About Japanese culture, movies, literature and more
First of all, thanks to Jun Tanaka to have taken the time to answer my questions. The interview was conducted bilingually and the English translation of the interview will be published in the coming week. The decision to publish the Japanese version has a simple reason; the signifiers he uses are his own. As such we can only a fully appreciate Tanaka’s answers in the language he was born in.
Our review of Tanaka’s first feature film Bamy can be found here.
“Shady reveals in an unsettling way, precisely what love is not about. (…) Watanabe’s visual language shows a lot of potential (…) And it is this potential we want to see blooming in the future.”
As the current cinematic landscape of Japan seems to silt into mere translating popular anime and novels, often forced into a tried and tested mold conditioned by capital, one might forget there is also an indie scene, where, by standard, creative freedom is more appreciated and where, quite often, more refreshing and inventive narratives are produced.
“Yureru proves to be a very intimate emotive meditation on the mendacity of identity and the subjectivity in experiencing reality. It is a sublime meditation we recommend to everyone.”
In 2006 Miwa Nishikawa released her second feature film Yureru The long excuse (200.As her first feature film, Wild Berries (2003), for which Kore-eda was the producer, garnished many awards, like the Best New Director award at the 2004 Yokohama Film Festival and the 13th Japanese Professional Movie Awards, expectations were very high. With Yureru (2006), which won 4 awards at the Yokohama Film Festival, and Dear Doctor (2009),Nishikawa confirmed her status as a big talent in the industry.
“Tampopo remains a fresh and engaging narrative (…) [that] shows that life, in all its aspects, turns around food and the enjoyment it provides. (…) If you didn’t eat properly before, it’ll make you hungry at the very same time.”
From sushi to okonomiyaki, from tempura to Yakiniku. Melon pan, omurice, udon, yakitori, curry, croquettes, tonkatsu and of course ramen. Japan and food, two signifiers that quite often have a synonymous ring. Food is important in Japan and, one might even say, Japan is important in food – as its cuisine is very popular internationally.
“Kurosawa’s masterful formal approach to cinematography shows vividly that creepiness lurks at the surface of society (…) Creepy is a masterpience and trulylives up to its name. And yes, you will think twice about getting cozy with your neighbours”.
In 1997, 14 years after he started directing feature films, Kiyoshi Kurosawa appeared with a bang on the international scene with Cure (1997), a subtle and creepy serial killer narrative, while regaining his place – a place he lost in the eighties under influence of Nikattsu – in Japan as well. He confirmed his position with Pulse (2001), considered by some as his most successfully realized horror narrative to date.
“Bamy is a fresh and compelling narrative, […] framing the unsettling unheimlich so sensible on the silver screen. […] we can’t wait till Tanaka’s cinematographical style comes into full bloom.”
Even though one might say the golden age of J-horror is already behind us, as features like Ringu (Hideo Nakata, 1998), Ju-on (Takashi Shimizu, 2000), and Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001) seem to have been made in a distant past, the genre will never die. For some, the genre needs a new injection of creativity, instead of rehashing the same tropes. With Bamy, the directorial debut of Jun Tanaka, Tanaka provides his own take on the J-horror genre, approaching it from the angle of the red string of fate (unmei no akai ito). Can Bamy be considered a fresh wind in the genre?
“[Battles proves to be] one of the most gripping and enthralling yakuza narratives ever made [and lets the spectator] enjoy the struggles [beyond any kind of heriosm] of the warring yakuza families of post-war Hiroshima”
If one hears or reads the name of Kinji Fukasaku (深作欣二, 1930–2003), one irresistibly associates it with yakuza eiga – even though he tried his hand at other genres like the jidai-geki genre and ended his career with grossly entertaining Battle Royal (2000). The association with yakuza-eiga is, of course, no surprise at all. When, in the seventies, the popularity of the Toei’s formulaic ninkyô eiga [chivalry eiga] started to decline, it was the realistic approach, an approach he already used in the sixties, of Battles withouthonour and humanity that pioneered the Jitsuroku eiga sub-genre[actual record films].