Blog Archives

The Great Passage (2013)

(from , dir: )

You might think that a movie about compiling a dictionary – even the first ever “living dictionary” – is going to be about as compelling as watching paint dry. Under normal circumstances you’d probably be right, but normal circumstances don’t take The Great Passage’s sterling cast and sensitive filmmaker Yuya Ishii’s deft handling of everyday social interactions into account.

It’s 1995 (pre-computing technology, if you can believe that. Or, you know, check with Wiki) and Mitsuya Majime (Ryuhei Matsuda, Big (read more)

Comments Off on The Great Passage (2013)

Kanikosen (2009)

(from , dir: )

Given the current socio-economic climate in Japan and the industry’s ability to push a film from conception to release much quicker than their Hollywood counterparts, it’s no shock to discover that proletarian writer Kobayashi Takiji’s pre-Second World War agitprop novel has gained some new traction. Kanikosen – literally The Crab Cannery Boat – is the best-known work by the writer who died in police custody, and the story’s fundamental anti-capitalist diatribe has an eerie relevancy that’s difficult not to empathise … (read more)

Comments Off on Kanikosen (2009)

Rampo Noir (2005)

Forget wells and videos and all manner of watery metaphors, Rampo Noir returns to the source with a refreshingly new bent. Based on stories by Japanese gothic horror author Edogawa Rampo, this collection of short films is both experimental and confronting in a way that cheap frights will never, ever be, and it’s actually not an easy thing to watch.

The anthology opens with Mars Canal, directed by Takeuchi, and for the first few minutes, I probably wasn’t the … (read more)

Comments Off on Rampo Noir (2005)

Nana (2005)

(from , dir: )

Certain stereotypes keep popping up again and again in Japanese manga and anime – one in particular, the stereotype of the Terminally Cheerful character. This character, in its native environment, is so optimistic it has almost reached a form of enlightenment, where things are ‘meant to be’ and where nothing bad reaches it despite what’s going on around it. Of course, it’s no mystery, the allure of this creature. Think ‘The Fool’ from the tarot’s Major Arcana – a young … (read more)

Comments Off on Nana (2005)

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (2006)

(from , dir: )

A current output of two feature films a year must feel like a holiday for workaholic director Miike Takashi, who pumped out an astonishing total of seven features in 2001 alone. If you do the maths — at that time in 2001, this equalled Wong Kar-wai’s output of feature films for his entire 13-year career since his first film in 1988. Despite his output, Takashi has not been content to stick to a particular genre and has tackled family dramas … (read more)

Comments Off on Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (2006)

Otakus In Love (2004)

(from , dir: )

Many might think the presence of Japanese heart-throb Matsuda Ryuhei would be sufficient justification for any film, and the addition of fripperies such as story and character development would merely waste money. For myself, I’d probably watch Matsuda reading the phone book, but I admit that wouldn’t necessarily be compelling viewing for others. Luckily for us all, Otakus In Love has many other things going for it.

For starters, it’s funny. The characters are funny, and the situations are funny. … (read more)

Comments Off on Otakus In Love (2004)

Nine Souls (2003)

(from , dir: )

Japan has over a million shut-ins, mostly young men, who can’t face the world outside their bedrooms. At the beginning of 9 Souls, one of them kills his father. His stay in prison is mercifully brief. He and eight cellmates escape one night, and take off in search of the stash of cash hidden by an ex-prisoner, the Counterfeit King.

While you might think a prison break film would be full of gun battles and exciting car chases, in … (read more)

Comments Off on Nine Souls (2003)