Bloody hip-hop war set in technicolored Tokyo

Aug 27, 2014

Bloody hip-hop war set in technicolored Tokyo

A Japanese hip-hop musical? How about a samurai swashbuckler set on the streets of Compton, California? But Sion Sono makes his new film, “Tokyo Tribe,” more than an oddity of cultural appropriation. Truth be told, I felt queasy as the story, based on a ...

No leader of the pack, but still a heartthrob

Aug 20, 2014

No leader of the pack, but still a heartthrob

What is it with women and bad boys on motorcycles — including college boys with pretensions to being bad? A conundrum of my youth. Yes, I understood the appeal of a Marlon Brando or James Dean with a big thrumming machine between his legs, ...

The long, bone-chilling gaze of new director Ayumi Sakamoto

Aug 13, 2014

The long, bone-chilling gaze of new director Ayumi Sakamoto

Directors have various ways of communicating in interviews — beyond the usual talking points, that is. Koji Fukada drew me geometrical diagrams to explain the intertwining relationships in his coming-of-age drama “Hotori no Sakuko (Au Revoir l’Ete).” Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki sketched me ...

Female anxiety shot from every angle

Aug 13, 2014

Female anxiety shot from every angle

The Japanese film industry used to be like much of the rest of Japanese society: male-centered and male-run. It made plenty of movies about women and for women, but their directors were all men. That began to change when Naomi Kawase won a Cannes ...

Bushi no Kondate (A Tale Of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story)

Aug 13, 2014

Bushi no Kondate (A Tale Of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story)

Director: Yuzo Asahara Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) As Yuzo Arahara shows us with endless food-porn shots, the so-called kitchen samurai, who worked in their feudal lords’ kitchens, were as proud of their knife skills as their samurai brethren’s swordwork. But the story of ...

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Taika-hen (Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno)

Aug 6, 2014

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Taika-hen (Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno)

The jidaigeki (samurai period drama) is dying, we have been told again and again. Topknots and swords have become rare sights on television, while Japanese studios, which once devoted nearly half their production to the genre, now essay only the occasional chanbara (swordplay) film, ...

The Inland Sea

Aug 2, 2014

The Inland Sea

In his lifetime, Donald Richie was best known as a pioneering expert on Japanese cinema; he famously first brought the films of Yasujiro Ozu to the attention of the West, as well as writing the trailblazing “The Japanese Film: Art and Industry” with fellow ...

Lost in a dingy maze of booze, sex and crime

Jul 30, 2014

Lost in a dingy maze of booze, sex and crime

Golden-gai, a warren of tiny bars near Shinjuku’s Kabukicho entertainment district, has long been a refuge for writers, musicians, filmmakers and other artistic types, who congregate at drinking establishments with like-minded patrons. The area also has a seedier, less reputable side, which is graphically ...