'Wood Job!'

May 15, 2014

'Wood Job!'

Shinobu Yaguchi has become a consistent hit maker by following a simple formula: generate laughs from the stumbles and mistakes of heroes learning a new job, art or sport. This formula usually results in audience cheers and tears when triumph finally arrives after many ...

'Arcana'

May 15, 2014

'Arcana'

Director: Yoshitaka Yamaguchi Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Yoshitaka Yamaguchi’s directorial debut is a psycho-thriller with a visual kineticism and a push-it-to-the-limit style of storytelling that recalls the work of Takashi Miike. A memory-loss victim (Tao Tsuchiya) who can communicate with the spirits of ...

Asia's myriad film genres celebrated at Udine festival

May 9, 2014

Asia's myriad film genres celebrated at Udine festival

Why go to a film festival that specializes in the sort of popular Asian genres — from Hong Kong actioners to South Korean comedies — that the other “better” sort of festivals have traditionally sniffed at? Since 2000 I’ve been making an annual trek ...

Young Japanese filmmaker's dystopian dream

May 8, 2014

Young Japanese filmmaker's dystopian dream

Several years ago, a film project of mine was selected for J-Pitch, a government-backed initiative that introduces new filmmakers to veteran producers outside Japan, in the hope (in my case, a faint hope) that they will co-produce an original film. At a J-Pitch seminar ...

'Momose, Kocchi wo Muite (My Pretend Girlfriend)'

May 8, 2014

'Momose, Kocchi wo Muite (My Pretend Girlfriend)'

First love, or hatsukoi, is a big topic in Japanese teen films, as well as almost everywhere else in popular culture. It’s attractive because of its innocence and purity, as well as the almost inevitable fleetingness of the relationship — if indeed, it is ...

'Gomennasai (Ring of Curse)'

May 8, 2014

'Gomennasai (Ring of Curse)'

Director: Mari Asato Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Mari Asato’s 2011 “Gomennasai (Ring of Curse)” stars three members of the idol group Buono! It begins with a standard-issue “bully the strange girl in class” story line, but takes a scarily fresh turn when the ...

'Live'

May 1, 2014

'Live'

When I was 12 I thought the movie parodies in “Mad” magazine were hilarious. Now I suppose I’m harder to please — or just older — but parodies that self-consciously mock their source, while cutely paying homage to it, quickly put me in a ...

'Soshite Chichi ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son)'

May 1, 2014

'Soshite Chichi ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son)'

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) Based on a true story, Hirokazu Koreeda’s 2013 drama tells the heart-wrenching story of a well-off couple whose son was switched at birth with another boy and raised by a poor but happy family. The perfectionist ...

'Soko Nomi Nite Hikari Kagayaku (The Light Shines Only There)'

Apr 24, 2014

'Soko Nomi Nite Hikari Kagayaku (The Light Shines Only There)'

Japan’s image overseas might have a funhouse aspect, but even many outlanders who live here only get a selective view of the place, since their Japanese colleagues and friends mostly come from the educated, middle-class stratum of society and live more or less stable, ...