It’s the last Trailer Weekly of the year and I am actually on time with it – much in contrast to the rest of the year. But I had a lot of films to choose from, which always gets me excited – and that particularly applies to the first film today.
- 「３月のライオン」(Sangatsu no Raion/March Comes in Like a Lion, Japan, 1991)
Dir. by Yazaki Hitoshi.
If there was ever a serendipitous way of stumbling arose a film, it would be for Sangatsu no Raion. It started with someone reblogging my Marnie review on Tumblr. I clicked on that person’s account, which I only do occasionally. There, some pictures caught my eyes (click to enlarge):
I looked closer, trying to read the Japanese on the side, thinking the images might be from a film: ３月のライオン (Sangatsu no Raion) it said – which rang a bell. It was the title of a seinen manga about a lonely genius shogi player (by Umino Chica, the author of「ハチクロ; ハチミツとクローバー」/Honey and Clover) that I had once read and had a soft spot for:
So I thought, maybe they made it into a film? And googled. And found a film with that title from 1991, which actually had nothing to do with the 2007-ongoing manga (or the images, which, upon deciphering more of the writing later, turned out to be from a fashion-shoot – まんがファッッション – inspired by the clothing style in the manga – that’s Japan for you, I guess?). The film (which won the Belgian Prix de l’age d’or in 1992), however, was deeply intriguing. In a synopsis from TimeOut:
In present-day Tokyo, a waste land of tenements prey to decrepitude and demolition, ‘Ice’ (Yura) decides to collect Haruo (Cho), the young man she’s set her heart on, from the hospital where he’s being treated for amnesia. A little lie is needed to entice him back to the apartment she’s found for them: she tells him she’s his lover, neglecting to add that she’s also his sister. With no recollections to suggest otherwise, he goes along with her – but how long before his memory returns? With its long, static, carefully composed takes, taciturn script and tantalisingly ambivalent tone, Yazaki’s beautifully matter-of-fact study of incestuous longing is an engrossing, sexy and remarkably tender movie. Crucially, it eschews both easy judgments and fake sentimentality; indeed, there’s a droll, deadpan humour at work, most noticeably in the frequent sight gags. At the same time, however, the evocative use of metaphors ensures that the general air of detachment makes not for a dry, academic exercise, but a poetic tale of a fragile, blossoming romance that’s finally both subtly subversive and, thanks to the charismatic central performances, deeply affecting.
- How to Disappear Completely (Philippines, 2013)
Dir. by Raya Martin.
Although I’m not into making end-of-year Top 10 List of anything myself, I do like browsing the ones that people post for their favourite films. On the list of Brian Hu – former Asia Pacific Arts editor and current Artistic Director of the San Diego Asian Film Festival – was How to Disappear Completely, which he describes as a “thuggish fable of disengagement, [in which] a teenage girl grows distant from her parents before possibly vanishing altogether. But this is no angst drama. It’s defiance against a kind of ordered existence, treating death like a game, living life in a soft-focus daze, ready to evaporate if pushed far enough.” Some websites classify it as a thriller, others as horror – but I’m guessing not of the super gory kind (though there is a flash of a knife in the teaser). In any case, it sounds interesting enough, indeed, it seems like the director is generally worth keeping an eye on.
- 「サッド ヴァケイション」 (Sado Vukeishon/Sad Vacation, Japan, 2007)
Dir. by Aoyama Shinji.
Kenji carries deep resentment within him for his parents – his mother abandoned him when he was five, his father later committed suicide. He makes a living doing odd jobs and one day ends up driving home Mamiya, a man who employs ex-prisoners to help them gain a footing in life again. Mamiya however also turns out to be the partner of Kenji’s long-lost mother and father of his teenage half-brother, leading to a first encounter and a chance to confront the past. The cast: Asano Tadanobu (Kenji), Mitsuishi Ken (Mamiya), Kora Kengo (Kenji’s half-brother), plus Miyazaki Aoi and Odagiri Joe in further roles.
- 「ハロー！純一」(Hallo! Junichi/Hello Junichi, Japan, 2014)
Dir. by Ishii Katsuhito, Kawaguchi Kanoko and Yoshioka Atsushi.
Hallo! Junichi had a secret screening in the UK earlier this year at one of the Asian Movies Meetups. Of course I didn’t go, since I’m not a fan of not knowing what film I’m going to see (yes, I know the reasons behind why unreleased films can only screen in secret events). The film – about the lives of six elementary school students in a little village and their new apprentice teacher (played by the wonderful Mitsushima Hikari) – was finally released this week. Hallo! Junichi will screen in Japan from February 2014.
《藍色大門》(Lan se da men/Blue Gate Crossing, Taiwan, 2002)
Dir. by Yee Chin-yen.
More random discoveries, this time from the blog Green Tea Graffiti, which I happened to come across the other day. It has a Friday Flicks feature which aims to spread the “awesomeness of Asian cinema”. One film spotlighted was Lan se da men. Gwei Lun-Mei (she of《女朋友。男朋友》/Nyeobungu. Nambungu/GF*BF, Taiwan, 2012) had her debut in this film, playing the school girl Kerou. From Green Tea Graffiti: “A youthful coming-of-age tale that gently and considerately explores themes of sexual identity and first love – unrequited and otherwise. It carries on the Taiwanese cinematic tradition that has made such an artistic niche of films of the genre. It is not a roller-coaster ride of melodramatic ups and downs, and while it evokes the requisite amount of teenage angst, it is handled credibly and realistically”.
《最遙遠的距離》(Zui yao yuan de ju li/The Most Distant Course, Taiwan, 2007)
Dir. by Lin Ching-chieh.
Another Friday Flicks pick – and again starring Gwei Lun-Mei – is Zui yao yuan de ju li. Although I generally am not a fan of films that involve adultery and cheating, there is something about this one that makes me willing to give it a watch (and really the cheating part seems to a starting point in the story, not its focus). Gwei plays a young mistress in “a futile love triangle”. When she moves into a new apartment, she finds nature recordings in her mailbox – addressed to the previous inhabitant. The sender is a sound recordist, who wants to win back the heart of the girl he loves. There is also a psychiatrist whose marriage has failed, leaving him at a loss. They are “[t]hree lost souls, each on their respective journeys, whose paths inexplicably cross as they wander the Taiwanese countryside in search of meaning” (all quotes from here). I’m also loving the screenshots and the three “fantastics” listed by dear8lue look fantastic indeed.
- There will be a one-off「風立ちぬ」(Kaze Tachinu/The Wind Rises, Japan, 2013) in Santa Monica, California on January 8th, 2014. The screening will be subtitled, unlike the other two one-off showings that already took place in the US. Also, apparently the film will be on US release from February. Yeah, so I’m going green-purple-yellow with envy here. Maybe I should consider trekking up to Glasgow after all for that one single Kaze Tachinu screening that has been scheduled in the UK so far?
- Top Ten Lists: Brian Hu, Mark Schilling (Japantimes film critic), Third Window Films (more to come, I’m sure).
- List of planned 2014 Asian Film UK releases from Third Window Films – it looks fab.