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Tomorrow the annual Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) opens… and I’m finally finishing this post (but better now than never!). LIFF, one of the major events on the calendar of any cinephile living in the north of England, runs until November 18 and offers a diverse selection of films from all over, including some British premieres. There are quite a few Japanese and Korean films as well, most of which however have already had London screenings. While this means that there is probably not all that much reason for those of us in the capital to attend LIFF, anyone living up further north is in for some real treats – plus, I can offer you reviews (or at least a few words of recommendation) for some of the films on the programme.

Japanese Films

Kitsutsuki to Ame: Zombified town.

  • Nov 11, 2012: 「キツツキと雨」 (Kitsutsuki to Ame/The Woodsman and the Rain, Japan, 2011)

A stubborn, middle-aged woodsman meets the young and painfully shy Koichi, who is directing a zombie film in his rural village. It’s a fabulous J-comedy and I highly recommend it. If you need more convincing, see also my REVIEW on Otherwhere. Details at the LIFF website.

  • Nov 4, 2012:「おかあさん」(Okāsan/Mother, Japan, 1952)

In this rarely-screened film from 1952, director Naruse Mikio offers a portrayal of a mother who “fight[s] to keep her family afloat in the face of increasingly difficult personal and economic circumstances” (from the LIFF catalogue). Details.

  • Nov 3, 2012: Kinuyo Tanaka Workshop plus 乳房よ永遠なれ (Chibusa yo eien nare/The Eternal Breasts, Japan, 1955) screening.

Centre for World Cinemas (University of Leeds) and Mixed Cinema Network are hosting a half-day workshop on the work of the actress and filmmaker Tanaka Kinuyo, to coincide with the LIFF retrospective on Tanaka. The workshop concludes with a rare screening of The Eternal Breast (1955) – free admission, but reservation is essential (via tanakaworkshop@gmail.com). More info.

  • Nov 10, 2012: 「女ばかりの夜」 (Onna bakari no yoru/Girls of Dark, 1962) 

Directed by Tanaka Kinuyo. In 1958 prostitute in Japan is criminalised. Kuniko tries to leave the sex trade, Tanaka offering a female take on the topic of prostitution so often only explored by men and is deeply critical about the sex trade. Details.

  • Nov 3, 2012:「キングコング対ゴジラ」 (Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira/King Kong vs. Godzilla, Japan, 1962)

Two global super monsters – King Kong and Godzilla – come head to head in this 1962 classic. Details.

  • Nov 3, 2012:「マタンゴ」(Matango/Matango, Fungus of Terror, Japan, 1963)

Recently screened at the Prince Charles Cinema together with the preceding film – another one for those who love a bit of terror/horror. Details.

  • Nov 6, 2012: 「ソミ:高麗女人拳士」 (Somi: Kōrai nyonin-ken-shi/Somi – The Taekwon-do Woman, Japan/North Korea, 1997) 

Somi, a Japanese and North Korean co-production of a historic martial arts film, had its UK premiere at the Zipangu Fest in London. It’s the kind of film you are not going to see every day – screenings are incredibly rare. Details.

  • Nov 5 and 7, 2012:「山椒大夫」 (Sanshō Dayū/Sansho the Bailiff, 1954)

Sanshō Dayū is a retelling of a tale of old – of Masauji, who ends up separated from his wife and children, after being sent into exile while they are kidnapped by bandits.

Anime Fan Day

Hugely popular in previous years, the Fanonemon Anime Day returns on November 17 with 600 minutes of J-animation – which, whether that’s your sort of thing or not, should elicit a “Wow” from just about anyone.

The claim that all five films on the programme are English premieres isn’t quite accurate – two recently screened in London -, but it’s great line-up for fans either way:

  • 「アシュラ」 (Ashura/Asura, Japan, 2012)
  • 「ベルセルク」 (Beserk/Beserk, Japan, 2012) – Film 1 「黄金時代篇Ⅰ 覇王の卵」 (Ōgon Jidai-Hen I: Haō no Tamago/The Golden Age Arc: The Egg of the King)
  • 「ベルセルク」 (Beserk/Beserk, Japan, 2012) – Film 2 「黄金時代篇Ⅱ ドルドレイ攻略」 (Ōgon Jidai-Hen II: Doldrey Kōryaku/The Golden Age Arc: The Battle for Doldrey)
  • 「TIGER & BUNNY -The Beginning-」(Tiger and Bunny – The Beginning, Japan, 2012)
  • 「おおかみこどもの雨と雪」 (Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki/Wolf Children, 2012) – dir. by Hosoda Mamoru. I haven’t got a full-length review for yet, but as I said in my post-BFI-Festival reflections Ookami Kodomo is “[a]n intrinsically sad and surprisingly reflective story that really isn’t for kids” (quoting myself here). It’s also a gorgeous animation and wonderfully scored, so you really don’t want to miss it!

Passes are available for £15 / £12.50. Book here. Tickets for individual films are also available.

Asura.

Also check out the Olly Moss Poster Exhibition as part of the Thought Bubble Festival 2012, which will include some Studio Ghibli posters.

Korean Films

  • Nov 6, 2012: 「ソミ:高麗女人拳士」 (Somi: Kōrai nyonin-ken-shi/Somi – The Taekwon-do Woman, Japan/North Korea, 1997). Details.

See section on Japanese Films above.

  • Nov 2 and Nov 3, 2012: 돼지의 왕 (Dae gi eui wang/The King of Pigs, South Korea, 2011) – Directed by Yeun Sang-ho. Animated film.

One day Jong-Suk, a ghostwriter, receives a call from a former classmate and meets with him. Their talk brings back memories from their darkest times in middle school, when a strict social hierarchy – ‘dogs’ at the top and ‘pigs’ at the bottom – defined everyone’s lives. It’s a dark animated tale, showing bullying of the cruelest kind and to the worst of repercussions possibly imaginable. Thanks to winning tickets from an Eastern Kicks competition (got lucky, yeah!) I finally watched this animation last week and can only recommend it. Do come prepared though. Details.

  • Nov 2 and Nov 4, 2012: 다른 나라에서 (Dareun Narayeso/In Another Country, 2012) dir. by Hong Sang-Soo.

It premiered in Cannes, it was in London for the BFI Festival and will soon also come to Leeds. Hong Sang-soo’s latest film stars French actress Isabelle Huppert and Korean actor Yu Junsang. As I previously wrote, it’s three stories in one film, with Huppert and Yu playing similar or identical roles. Huppert takes on the role of three different French women, all named Anne. At the beach resort Mohang each Anne meets Yu’s character, a lifeguard that charms them. Details.

Dareun Narayeso.

China

  • Nov 13 and 14, 2012: This Band Is So Gorgeous (UK/China, 2012)

In 2009, Sham 69 went to China – as the first British punk group to tour there. UK premiere of this British-Chinese co-produced documentary. Details.

Wi Shi Yi: Revolutionary China.

Other Recommendations

  • Nov 9, 12 and 13, 2012: De jueves a domingo (Thursday Till Sunday, Chile, 2012). A family (parents and two children) take a road trip lasting literally from Thursday till Sunday, after which things are never quite the same again. I watched this film during the BFI Film Festival, but haven’t yet had a chance to fully review it. There is minimal plot and action, but this film’s charm lies in the quiet observations it makes through the eyes of a child on the cusp of adulthood. Details.
  • Nov 10 and 12, 2012: Arrugas (Wrinkles, Spain, 2012) – Animated feature. I had Arrugas on a Trailer Weekly not all too long ago and it definitely sounds worth checking out to me. Details.
  • Nov 15, 2012: Amour (Austria/France/Germany, Michael Haneke, 2012) – Closing gala. Haneke’s Palme D’Or winner and Austria’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Haven’t seen it yet myself, but I have no doubts it is fab. Details.
  • Nov 12, 13 and 14, 2012: World Animation Award 2012, Parts 1 – 3: Lots of animated shorts, including some contributions from Japan (「グレートラビット」/Gurēto Rabitto/The Great Rabbit, Japan, 2012) and China (no further info I’m afraid). Details.