'Paradise Next': When the music is better than the story

Film / Reviews Aug 7, 2019

'Paradise Next': When the music is better than the story

The lone, wandering gangster is as standard a figure in Japanese cinema as the lone, wandering samurai. Traditionally, both fought out of a self-imposed sense of duty and obligation. In modern-day incarnations of these figures, such as the exiled-to-Taiwan hitman in Takashi Miike's "Rainy Dog" ...

'Melancholic': When cleaning the tub brings dirtier jobs

Film / Reviews Jul 31, 2019

'Melancholic': When cleaning the tub brings dirtier jobs

Almost every year at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) at least one film by a new Japanese director gets talked up by visiting programmers, journalists and critics as a find. Last year one such buzz film was Seiji Tanaka's debut feature, "Melancholic." I was ...

'A Girl Missing': You can run, but you can't hide

Film / Reviews Jul 24, 2019

'A Girl Missing': You can run, but you can't hide

Mariko Tsutsui already had many stage, TV and film credits when she appeared in Koji Fukada's 2016 drama "Harmonium." But her performance as a woman whose life is destroyed by Tadanobu Asano's seductive ex-con was a revelation. She made the leap from the naive ...

'Tokyo Ghoul "S"': A college, a cafe and a cannibal

Film / Reviews Jul 17, 2019

'Tokyo Ghoul "S"': A college, a cafe and a cannibal

Big pop-culture franchises generate movie sequels as naturally as chickens lay eggs. Directed by first-timers Kazuhiko Hiramaki and Takuya Kawasaki, "Tokyo Ghoul 'S'" is a follow-up to "Tokyo Ghoul," a 2017 sci-fi horror film based on Sui Ishida's hit manga about a college boy who ...

Tomorrow's film legends descend on Saitama

Film | Wide Angle Jul 11, 2019

Tomorrow's film legends descend on Saitama

Launched in 2004 to promote digital cinema, the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival (July 13-21) in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, has become a showcase for emerging filmmakers. Among the Skip City alumni who have gone on to thriving careers are Cannes Palme d'Or winner Nuri ...

'Tourism': Not quite the trip of a lifetime

Film Jul 10, 2019

'Tourism': Not quite the trip of a lifetime

Taking a pleasure trip abroad used to be a big, once-in-a-lifetime event for the average Japanese. The No. 1 dream destination was Hawaii, since it was seen as glamorous and exotic, yet safe and familiar. A view of Diamond Head out the hotel window ...

'Diner': Maybe find another place to eat

Film / Reviews Jul 3, 2019

'Diner': Maybe find another place to eat

The aesthetic of photographer and director Mika Ninagawa is gaudy to the nth degree. She crowds blood-red roses into her frame like crammed commuters in a rush-hour train. When she makes it rain, her actors may as well be standing under Niagara Falls. This may ...

Kiyoshi Kurosawa: Filming and acting outside your comfort zone

Film Jun 26, 2019

Kiyoshi Kurosawa: Filming and acting outside your comfort zone

When Japanese directors of a certain age and status film abroad, they usually head for developed countries, not developing ones. Although, to be fair, their choice of foreign locales often comes down to box-office calculations. Japanese audiences enjoy seeing famous European sites on the ...

'Bento Harassment': Learning lessons with lunchboxes

Film / Reviews Jun 26, 2019

'Bento Harassment': Learning lessons with lunchboxes

Japanese movies and TV dramas often feature scenes of mothers making elaborate bento lunches from scratch for their offspring. Seeing these women washing rice in icy water with bare hands before the crack of dawn I reflect back to my own school lunches of ...