Sayonara Kabukicho: Life and love in Shinjuku's red-light district

Jan 21, 2015

Sayonara Kabukicho: Life and love in Shinjuku's red-light district

Ryuichi Hiroki has become a victim of his own success, though his studio employers probably don’t see it that way. This one-time maker of so-called pink films (i.e., soft pornography), who became internationally celebrated for intimate indie dramas like “Vibrator” from 2003 and “Yawarakai ...

Eclipse Series 42: Silent Ozu — Three Crime Dramas

Jan 21, 2015

Eclipse Series 42: Silent Ozu — Three Crime Dramas

Director: Yasujiro Ozu Language: Japanese (subtitles in English) Best known abroad for his postwar family dramas, Yasujiro Ozu was, in reality, a more diverse filmmaker, especially in his early silent period. Criterion has put together a box set of three Ozu crime dramas from ...

A longer look at the problems of 'Unbroken'

Jan 14, 2015

A longer look at the problems of 'Unbroken'

Why can’t “Unbroken” — Angelina Jolie’s hit World War II drama — catch a break in Japan? There are presently no plans to release the film here in theaters, on DVD or online, even though it has a strong Japan focus as well as ...

Thermae Romae 2

Jan 14, 2015

Thermae Romae 2

Director: Hideki Takeuchi Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) The sequel to the hit 2012 time-traveling comedy “Thermae Romae” again features bathhouse architect Lucius Modestus (Hiroshi Abe) from ancient Rome, who finds fresh inspiration in the mysterious Land of the Flat-Faced Slaves (i.e., present-day Japan). ...

100 Yen Love: Punching your way out of an old paper bag

Jan 7, 2015

100 Yen Love: Punching your way out of an old paper bag

Boxing films share a similar arc, typically climaxing in a big bout that decides everything — at least everything relevant to the hero’s fate. This does not always means triumph, as fans of the “Rocky” series know, but even in defeat the hero usually ...

Yamamoto Isoroku (Isoroku)

Jan 7, 2015

Yamamoto Isoroku (Isoroku)

Director: Izuru Narushima Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Izuru Narushima’s well-crafted drama about the admiral who was the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, has the look of a flag-waving Japanese war film — Yamamoto’s success meant he was revered as a war hero. ...

What if 'The Interview' had been made in Japan?

Jan 1, 2015

What if 'The Interview' had been made in Japan?

It couldn’t happen here — that was my first takeaway from the massive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment prompted by the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy “The Interview.” In the film, the two heroes journey to North Korea ostensibly to interview its real-life ...

Nyotaiju Gun Woman (Gun Woman)

Jan 1, 2015

Nyotaiju Gun Woman (Gun Woman)

Director: Mitsutake Kurando Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Mitsutake Kurando’s cult action film boasts one of the genre’s few semi-original premises: A revenge-bent doctor turns a young woman (former porn star Asami) into the perfect assassin and sends her to invade the lair of ...

Top 10 films of 2014: made in Japan, for Japan

Dec 24, 2014

Top 10 films of 2014: made in Japan, for Japan

Are Japanese films in decline? Not at the box office, where they still beat the Hollywood competition (with the huge exception this year of “Frozen”), but what about international festival invitations, awards and critical buzz? The answer depends on your perspective. For overseas festivals ...