'Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pom Poko (Pom Poko)'

Nov 14, 2013

'Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pom Poko (Pom Poko)'

Director: Isao Takahata Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Isao Takahata has been overshadowed by Studio Ghibli cofounder Hayao Miyazaki, but this 1994 fantasy about tanuki (raccoon dogs) who fight a battle of survival with humans invading their forest haven was the studio’s biggest hit ...

'Shijukunichi no Recipe (Mourning Recipe)'

Nov 7, 2013

'Shijukunichi no Recipe (Mourning Recipe)'

In these days of ubiquitous movie prerelease news and hype, it’s harder to remain a blank sheet going into the theater — unless you totally block out everything but the title. Still, walking into a screening of Yuki Tanada’s family drama “Shijukunichi no Recipe ...

'Himawari to Koinu no Nanokakan (7 Days of Himawari & Her Puppies)'

Nov 7, 2013

'Himawari to Koinu no Nanokakan (7 Days of Himawari & Her Puppies)'

Director: Emiko Hiramatsu Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) A tearjerker for dog lovers, this Emiko Hiramatsu melodrama, based on a novel by Yumi Yamashita, nonetheless addresses the problem of dogs left to die in animal shelters with a realism some may find shocking. The ...

'Kiyosu Kaigi (The Kiyosu Conference)'

Oct 31, 2013

'Kiyosu Kaigi (The Kiyosu Conference)'

Koki Mitani is one of those very Japanese conundrums: Considered a master of comedy and a box-office king at home, he remains little known abroad — despite a career that spans three decades and includes work as a playwright and scriptwriter, as well as ...

'Late Mizoguchi'

Oct 31, 2013

'Late Mizoguchi'

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Eureka Entertainment of the U.K. has released an eight-film Blu-ray box set of films by Kenji Mizoguchi, universally regarded as a master of not only Japanese but world cinema. The limited-edition set of 2,000 includes 1950s ...

'Bashauma-san to Bigmouth (The Workhorse and the Bigmouth)'

Oct 24, 2013

'Bashauma-san to Bigmouth (The Workhorse and the Bigmouth)'

It’s hardly surprising that gaman (“perseverance”) is the watchword of many a local movie. Just as their heroes gut through to glory in film after film, real-life Japanese endure everything from deadly natural disasters to boring meetings, telling each other to ganbaro (“keep trying”). ...

'Mimi wo Kaku Onna (The Ear Cleaner)'

Oct 24, 2013

'Mimi wo Kaku Onna (The Ear Cleaner)'

Director: Hiroshi Horiuchi Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Hiroshi Horiuchi’s 2012 drama about a girl (Rina Sakuragi) who becomes psychologically deaf after a 3/11 trauma and finds an unusual part-time job in an ear-cleaning establishment is awkwardly acted, but newcomer Sakuragi’s combination of purity ...

TIFF's programming director explains the festival's direction

Oct 17, 2013

TIFF's programming director explains the festival's direction

Since 2007, when he took over as programming director of the Tokyo International Film Festival’s Competition section, Yoshihiko “Yoshi” Yatabe has been a point person in TIFF’s drive to elevate its status in the region and the world. A former film distributor, publicist and ...

'Jinrui Shikin (Human Trust)'

Oct 17, 2013

'Jinrui Shikin (Human Trust)'

Sometimes as a reviewer of Japanese films I feel I am on the wrong side of the cultural divide, with no way to bridge the gap. Such a disconnect struck as I watched Junji Sakamoto’s “Jinrui Shikin (Human Trust),” a thriller based on a ...

Oct 17, 2013

'Gokudo Kuroshakai/Nihon Kuroshakai'

Director: Takashi Miike Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Tartan Asia Extreme of the U.K. has released new DVDs of two Takashi Miike classics: 1997′s “Gokudo Kuroshakai (Rainy Dog)” and 1999′s “Nihon Kuroshakai (Ley Lines).” As the Japanese titles indicate, these films are set in ...