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Posting early today as I’m off to see two films at the BFI Lesbian & Gay Film Festival this afternoon/evening (with a visit to Chinatown in between).

  • 桐島、部活やめるってよ」(Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo/The Kirishima Thing, Japan, 2012) – Dir. by Yoshida Daihachi. I’ll confess: I accidentally watched this one a couple of days ago. I was looking for some lightweight entertainment for my tired brain (ideally a dorama), stumbled across this and totally didn’t realise what it was (i.e. that film that just won Best Picture at the Japan Academy Awards last week). It came with with the Japanese title only and no cover image. The Kirishima in itself didn’t ring a bell because I hadn’t really been paying attention to the film previously and the synopsis was super-short and vague. So I started watching, thinking it be some perfect-for-tired-brain romance (or something of that sort) that you forget about as soon as you’ve seen it… but I quickly realised this was a whole box of other things. A box of complicated, intriguing, awesome things. It kind of reminded me of 「生きてるものはいないのか」(Ikiteru Mono Wa Inai No Ka/Isn’t Anyone Alive?, Japan 2012), though it is not absurd but realistic. I don’t want to give away anything about the story – let’s just say it follows a bunch of high school students over a few days – but can someone please screen this at whichever Asian film festival is coming up next in London or release it on DVD? I want to watch it again, properly and pronto. Note: Superb cast too. There’s Kamiki Ryunosuke, whom I hadn’t seen in anything before but instant-mesmerised me (you know, like Matsuda Shota), Hashimoto Ai, who was pitch-perfect in「管制塔」 (Kanseitou/Control Tower, Japan, 2011) and probably has been pitch-perfect in everything else she has ever starred in (she is definitely one to watch) and also Higashide Masahiro, who keeps getting more interesting as Doumeki in the currently airing xxxHOLIC (though he doesn’t beat Sometani’s Watanuki… but no one beats Sometani 🙂 ). UPDATE 6/4/2013: Review added on Otherwhere.
  • 遠くの空に消えた」 (Toku no sora ni kieta/Into the Faraway Sky, Japan, 2007) – Dir. by Yukisada Isao. Well, Kamiki Ryunosuke was mesmerising, so I decided to check out other films he has done. He is not even twenty yet, but has quite a film- and TV-ography, mostly small roles of course. In Toku no Sora ni Kieta he is one of the leads, playing a boy who moves to a new town. Although he initially clashes with Kohei, they become friends – brought together by Hiharu, a strange girl who stands on top of a hill looking for the UFO that took away her father. The children still dream and try to make Hihahu’s wish come true, the adults, submersed too deeply in reality, fight and block their path. A coming of age story of sorts I guess. Note: Kamiki has a dorama coming up at the end of this month – 「小暮写眞館」 (Kogure Shashinkan/Kogure Photo Studio). Can’t wait. I have a feeling he’s another young actor to look out for!
  • 《南方小羊牧場》 (Nánfāng xiǎo yáng mùchǎng/When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep, Taiwan, 2012) – Dir. by Hou Chi-Jan. Gotta love that title. This is more light-weight romantic comedy fare, but it seems entertaining enough. There is Tung, who works in a photocopy shop. He is copying papers from a cram school and notices a sheep that appears on sheets, the drawings creating a story over the different days. The artist is Yang, who is a teacher at the cram school and finds herself bored –hence the doodles. Though her students don’t notice what she has been doing, Tung does. I wouldn’t expect anything too deep or new, but I wouldn’t mind watching it on a lazy Friday.
  • 監禁探偵」 (Kankin Tantei/Captivity Detective, Japan) – Dir. by Takuro Oikawa. A mystery that is set to be released in Japan in June. A murder has been committed. A young man and a young woman are both in the apartment where the crime was committed. The man suspects the woman might have some involvement and ties her to a bed while he investigates. The woman, somewhat scantily clad, doesn’t just lie there quietly, but lets him know that she too has detective skills that could help him uncover the truth – or so she says. It’s an odd set-up, but ohhhh, oozing with all kinds of possibilities. Flirtation. Manipulation. And a “smell of death” (quote).
  • 桜、ふたたびの加奈子」 (Sakura, Futatabi no Kanako/Cherry Blossoms, Kanako’s Once More, Japan, 2013) – Dir. by Kurimura Minoru. I wonder what kind of film this will be: it has a story that could become overly dramatic in a we-have-seen-this-before way, but there is an interesting cast. Hirosue Ryoko (the wonderful lead in 「ゼロの焦点」(Zero no Shōten/Zero Focus, Japan, 2009) is Yoko, whose daughter Kanako suddenly dies in an accident. Yoko’s world falls apart. She tries to commit suicide, survives – but continues to act strangely. Her husband Nobuki (Inagaki Goro, who recently tried my patience with an infuriating character he played in the wonderful dorama「流れ星」/Nagareboshi, 2010) struggles to help Yoko. Then Yoko meets Masami, a high school student that is pregnant, and becomes convinced that Masami’s child is a reincarnation of her own. The director is a relative newbie (this is his second film), so Sakura, Futatabi no Kanako could be hit or miss either way. Film poster: about as atrocious (and boring) as they get…
  • 浮城謎事》(Fúchéng mí shì/Mystery, China, 2012) – Dir. by Lou Ye. I’m not so sure about this one either, which I picked off some Film Award nominees list. Here too we have a woman whose world crumbles before her eyes, but for very different reasons: Lu Jie lives a fairly happy life with her husband Yongzhao and their daughter. One day she sees Yongzhao enter a hotel with a young woman. While this is bad enough, there is more to come: a few hours later the young woman dies in an accident with a car, except that the police believe it was no accident, but murder. Lu Jie slowly comes to realise that her husband has a double life, and one that is very, very dark. The trailer looks super-intense, but I’m not sure if it will not be just a little bit too much (you know, a too contrived plot line).

Bonus Bits