Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Berlin 2010 Preview: Competition, Part 2

February 4, 2010

This year’s Berlinale features established filmmakers wandering into unfamiliar territory. Martin Scorsese gives a Dennis Lehane tale all the gaudy trappings of a Hammer horror film. Zhang Yimou puts down his ornate sword-play films for a farcical take on the Coen Brothers. 24 hour party person Michael Winterbottom even takes Texas by the tail in a full-blown film noir. Matters of faith also loom large in films from Germany, India and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Berlin is a broad church.

Read the first part of our Berlin Film Festival Competition preview.

The Killer Inside Me

Lou Ford is one of author Jim Thompson’s greatest antiheroes. Ford’s a psychotic charmer who keeps the peace in a town populated by mattress-happy dames and lowdown double-crossers. Guerilla filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo) isn’t everyone’s first choice to helm a Lone Star noir, but Casey Affleck seems just the right feller to fill Ford’s bloodstained boots.

Mammuth (Mammoth)

It’s easy to take Gerard Depardieu for granted, yet the shaggy icon delivers. Here he plays a worker who can’t retire until he finds his last six employers. That sends him on a journey around France astraddle his Mammoth motorcycle. Among the figures from his past is Isabelle Adjani, asleep for the last four decades. Written and directed by Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern (Louise-Michel).


Berlin 2010 Preview: Competition, Part 1

February 3, 2010

The Berlin Film Festival is often overshadowed by Cannes Film Festival as it’s very difficult to dock a yacht in Berlin. It’s endured for 60 years, though, as an early warning system for the best of the year’s international art house fare. The Competition strand features those films vying for the Golden Bear, which in past years has gone to Jose Padilha’s The Elite Squad and Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow. The field’s first half features Japanese war stories, the making of one of the worst films ever made, criminals old and young and the returns of Polanski, Baumbach and Popogrebsky.

Bal (Honey)

Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu’s fifth film is a father/son story set in the remote mountains. Young Yusuf is ostracized at school for his stammer, but worships his beekeeper dad, who tends to a network of precarious treetop hives. When his father is called away on business, Yusuf follows him into the forest.

Kyatapira (Caterpillar)

Lieutenant Kurokawa returns from the front of the second Sino-Japanese War. He’s had his arms and legs blown off. Shigeko is expected to dutifully attend to her immobile war hero husband. Director Koji Wakamatsu’s previous film, the acclaimed United Red Army, still awaits release in the U.S. Based on the story by Edogawa Rampo, which was censored by the Japanese authorities in 1939.


Trailerama: Autoreiji (Outrage)

January 31, 2010

No sooner do we post a trailer for “Beat” Takeshi’s Takeshis’ when the man releases another teaser for his 15th film as a director, Autoreiji. The flick is a coming in from the cold of sorts for Kitano. According to Twitch, he’s putting the more experimental fare behind him and getting back to his yakuza roots. His character is a kind of gangster Michael Clayton who has to get a rogue mob in line … or else. Looks like more mayhem among the sharp-suited set.

Trailerama: Takeshis’

January 29, 2010

Few directors have burned their bridges quite like this. Japanese comedian “Beat” Takeshi became a global cinematic sensation for his deadpan gangster flicks. In what he’s said is a “farewell” to his last dozen films, the actor Takeshi meets a convenience store clerk lookalike, the blonde Kitano. Kitano wants to be an actor himself. Things get really complicated when “Beat” Takeshi Kitano’s onscreen alter ego gets in the mix. In typical Kitano fashion, the bullet ballets are punctuated with tap dance numbers.

Rotterdam 2010 Preview: VPRO Tiger Awards

January 22, 2010

The Rotterdam International Film Festival introduced the VPRO Tiger Awards in 1995. Each year, three prizes are awarded to filmmakers for their first or second film. Winners have included Lou Ye (Suzhong River) and Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy). In contention this year are a host of deadly serious films, tackling family relationships, leave-taking of many stripes and that old stand-by sex … often in the raw and ragged manner of contemporary cinema. The contenders also comprise a tour of emerging cinemas from Costa Rica to Georgia.

Agua fría de mar (Cold water of the Sea)

The pitch: A couple looking to sell their property on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast meet a seven-year-old stray.
Their lives are changed forever? Well, the tot certainly throws emotions and class boundaries into sharp relief in Paz Fabrega’s debut feature.

Alamar (To the Sea)

The pitch: A young man goes on a fishing trip with his father in the Caribbean’s Chinchorro reef.
Lots of booze and marlin to be had? It’s certainly an exercise in male bonding. Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s documentary approach to his story means the egrets get as much attention as the relationships.


Trailerama: Samâ wôzu (Summer Wars)

January 20, 2010

Kenji Koiso is a maths whiz who has it bad for Natsuki, the prettiest girl in school. When she asks him to pose as her fiance, it’s both a dream come true and the beginning of a nightmare. Because in this future, there’s also avatars running amok and the possibility of a parallel world smashing into their own. This spectacular-looking anime was directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time).

Trailerama: Space Battleship Yamato

January 1, 2010

When aliens attack, it makes sense to build a giant battleship and launch it into space. This steampunk-styled offering from Japan actually has its origins in a 1970s anime broadcast in the U.S. as Star Blazers. Very much enjoying the Japanese Captain Haddock figure, who looks set to upstage Takuya Kimura and Meisa Kuroki, both products of the idol industry. Director Takashi Yamazaki won two Japanese Academy Awards for his 2006 film Always Sanchōme no Yūhi/Always: Sunset on Third Street.

Trailerama: Kenta to Jun to Kayo chan no kuni (A Crowd of Three)

November 28, 2009

There’s a lot of tension on tap in Omori Tatsushi’s new film. Fed up with their dead-end jobs, friends Kenta and Jun steal a car and light out for Hokkaido. Kenta’s older brother Kazu is serving a prison sentence there. They’ve got a stowaway in the back. Soon Kenta and Jun have somebody else to take out their misery on. With Ando Sakura (Love Exposure).

Trailerama: Ototo (About Her Brother)

November 20, 2009

Yoji Yamada has been making films for nearly 50 years now. His impressive CV includes the epic Tora-san series. Beginning with 1969’s It’s Tough Being a Man, the adventures of a traveling salesman who has lousy luck with the local “Madonnas” stretched to 48 films. The series only ended when star Atsumi Kiyoshi keeled over in 1996. Yojo became an art house favorite during the last decade with his thoughtful considerations of the samurai class, The Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade. His latest looks like a gentle domestic drama, with Sayuri Yoshinaga inviting her sick brother Tsurube Shofukutei to convalesce at home. The inevitable complications and reconciliations ensue.

Trailerama Classic: Hausu (House)

November 19, 2009

The full-bore insanity that is “TV ad wizard” Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 horror film House is getting a re-release courtesy of Janus. Even the trailer is pretty unforgettable. Yes, the Japanese were freaked out about wet black hair even back in the 1970s. Godiego are still going strong, having released a box set in 2008. Visit their Web site.