New Japanese Cinema

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Michael Kerpan
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New Japanese Cinema

#1 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon May 22, 2006 9:43 am

Daiteiden no yoru ni / Until the Lights Come Back literally On the Night of the Big Blackout

On Christmas Eve, Tokyo has a total black out, this film follows the course of a dozen or so individuals, whose stories may or may not intersect over the course of the night. I bought this potboiler-ish sounding film mainly because it stars the 80+ year old Chikage Awashima (Setsuko Hara's sidekick in "Early Summer" -- anong other things), Tomoko Tabata (thw wonderful little girl from "Ohikkoshi" now 12 years older) and Yu Kashii (from my much beloved "Linda Linda Linda").

Yes -- it WAS a potboiler of sorts -- but with superb cinematography (by Testuo Nagata -- whose career has mainly involved shooting French films) and many likable performances. Awashima is still wonderful (and recognizable 50 years after the last filmed appearance I've seen) but the acidity of her younger voice has sweetened. Kashii is excellent here (playing a fashion model in grave distress -- rescued by a middle-school boy on a beat-up bike). It is Tomoko Tabata, however, who seems to get the most central role of all (as the proprietor of a candle shop on the most obscure of Tokyo alleyways -- silently in love with the proprietor of the unflourishing jazz bar across the alley from her). Too many stories to synopsize, but the pieces generally fit together well enough. A very Yoji Yamada-ish effort overall -- and a reminder that Japan has a domestic "popular" film industry that is essentially unknown in the West.

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Nana (Kentaro Otani, 2005)

#2 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:24 am

Nana (Kentaro Otani, 2005)

Two girls named Nana (the old fashioned Japanese word for "seven") happen to meet on a train taking them to Tokyo. One (Aoi Miyazaki) is a rather prosaic (sweet not especially swift) girl setting off to join her boy friend (an art student who had gone to Tokyo before her). The other (Mika Nakashima -- a real singer) is a rather goth-y looking rock singer who is pretty reticent. On arriving, they initially go their separate ways -- but meet again when both vying for the same cheap apartment (a seventh floor walk-up -- room number 707, of course). Based on a girls manga that is immensely popular throughout Asia (probably the most popular since my much-loved "Boys Over Flowers"), this is an excellent adaptation of material that is more stylish than deep. Not in the same league as "Linda Linda Linda", but lots of fun.

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Rabudo gan / Loved Gun (Kensaku Watanabe, 2004)

#3 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:09 pm

Rabudo gan / Loved Gun (Kensaku Watanabe, 2004)

This story of an orphaned high school girl (Aoi Miyazaki) and a hit man she rescues (Masatoshi Nagase) strikes me as very Suzuki-inspired -- in terms of style. Miyazaki wants to bump off the young woman she holds responsible for the death of her parents -- and Nagase has his own issues with his foster-father (Ittoku Kishibe), who may have been responsible for the death of HIS parents. Meanwhile Kishibe's current protege (Hirofumi Arai) seems to have a grudge against both Kishibe and Nagase -- while there seem to be a couple of hapless gangsters who are out to get Kishibe. It is hard to tell whether this drama of revenge and forgiveness is borderline religious -- or cynical. My guess is that there are (in fact) some rather deep feelings underlying this visually striking (and very stylish) film.

The Japanese budget DVD looks and sounds great -- but has no extras or subs (even Japanese ones).

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Mahiru no hoshizora (Yosuke Nakagawa, 2005)

#4 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:51 am

Mahiru no hoshizora / Starlit High Noon (Yosuke Nakagawa, 2005)

A very low key film about a young Taiwanese hitman (WANG Lee-hom) who rusticates in Okinawa between assignments (it turns out he has dual citizenship -- as his mother was Japanese). While there, he goes for regular swims in a pool attended by Yu Kashii (who becomes smitten by him) and does his clothes in a laundromat where he sees (and becomes smitten by) Kyoka Suzuki (who works two jobs to make ends meet -- bento (box lunch) maker and evening-time road crew flag woman). The film flashes back in time -- and shows some hypothetical (wished for) scenarios -- making it a bit hard to hang on to the time line (at points). Meanwhile, his colleagues back in Taiwan are seemingly planning to double-cross him next time he returns there. Nice performances and good cinematography (too bad there were no subs on the DVD).

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Hura gaaru / Hula Girls (LEE Sang-il, 2006)

#5 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:53 am

Hura gaaru / Hula Girls (LEE Sang-il, 2006)

An utter treat (an happily THIS DVD actually did have subs). One of the biggest hit films of the past year in Japan -- a somewhat fictionalized version of the opening of Japan's first "theme park". Joban, a small mountain town north of Tokyo, had long been dedicated to one task -- mining coal. When that industry began to collapse, the town's business leaders hit on the idea of creating a "Hawaiian Center" to attract tourists (and replace at least some of the lost jobs -- allowing them to hang onto _some_ of their young people). The miners (and laid-off miners -- and soon-to-be laid-off miners) gave the plan a hostile reception -- thinking that money would be better spent keeping the mines alive as long as possible. Some of the young women of the town, however, see the chance to become "hula girls" as a decided step up from what their future would otherwise be. A dancer from Tokyo (Yasuko Matsuyuki) arrives (with plenty of issues in tow) to be the (rather unenthusiastic) hula instructor -- and her enthusiasm does not increase when she finds how unpromising her first batch of students appear to be. Both teacher and students deal with opposition. Our young protagonist (Aoi Yu) gets kicked out of the house by her mother (former action star Junko Fuji) when she refuses to quit the dance program. A sweet and moving film (with only a few trivial wrong notes). Not quite as good as Yoji Yamada at his best -- but in the ball park (unlike the ersatz "Always" that swept the awards the year before this came out).

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New Japanese Cinema

#6 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Aug 19, 2007 5:16 pm

Dororo (Akihiko Shiota, 2007)

Another great looking new Japanese film based on a manga. The manga here, however, is a classic by the godfather of Japanese manga and anime, Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka's manga told of a ruthless warrior who traded in his soon-to-arrive first-born son for vastly improved warmaking powers, following a defeat in battle.

Some pictures: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11

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Re: New Japanese Cinema

#7 Post by yoshimori » Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:35 pm

Sorry to raise a dead thread from its bed, but couldn't find a better place to put this.

Fukada Koji fans take note. The San Diego Asian American Film Festival (which takes place, proper, in the Fall) is streaming the 4-hour cut of Fukada's 2020 Cannes entry The Real Thing later this month in its "Spring Showcase" mini-festival.

The Fall SDAAFF, iyam, is by far the best of the West Coast Asian / Asian-American fests, certainly much better than its LA and SF counterparts in terms of Asian cinema, if not also new Asian-American movies.

Here's a link to the site: SDAAFF
Last edited by yoshimori on Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: New Japanese Cinema

#8 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Apr 15, 2021 1:36 pm

Yoshimori -- I forgot this thread exists. Once I start seeing more "new" Japanese films, I may use it!

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