Monday, July 16, 2012

Final day - NYAFF 2012 - a killer rabbit, a unabomber, & some potato chips in Sendai.

Yesterday was officially the last day of the NYAFF before the baton was passed over to the Japan Cuts program. I went in to the Japan Society to catch the last trifecta of films starting with Tormented, Monsters Club, and the closing film - Potechi.

Tormented was billed as a psychedelic, trippy horror fairy tale involving a misunderstood 10 year old and his creative imagination in dealing with grief and suffering. A larger than life size rabbit will try to snap some sense in him! Tormented had me hallucinating in the theatre dreaming of the Little Mermaid as I started drifting in and out of reality.  Was it the intentions of the filmmaker to channel my psychosis to suck me into the horror’ible tale of an alternate Alice in Wonderland universe ruled by twisted rabbits?  Maybe watching this film in 3D would answer some questions in my two dimensional mind. DB had more of a granite chin as he was able to withstand the punches of the killer wabbit. His thoughts on the film here.

Monsters Club on the other hand, packed a thudding punch of social commentaries directed at our capitalistic society more interested in orchestrating a frenzied rat race full of empty souls in order to feed their shallow materialistic needs which further fueled their egos with this false sense of power because of monetary status.  The director who was on hand at the screening was inspired by reading the unabomber - Ted Kaczynski’s Manifesto and instantly thought that the writings described the current state of Japanese Society which led to the output known as Monsters Club.  The film is beautifully shot offering a poetic and peaceful outlook in life while being “free”.  Unfortunately, the flipside of the story is that the main character Ryoichi uses a destructive method in delivering his message to the money hungry CEO’s and TV Networks that are merely using the masses as puppets to appease their own greed.  In the middle of the peace and destruction in the eyes of Ryoichi - he begins to have a moment of self realization as memories from his past would conjure up in another creative form in order to begin the process of healing and to form some sense of closure with his family.  One of my colleague’s at Unseen Films - Mondocurry gives a description of the film (no spoilers) with more eloquence and passion here.

Toshiaki Toyoda - the director of the film was on hand to talk about the film after the screening. He mentioned some hardships during the filming of Monsters Club including the main actor - Eita who had lost his dad in a tragic death. Toyoda also had some fun words offered about Eita who was 17 yrs old when the director first worked with him. The young actor, a straight laced & bright fellow, has become quite popular in Japan through TV and commercials but Toyada sees him quite differently as a ‘dark’ individual who drinks a lot which is why he is banned from many bars!  The director mentioned that Eita really prepared himself for the role by buying mountain gear and living at a lodge for quite some time. The film shoot in the mountains was intense in the -15 degree weather. Another important thing to note is that the film was shot before the earthquake in Japan. The younger generation in Japan took to Monsters Club quite well as audiences were really emotional even crying at some of the screenings.  When asked by an audience member at the Japan Society, was there a particular philosophy that you wanted to convey to the viewers through MC - the director answered that it’s difficult to say what type of philosophy, but he welcomes the audience to take what you will from the film. With the context of Japan in mind, the matter of survival and thriving in Japanese society today is a huge problem.  At the end of the film, the director wanted to try to get the audience to see a glimpse of hope. Of course the hope is not entirely clear so he wanted to leave the conflict in the minds of the viewers.  Monsters Club is a heavy hitting and deep film that I’m still digesting and trying to make sense out of. Go see for yourself!

The closing movie of the festival belonged to the charming comedy POTECHI.  It left a nice taste of consomme flavored potato chips in my mouth if not a bit unbelievable plot wise but overall a fun way to end NYAFF!  There were a few intended malevolent twist and turns in the film but somehow the situation ended up with a rainbow at the end. The viewers cannot help but to cheer on the main character as he stumbled, fumbled, and tripped on the screen - all with good intentions.  I didn’t watch Yoshihiro Nakamura’s other touted movies such as A Fish Story nor the NYAFF Audience Favorite -  A Boy and his Samurai but I did manage to catch Golden Slumber from a few years back. I can see how DB from Unseen films mentions that Nakamura’s films’ plot lines dive back and forth and eventually intersecting to form some cohesiveness in the story.  It was difficult to see how a tangled web of burglars, suicide, blackmail, a professional baseball player, and a mixup of potato chip flavors all tied into the plot .  DB reaches into his bag of chips with his review of the film here.

Potechi was set in Sendai which was an area severely devastated by the Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami and nuclear disasters. The Japan Society screened part 1 of a series of short films called WE ARE ALL RADIOACTIVE before each post March 11th Cinema feature.

Thanks to all of the Unseen Film gang’s collective contribution & coverage to NYAFF. It was fun! I’m sure DB & Mondocurry are slowly reducing the pot of ragu sauce for some concentrated Top 5 or best of lists from NYAFF 2012! Stay tuned!

Japan Cuts 2012 program runs from July 12-28. Go see some films pronto!
Check out the schedule!


  1. Thanks for the report on a long day at the movies! Especially excited to see what Toyoda-san had to say about MC. Heartened to see about positive response w/ younger Japanese. My post mentioned how an anti-capitalist novel/movie adap Kaniko-sen got a similar reaction. Perhaps it will, at the least, positively shape some individuals' conscience.

    EITA btw stars in Miike's Hara-Kiri, which opens in nyc on July 20th!

  2. Just saw the comment...It actually wasn't too long a day for the tri of movies. They all seemed to clock about an hour or so each with the Rabbito one being the longest of the 3.

    I wonder how Monsters Club would of played out if they shot the film after the 3/11 disaster.

    Have to definitely catch the remake of Hara-Kiri in the theaters!