Ai no Uzu (Love's Whirlpool)

Dec 10, 2014

Ai no Uzu (Love's Whirlpool)

Director: Daisuke Miura Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Daisuke Miura’s adaptation of his stage play about eight strangers who sign up for a sex party in Roppongi was rightly tagged with an R-18 rating e_SEmD there’s plenty of explicit sex — but the film, ...

Looking Japan's film-industry myths in the eye

Dec 3, 2014

Looking Japan's film-industry myths in the eye

Who doesn’t love a listicle titled “(X) surprising things you never knew about (Y)”? What surprises me about a lot of commentary on the Japanese film industry — from insiders and outsiders alike — is how it substitutes judgment calls (usually of the “Japanese ...

Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler)

Dec 3, 2014

Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler)

Directors: Kentaro Otani, Keiichi Sato Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Based on Yana Toboso’s best-selling manga, this Kentaro Otani fantasy/action film stars Hiro Mizushima as a demon who becomes a butler to the cheeky teenage heir (Ayame Goriki) to a toy-company fortune. Suave, but ...

Yokudo: Lingering but confused gaze of indie director

Nov 26, 2014

Yokudo: Lingering but confused gaze of indie director

Major film festivals, with their hurry-hurry schedules, are places to polish your sound bites, not launch into nuanced disquisitions. People want your opinion in 25 words or less. When someone asked me what I thought of Kiki Sugino’s “Yokudo (Taksu)” after a screening at ...

Jigoku de Naze Warui (Why Don't You Play in Hell?)

Nov 26, 2014

Jigoku de Naze Warui (Why Don't You Play in Hell?)

Director: Sion Sono Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) This 2013 film by cinematic bad boy Sion Sono about an attempt by a yakuza boss (Jun Kunimura) to rescue the floundering acting career of his smoky-eyed daughter (Fumi Nikaido) is full-bore wacko. Sono’s plot is ...

Filmex brings art and brutality to Tokyo cinemas

Nov 19, 2014

Filmex brings art and brutality to Tokyo cinemas

Now in its 15th edition, Tokyo Filmex is Japan’s leading art-over-commerce festival, offering a lineup packed with films screened earlier this year at major festivals around the world, while disdaining the glitz and glamour of the recently ended Tokyo International Film Festival. The Filmex ...

Hurt-till-you-laugh approach to making comedies

Nov 19, 2014

Hurt-till-you-laugh approach to making comedies

When Yosuke Fujita’s debut feature “Zenzen Daijobu (Fine, Totally Fine)” started making the international festival rounds in 2008, it charmed nearly everyone who saw it. This laugh-until-you-hurt comedy about two outsider pals in pursuit of the same socially awkward girl won the Nippon Cinema ...

Soko Nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku (The Light Shines Only There)

Nov 19, 2014

Soko Nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku (The Light Shines Only There)

Director: Mipo Oh Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Based on Yasushi Sato’s novel about two lost souls who find each other in a gritty Hokkaido port, this romantic drama has deservedly been named as Japan’s nominee for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language ...