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Thread: JAPAN CUTS July 10—21, 2024

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    JAPAN CUTS July 10—21, 2024



    JAPAN CUTS 2024
    July 10—21, 2024


    FESTIVAL FORUM REVIEWS

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    Click for more information / Tickets available now!
    North America’s largest festival of contemporary Japanese film returns for its 17th year this summer at Japan Society! Join us July 10-21 for 30+ curated films from across Japan featuring major blockbusters, indie darlings, up-and-coming filmmakers, restorations, documentaries, experimental and short films, and anime. JAPAN CUTS is a showcase of the latest in Japanese cinema, featuring both today’s most popular actors and directors as well as tomorrow’s pioneering talent.
    MISSING: Cha-Cha, Hail Mary, Kadono Eiko's Colorful Life: Finding the Magic Within, Motion Picture: Choke, Parking Area, Shunga: The Lost Japanese Erotica
    All the Long Nights 2024
    U.S. Premiere. Based on Maiko Seo’s novel of the same name, All the Long Nights stars Mone Kamishiraishi as meek working professional Misa who suffers from an acute case of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) that leaves her mercurial—resulting in workplace incidents, inevitably contributing to her inability to hold onto jobs. After five years of unsteady employment, Misa finds a sense of belonging in the quiet offices of Kurita Science Corp. assembling parts for children’s science kits, but her peace is disrupted by the solitary and anti-social Takatoshi (Hokuto Matsumura, Suzume), whose benign everyday rituals trigger her. Takatoshi, suffering from a severe panic disorder, shares a mutual difficulty in struggling to function in everyday life, and once the pair find the right footing, they compassionately push each other to live out “normal lives” despite their debilitating conditions. Shot on 16mm, director Sho Miyake’s (And Your Bird Can Sing, JC 2019) tender drama draws out a nuanced character study of the two, weaving together a deeply human story that shines through with the talents of its likeable leads.


    August in the Water 1995
    Imported 35mm Print - Featuring Director Gakuryu Ishii In-Person. An unlikely occurrence of cosmic phenomena—outbursts of supernovae, celestial misalignments and twin meteorites with ancient glyphs—coincides with the arrival of transfer student Izumi (Rena Komine). A high dive prodigy, the mysterious girl becomes entangled with the pensive Mao (Shinsuke Aoki), but a diving accident leaves her changed. Beset by strange events—drought, a blistering heat wave and a disease that turns people to stone—Mao joins the convalescing Izumi, now awakened to a heightened consciousness, to search for the source of this cosmic disequilibrium. An evocative daydream infused with the enigma of existence, Ishii’s mid-1990s masterwork is a primordial rite of passage, awash in cloudburst and myth.

    Between the White and Black Keys 2023
    North American Premiere - Opening Night Film with Director Masanori Tominaga Q&A and Reception. Music sweeps through 1980s Ginza, a glamorous and dangerous neighborhood where well heeled Tokyoites, artists and thugs all sway together under the power of jazz. Sosuke Ikematsu stars in this spiraling, splintering, intersecting Mobius strip of a film based on the memoirs of jazz pianist Hiroshi Minami and a single night and a forbidden song that changes destiny. Also featuring Japanese pop star Crystal Kay.

    Blue Imagine 2024
    North American Premiere.In her directorial debut, actress Urara Matsubayashi stares unblinkingly into sexual violence in the Japanese film industry. In the aftermath of being assaulted by a well-known director, young actress Noel (Mayu Yamaguchi) finds refuge in “Blue Imagine,” a communal living space for abused women. Here, she meets survivors with similar experiences and receives support from a counselor (played by director Matsubayashi). Blue Imagine complexly explores the physical, mental, and emotional scars of abuse, transformative power of friendship, and difficult questions of revenge, recovery and self-realization.

    Bottle George 2024
    From the mind of Akihiro Nishino (Poupelle of Chimney Town) comes a short film with a big message. Told through disarmingly beautiful stop motion animation from Tonko House (ONI: Thunder God’s Tale) and Dwarf Studios (Pokemon Concierge), Bottle George is a parable for addiction, what we can lose when trapped by alcohol, and the hope of breaking free. Melancholy and arresting, Bottle George’s colorful animation jarringly delivers a powerful statement. There’s also a very fat cat.

    The Box Man 2024
    East Coast Premiere. An appropriately frenetic production chiseled with the punk ethos of Ishii’s early work, The Box Man arrives on the centennial of Kobo Abe’s birth. One of the most audacious of Abe’s novels, the unfilmable nouveau roman explored vagrancy and identity in a thoroughly experimental effort through the fragmented ramblings of a “box man”—a purposeful outcast who renounces everything (his identity, home, life) to live inside a cardboard box, peering out from within to observe the frightful state of society, invisible to those around him. Masatoshi Nagase stars as “Myself,” a photographer who becomes enraptured by the sight of a box man; however, he quickly falls into the self-fulfilled prophecy dictated by the doctrine of the box man: “Those who obsess over the box man become the box man.” Absurdist, self-aware and characteristically bizarre, Ishii’s voyeuristic rendition of Abe’s seminal novel brings to life all the novel’s formal attributes, now transposed in a similarly meta fashion for the silver screen.

    Following the Sound 2023
    North American Premiere. The latest feature from Kyoshi Sugita (Haruhara-san’s Recorder) is a film of repose, quietly serene and introspective. Haru (An Ogawa), a bookstore clerk, holds tightly to her cassette player which plays recordings of her late mother, encountering both Yukiko and Tsuyoshi in her daily routines. Whether drawn together by chance, deliberate choice or mere happenstance, they share a familiar sense of solace in their everyday lives. A film of stillness and quotidian beauty, Following the Sound features all the hallmarks of Sugita’s lyrical stylings.

    Great Absence 2023
    New York Premiere - Followed by JAPAN CUTS Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation for Tatsuya Fuji, Q&A with Kei Chika-ura and Tatsuya Fuji, and Reception. Tokyo-based actor Takashi (Mirai Moriyama) reluctantly travels to northern Kyushu with his wife (Yoko Maki) after local police inform him of a distress call made by his estranged father Yohji (Tatsuya Fuji), a retired professor who shows signs of rapidly progressive dementia. Once there, Takashi becomes involved in a mystery concerning the disappearance of Naomi (Hideko Hara), the woman for whom Yohji abandoned his family 20 years ago Did she really commit suicide, as Yohji claims? A deeply moving and artfully multi-layered sophomore feature about reconciliation, love and mortality by director Kei Chika-ura (Complicity) featuring stellar cinematography by frequent Hirokazu Kore-eda collaborator Yutaka Yamazaki.

    Ice Cream Fever 2023
    North American Premiere. Adapted from a short story by award-winning author Mieko Kawakami, this colorful debut by Tetsuya Chihara follows four young women who intersect one summer at a Shibuya ice cream shop where they each find some sweet inspiration. Natsumi (Riho Yoshioka), a designer in a rut working part-time at the shop, becomes entranced by Saho (Serena Motola), a new customer and a writer hiding from public scrutiny. Meanwhile, frequent customer Yu (Marika Matsumoto) is surprised by a visit from her teenage niece Miwa (Kotona Minami) who is in search of her estranged father—Yu’s ex and a source of resentment between Yu and her sister, Miwa’s mother.

    Kubi 2023
    New York Premiere. 77-year-old icon of Japanese film and television Takeshi Kitano (Outrage Coda, JC 2018) returns to the big screen in epic fashion with his 19th feature as producer, director, screenwriter, editor and star. A long-gestating passion project that Kitano also published as a novel, KUBI (Japanese for “neck”) is a bloody and comically subversive retelling of the famous 1582 Hannoji Incident in which the samurai warlord Oda Nobunaga —vigorously portrayed by Ryo Kase (To the Ends of the Earth) as an unhinged sadist—is betrayed through the covert machinations of his retainers Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Kitano) and Mitsuhide Akechi (Hidetoshi Nishijima, Drive My Car). Necks will be cut and heads will roll!

    Kyrie 2023
    North American Premiere. Shunj Iwai (Swallowtail Butterfly, All About Lily Chou-Chou) brings an enchanting new experience to the screen. Starring singer AiNA THE END in her first leading role, Kyrie tells the story of a street musician who cannot speak and can only communicate through song. With a cast rounded out by acclaimed young actors Hokuto Matsumura, Haru Kuroki and Suzu Hirose, the film is told across over 10 years and explores the delicate shape of young love, hurt and family. What tragedy stole Kyrie’s voice? What thread connects her to her friends? And what future can they weave together? A powerful and painful odyssey propelled forward by six new songs created by AiNA THE END.

    Mermaid Legend 1984
    40th Anniversary. Elemental and mythic, Mermaid Legend exudes a lyrical melancholia for the dying way of life of seafaring fishermen and ama divers. Set in a coastal fishing hamlet, Toshiharu Ikeda’s eco thriller finds the incursive grasp of industrialization and corporate greed encroaching on natural realms. Migiwa (Mari Shirato), an ama diver who plunges the azure depths for abalone in the heat of summer, becomes entangled in a redevelopment scheme involving powerful local figures and yakuza when her husband is killed for witnessing a murder. Battered and left for dead, the pearl diver plans a vengeance on those who wronged her to devastating effect. Incurring a siren’s sanguinary wrath—one which can only be described as a sheer force of nature—the elegiac Mermaid Legend is a brooding requiem for loss, a cautionary parable for man’s true acquiescence to the natural world.

    Moving 1993
    East Coast Premiere of 4K Restoration - Featuring Tomoko Tabata In-Person. A child’s account of divorce, Somai’s remarkable portrait of adolescence follows Ren (Tomoko Tabata) as she is swept into a sea of uncertainty following her parents' separation. Desperately trying to keep her family together, Ren yearns for stability and happiness while lashing out at both home and school as her daily life becomes a bid to reclaim some type of agency. What Somai crafts is nothing short of miraculous: a child’s unanswered cries and silent mourning at her family’s dissolution, attempting to cling onto a life of what was. A sweeping odyssey of self-discovery, Somai’s heartbreaking elegy to childhood finds young Ren having to grow up in the face of it all, culminating in a surreal matsuri drenched in billowing flame and fantasy.

    Nezumikozō Jirokichi 2023
    U.S. Premiere. Legendary anime director Rintaro’s (Metropolis, X/1999, Galaxy Express 999) first new work in over a decade depicts pioneering 1930s director Sadao Yamanaka and the production of his Nezumikozo Jirokichi. Despite dying before the age of 30, Yamanaka was a pivotal influence in Japanese cinema whose work would go on to inspire future generations. While most of his films have been lost to him, his scripts remain, and Nezumikozo Jirokichi recreates one of these lost films—a tale of a famous, virtuous bandit in old Edo—as imagined by Rintaro together with an all-star team including Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Memories), Taro Maki (Pluto, Millennium Actress) and Masao Maruyama (Ninja Scroll, Perfect Blue).

    Performing Kaoru’s Funeral 2024
    New York Premiere - Featuring Director Noriko Yuasa In-Person.
    Noriko Yuasa’s Performing KAORU’s Funeral is a riveting black comedy that captures the palpable explosion of emotions at a familial wake. Failed actor Jun receives a phone call that informs him that his elusive ex-wife Kaoru has chosen him to be the chief mourner at her funeral in her last will and testament. Traveling to Kaoru’s hometown to enact the service as a reluctant participant, Jun is met by a claustrophobic cast of family members and friends, including Kaoru’s daughter, accompanied by a flood of memories about the deceased. With a perfect ensemble of off-kilter performances, accompanied by a percussive soundtrack and propulsive editing, Yuasa delivers a dark comedy that etches an entertaining yet poignant portrait of familial dysfunction.

    Rei 2024
    North American Premiere. Hikari (Takara Suzuki) lives and works in Tokyo. Unhappy in the big city, she can’t find meaning in her existence until she meets Masato (writer/director/producer/editor/actor Toshihiko Tanaka), a photographer from far off Hokkaido. This connection leads to an adventure, loneliness, dependency and a destructive love affair. Toshihiko Tanaka’s directorial debut couples powerful views of Hokkaido’s vast landscapes with the staggering internal mindscapes of our most intimate joys and fears.

    Retake 2023
    North American Premiere. Winner of the 2023 Pia Film Festival Grand-Prix, RETAKE follows a high school student who decides to make a movie over summer break with her friends. Old friendships are tested, new friendships are made, and secrets and crushes are revealed as the group makes their movie. RETAKE is a dear celebration of adolescence and the raw joy of cinema.

    Sayonara, Girls 2022
    North American Premiere. With graduation around the corner, a group of students at Shimada High School in Yamanashi Prefecture spend their final days processing their time together and the future ahead knowing that the school building will soon be demolished: Tokyo-bound Kyoko (Rina Komiyama) considers the boyfriend she will leave behind; Shiori (Tomo Nakai) seeks to overcome her debilitating shyness; music club leader Yuki (Rina Ono) manages the drama of the graduation concert; and Manami (Yuumi Kawai) wrestles with past trauma while preparing to deliver the school’s farewell speech. Led by an impressive cast of young actresses, Shun Nakagawa’s poignant feature debut deftly captures the bittersweet sensitivity of adolescence.

    Shadow of Fire 2023
    Centerpiece Film - Followed by Mirai Moriyama CUT ABOVE Award presentation, Q&A with Shinya Tsukamoto and Mirai Moriyama, and Reception.
    The sickness of postwar Japan runs at a fever pitch in Shinya Tsukamoto’s (Tetsuo the Iron Man, Bullet Ballet) latest entry to his war trilogy, following his acclaimed wartime dramas Fires on the Plain and Killing (JC 2019). A chamber drama that evolves beyond its initial setup, Shadow of Fire opens with the chance rendezvous of two survivors—an orphan child who steals food from the black market (Oga Tsukao) and a woman forced to sell her body (Shuri) in the ruins of a burnt-out tavern. The introduction of a young soldier still tormented by the war and a mysterious stranger (played by 2024 CUT ABOVE Award recipient Mirai Moriyama) bring new complications to the pair’s impermanent way of life. An unflinching examination of the immediate postwar chaos, Tsukamoto’s masterful direction once again offers a brutally searing critique of war as Shadow of Fire portrays a populace fashioned into specters, unable to reckon with the trauma of the past.

    Shin Godzilla 2016
    International Premiere of SHIN GODZILLA: ORTHOchromatic. Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s 21st century masterpiece is reborn with this stunning black-and-white version, released in Japan last year in the leadup to Godzilla’s 70th anniversary. A major critical and commercial success that earned seven Japan Academy Prize awards, Shin Godzilla (2016) pays tribute to the monster movie franchise’s origins while reinventing the iconic kaiju within the context of Japan’s political present. Proposed by Anno and overseen by Higuchi, ORTHOchromatic adds new dimensions to the film’s visual impact by rendering it in orthochromatic (“ortho” for short) black-and-white, a type of monochrome characterized by starker contrasts and more pronounced blacks. The results are awe-inspiring and presents Shin Godzilla as never seen before.

    Six Singing Girls 2023
    U.S. Premiere. Upon learning of his estranged father’s passing, Tokyo-based photographer Shinichiro Kayashima (Yutaka Takenouchi) is summoned to the mountains to sell his remote childhood home to shady real estate developer Ryo Uwajima (Takayuki Yamada). When the ill-suited pair try returning to the city through the winding mountain roads, however, a car accident finds them imprisoned by a group of enigmatic, animalistic women who seem spiritually connected to the land. A bold and decadent mystery-laden ecological fable, Six Singing Women is the first feature film in over a decade from multi-hyphenate artist and JAPAN CUTS alum Yoshimasa Ishibashi (Milocrorze: A Love Story, 2011).

    Social Circles 2024
    In our daily lives, we form various social circles through interactions with friends, colleagues and family, and with social media, we now create social circles all over the world. Through this experimental art piece, artist Eri Saito explores the faint boundaries that emerge between individual communications, relationships and our inability to fully connect.

    The Making of a Japanese 2023
    North American Premiere - Featuring Director Ema Ryan Yamazaki In-Person. Shot over the course of a single scholastic year, Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s The Making of a Japanese concerns itself with the formative qualities and values instilled by the country’s education system. Documenting first and sixth grade students in Tokyo suburb Tsukado, one of Japan’s largest public elementary schools, this rare snapshot into the country’s schools is full of revelations, as it courses from one spring to the next. Following the lives of both teachers and students, and their subsequent development as individuals as well as their struggles, Yamazaki’s intimate eye captures what it means to learn and become a member of Japanese society.

    Whale Bones 2023
    North American Premiere. After a sudden breakup, office worker Mamiya (Motoki Ochiai) tries a dating app to distract himself from his woes. He meets up with a mysterious young woman (Ano) who disappears—in traumatic fashion—before their date is over. Obsessed with finding her, Mamiya follows the clues left by “Aska,” her alternate identity in an augmented reality social media app through which she recorded site-specific video messages all over Tokyo. Written and directed by Takamasa Oe—who co-wrote the Oscar winner Drive My Car with Ryusuke Hamaguchi—Whale Bones is an ethereal noir-tinged mystery that investigates the loneliness and desperation of our internet-mediated modern life.

    Wife’s Power Outage 2023
    U.S. Premiere. Hana (Asami Usuda) and Yusuke (Munetaka Aoki) have been growing more distant over the past three years and now sit in a karaoke room contemplating divorce. As they weigh their future, Tokyo suffers a blackout, and at the same time, Hana suddenly collapses.


    Shin Godzilla 2016
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-22-2024 at 10:56 PM.

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    Four early Japan Cuts 2024 reviews:

    All the Long Nights (Shô Miyake 2024).
    Two young people with behavioral problems - her PMS, his panic attacks - meet at work and help each other.

    The Box Man (Gakuryü Ishii 2024)
    Recreation of an eccentric avant-garde novel from the seventies about a willful societal misfit.

    Six Singing Girls (Yoshimasa Ishibashi 2023)
    Earth exploiters meet folkloric eco-sirens.

    Whale Bones (Takamasa Oe 2023)
    Down the rabbit hole of social apps in search of a beautiful teenage temptress.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-19-2024 at 04:29 PM.

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    AUGUST IN THE WATER (Gakurü Ishii 1995)

    This revival is a quaint and charming and ultimately amazingly beautiful mixture of fantasy, science fiction, cosmic mysticism, teen romance, coming of age, and ecological parable that may suggest films as far apart as Donnie Darko, Godard's Alphaville and Cocteau's Blood of a Poet. Recommended.


    RENA KOMINE IN AUGUST IN THE WATER
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-24-2024 at 02:34 PM.

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    More reviews

    KYRIE (Shunji Iwai 2023)

    Pop stars in a complicated 3-hour saga about street musicians marked by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

    RETAKE (Kota Nakano 2023)

    A simple film about high school kids making a film becomes something a more complex and conceptual through the meaningful use of multiple "takes".

    CHOKE (Gen Nagao 2023)

    Strange black-and-white post-apocalyptic tragicomedy where nobody knows how to speak any more. Out there.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-28-2024 at 01:06 AM.

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    BLUE IMAGINE (Urara Matsubayashi 2024)

    A Japanese contribution to #MeToo focuses fictionally on abusive movie directors who take advantage of aspiring actresses - the classic ploy. progress in Japan on this matter is unusually slow but it îs happening.

    CHA-CHA (Mai Sakai 2024)

    Fourth installment of the (not) HEROINE movie series: A light rom-com of a designer free-spirit and a moody sous-chef that features pop stars who could have stepped out of the pages of manga.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-28-2024 at 01:08 AM.

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    SHADOW OF FIRE (Shin'ya Tsukamoto 2023)

    Film about a few people, witnessed by a boy, in a ravaged city in Japan right after World War II. Searing, hard to watch, but powerfully made.

    CENTERPIECE FILM of Japan Cuts.




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    GREAT ABSENCE (Kei Chika-ura 2023)

    A Tokyo actor is called to his estranged father only to find him separated by dementia. He explores his house and papers to discover who he was. Tatsuya Fuji, who plays the father, won a major acting award at the San Sebastián Film Festival. A layered and heart-rending film.




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    LOOK BACK (Kyotaka Oshiyama 2024)

    Animation of a popular manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, creator of Chainsaw Man, about two schoolgirls who become successful manga artists. July 14.




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    CHA-CHA (Mai Sakai 2024)

    A sort-of-feminist rom com with a pop star cast who look like they have walked right out of the pages of a manga, which their characters have. Just out in Japan, so now the cast can be revealed.

    Cha-Cha チャチャ 108 min., was screened for this review as part of the New York 2024 Japan Cuts series (Jul. 10-21).
    SHOWTIME:
    Friday, July 19, 2024
    9:30 pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-09-2024 at 10:26 PM.

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