Japan's Academy Prizes — the fix is in?

Feb 25, 2015

Japan's Academy Prizes — the fix is in?

by Mark Schilling

Comedian, actor and director Takeshi Kitano had some scathing things to say about the Japanese film industry at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, where he was given a career achievement award. One target he singled out was the Japan Academy Prizes — the ...

Present For You: Baffling but pioneering stop-motion film

Feb 4, 2015

Present For You: Baffling but pioneering stop-motion film

by Mark Schilling

Stop-motion animation, in which objects are photographed frame by frame to achieve the illusion of motion, is nearly as old as the movies. But as recent films by Nick Park (“Chicken Run”), Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”), Tim Burton (“Frankenweenie”) and Wes Anderson ...

Back to the love hotel for ex-pink film director

Jan 28, 2015

Back to the love hotel for ex-pink film director

by Mark Schilling

Interviews with people you know well can turn awkward if you try to be the probing questioner instead of the coffee-shop companion. No such worries with 61-year-old Ryuichi Hiroki, the former pink film (i.e., soft pornography) director who made his commercial and critical breakthrough ...

Looking Japan's film-industry myths in the eye

Dec 3, 2014

Looking Japan's film-industry myths in the eye

by Mark Schilling

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 ...

Yokudo: Lingering but confused gaze of indie director

Nov 26, 2014

Yokudo: Lingering but confused gaze of indie director

by Mark Schilling

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 ...

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 ...