Your guide to our Japanese film picks at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival

by Mark Schilling

Contributing Writer

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) offers fans a rare chance to see dozens of new and classic Japanese films with English subtitles on the big screen. Among my own picks for the event’s 31st edition:

‘Another World’ (TIFF Competition): Junji Sakamoto’s drama about two friends from junior high school who reunite after a period of years — and open old wounds as they approach their 40th birthdays. Former SMAP member Goro Inagaki ditches his pop star image to play a conflicted charcoal maker.

‘Just Only Love’ (TIFF Competition): An acclaimed maker of multilayered romantic dramas, Rikiya Imaizumi returns to TIFF with a comedy about a 28-year-old OL (office lady) madly fixated on a guy who is coolly indifferent to her existence.

‘The Gun’ (Japanese Cinema Splash): Four years after winning the Japanese Cinema Splash Award for his boxing drama “100 Yen Love,” Masaharu Take returns with “The Gun.” Nijiro Murakami stars as a young man who finds a pistol by a riverbank — and lets it take over his life.

‘The Manga Master’ (Japanese Cinema Splash): Famed actor and comedian Issey Ogata stars in Moe Oki’s biopic about pioneering manga artist Rakuten Kitazawa.

’21st Century Girl’ (Japanese Cinema Splash): Fourteen short films and an animated title sequence made by young female directors, with a common theme expressed in the title.

‘Gangoose’ (Special Screenings): Yu Irie’s thriller about three thieves who target only criminals — and end up battling the yakuza. Based on a popular manga in turn based on Daisuke Suzuki’s reportage about young people scraping along at society’s depths.

‘Hard-Core’ (Special Screenings): Nobuhiro Yamashita’s black comedy about two social misfits who become inseparable buddies. The story takes a sci-fi turn when they team up with a mysterious sentient robot. Based on a 1990s manga that has become a cult hit.

‘A Geisha’s Diary / The Temple of Wild Geese / The Graceful Brute’ (Japanese Classics): 4K digital restorations of three classics by Yuzo Kawashima. A mentor to Shohei Imamura, Kawashima was long neglected by foreign critics but a re-evaluation of his brilliant social satires and penetrating dramas is now well underway. All three films star Ayako Wakao, Kawashima’s muse.

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