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JF Touring Film Programme 2014

Well, that answers my question about 「風立ちぬ」(Kaze Tachinu/The Wind Rises, Japan, 2013) maybe showing up on the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme in 2014. The answer is, no, it is not one of the screenings, so we will have to keep guessing if absence of the words “UK Premiere” on the Glasgow Film Festival website was accidental or is a hint at something…

Anyhow, even without Kaze Tachinu, the programme for the forthcoming Japan Foundation’s annual film tour looks fantastic – half of the titles are films that I have featured on past Trailer Weeklies, meaning I pretty much want to see everything! Let’s see how that works out time-wise, but it is a good thing I haven’t yet scheduled my weekend shifts for February yet as I am definitely going to have to keep the weekend of February 1st and 2nd free.

The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme always has a theme, which this year is youth. They write:

This year’s Japan Foundation UK annual touring film programme will offer an enlightening and expansive introduction to Japanese cinema through the framework of ‘youth’.

Showcasing a vast variety of styles and tones, this programme will take a broad look at how the adults of tomorrow have been portrayed in Japanese cinema over the years by a number of established and up-and-coming directors, through stories of individuals struggling to find a sense of meaning and identity within the world.

The festival, again as always, will start off in London on January 31st and, over the course of two months, will travel to different cities all over the UK, including Belfast, Bristol, Dundee, Edinburgh, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Now, drumroll for the programme:

  • 「きみの友だち」(Kimi no tomodachi/Your Friends, Japan, 2008)

http://eigapedia.com/video/3176

Dir. by Hiroki Ryuichi.

Never heard of this particular film before, but that is part of the charm of this festival – it doesn’t just screen the latest of Japanese cinema but digs out older gems too. Kimi no Tomodachi about two schoolgirls, Emi and Yuka, that both have disabilities. The commonality between strengthens their newly formed friendship. The Japan Foundation notes that the film is  “[a] departure from the director’s previous work”  (I’m not familiar with it) and “a heart-warming tale about how a childhood friendship can last a lifetime”.

  • 横道世之介」 (Yokomichi Yonosuke/A Story of Yonosuke, Japan, 2012)

Dir. by Okita Shuichi.

Featured it on Trailer Weekly #57.

It’s the story of Yonosuke (played by the lovely Kora Kengo), who is from Nagasaki and goes to college in Tokyo. There he dances samba and somehow touches the lives of everyone he meets with his special way of being. Third Window Film is actually releasing this film on DVD in the UK, so if you can’t make the screening, buy one. I have got a screener, which I plan to review soon (indeed, the only reason I haven’t yet is because my recent computer woes). My expectations are high as I have only seen good reviews. Plus, I loved Okita’s 「キツツキと雨」 (Kitsutsuki to Ame/The Woodsman and the Rain, Japan, 2008) AND, other than Kora, there’s also Go Ayano.

  • 苦役列車」 (Kueki Ressha/The Drudgery Train, Japan, 2012)

Dir. by Yamashita Nobuhiro.

Featured it on Trailer Weekly #57.

I quote (myself): Moriyama plays Kitamichi, a 19-year old, middle-school drop-out labour worker who fools around in life. He falls in love with Yasuko and also befriends Kusakabe (Kora Kengo again) – who is in love with the same girl as him. Never having had either a girlfriend or a real friend before, jealousy soon overtakes Kitamichi.

  • 「ごめん」 (Gomen/Sorry, Japan, 2003)

Dir. by Togashi Shin.

Another film I know nothing about: Sei is on the cusp of adolescence. He falls in love with Nao, his senpai, who however is not all that easy to approach. The film is a “humorous but touching account of growing pains which all men can relate to” (JFP) and that women will probably recognise as well. :-)

  • 「神童」(Shindo/Wonder Child, Japan, 2007)

Dir. by Hagiuda Koji.

This is not the Shindo that I reviewed a couple of months ago, but a film with a similar title (the Kanji are in fact different, so there’s no confusion in Japanese). Shindo (Wonder Child) is about a child prodigy: Uta, aged 13, is a gifted pianist but troubled by self-doubts and problems. She befriends the slightly older Wao, also an uninspired wannabe musician. I’m pleased to see that Narume Riko stars in this (I enjoyed her in a number of doramas), as well as  Matsuyama Kenichi. Lunapark6 has a review.

Dir. by Yukisada Isao.

Featured it on Trailer Weekly #71, so here’s the synopsis I wrote back then:  [F]our individuals in their twenties [...] share a flat in Tokyo. Although they live together, they also respect each other’s privacy and keep some distance, never asking too many questions. It’s only when a blonde-haired teen appears in their apartment one day that things get turned upside down. Initially assuming that the boy is a friend of one of them, they realise that no one actually knows him. News reports about deadly attacks on women in the neighbourhood also raise their distrust. It’s a comedy with an increasing chill factor.

  • 恋の門」 (Koi no mon/Otakus in Love, Japan, 2004)

Dir. by Suzuki Matsuo.

When I featured this on Trailer Weekly #37 (a gazillion years ago), I thought this one might be a total disaster. I don’t think so now, as I have just watched so many more Japanese films and I know that Matsuda Ryuhei chooses his projects well. Because, yes, Matsuda is in this! The story (again, quoting myself here): There is Mon, who fails as a mangaka as he stubbornly draws only on stones, “a method that hasn’t quite captured the imaginations of rabid manga fans as of yet” (asianwiki.com). Mon meets Koino. The situation is somewhat unfortunate and involves heels-as-painful-weapons and a peek of panties. In other words, love at first sight. Thanks to fate paths cross again and from then on things take all kinds of bizarre turns – just as one would expect with otakus in love.

  • 「モテキ」(Moteki/Love Strikes!, Japan, 2011)

Dir. by One Hitoshi.

I never ended up featuring Moteki on a Trailer Weekly, although I considered it several times. It just looked and sounded too weird (the cheesy poster didn’t help). Now I’m much more interested in it, because I have learnt that Moriyama Mirai, the lead actor here, generally gives mesmerising and intense performances. I still think it might be weird, but I’m willing to give it a try: Yukiyo, a nerd, finds that he is, all of a sudden, popular with girls. It’s apparently a “madcap romantic comedy” and “packed full of J-pop and karaoke sequences” (JFP). I guess I probably wouldn’t recommend it to people new to Japanese cinema?

  • 「カラフル」 (Karafuru/Colorful, 2010)

Dir. Hara Keiichi.

It has only taken about a gazillion years, but Karafuru finally is making it to London. I featured it on Trailer Weekly #8, meaning over two years ago. I have been looking out for it all the time and while it did screen in the UK (I believe at Scotland Loves Anime), it never came to any festival in the capital, nor was it ever released on DVD. In other words, I’m thrilled! Karafuru is an animation, and a wonderful example of Japanese animation to boot: it involves children, but is not a ‘kiddie film’ like Western animations tend to be. The synopsis: “[A] dejected soul is informed that he is ‘lucky’ and will have another chance at life. He is placed in the body of a 14-year-old boy named Makoto Kobayashi, who has just committed suicide” (source) – totally intriguing if you ask me.

In London Karafuru will be having multiple screenings between January 31 and February 4 (most other films only have one showing).

Dir. by Nakano Ryota.

More Trailer Weekly stuff, so I will quote myself again: Koharu, her older sister Hazuki and their mother live in a rural town. Their father walked out on them to be with another woman some fourteen years ago, leaving the then three-year old Koharu with no memories of him. When learning that he has terminal cancer, their mother tells the girls to meet their father one last time before it is too late and sends them off with a camera so she too can see what happened to the man that once loved, but left them. It’s probably safe to say this one also falls into the coming-of-age category, but more so by challenging characters to face their past.

  • 「嵐を呼ぶ十八人」(Arashi wo yobu juhachi-nin/Eighteen Who Cause a Storm, Japan, 1963)

arashi wo yobu juhachi nin

No trailer available.

Dir. by Yoshida Yoshishige.

And here’s an older offering, from 1963, which the JFP summarises as follows: “A worker in a shipbuilding yard is offered the chance to boost his wages by managing a dormitory inhabited by a pack of 18 adolescent ruffians. This early film by Yoshishige Yoshida (Eros Plus Massacre) is a neo-realist account of the conditions for Japanese temporary workers in the 1960s, and rare to see outside Japan.”

Bonus Bits: