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It Only Happens in the Movies

One of the first film festivals of the very-quickly-approaching year of 2015 will be the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme (JFTFP), which will kick off in London on January 30th and travel around the country until late March, with Bristol, Belfast, Derby, Birmingham, Dundee, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Kendal (Cumbria) and Nottingham all being planned tour stops. As always, a good dozen films (most fairly recent, a few older) will be on show, all connected through a thematic link, summarised in the 2015 festival title It Only Happens in the Movies? 

That’s a quite fun-sounding theme, one that invokes expectations of all kinds of crazy stories (say, like last year’s JFTFP entry「恋の門」(Koi no Mon/Otakus in Love). However, looking at the programme, I’m not sure this is exactly what the Japan Foundation had in mind, indeed, with films like「そこのみにて光輝く」(Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku/The Light Shines Only There, 2013) on the programme, I have to confess I find myself a little annoyed at the suggestion that “it only happens in the movies”. I guess the attached question marks helps a little, but I still think it is a little problematic to imply anything of what occurs in that film is a ‘thing of the movies’. I may be taking things too seriously here (I can’t help it, that’s how I am), as the Japan Foundation prefer to explain its programming choices the following way:

This year’s Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme will provide an exciting programme of films under the narrative framework of ‘encounters’. Showcasing a vast variety of styles and tones, from popular contemporary films, classics through to animation, the programme will include titles in which characters experience unusual meetings, plunge into unexpected circumstances and new environments, as well as collide with different generations, ideals and ideas.

That sounds rather different from “It Only Happens in the Movies?”, so I’ll just conclude it’s a case of catchy, but misleading festival title vs. the actual thematic focus. Anyhow… the full list of films to screen and their trailers follow below. More information about the festival (including synopses for the films) can be found here.

  • WOOD JOB!(ウッジョブ) 神去なあなあ日常」 (Wood Job!, 2014)

Dir. by Yaguchi Shinobu.

Stars Sometani Shota, which is all I need. Some of you might appreciate knowing that Nagasaki Masami and Ito Hideaki are in this too.

  • 「そこのみにて光輝く」(Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku/The Light Shines Only There, 2013)

Dir. by Mipo Oh.

I have reviewed this one, so you can find more information here. It’s bleak and not all too much happens, but if that’s your thing, I do much recommend it.

  • 「ハンサム★スーツ」 (Hansamu Sutsu/The Handsome Suit, 2008)

Dir. by Hanabusa Tsutomu.

  • Short Peace (2013)

An omnibus of four animated shorts, directed by Otomo Katsuhiro, Morita Shuhei, Ando Hiroaki and Katoki Hajime.

  • 「乱れ雲」(Midaregumo/Scattered Clouds, 1967)

Dir. by Naruse Mikio.

  • 「誰も守ってくれない」(Dare mo mamotte kurenai/Nobody to Watch Over Me. 2009)

Dir. by Kimizuka Ryoichi.

Cast includes Sato Koichi, Shida Mirai and Matsuda Ryuhei, who actually pops up in several of the JFTFP choices this year, albeit not always in the lead role (meaning, reign in your expectations of Matsuda being invited as a guest).

  • 麦子さんと (Mugiko-san to/My Little Sweet Pea, 2013)

Dir. by Yoshida Keisuke.

Matsuda Ryuhei is in this film too, in a somewhat bigger role but from the synopsis I have read it is Horikita Maki that is the lead here.

  • 「 ジンクス!!!」(Jinkusu!!!/Jinx!!!, 2013)

Dir. Kumazawa Naoto.

I have actually seen this film – it’s one of the lazy Friday night rom-coms that you take in when your brain isn’t fully functional. It stars a Korean idol (Hyomin… forgot which K-pop group she’s from) and is, in some way, unsurprisingly light. That said, as Friday-night-rom-coms go, it’s actually pretty  – it’s not just fluff and cliché, but comes with some darker topics and tackles some stereotypes too. Indeed, some of the complaints I have seen about this film are that it’s “too slow” and “melancholic”, but I think it’s a pretty realistic depiction of how life sometimes plays out when tragic things happen or if you are more on the shy and quiet side. In other words, there is more substance here than you would expect from a film of the Friday-night category. I do think it’s aimed at a teenage/early 20’s audience primarily and I’m not sure I would spend £8-10 for a cinema ticket on it, but I was still positively surprised by Jinx!!! (I might even review it properly one day.)

Note: Yamazaki Kento, who showed promise in「管制塔」(Kanseitou/Control Tower, 2011), also stars in this – too bad he only seems to be doing Friday-night rom-coms or lightweight shoujo adaptations these days, which don’t allow for showcasing (or honing) one’s acting skills very much…

  • 「河内カルメン」(Kawachi Karumen/Carmen from Kawachi, 1966)

Dir. by Suzuki Seijun.

  • 「青天の霹靂」(Seiten no Hekireki/A Bold from the Blue, 2013)

Dir. by Gekidan Hitori.

Quite a few familiar names here: Shibasaki Kou and Oizumi Yo, plus Gekidan Hitori – who both acts and directs here.

  • 「血と骨」(Chi to Hone/ Blood and Bones, 2004)

Dir. by Sai Yoichi.

I have heard mumblings that Chi to Hone is not for those faint of heart…

  • 「みんなのいえ」(Minna no Ie/All about Our House, 2001)

Dir. by Mitani Koki.

  • 「ももへの手紙」 (Momo e no Tegami/A Letter to Momo, 2011)

Dir. by Okiura Hiroyuki.

There is usually an animated feature film in the festival programme, which this year turns out to be the absolutely charming Momo e no Tegami. I certainly recommend Momo – read my REVIEW for more details.

No word on the Q&A’s and, especially, Q&A guests yet – we’ll have to wait and see who (and if) will be invited over from Japan! Let’s hope we get as lucky as we did last year, when Moriyama Mirai stopped by.

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Bonus picture: Moriyama Mirai at a Q&A for the Japan Foundation Touring Film Festival in February 2014.