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Category Archives: Reviews
“Dark side of the light provides a very tangible framing of (…) [the] disturbing irrationality [of abuse] and the denial of justice this irrationality introduces. This is Sakamaki’s greatest triumph.”
While Sakamaki Ryota has already been active as a director from 2001, he has always stayed under the radar domestically as well as internationally. But that might change with Dark side of the light, his most recent cinematographical product which won two awards, best Horror Feature Film and best actress, at the Tabloid Witch Awards.
“At the Terrace proves to be a light-hearted and engaging exploration on how women, with respect to their image of beauty, are drawn to male desire to be able to experience themselves as lovable. “
In 2011 Kenji Yamauchi made the transition from directing television commercials to full-length features films, while already actively writing plays for the Tokyo’s Seinendan theatre company. His first cinematographical product was Being Mitsuko (2011), a narrative concerning the lives of two sisters, uneventful lives disturbed by the appearance of a mysterious woman who claims to be their his sister.
“As the various secrets are slowly revealed, Harmonium vividly reveals how the inability of giving narrative to the trauma keeps a trauma alive and lingering. (…) [A Narrative] that (…) will long linger in the spectators mind”.
In less than a decade, Koij Fukada has proven to be one of the most innovative directors of Japan. While his first sociopolitical feature Hospitalité/Kantai only impressed domestic audiences for the most part, his second feature Hotori no Sakuko/Au revoir l’été (2013), meant a definitive international breakthrough, gathering many nominations and awards at international festivals. And then the biggest reward and confirmation of this talent until date came, when Harmonium, his latest cinematographical narrative, won the Jury-prize at the section “Un Certain Regard” in Cannes. Continue reading →
“Empowered by the mesmerizing performance of Meiko Kaji, Fujita artfully translated Koike’s true purpose to the screen: the creation of a strong, beautiful demonic woman which turns cutting down people, with her beautiful sword, into an art.”
For some, Toshiya Fujita’s revenge film Lady Snowblood will inevitably be linked to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill vol. 1, for which it was a major inspiration; Tarantino borrowed aspects of the narrative structure and the plot, used the song ‘The flower of carnage’ and let the cinematography inspire him (general note 1). And even though Lady Snowblood influenced Tarantino, it is surprising to find that the two Lady Snowblood movies have an anomalous character in Fujita’s oeuvre, as nothing he made, before or after, bears any stylistic resemblance to these movies. But, how anomalous these narratives may have been, what Fujita created with “Lady Snowblood” is nothing short of a cult classic (General note 2).
“[a] rich psychological reflection on fundamentally flawed subjects and the way in which they deal with loss. (…) In short, (…) a masterpiece.”
Almost every cinematographical narrative that Nishikawa has crafted up until now – with Dear Doctor (2009) as exception – has concerned family and relations related to a family context. But on a more fundamental level, Nishikawa’s main focus has been the discrepancy subjects display between what is inside (uchi) and what is outside (soto).
“In a gentle and subtle manner the narrative expresses its views on life, love and relationships, views that (…) do not fail to struck an emotional cord”
If one looks at the output of the Japanese movie industry, it is clear that the Japanese audiences love their tearjerker romance movies, e.g. Makoto Shinkai’s anime Kimi No Nawa (2016). While some of these movies are amazing – and can even be considered as masterpieces, the danger this genre faces is a rehashing of tropes, a rehashing draining all the creativity this genre desperately needs.
If we want to find a refreshing take on the romance genre, we shouldn’t look at the Japanese movie companies, who are happy to cash-in on this kind of rehashing, but, instead, to the indie scene. One such indie romance movie is Shingo Matsumura’s Love and Goodbye and Hawaii. Will it fall for the danger of rehashing or does Matsumura provide that touch if freshness the genre needs?
“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.