When I hear rants from foreigners about the badness of Japanese acting, I don’t rise to the defense of the hammy emoting or smarmy mugging I’ve seen on the screen here, of which there’s been plenty. But I do run through the long list in my head of the Japanese actors, from stars to supporting players, who regularly turn in good-to-great performances, even in movies that are mediocre to awful. That is, I’m hopelessly glass-is-half-full.
Atsushi Ogata has cast many of these folks in his debut feature, “Wakiyaku Monogatari (Cast Me if You Can)” — so many, in fact, that I marveled at not only his tastes, but his connections. How does a first-time director finagle Hiromi Nagasaku, Masahiko Tsugawa, Keiko Matsuzaka and Akira Emoto — in-demand veterans all — to appear in his low-budget comedy? Not to mention hiring Akane Shiratori, a scriptwriter who has worked with the likes of Kaneto Shindo, Tatsumi Kumashiro and Shohei Imamura? And what about the film’s talented younger actors, such as Tasuku Emoto, Noriko Eguchi, Yasuhi Nakamura and Ai Maeda, who appear only in bit parts?