Hurt-till-you-laugh approach to making comedies

Nov 19, 2014

Hurt-till-you-laugh approach to making comedies

by Mark Schilling

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 ...

Parasyte: Gory invasion of the cannibal body snatchers

Nov 5, 2014

Parasyte: Gory invasion of the cannibal body snatchers

by Mark Schilling

The closing film of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, Takashi Yamazaki’s “Kiseiju: Part 1 (Parasyte: Part 1),” arrives in theaters with a lot of hype. Based on Hitoshi Iwaaki’s best-selling manga about the stealth invasion of Earth by alien parasites, the film is ...

Takeshi Kitano blasts domestic film industry

Oct 29, 2014

Takeshi Kitano blasts domestic film industry

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Rather than seeking bloody vengeance, Takeshi Kitano, director of yakuza films “Violent Cop,” “Outrage” and “Beyond Outrage,” expressed his frustrations with the domestic film industry with pointed comments at a recent talk event in Tokyo. One of Japan’s foremost filmmakers and TV personalities, Kitano ...

Two men and a tot make a half-decent film

Oct 15, 2014

Two men and a tot make a half-decent film

by Mark Schilling

When indie directors take a more commercial turn, the usual explanation is the bigger paycheck, but it’s not always so simple. Yuya Ishii’s shift from the raucous films of his early career to the more genteel, mainstream 2013 film “Fune wo Amu (The Great ...

Harmonic slips in time, identity and language

Oct 8, 2014

Harmonic slips in time, identity and language

by Mark Schilling

World War II-themed films by elderly Japanese directors with direct experience of the war are not only becoming scarcer, but are also distinctly different from those of younger filmmakers trying to appeal to a mass audience. Kazuo Kuroki’s 2006 film “Kamiya Etsuko no Seishun ...

Death-row samurai spills ink, not blood

Oct 1, 2014

Death-row samurai spills ink, not blood

by Mark Schilling

Why have samurai movies become so middle-aged and sedate? Starting in the silent days and continuing through their 1950s peak, period films with top-knotted heroes typically featured a big one-against-many finale with flashing swords and the occasional firearm. Especially in the early days, both ...

'My Fair Lady' wrapped in a geisha's kimono

Sep 17, 2014

'My Fair Lady' wrapped in a geisha's kimono

by Mark Schilling

The musical used to be among the rarest of Japanese film genres. Plenty of films here — going back to the early talkies — featured singing and dancing, but Broadway-style musicals, which integrate the songs into the story, never really caught on. Is a ...

A quarter century of Japanese films in review

Sep 3, 2014

A quarter century of Japanese films in review

by Mark Schilling

In 25 years of reviewing Japanese films and interviewing Japanese filmmakers for this newspaper, I’ve written 1 million words, give or take a few. This is clearly something no normal person would do, but for me it beats working. The idea that writing about ...

Bloody hip-hop war set in technicolored Tokyo

Aug 27, 2014

Bloody hip-hop war set in technicolored Tokyo

by Mark Schilling

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 ...

Lost in a dingy maze of booze, sex and crime

Jul 30, 2014

Lost in a dingy maze of booze, sex and crime

by Mark Schilling

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 ...