The BFI London Film Festival runs from October 04th to October 15th. There are a number of Japanese films that have been programmed in various festival strands and there are a number of guests from Japan including Takashi Miike and Naoko Ogigami.
Here are the Japanese films that have been selected including shorts! The synopses come from the festival site, just click on a title to be taken there.
Lu Over the Wall was the second of two films released this year that was directed by Masaaki Yuasa (the other is The Night is Short, Walk On Girl which will be in UK cinemas from tomorrow – find out more here) and since its release in Japan on May 19th it has picked up awards including the “Cristal for a Feature Film” award at Annecy Animation Film Festival. The film has a script written by Reiko Yoshida (A Silent Voice, Yowamushi Pedal, Shirobako) and was animated by Science SARU.
The film has been picked up for UK distribution by Anime Limited.
Synopsis: Middle school student Kai finds himself forced to move from Tokyo to the declining fishing town of Hinashi to live with his father and a superstitious grandfather following his parents’ divorce. Kai’s grandfather warns him of the dangers of merfolk, who he believes will cause them harm but when one named Lu saves him from some bullies, Kai finds a fun-loving friend who is a mermaid. Lu loves music but is vulnerable to sunlight and the locals are hostile to her, however, with a local seafood company posing a threat to the area it forces Lu, Kai and others to save both the town and the merfolk.
Naoko Ogigami is one of Japan’s most commercially successful female directors. She has built up a filmography full of stories featuring quirky characters and outsiders in somewhat strange situations. Titles like Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2004), Kamome Diner (2006), Glasses (2007), and Rent-a-Cat (2012) have won her fans around the world but Close-Knit will come as a surprise since it is a serious look at LGBTQ issues in Japan. Despite it’s seriousness, it still features her humane treatment of characters and gentle pacing.
Naoko Ogigami will be at the London Film Festival screenings and she will also be at a special talk about her career hosted by Jasper Sharp on October 14th. That event is free to attend. To find out more, click here.
Synopsis: Knitting is catharsis for Rinko, a transwoman whose maternal feelings are stirred by the arrival of her boyfriend’s 11-year-old niece, Tomo. Abandoned by her mum, resilient Tomo is used to fending for herself and now Rinko (played by heartthrob Toma Ikuta) must gain the trust of the insecure little girl. Those seeking Western gender politics or a sassy trans heroine are in for something different here. Although Rinko’s knitting patterns do have a subversive streak, her feminine values are more aligned with genteel passivity and familial subservience.
Takashi Miike has directed this adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s manga of the same name and it is credited as his 100th film. Fans of Miike will know he has done a great job with the jidaigeki genre considering he made 13 Assassins (2012) and Hara-Kiri (Death of a Samurai) (2013) and he has adapted numerous manga with most recent examples being JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable – Chapter 1 (2017). Reviews for it have been complimentary of the action so fans of the manga should be please. To hear more about its production and Miike’s career, you can purchase tickets to a Screen Talk about his career (link to the page with more information).
Arrow Films have picked this one up for distribution in the UK.
Synopsis: Takuya Kimura stars as Manji, a samurai saved by a witch following a vicious battle. She feeds him sacred bloodworms – fantastical creatures that rejoin severed limbs, heal gaping wounds and generally make it impossible for him to die. Haunted by the death of his sister, Manji sees a chance for redemption when he meets a young girl whose parents have been murdered. The culprits, a team of master swordsmen, come from the Ittō-ryū, a cruel school of fighting that demands victory by any means necessary. One by one, Manji tracks them down in this savage and inventive action thriller that makes an excellent companion piece to Miike’s earlier 13 Assassins.
This one is a cult film that is available on DVD thanks to Eureka’s release from 2006. It has been given a 4K restoration and brought to the big-screen for this festival.
Synopsis: Take a walk on the subversive side with Toshio Matsumoto’s wild, kaleidoscopic vision of the underground scene in 1960s Japan. A significant influence on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Matsumoto’s journey through the drag queen bars, dimly-lit nightclubs and student digs that defined Tokyo’s counter-cultural landscape is a hallucinogenic blast. Trans actor Peter, so memorable as the androgynous Fool in Kurosawa’s Ran, here plays Eddie (more than a passing reference to Edie Sedgwick), one of the most desired hostesses at Bar Genet. Her tryst with the bar’s owner infuriates his main squeeze and the bar’s domineering drag queen-cum-matriarch Leda, ultimately leading to violence. Blending fictional drama with dramatic documentary footage, Matsumoto rails against Japanese patriarchy, American imperialism and what he saw as his country’s inability to reconcile its outdated value system with a rapidly changing world. Gorgeously shot, unashamedly erotic and occasionally very funny, this is a bouquet worth
There are a number of international co-productions that feature Japanese involvement.
This is a French-Japanese co-production that is based on a comic-book series. It has been animated by Studio4°C (Batman Gotham Knight, Tekkonkinkreet) and Ankama (WAKFU series).
Synopsis: Loser pizza-delivery boy Angelino and his flaming-headed buddy Vinz live in a Californian ghetto called Dark Meat City. It’s a cockroach-infested hell hole but it’s home and orphan Angelino survives by keeping his big round head down. However, after clocking a mysterious girl Angelino starts seeing odd things about certain people on the street.
Action maestro John Woo has returned to making action films full of balletic shoot-outs and for this one he adapts the Japanese novel Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare by Juko Nishimura. According to a Wikipedia entry, Woo decided to develop an adaptation to commemorate Japanese actor Ken Takakura, who starred in a 1976 adaptation of the book.
Synopsis: Lawyer Du Qiu (Zhang Hanyu) finds himself a murder suspect on the run from tenacious cop Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama). Also joining the chase are Mayumi (Qi Wei), who blames Du Qiu for a tragedy in her life, and Dawn and Rain, a lethal hitwoman duo.
There are two Japanese short films and one international co-production in the Hoping, Fearing, Dreaming section:
Delete Beach (Dir: Phil Collins, 7 mins.) A collaboration between artist Phil Collins and leading animation studio Studio 4°C.
And So We Put Goldfish In the Pool (Dir: Makoto Nagahisa, 28 mins.) Why did four fifteen-year-old girls put 400 fish in a high school pool in Saitama, Japan?
To & Kyo (Dir: Tsuneo Goda, 4 mins.) Tsuneo Goda of Domo internet meme fame takes us on an animated tour of Downtown Toyko.