'Matsuri no Uma (The Horses of Fukushima)'

Dec 19, 2013

'Matsuri no Uma (The Horses of Fukushima)'

The earthquake, tsunami and reactor meltdowns of March 2011 may have faded from the world’s consciousness, but for many Japanese filmmakers, both young and old, it has been a life- and career-defining event. Documentary makers, especially, have gone north by the dozens to film ...

'Strawberry Night'

Dec 19, 2013

'Strawberry Night'

Director: Yuichi Sato Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) This noirish cop thriller is based on a popular TV drama, which was in turn inspired by Tetsuya Honda’s bestselling crime novels about a tough female detective (Yuko Takeuchi) solving crimes and butting heads with sexist ...

Young, dead and dealing with the consequences

Dec 12, 2013

Young, dead and dealing with the consequences

A veteran director of feature episodes in the classic “Ultraman” tokusatsu (special effects) series, Kazuya Konaka may not be the most obvious choice for a drama about teen suicide, but a look at his filmography, including 1998′s “Nazo no Tenkosei (The Dimension Travelers)” and ...

'Seki Seki Ren Ren (Deep Red Love)'

Dec 12, 2013

'Seki Seki Ren Ren (Deep Red Love)'

Japan’s suicide rate is nearly twice that of the U.S. and three times that of the U.K., with the number of people taking their own lives each year only recently dipping below 30,000. It is also the leading cause of death among Japanese in ...

'Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke)'

Dec 12, 2013

'Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke)'

Director: Hayao Miyazaki Language: Japanese (dubbed/subtitled in English) This 1997 animated fantasy about a wolf-raised girl who leads her forest familiars in a battle with encroaching humans, but falls for a boy cursed by a boar god, was director Hayao Miyazaki’s biggest-ever hit at ...

Re-examining Yasujiro Ozu on film

Dec 7, 2013

Re-examining Yasujiro Ozu on film

Yasujiro Ozu once had a reputation for making films only other Japanese could understand. His studio bosses believed overseas audiences wanted the exoticism of samurai and geisha, not Ozu’s quietly realistic dramas about contemporary middle-class families. This explains the reluctance of Ozu’s studio, Shochiku, ...

Tracing the unhurried history of iconic director Yasujiro Ozu

Dec 7, 2013

Tracing the unhurried history of iconic director Yasujiro Ozu

Dec. 12, 1903: Yasujiro Ozu is born in Tokyo’s Fukagawa district, the second of five siblings. His father is a prosperous fertilizer wholesaler from Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture. Ozu lives in Matsusaka with his brothers and sisters from 1913 to 1924. Aug. 2, 1923: After ...

'Hajimari mo Owari mo Nai (No Beginning, No End)'

Dec 5, 2013

'Hajimari mo Owari mo Nai (No Beginning, No End)'

When I first saw a trailer for Shunya Ito’s “Hajimari mo Owari mo Nai (No Beginning, No End),” an all-but dialogue-free film starring dancer/actor Min Tanaka, I thought it might be a 95-minute performance piece — and thus better reviewed by a dance critic ...

'Shijushichinin no Shikaku (47 Ronin)'

Dec 5, 2013

'Shijushichinin no Shikaku (47 Ronin)'

Director: Kon Ichikawa Language: Japanese (subtitled in English) This 1994 Kon Ichikawa version of the classic “Chushingura” tale stars Ken Takakura as the leader of the 47 masterless samurai bent on revenge. The film has Ichikawa’s characteristic visual flair, including spirited swordfight action in ...

Yamashita and Maeda reunite for slacker dramedy

Nov 28, 2013

Yamashita and Maeda reunite for slacker dramedy

Nobuhiro Yamashita has used a variety of sources for his films since his 1999 feature debut “Donten Seikatasu (Hazy Life),” including his own experiences as a struggling indie director. But the inspiration for his latest, “Moratorium Tamako (Tamako in Moratorium),” is out of the ...