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It’s been a year of new projects in untapped fields for old Japanese film icons. First, renowned 75-year-old cinematographer Masaki Tamura directed his first feature ever, Drive-in Gamo (see Eiga 1065), and now, the long-retired, legendary NHK TV director Shoichiro Sasaki comes forth with his first theatrical release. Sasaki is a highly influential TV auteur who has picked up many international prizes for his works, including the Prix Italia Grand Prize, an RAI Award, the Monte-Carlo Television Festival Golden Nymph and the Golden Prague Best Director Award. He inspired some of the most highly regarded Japanese filmmakers working today, including Hirokazu Kore-eda and Naomi Kawase. This work—part drama, part documentary and part experimental—uses ordinary people with no acting experience. Minyoung (playing herself) is a university student in Seoul passionate about sound and writing a novel called The Law of Harmonics. She becomes obsessed with a photo of Sueko, a Japanese friend of her grandmother, and comes to Tokyo to try to investigate it. She meets an old Japanese university friend who is now a journalist who reports on shady characters and seems to be in danger. After meeting a host of surreal people, Minyoung’s identity is transposed to Sueko’s and she finds herself living in WWII-era Japan. Constantly shifting between Korean, Japanese and music, the film is challenging, inventive and arresting. This is a must see for those with a taste for the avant-garde. English title: Harmonics Minyoung. (140 min)

Oct 9, 2014 | No Comments | 464 views
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Writer-director Takashi Koizumi has gone on to a stellar career [After the Rain (2000), Best Wishes for Tomorrow (2008)] after his role as Akira Kurosawa’s assistant director for many of his later works and ended...

Sep 24, 2014 | No Comments | 161 views
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Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends gets refreshingly in-your-face following the unfortunately expository first half of this two-part conclusion to the Kenshin story (see our first-part review here). When it’s not unfurling innovative one-on-one brawls, however,...

Sep 19, 2014 | One Comment | 1,018 views
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While the story may seem overused by today’s standards, its history is fascinating. The novel this flick is based on (of the same name, which literally translates as When I Sense the Sea) was released...

Sep 11, 2014 | No Comments | 216 views
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Sono Sion has been the go-to Japanese auteur for twisted, cooler-than-thou violent, sexual and sexually violent flicks for a while now (eat your heart out, Takashi Miike). Last year, his Why Don’t You Play in...

Sep 4, 2014 | No Comments | 247 views
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Cinematographer Masaki Tamura is something of an icon in the Japanese film industry. He has lensed everything from legendary cult films (like two of the Lady Snowblood series, starring Meiko Kaji) to cutting-edge work for...

Aug 20, 2014 | No Comments | 918 views
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2012’s Rurouni Kenshin made judicious cuts to its manga-and-anime source material to deliver a tight, cohesive (if somewhat spoiler-laced) narrative that built to a satisfying conclusion. 2014’s follow-up, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, the first half of a...

Aug 15, 2014 | No Comments | 906 views
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Adapted from the Joan G. Robinson novel of the same name and directed by Studio Ghibli’s Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty), When Marnie Was There follows the story of Anna, a lonely girl...

Aug 5, 2014 | No Comments | 2,629 views
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Sweet coming-of-age films from Japan tend to be saccharine and unbearable, but this Taiwanese-Japanese co-production strikes a nice balance. Shot primarily in the former nation, this bicycle road trip movie offers idyllic scenery, a charming,...

Jul 25, 2014 | No Comments | 1,365 views
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What are often called “samurai films” by the casual watcher outside this country are a major genre in the film industry here known as chambara. Uzumasa Limelight focuses on the latter days of a swordfighting...

Jul 12, 2014 | No Comments | 1,183 views
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Sad Tea is another film which had its premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year. It addresses the vagaries of romance for a host of different primary characters each trying to figure out...

Jul 6, 2014 | No Comments | 847 views
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Hiroshi Okuhara’s avant-garde feature Kuroi Shikaku originally screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2012 but it has taken until now to get its theatrical release in Japan. This is one of those films...

Jun 18, 2014 | No Comments | 574 views
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It’s not often in film that you come across a premise that hasn’t been tried before—or at least, not in the same vein. Michihito Fujii’s latest feature centers around handsome high-schooler Yukio (Masaki Okada), who’s...

Jun 1, 2014 | No Comments | 350 views
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It’s not often three iconic entities come together in one hyper-violent Japanese high school bad boy beat-em-up. But that’s what we have here. This film is based on the popular 1990s manga series, Crows, by...

May 20, 2014 | No Comments | 350 views
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You may be familiar with this time slip franchise by now (a theme Japan seems to love). The hit manga by Mari Yamazaki, Thermae Romae, has won many awards, including the prestigious Tezuka Osamu Cultural...

May 2, 2014 | No Comments | 551 views
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So many thrillers these days try to hide the fact they want to be a Tarantino film but have nothing new to say or add to his oeuvre. The latest joyride by comedian, novelist and...

Apr 17, 2014 | No Comments | 528 views
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To call the popular culture around legendary ninja thief Goemon Ishikawa a franchise doesn’t do justice to the social phenomenon of this pop marvel. His 16th century story of Robin Hood like pilfering and daring...

Apr 2, 2014 | No Comments | 984 views
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Occasionally, Japanese films will take up a serious social issue. The challenge is whether the work can examine the problem in a realistic and non-manipulative way. The results with Tokyo Nammin, a movie about being...

Mar 5, 2014 | No Comments | 519 views
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Manga by Osamu Tezuka, the legendary innovator and popularizer of the genre, have been made into films for many years now. The current film series is based on his grand comic book run (1972-1983) on...

Feb 21, 2014 | No Comments | 1,586 views
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Koji Fukada is seen by many as the crème de la crème of the young Japanese filmmakers. His Hospitalité picked up the Japan Eyes award at the 2010 Tokyo International Film Festival (despite being overtly...

Feb 6, 2014 | One Comment | 1,938 views
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