A + reception Friday, July 18 6:30 – THE PASSION 8:30 – LOVE’S WHIRLPOOL 10:45 – GREATFUL DEAD Saturday, July 19 12:00 – TALE OF A BUTCHER SHOP 2:15 – MY LITTLE SWEET PEA 4:30 – MAN FROM RENO + guest intro/Q&A 7:30 – NEKO SAMURAI ~SAMURAI ♥ CAT~ + guest intro/Q&A + party 11:00 – KILLERS + guest intro Sunday, July 20 12:30 – PECOROSS’ MOTHER AND HER DAYS 3:00 – HELLO! JUNICHI 6:00 – THE TALE OF IYA + guest intro/Q&A JAPAN CUTS 2014 SCREENINGS (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER) All films are in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.  0.5mm (0.5 miri) – CENTERPIECE PRESENTATION Thursday, July 17 at 6:30 pm **World Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with Director Momoko Ando, followed by a reception Japan. 2014. 198 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Momoko Ando. With Sakura Ando, Junkichi Orimoto, Toshio Sakata, Masahiko Tsugawa, Akira Emoto. Sawa, an assisted living caregiver for a middle class family with an elderly infirm grandfather, is forced to stretch her morals to keep her job. As a result, she finds herself broke and out on the street. She survives her first night by striking up an ambiguous friendship with a kindly old man, gaining access to a portion of the immense wealth held by Japan's aging population. She continues with similar encounters, and while these begin as scams or revenge on rampant sexism, they ultimately become vulnerable intergenerational exchanges. Director Momoko Ando (Kakera: A Piece of Our Life, 2009) masterfully crafts this journey through Japan's embattled sexual landscape, confronting aging, class and patriarchy. Adapted from the director's first novel, 0.5mm features Sakura Ando (the director's sister), who charges each scene with as much humanity as its impeccably photographed frames can handle. This is a dark and profound comedy of the best sort. “Her debut film (Kakera) is a finely tuned meditation on what it means to be loved and to love, regardless of boundaries and social constructs." --Film International --- All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona Lisa (Bannou Kanteishi Q Mona Riza no Hitomi) Sunday, July 13 at 5:30 pm **North American Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 119 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shinsuke Sato. With Haruka Ayase, Tori Matsuzaka, Eriko Hatsune, Charles Deladonchamps, Hiroaki Murakami. The Japanese will always have Paris! In this adaptation of the arch-popular eponymous mystery novel by Keisuke Matsuoka, the city of l'art et l'amour provides the gorgeous backdrop for a grand intrigue involving the world's most iconic artistic treasure: the Mona Lisa. Armed with quasi-supernatural powers of deduction, bottomless knowledge on a limitless array of subjects, and last but not least, cute-and-sexy librarian good looks that would give Audrey Tautou a run for her money, Riko Rinda (Haruka Ayase) is a brilliant appraiser whose "All-Round Appraiser Q" reputation earns the attention of The Louvre as a Mona Lisa exhibition is to be held for the first time in Japan. Accompanied by sidekick Yuto Ogasawara (Tori Matsuzaka), a magazine editor who follows Riko for professional and possibly most personal purposes, she goes to Paris and finds her judgment challenged by the shroud of mystery and threats of theft surrounding the masterpiece as well as the Mona Lisa herself. Minds will be blown, puzzles will be solved, but will a 500-year-old curse be removed? By the director who gave you the Gantz and Library Wars blockbusters. --- The Devil's Path (Kyoaku) Saturday, July 12 at 6 pm **East Coast Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 128 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuya Shiraishi. With Takayuki Yamada, Pierre Taki, Lily Franky, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kazuko Shirakawa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Katsuya Kobayashi, Yu Saito. The Devil's Path shows the hell of guilt and conscience as it chronicles the case of a condemned yakuza. A massive monster of a thug (actor-singer Pierre Taki) seeks revenge on his former accomplice and hopes to achieve his goal by telling his story to a journalist (Takayuki Yamada), revealing three unknown killings. The film is a sullen journey that hardens its emotions, anxieties and energies into a shell of obsession. For the death-row gangster, who's now found God, killing was just part of the cost of doing business. For his accomplice (Lily Franky), killing is just fun. A modest, quiet man, Yamada stands in for the viewer as Taki's mesmerizing, murderous presence absorbs the space around him, inviting him in to encounter a possibly even more evil man, his former partner in crime. As it tells their deeds, the movie becomes an expression of philosophical despair. Nominated for Picture of the Year, Director of the Year and Screenplay of the Year at the 37th Japan Academy Prize --- The Eternal Zero (Eien no Zero) Saturday, July 12 at 3 pm **U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 144 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki. With Junichi Okada, Haruma Miura, Mao Inoue, Hirofumi Arai, Shota Sometani, Min Tanaka, Isao Natsuyagi. Japan's biggest hit last year, one of the 10 top-grossing Japanese films of all time, will no doubt provide the most unique and extreme film experience of the NYAFF/JAPAN CUTS 2014 lineup. As infuriating in its ideological and political black holes as it is exhilarating in visual artistry, The Eternal Zero follows a young man who, as he investigates the life and times of his grandfather, a reluctant kamikaze pilot during the Pacific War, goes from troubling revelations to shocking truths about heroism, history and his own family. Adapted from a hugely popular novel by Naoki Hyakuta, the film tells the tale of tokkotai ("special section," or kamikaze) pilot Kyuzo Miyabe in flashbacks that progressively reveal his alleged cowardice in battle actually concealed a specific moral philosophy of survival. From the cruelties of war to breathtaking airborne battles, this kinetic, emotionally intense, but also politically ambivalent film will leave no one indifferent. --- The Extreme Sukiyaki (Ji, Ekusutorimu, Sukiyaki) Wednesday, July 16 at 6:30 pm **North American Premiere **Featuring Q&A with Director Shiro Maeda via streaming video Japan. 2013. 111 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shiro Maeda. With Arata Iura, Yosuke Kubozuka, Mikako Ichikawa, Kana Kurashina. Reaching a crisis in his post-college life, Horaguchi (Arata Iura) abandons his job and searches out his best friend from his school days. However the bitter and unemployed Ohkawa (Yosuke Kubozuka) hasn't heard from his friend in 15 years and is reluctant to resume their friendship. He is given no choice in the matter. Joined by Ohkawa's partner Kaede (Kana Kurashina) and Horaguchi's former love interest Kyoko (Mikako Ichikawa), the four set off on an aimless day trip to the beach, sukiyaki pot in tow. Ohkawa brings along the one thing that excites him--a crude boomerang he's carved.The Extreme Sukiyaki marks the reunion of Iura and Kubozuka, who shot to stardom after appearing side by side in Ping Pong (2002). This is the directorial debut of award-winning writer and playwright Shiro Maeda, whose film is adapted from his own novel. Directorial debut of Shiro Maeda, winner of the 52nd Kishida Drama Award and 22nd Mishima Yukio Prize --- The Great Passage (Fune wo Amu) Saturday, July 12 at 12:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 134 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yuya Ishii. With Ryuhei Matsuda, Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri, Haru Kuroki, Misako Watanabe, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kaoru Yachigusa, Kaoru Kobayashi, Go Kato. Cult arthouse director Yuya Ishii (Sawako Decides) racked up top honors at the Japan Academy Awards this year (best picture, best director, best actor for Ryuhei Matsuda, best script plus technical prizes) with this captivating existential drama/comedy featuring a charmingly nerdy editor, Majime Mitsuya (Ryuhei Matsuda), who spends decades writing and compiling definitions for a "living language" dictionary while courting his landlady's granddaughter. Set in the mid-1990s, The Great Passage starts as the responsibility for putting together the massive dictionary project is passed on from long-time editor Kouhei Araki (Kaoru Kobayashi) to Majime Mitsuya, a much younger man with a degree in linguistics and an obsessive love for words. An oddball ode on the surface, the film is in fact a deeply humanist tribute to the power of language to connect people, a poignant study of life's slow but steady progression, and ultimately, about finding a reason to live. “At once accessibly humanist and endearingly nerdy, suffused with a deep love of language and a quiet awe at the possibilities of human collaboration” – Variety Selected as the Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards --- Greatful Dead (Gureitofuru Deddo) Friday, July 18 at 10:45 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2014. 97 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Eiji Uchida. With Kumi Takiuchi, Takashi Sasano, Kkobbi Kim. Wealthy young Nami (Kumi Takiuchi) has found herself a hobby to while away the time between ordering new appliances and fashion accessories--surveilling the lives of the crazed and lonely, or "Solitarians," as she calls them. Perched atop the city with powerful binoculars, she tracks the descent of the elderly and unemployed into madness and death, gleefully snapping a selfie beside their freshly decaying corpses. When one of her most prized Solitarians (Takashi Sasano) is snatched up by Christian volunteers and becomes hopeful once again, Nami is sent into a murderous rage, pitting young against old in an epic, bloody battle. Eiji Uchida's genre pleaser is also a cutting critique of Japan's post post-bubble insularity and consumerism. "Dark, bloody, unflinchingly brutal, yet also laugh-out-loud funny, genuinely touching and with a profound social conscience, Greatful Dead is the real deal." --Twitch Film --- Hello! Junichi (Halo! Junichi) Sunday, July 20 at 3 pm **North American Premiere Japan. 2014. 90 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Katsuhito Ishii, Kanoko Kawaguchi, Atsushi Yoshioka. With Amon Kabe, Hikari Mitsushima, Ryushin Tei, Chizuru Ikewaki, Tatsuya Gashuin, Yoshiyuki Morishita. Katsuhito Ishii (Funky Forest: The First Contact and The Taste of Tea) takes on the story of Junichi--a timid third grader who can't muster the courage to return an eraser he borrowed from his secret crush--and turns it into a children's rock 'n' roll comedy. Junichi's world is turned upside down as apprentice teacher Anna-sensei (Hikari Mitsushima) scraps her lesson plan to show the rambunctious students about life as an adult. With Anna's unorthodox style, Junichi and his friends are able to gain confidence and pursue their goal of putting on a big concert. Co-directed with Kanoko Kawaguchi and Atsushi Yoshioka, Hello! Junichi brings out the kid in adults and lets kids be kids. Boasting Ishii's signature dance numbers and Yoshiyuki Morishita (the "Japanese Steve Buscemi") as the band's homeroom teacher, it's a unique experience built for future and current movie maniacs. "Extraordinary." --Udine Far East Film Festival Special price of $6 for children 12-years-old and under! --- The Horses of Fukushima (Matsuri no Uma) Tuesday, July 15 at 6 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2013. 74 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoju Matsubayashi. Fukushima's Minami-soma has a ten-centuries-long tradition of holding the Soma Nomaoi ("chasing wild horses") festival to celebrate the horse's great contribution to human society. Following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the wake of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, local people were forced to flee the area. Rancher Shinichiro Tanaka returned to find his horses dead or starving, and refused to obey the government's orders to kill them. While many racehorses are slaughtered for horsemeat, his horses had been subjected to radiation and were inedible. Yoju Matsubayashi, whose Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape is one of the most impressive documentaries made immediately after the disaster, spent the summer of 2011 helping Tanaka take care of his horses. In documenting their rehabilitation, he has produced a profound meditation on these animals who live as testaments to the tragic bargain human society made with nuclear power. Note: Some scenes contain graphic animal imagery. Winner of the Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary Best Film Award at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival --- Killers (Kirazu)   Saturday, July 19 at 11 pm   **East Coast Premiere   **Introduction by actor Kazuki Kitamura  Indonesia/Japan. 2014. 137 min. Blu-ray, in English, Indonesian and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by The Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto). With Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Mei Kurokawa, Denden.  Kazuki Kitamura's tour de force performance as an eerily handsome and decadently deranged serial killer centers this remarkable Indonesian-Japanese co-production. Nomura (Kitamura), a wealthy expat returned to Tokyo from the U.S. after the financial crisis, has taken to killing young women and uploading videos of the acts. Bayu Aditya (rapper Oka Antara), an honest Jakarta journalist whose personal life has been destroyed by a corrupt politician, encounters Nomura's viral snuff films online and his sense of vigilante justice becomes a dangerous bloodthirst. Communicating anonymously online, Nomura encourages the fledgling killer, but when Bayu wants out, Nomura forces him to complete the transformation in a bloody, operatic finale. Executive produced by Gareth Evans of The Raid, Killers channels American Psycho and Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill via Johnnie To's Fulltime Killer. By turns funny and assaultive, Killers is one of the most disturbing and rewarding viewing experiences in years.    "One of the most interesting, disturbing, and provocative takes on the world of the serial killer ever made." –Twitch 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older. --- Love's Whirlpool (Ai no Uzu) Friday, July 18 at 8:30 pm **U.S. Premiere Japan. 2014. 123 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Daisuke Miura. With Sosuke Ikematsu, Mugi Kadowaki, Kenichi Takito, Eriko Nakamura, Hirofumi Arai, Yoko Mitsuya, Ryusuke Komakine, Seri Akazawa. In a fancy split-level condo in Tokyo's Roppongi nightlife district, four women and four men gather from midnight to 5 am. They've all paid to be there (men more than women), and they have only one thing in common--they seek anonymous sex. Using no names, they're known only by their types: freeter (temp or part-time worker), mild-mannered salaryman, duplicitous OL (office lady), self-conscious working class factory worker, perfectionist teacher, veteran pervert, shy NEET ("not in education, employment or training") and bashful college student. Together, they unravel their identities in a night of increasing debauchery. Daisuke Miura's adaptation of his critically acclaimed 2005 play of the same name explores Japan's fuzoku (sex industry) with depth, humor and freewheeling indecency. This surprising, erotic and disturbing film features breakout performances by Sosuke Ikematsu and Mugi Kadowaki, who are tempted to mix love with sex. 18+ This film is unrated, and may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older. Original stage play winner of the 50th Kishida Drama Award --- Man from Reno (Rino kara Kita Otoko) Saturday, July 19 at 4:30 pm **East Coast Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with Director Dave Boyle and Actor Kazuki Kitamura USA/Japan. 2014. 111 min. DCP, in English and Japanese with bilingual subtitles. Directed by Dave Boyle. With Ayako Fujitani, Kazuki Kitamura, Pepe Serna, Elisha Skorman, Hiroshi Watanabe. A Japanese bestselling crime novelist visiting San Francisco finds herself embroiled in a real life mystery after a night with a handsome stranger. The man--Japanese and supposedly from Nevada--disappears the next morning, after which increasingly strange and dangerous events begin to occur. This beautifully photographed Japanese-American co-production overturns the gender stereotypes of the mystery thriller, casting international star Kazuki Kitamura as its homme fatale. Kitamura effortlessly slides between gentle and sinister, while Ayako Fujitani fits perfectly into the role of author-turned-detective. One of this accomplished transnational film's greatest features is a rare leading turn from Pepe Serna, veteran character actor of over 100 Hollywood films (Scarface, The Black Dahlia). Set in San Francisco, this neo-noir offers not only a compelling portrayal of gender and globalization, but a model for vibrant independent filmmaking across borders. "Uncovers exhilarating new takes on genre conventions." --Los Angeles Film Festival --- Maruyama, The Middle Schooler (Chuugakusei Maruyama) Friday, July 11 at 8:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 119 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kankuro Kudo. With Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Takuma Hiraoka, Kenji Endo, Ik-June Yang, Maki Sakai, Toru Nakamura, Nanami Nabemoto, Yuiko Kariya, Fumina Hara, Ryo Iwamatsu. Though described by acclaimed actor/scriptwriter/director Kankuro Kudo as a "self-fellatio" comedy, Maruyama is also a moving coming-of-age story and an exploration of the infinite possibilities of the human imagination. Maruyama, a sex-crazed 14-year-old (Takuma Hiraoka) is not only dedicated to auto-eroticism but desires to defy the limitations of his body and transcend himself--until his spine literally cracks. When he encounters a newcomer, a nerdy, single father (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) who finds fault with his neighbors, things take a weird turn as corpses are found in the otherwise ordinary neighborhood. As Maruyama's imagination gets out of control, his fantasies go joyously wild and free as he reimagines his family and the inhabitants of the entire apartment complex as manga-like characters cast in an action-packed saga of assassinations and revenge. “[A] hugely entertaining, sensitive, hilarious and whimsical pop-comedy gem.” – Twitch Film --- Miss Zombie Saturday, July 12 at 8:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 85 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by SABU. With Ayaka Komatsu, Toru Tezuka, Makoto Togashi, Riku Ohnishi, Tateto Serizawa, Takaya Yamauchi. In a future or parallel world, family-man Dr. Teramoto (Toru Tezuka) receives a very special delivery: a crate containing a mail order female zombie (Ayaka Komatsu), complete with an instruction manual prescribing a vegetarian diet, a cautionary note against any meat, and a gun--just in case. Teramoto's wife (Makoto Togashi) promptly puts the zombie to work, assigning her the task of scrubbing the garden patio. In lieu of wages, she gets daily rations of rotten greens. Things take a disturbing turn when two contractors working at the villa molest the zombie girl. Witnessing this, the doctor becomes turned on and makes her his plaything. The zombie shows no particular emotional response and yet, as she stoically sews back her wounds, a sense of foreboding emerges. Fate comes knocking at the door when Teramoto's young son, Kenichi (Riku Onishi), has a dreadful accident. The tables begin to turn for master and servant. “A deadpan social satire, an ode to motherhood, and a self-consciously grungy homage to classic silent horror-thrillers” – Variety Winner of the Grand Prize at the 2014 Gérardmer Film Festival; Winner of Best Film Award at the 2014 Fantasporto Film Festival --- The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (Mogura no Uta Sennyu Sousakan REIJI)– OPENING FILM Thursday, July 10 at 6 pm **U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 130 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Miike. With Toma Ikuta, Riisa Naka, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Kamiji, Takashi Okamura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Kenichi Endo, Sarutoki Minagawa, Ren Osugi, Koichi Iwaki. Takashi Miike leaves respectability, restraint and decency at the door in this out-and-out balls-to-the-wall cops vs. yakuza farce. Inept rookie cop Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) falls short of busting a city councilor who's caught molesting a teenage girl. Fired without ceremony, he is quickly rehired for an undercover mission to infiltrate a yakuza clan. Reiji's new colleagues give him a baptism of fire with an unorthodox initiation rite: he gets beaten up, tied naked to the hood of a car and driven around at top speed, and is coerced into shooting another cop. Reiji soon befriends Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi), the No. 2 in the gang. Sharing Reiji's taste in fashion as well as his distaste for drugs, they face down the diamond-toothed "cat" Nekozawa (Takashi Okamura) and his gang. How far will Reiji go in the yakuza underworld, and will he be able to bring down the gangsters in the end? ”Takashi Miike hits a home run with an irresistible cops and yakuza romp” – The Hollywood Reporter “Anyone who falls asleep during this extremely exuberant film can ask for his money back.” – International Film Festival Rotterdam 2014 --- Monsterz (Monsutazu) Sunday, July 13 at 3 pm **North American Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2013. 111 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hideo Nakata. With Tatsuya Fujiwara, Takayuki Yamada, Satomi Ishihara, Tomorowo Taguchi, Motoki Ochiai, Taiga, Masaki Miura, Mina Fujii, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Yusuke Hirayama. Japanese horror master Hideo Nakata (Ringu, Dark Water) returns with a remake of the 2010 South Korean film Haunters, a paranormal thriller that offers an original, exciting variation on the tale of two men with supernatural abilities locked in a duel to the death. The nameless villain is a brooding loner (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who uses his mind control to rob banks to fund his solitary lifestyle. He is thrown off guard when delivery man Shuichi Tanaka (Takayuki Yamada) remains unaffected by his power, even after everyone standing in a public square has been placed under the control of his menacing sapphire eyes. Feeling threatened, the malevolent mind-bender sends a speeding truck after Shuichi and leaves him for dead. The young man mysteriously recovers and finds a job working for the driver, Mr. Kumoi (Tomorowo Taguchi), a guitar-shop owner. But when the mind-bender finds out that Shuichi is still alive, it is a war to the death between the two men. --- My Little Sweet Pea (Mugiko-san to) Saturday, July 19 at 2:15 pm **North American Premiere Japan. 2013. 95 min. DCP, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Keisuke Yoshida. With Maki Horikita, Kimiko Yo, Ryuhei Matsuda, Yumi Asou, Yoichi Nukumizu. It isn't easy to find a dream to chase when you're young, but Mugiko (Maki Horikita) has one: she can't wait to become an anime voice actress. Saving up for classes while she works part-time in a manga store, she lives with her older gambling brother (Ryuhei Matsuda), her father having passed away. When the mother (Kimiko Yo) she never knew turns up out of nowhere and moves in, it only causes irritation for the aspiring otaku. But when she disappears just as quickly, it leaves Mugiko (or "Sweet Pea") searching for answers, bringing her back to her mother's hometown to discover what happened to her mother’s own dream. Featuring fun animated sequences produced especially for the film by renowned studio Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire), My Little Sweet Pea boasts hilarious and moving performances all round, with director Keisuke Yoshida's signature comic timing and snappy dialogue. A consummate two hanky melodrama, My Little Sweet Pea won't leave a dry eye in the house. “You’ll feel like calling Mom after this one.” --Mark Schilling --- Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~  (Neko Zamurai) Saturday, July 19 at 7:30 pm **International Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with actor Kazuki Kitamura, with CUT ABOVE Award Ceremony, Followed by the Japan CATS Party! Japan. 2014. 100 min. HDCAM, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshitaka Yamaguchi. With Kazuki Kitamura, Misako Renbutsu, Yasufumi Terawaki, Kanji Tsuda, Shigeyuki Totsugi. The ever versatile Kazuki Kitamura stars as masterless samurai Kyutaro Madarame, a feared swordsman who has fallen on hard times in old Edo. Caught between two warring gangs in an epic battle of cat lovers and dog lovers, he begrudgingly accepts the canine faction's offer to assassinate the opposite leader's beloved pet: an adorable white cat. Yet upon raising his lethal sword, he cannot bring himself to go through with the act, and the cat melts his ronin heart. But before finding peace as a newly minted cat person, the still fearsome Madarame will have to take on both gangs in a classic samurai street brawl. Kitamura and the cat ("Tamanojo") form a winning onscreen pair in this charming and hilarious romp. Directed by former Takashi Miike Assistant Director Yoshitaka Yamaguchi, Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~ is perfect for cat lovers and cinephiles alike. "Obviously, this is a must see film. Let's not even kid around about that." --Badass Digest --- The Passion (Junan) Friday, July 18 at 6:30 pm **International Premiere Japan. 2013. 95 min. DCP, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Ryoko Yoshida. With Mayuko Iwasa, Kanji Furutachi, Yasushi Fuchikami, Kumiko Ito. A singular deadpan comedy, The Passion tells a story of a young woman raised in a convent named Frances-ko (Mayuko Iwasa), after Saint Francesco. Distressed by not knowing about love and sex, she calls out for a sign from above, but instead hears a voice from below. A human-faced growth speaks to her from between her legs, constantly berating her, calling out "Woman, you are worthless!" Mr. Koga, as she names it, continues the verbal abuse, yet Frances-ko somehow adapts, forming an adversarial yet symbiotic relationship. This bizarre film, based on Kaoruko Himeno's acclaimed 1997 novel of the same name, is skillfully directed by Ryoko Yoshida, lensed by veteran cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa, grounded by Iwasa's show-stopping performance and enlivened by the hilarious Kanji Furutachi, who lends his voice to the chauvinistic Koga. The soundtrack boasts an unmissable eclectic score by legendary experimental musician and composer Otomo Yoshihide. 18+ This film is unrated, and may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older. Original novel shortlisted for the prestigious Naoki Prize --- Pecoross' Mother and Her Days (Pekorosu no Haha ni Ai ni Iku) Sunday, July 20 at 12:30 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2013. 113 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Azuma Morisaki. With Ryo Iwamatsu, Harue Akagi, Kiwako Harada, Ryo Kase, Naoto Takenaka, Kensuke Owada. Laid-back baby boomer Yuichi (Ryo Iwamatsu) is a middle-aged manga artist and singer-songwriter when he isn't at his salaryman day job or watching out for his elderly mother. Suffering from increasing dementia since her husband's death, Mitsue (Harue Akagi) is a constant source of comic energy or annoyance for Yuichi, and he and his son must soon decide if they should put her in a home for the elderly. Jumping back in time, we see how Mitsue (played by Kiwako Harada) tracked the tumult of the latter half of the 20th century, being raised as one of 10 brothers and sisters, surviving the war, and having to push her alcoholic husband (Ryo Kase) along in life. Pecoross is directed by the oldest active film director in Japan, Azuma Morisaki (b. 1927), who creates an emotionally complex work that is only the more profound and life-affirming for its cartoonish portrayal. Awarded Best Japanese Film of 2013 by Kinema Junpo and Eiga Geijutsu --- The Pinkie (Samayou Koyubi) Saturday, July 12 at 10:30 pm **New York Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 65 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Lisa Takeba. With Ryota Ozawa, Miwako Wagatsuma, Haruka Suenaga, Reon Kadena, Takashi Nishina, Mondo Yamagishi, Kanji Tsuda. The winner of the Grand Prix at the 24th Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Lisa Takeba's debut feature is a hyper-imaginative sci-fi(ish) drama about a slacker and his clone. Devil-may-care Ryosuke is taking it easy, nice and easy, particularly with the girls. Unfortunately, the latest beauty he seduces turns out to be a yakuza's moll. Reckoning comes when gangsters beat him up and chop off his pinkie, which falls in the hands of Momoko, a naughty girl who has been stalking him. She gets herself a cloning kit and grows her own Ryosuke-clone. It performs beyond expectations and proves to be a remarkable lover. Frantically paced, The Pinkie is chock-full of Western and Japanese pop culture references and jokes, as if Gen Sekiguchi's Survive Style 5+ had been directed by the minds behind Sushi Typhoon splatter films, mixing Weird Science, Battles Without Honor and Humanity and The Terminator into 65 minutes of concentrated weirdness. “The best thing about The Pinkie is its total adherence to a vision. That this vision is so utterly bizarre is what makes it special.” – Film.com --- The Snow White Murder Case (Shirayukihime Satsujin Jiken) Friday, July 11 at 6 pm **U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 126 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. With Mao Inoue, Go Ayano, Misako Renbutsu, Nanao, Shihori Kanjiya, Nobuaki Kaneko, Erena Ono. Yoshihiro Nakamura's Snow White Murder Case (helmer of Fish Story and Golden Slumbers) offers one of the best brain teasers of the year. Based on a novel by bestselling author Kanae Minato, the film dissects the odd goings-on behind the grim discovery of a corpse in the woods of a national park near Tokyo. The victim is a beautiful young office worker, Noriko Miki (Nanao), the object of much jealousy at the cosmetic company where she was employed. Suspicions soon turn toward her co-worker Miki Shirono (Mao Inoue), who has vanished after the murder. Blogger/journalist Yuji Akahoshi (Go Ayano) takes his investigation to the world of social media and the case quickly turns into a witch hunt with a full-blown Twitter storm. As the plot makes brain-bending twists and turns, the camera takes a cold, hard but not humorless look at the damage wrought by the pettiness of a passive-aggressive society. “Exceptionally well-written and skillfully lensed, The Snow White Murder Case is definitely one of the most compelling crime thrillers to come out of Japan in the last few years.” – Twitch Film --- Tale of a Butcher Shop (Aru Seinikuten no Hanashi) Saturday, July 19 at 12 pm **U.S. Premiere Japan. 2013. 108 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Aya Hanabusa. The Kitades run a butcher shop in Kaizuka City outside Osaka, raising and slaughtering cattle to sell the meat in their store. The seventh generation of their family's business, they are descendants of the buraku people, a social minority held over from the caste system abolished in the 19th century that is still subject to discrimination. As the Kitades are forced to make the difficult decision to shut down their slaughterhouse, the question posed by the film is whether doing this will also result in the deconstruction of the prejudices imposed on them. Though primarily documenting the process of their work with meticulous detail, Aya Hanabusa also touches on the Kitades' participation in the buraku liberation movement. Hanabusa's heartfelt portrait expands from the story of an old-fashioned family business competing with corporate supermarkets, toward a subtle and sophisticated critique of social exclusion and the persistence of ancient prejudices. Note: Some scenes contain graphic animal imagery. Official selection 2013 Busan International Film Festival and 2013 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival --- The Tale of Iya (Iya Monogatari--Oku no Hito--) – CLOSING FILM Sunday, July 20 at 6 pm **North American Premiere **Featuring Intro and Q&A with Director Tetsuichiro Tsuta Japan. 2013. 169 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Tetsuichiro Tsuta. With Rina Takeda, Shima Ohnishi, Min Tanaka, Hitoshi Murakami, Naomi Kawase. Shot on 35mm in Tokushima Prefecture's gorgeous Iya Valley, Tetsuichiro Tsuta's second feature feels like the work of a seasoned filmmaker. The Tale of Iya depicts the story of a shrinking rural community and traditional ways of life encroached on by modern society and consumerism. A grandfather (legendary dancer Min Tanaka) and his granddaughter, Haruna (actress and martial artist Rina Takeda), live together in a small mountain town, eating food they grow and hunting in the forest. Haruna is about to finish high school and must choose whether she will stay or move to the city. Tanaka is powerful and nearly wordless in this indelible screen performance, matched by Takeda, who provides the film with its emotional anchor. Through the appearance of a young man from Tokyo (Shima Ohnishi), Tsuta subtly portrays the dilemmas of leaving, staying and the politicized fights to conserve the environment or temporarily boost the economy. "5/5 stars… a work of instant and startling brilliance." --The Telegraph (UK) --- Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru Mono) Tuesday, July 15 at 8:30 pm **East Coast Premiere Japan. 2013. 135 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Sang-il Lee. With Ken Watanabe, Koichi Sato, Akira Emoto, Yuya Yagira, Shiori Kutsuna. In adapting Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992), Sang-il Lee paid tribute to the film's grandiosity and scale while exchanging America's Western frontier for Meiji-era Japan, a time of immense social and political change after the fall of the Shogunate. Jubei (Ken Watanabe), once a samurai assassin, has survived to raise his children as an impoverished farmer. Before his wife's death, he promised her that he would lay down his sword, but when Kingo Baba (Akira Emoto) comes with news of a bounty on two men who mutilated the face of a prostitute, he can't turn him down. Young Goro (Yuya Yagira) joins the hunt, but they'll have to get through sadistic police chief Ichizo Oishi (Koichi Sato) first, and Jubei must confront even greater injustices, as well as his past deeds and killer heart. With gorgeously choreographed action set pieces in Hokkaido's beautiful and cruel landscape, this Unforgiven stands tall and alone. "Unexpectedly brilliant." --Time Out London ---  Uzumasa Limelight (Uzumasa Laimulaito) Sunday, July 13 at 8 pm **International Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF **Featuring Intro and Q&A with director Ken Ochiai and actress Chihiro Yamamoto Japan. 2014. 103 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Ken Ochiai. With Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto, Hiroki Matsukata, Masashi Goda, Hirotaro Honda, Hisako Manda. A moving, nostalgic portrait of the men behind the golden age of chanbara (sword-fighting dramas and films), Uzumasa Limelight goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre for which Japan is famous. A professional extra named Kamiyama (Seizo Fukumoto, a real-life kirare-yaku, or chambara extras whose job it is to get killed on screen) has devoted 50 years of his life as a kirare-yaku in sword-fighting movies produced at Kyoto's Uzumasa Studios. A master of the art, he lives to die--or more exactly "to be cut"--and show a beautiful, spectacular death on screen. Now an elderly man, Kamiyama lives very modestly but has earned immense respect from his peers, some of them movie stars. When the studio where he works decides to discontinue its chanbara productions, Kamiyama finds himself at a loss. Hope arrives in the form of a young girl named Satsuki, who soon becomes Kamiyama's disciple. Will the art of dying by the sword live on? --- Why Don't You Play in Hell? (Jigoku de Naze Warui) Thursday, July 10 at 8:30 pm **NYC Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF **Introduction and Q&A with actress Fumi Nikaido, Followed by the LET’S PLAY IN HELL! Opening Night Party Japan. 2013. 126 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Sion Sono. With Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino, Tomochika. A tribute to old-school yakuza cinema and shoe-string amateur filmmaking based on a screenplay Sion Sono wrote 17 years ago. The Fuck Bombers, a group of film geeks led by Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa), try to turn brawler Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) into their new Bruce Lee but are nowhere near making their action masterpiece. An ambush set up by a yakuza clan comes to a gory end in the home of boss Muto (Jun Kunimura) with only one man, Ikegami (Shinichi Tsutsumi), surviving. When Mitsuko, the Mutos' young daughter, makes an unexpected entrance, Ikegami is instantly smitten. Ten years later, she has become one sultry mean mess of a girl (Fumi Nikaido). Determined to make Mitsuko a star, her father gives Hirata a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make his movie, with the yakuza as film production crew and the Bombers joining the "real" action--the ultimate sword battle between the Muto and Ikegami clans. "Quite possibly mankind’s greatest achievement, Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell” is less of a question than it is a glorious grindhouse requiem for an entire mode of filmmaking… “– Film.com --- Wood Job! (Ujjobu! Kamusari Naanaa Nichijo) Sunday, July 13 at 12:30 pm **North American Premiere, Co-presented with NYAFF Japan. 2014. 116 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shinobu Yaguchi. With Shota Sometani, Masami Nagasawa, Hideaki Ito, Yuki Hirano, Naoki Ishii, Yoki Iida. The new film from Shinobu Yaguchi, director of Water Boys, is based on Shion Miura's bestseller, a bittersweet coming-of-age novel. Yuki Hirano (Shota Sometani), an ordinary 18-year-old high school graduate, fails his university entrance exams. Finding himself without a job or anything much in the way of career prospects, he abruptly decides to leave the city life behind, prompted by a brochure with a dishy girl on the cover (Masami Nagasawa) that advertises a one-year forestry program. He winds up in Kamusari, a backwater village nestled deep in the mountains, far beyond civilization, convenience stores and mobile phone coverage. There, he meets Iida (Hideaki Ito), a combination of mountain boy scout, dreamboat, handyman and wildman. Alongside Iida, Yuki learns and grows to love the Thoreau-like lifestyle in the woods and he finds himself embracing the dream of forging a fresh green life--and finding the girl from the brochure. “[Yaguchi’s] latest … is a return to comic form, with more laugh-out-loud gags than his films have produced in many years.” – The Japan Times   GUEST SPOTLIGHTS Kazuki Kitamura (Neko Samurai ~Samurai ♥ Cat~, Man from Reno, Killers) - An incredibly versatile, talented actor, Kazuki Kitamura has established himself over the past two decades as one of Japan's most sought-after stars. Embodying devilishly handsome villains and dashing heroes in dramatic and comedic performances of equal virtuosity, he'll present three of his latest films at JAPAN CUTS: the hilarious Neko Samurai, the the Japanese-American independent thriller Man from Reno, and the Indonesian-Japanese co-produced horror-thriller Killers. Recently taking on ambitious transnational projects such as the Indonesian action film The Raid 2, Kitamura hails from Osaka, and made a name for himself in 2000 when he received Kinema Junpo's Best New Actor award for his work in Rokuro Mochizuki's Minazuki and Takashi Miike's Ley Lines (Nihon kuroshakai). That same year he was awarded Best Supporting Actor at the Yokohama Film Festival for his work in Minazuki, Ben Wada'sPerfect Education (Kanzen-naru shiiku), and Kazuhiro Kiuchi's Kyohansha. Since then, Kitamura has continued to impress with a wide range of memorable leading and supporting roles in film and television, including the deliciously evil alien commander in Godzilla: Final Wars, the Thermae Romae franchise and acting opposite Tatsuya Nakadai in Japan's Tragedy. JAPAN CUTS 2014 celebrates Kitamura's career with candid introductions and Q&As for Man from Reno, Killers and Neko Samurai followed by the Japan CATS Party! Momoko Ando (0.5mm) is a multitalented filmmaker, artist and writer, and a rising star of Japan's independent filmmaking scene. Ando's first film, Kakera: A Piece of Our Life, was released in 2009 to great acclaim, scored by the Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha.0.5mm, her tour de force second feature, is adapted from her debut novel of the same name, and stars her sister, actress Sakura Ando. (From an immensely creative family, Momoko Ando is also the daughter of actor/director Eiji Okuda and essayist Kazu Ando.) While critically approaching contemporary issues of gender and patriarchy, Ando's films evince a classical visual style and brilliant comic touch. JAPAN CUTS presents the world premiere of 0.5mm as the festival's Centerpiece Presentation, including an introduction, Q&A and reception with the director. Dave Boyle (Man from Reno) is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker once memorably described by the Wall Street Journal's Jeff Yang as "the best Asian American filmmaker who's not actually in any way Asian American." After debuting with the bilingual comedy Big Dreams Little Tokyo (2006), in which he also starred as a young American businessman obsessed with Japanese culture, Boyle's sophomore featureWhite on Rice starring Hiroshi Watanabe and Nae Yuuki was released in theaters in 2009. In 2011, he embarked on a multi-film collaboration with San Francisco musician Goh Nakamura, who played himself in both Surrogate Valentine and Daylight Savings. JAPAN CUTS presents his fifth feature film, Man from Reno, accompanied by an introduction and Q&A with the director, and star Kazuki Kitamura. Shiro Maeda (The Extreme Sukiyaki) is a writer/director/actor and leading figure in Japan’s contemporary performing arts scene, also establishing himself through his work on novels, TV and movies. Born in the 1970s, Maeda is said to represent the voices of Japan’s “Lost Decade,” which refers to those who have lived through times of economic downturn and social uncertainty. Maeda is most recognized and praised for the way he deals with heavy and universal issues through levity, subtle humor and even absurdism. He is recipient of Japan’s most prestigious award for playwrights, the 52nd Kishida Drama Award, and the 22nd Mishima Yukio Prize for literature. Adapted from his novel, Maeda presents his directorial debut The Extreme Sukiyaki and joins JAPAN CUTS for a Q&A via streaming video. Fumi Nikaido (Why Don't You Play in Hell?), one of Japan's most popular rising stars, was scouted at the age of 12 to become a model and television actress. Hailing from Naha, a southern coastal town on Okinawa Island, Nikaido made her film debut in Koji Yakusho's 2009 Toad's Oil. For her stirring performance in Sion Sono's 2011 Himizu, she received the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the Venice International Film Festival with co-star Shota Sometani, the festival's highest prize for emerging talent, never before awarded to a Japanese performer. Nikaido joins JAPAN CUTS to present Sion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell?, including an introduction and Q&A followed by the Let's Play in Hell! Opening Night Party on the festival's opening night Ken Ochiai, Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto (Uzumasa Limelight) - Ken Ochiai is a writer/director based in Los Angeles who works in both the U.S. and Japan. Having made his first film at age 12, he left his native Tokyo after high school to pursue filmmaking in the U.S., graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a BA in Production and the American Film Institute. Seizo Fukumoto entered Toei Studio Kyoto at 15. Since then he has been featured in film and TV for more than half a century. Chihiro Yamamoto started learning Tai Chi at 3 and won gold and silver medals at the World Junior Wushu Championship. This is her film debut. The director and stars present Uzumasa Limelight at JAPAN CUTS, joining for an introduction and Q&A. Tetsuichiro Tsuta (The Tale of Iya) studied filmmaking at Tokyo Polytechnic University, where he began using black-and-white 16mm film. His first feature, Islands of Dreams was produced on this now rare format, and his magnificent second film, The Tale of Iya, is shot on color 35mm in the mountains not far from his hometown. The Tale of Iya, starring legendary dancer Min Tanaka, was awarded a Special Mention in the Asian Future section of the Tokyo International Film Festival, and chronicles not only a disappearing part of Japan, but a rare mode of film craftsmanship. Tsuta joins to present his spectacular work as JAPAN CUTS’ Closing Film, with an introduction and Q&A.
Japan Cuts 2014 photo
It never ends
With our NYAFF coverage still running strong, it seems an appropriate time to let you know that there's much, much more where that came from. Starting this Thursday, July 10th, the Japan Society kicks off their NYAFF crossove...

NYAFF Review: Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats

Jul 06 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217992:41661:0[/embed] Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats (Fukubuku no Bukuchan | 福福荘の福ちゃん)Director: Yosuke FujitaRating: NRCountry: Japan  Perhaps the oddest thing about Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats is the fact that its male lead character is played a woman. Before the film, a NYAFF programmer told the audience that lead actress Miyuki Oshima is actually known for that. It's an interesting choice, and telling you that may be something a double-edged sword. Now you won't be confused by the relatively androgynous lead character, but now you may have trouble divorcing that knowledge from the fact that Fuku-chan's friend frequently comments on the size of his (and by extension, her) penis. Still Oshima basically pulls off the mismatched gender thing. Even though it was in the back of my mind the whole time, it did little to affect my enjoyment. Fuku-chan's title character is a chubby guy with a meager but pleasant existence. He goes to work, goes home, sees his friends, and that's pretty much it. He refuses to interact with women in any sort of romantic manner for reasons he won't reveal. While his friend tries to set him up, he does everything he can to rebuke their advances. But Fuku-chan is all about finding Fuku-chan a significant other, so something has to happen eventually. Cue Chiho Sugiura (Asami Mizukawa), a successful businesswoman who quits her job to become a photographer. Unfortunately, she does so after being inspired by her extremely creepy idol, who awarded her as much for her looks as her artistic talents. Under the pretense of teaching her his secrets, he attempts to take advantage of her. She escapes unharmed, though understandably shaken, but is left in an awkward position. She has left behind her successful career to pursue photography; she still has to try to make a living. Cue Fuku-chan, whose adorable face turns him into Chiho's photographic muse. Fuku-chan is a slowburn comedy. Jokes don't come one after another, and sometimes entirely scenes will go by without anything really funny happening. Seeing it with an audience, then, is a fascinating experience. There are plenty of moments where everyone laughs in unison, but there are just as many moments where only a handful of people actually chuckle. Heck, there were half a dozen times at least where only one person laughed. Sometimes it was quiet, other times it was over-the-top, but in these moments the film revealed something to them that it didn't reveal to anybody else. But the times where it was just the one guy in the fifth row laughing weren't irritating. It made sense, because the different ways the film's comedy builds up speaks differently to each person. Funny or not, the quiet moments are every bit as brilliant as the loud ones. And sometimes it's absurd enough that one half of the audience will shrug their shoulders and the other half will lose their minds. The absurdity comes off as oddly measured. There are numerous moments that really could only come from Japan, but each one is counteracted by something calm. The way these two tones blend creates a film that is actually weirder than it seems, but a lot more palatable than you'd expect. As I walked out, I thought, "That was really not as 'Japanese' as I was expecting." But as I sit now writing this, I realize that it's actually a whole lot weirder than I thought. But I still stand by what I've said. The reason it works is because neither Chiho nor Fuku-chan are particularly odd people. And pretty much everything they do makes sense for actually human beings who exist to do. Even if the oddballs surrounding them do crazy things, they ground everything, and they often react to the insanity in the way a regular person would. This isn't a film where everyone just accepts the wild nature of it, so it's not the world doesn't feel weird; just some of the people in it. And seeing their relatively normal story play out is a treat. I really enjoyed watching Chiho and Fuku-chan grow closer throughout the film. Whether things ultimately work out between them is irrelevant. Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats is a great journey.
Fuku-chan Review photo
Oddity meets reality
Japanese comedies have a reputation for being wild and crazy. Let me rephrase that, Japanese movies have a reputation for being wild and crazy. And there's truth to that argument. Japanese films are – on the whole &ndas...

NYAFF Review: The Eternal Zero

Jul 05 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217991:41659:0[/embed] The Eternal Zero (Eien no Zero | 永遠の0)Director: Takashi YamazakiRating: NRCountry: Japan  I'm really not that patriotic. On July 4th, I went out for Indian food and went to sleep as the fireworks started booming. But as much as America and I have our differences, I'm still a relatively-proud citizen of a pretty great country. And that made The Eternal Zero hard to swallow, because it is really, really difficult for an American to feel for a Kamikaze pilot. Even though the film is not really pro-war and it tries to portray the Kamikazes as people forced into a horrific situation by their government, so what? They were working towards the death of Americans; they just didn't want to cause their own in the process. That may be something people want to see and hear about in in Japan, but on this side of the Pacific, it's weird and uncomfortable.  And it's made worse by just how emotional the whole thing is. Nearly every scene ends in tears, and they're not the attractive kind. These people go all out, shouting and screaming and contorting their faces in the ugliest of manners. It's the kind of thing that would be off-putting if I did feel for their plight. Watching the whole thing dispassionately, it became a new level of awkward. From start to finish, The Eternal Zero is trying to be this emotional epic drama, and it does not succeed. Not in the slightest. But it thinks it does, and that's actually sad. I've realized in the past few years that I rarely like framing narratives. It's something I've written about before, and it's something that is really difficult to pull off. Almost every time I see a film that switches back and forth in time I find myself wishing that one part of the film wasn't there, for various reasons. Usually it's the framing story, where person A is telling the actual story to person B (who is the modern day protagonist). It works sometimes; it doesn't work in The Eternal Zero. At the family meal following his grandmother's death, 26-year old Kentaro Oishi finds out that the man he calls grandfather is not biologically related. He and his older sister, Keiko, go off to learn more about Kyuzo Miyabe, who had gone Kamikaze many years before. They go from person to person, piecing together this story and building up this image of this man. And as I watched the film, I found my thoughts constantly returning to videogames; the narrative felt like like one giant series of unnecessary quests. Go talk to this guy, then this guy, then this guy. And in the end, it all comes back to where they started. Sure, they learned all kinds of new things, but the intentional withholding of information in order to send the kids on a wild goose chase is both obnoxious and ridiculous. The final reveal, then, isn't poignant but disappointing. The whole thing could have taken 30 minutes and been done with. Maybe that would have been worth watching. Probably not, but I would have had a whole lot less to complain about. The padded narrative isn't the only reason I thought about videogames; the atrocious effects. I've been complaining about CG (especially in Asian films) a lot recently, but it's particularly awful here because the film is so reliant on it. The massive dogfights that punctuate each and every flashback look like acceptable pre-rendered cutscenes from five years ago. The tiny little animated sailors in white on the ships at Pearl Harbor look just silly as they scramble around before their ships burst into meh-looking flame. (And again, these are fake Americans that I guess I'm supposed to be rooting for the annihilation of.) If it's impressive by Japanese standards, that's the other sad thing about The Eternal Zero, because it's really, really bad. Seriously, I've seen fake vehicles that look every bit as realistic on YouTube. But the worst thing about The Eternal Zero is its runtime. At 144 minutes, it's at least an hour too long. I checked my watch five times throughout, and my friend who sat next to me said he considered doing the same, but he knew it would have just depressed him. The focus on the present day (which is actually 2004, the year before the 60th anniversary of America's victory over Japan) takes up an obscenely long time. As much as I didn't like the sections because of its subject matter, they told a much tighter and more compelling narrative. When I'd rather watch people plot the deaths of Americans than some emotional confrontation, that's a really bad sign. And by the end, I had tears in my eyes. But it's not because I was emotional; The Eternal Zero literally bored me to tears. And it was pretty much a steady stream for the last 15-20 minutes. I was so done with the movie, but it wasn't done with itself. And that may be the saddest thing of all.
The Eternal Zero Review photo
History as written by the losers
The Eternal Zero is one of the biggest blockbusters ever released in Japan. A tale of the World War II from the viewpoint of the fighter pilots who took on the American forces. An ostensibly epic tale celebrating... some...


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