Saturday, February 24, 2018

Five Doctors (2017) hit VOD Tuesday

Spencer is a stand up comic and actor living in LA who returns to his upstate New York hometown to see his five doctors armed with a large binder detailing his symptoms. As his friend Jay drives him around town, Spencer attempts to avoid his friends and family while trying to figure out why he actually came home.

Funny small scale road comedy is for the most part a delight. Working best in the small moments and throw away lines 5 DOCTORS worms it's way into your heart despite the prickliness of it's lead character. To be honest despite laughing all through the film, it took me awhile to really warm to Spencer who is a bit too self absorbed. Despite the initial bumpiness, the laughter and the charming characters around our hero worked their magic and I was about half way into the film when I realized that I was going to have to investigate what the release plans for the film are because this is a film I want to share.

5 DOCTORS hits VOD Tuesday and is recommended.

Friday, February 23, 2018

New York International Children's Film Festival opens with LU OVER THE WALL

And we're off and running....
It was weird being at the SVA Theater for the Opening Night. While there is nothing wrong with the theater the fact that the better part of the previous two decades of the festival it opened at the Directors Guild just made things a little odd. For one thing this year Hubert and I didn't have to get on line super early because the theater seems much bigger than the Guild.

Still Opening Night is Opening Night which is all that matters. The film year is now truly underway and all is right with the world- at least cinematically.

The evening began as it always does with a speech from the stage, thanking everyone for coming, mentions of the sponsors and this year highlighting the new additions like ANIMAL JUBILEE,  BOYS BEYOND BOUNDARIES and FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS MEXICO. From there it was a quick T-shirt toss and we were off and running.

After a short piece on the NYICFF educational programs we got a modified version of the classic opening video.

Before the feature they ran ANIMATION (ACCORDING TO CHILDREN) which plays in Shorts One. It is a charming 2 minute piece where kids try to explain animation.

The feature was Masaaki Yuasa's LU OVER THE WALL and if you don't have tickets you're going to either wait on the stand by line for the remaining two festival screenings or wait until May when GKids releases it.

The film follows Kai, a depressed teen who relatively recently moved with his dad to his family's home town by the sea. Kai tinkers with music with hi computer and when his friends find out they try to get him into their band.  At the same time the town is supposedly the home waters for the mer-people. Many in the town don't believe they exist and those that do think they are evil and eat humans. However since they like music a mermaid named Lu comes into contact with Kai and his friends thus causing all sorts of complications as a result.

Joyous, wonderful and happy, LU OVER THE WALL is frequently one of the most viscerally emotional films you will ever see. In simpler terms it will move you to tears for no determinable reason other than it is just so damn cool.

I'm still processing it.

It is one of a kind and totally unique. The only way I can describe it is as if Hiyao Miyazaki went to Warner Brothers to make Ponyo with Tex Avery and Chuck Jones while John K offered suggestions while scoring it to an infectious J-Pop score that is perfectly translated in the English dub. That's not really what it is but it will put you in the ball park.

Animation style shifts depending on the moment.Masaaki Yuasa, like in his other films, isn't teathered to any one style and simply animates to what the moment needs. He then ties his images to one of the most perfect scores around. The resulting marriage of image and sound over rides the logic centers of the brain and tickles the heart strings.

I mention over riding the logic centers because to be quite honest the plot of the film is often messy. Clearly there is internal logic, it's just not always clear- which in this case is fine because the sound and image and characters carry the day.

I have no idea what to say other than I was moved to tears several times. Don't ask me why or how - I don't know. All I know is I was and am delighted it happened.

I am intentionally not telling you about the wonders contained in the film because you have to see them for yourself- though I will give you a clue and saw mer-dogs.

WOW and WOW.

I wish I had known they were playing this in English because I would have brought my niece who would have gone crazy for it.

This is a must see...and one you want to stay through the credits since there are little bits of animation that delight all through it with a parting shot that brought an audible sigh to those in the auditorium.

After the screening there was a members party in the lobby but because it was so crowded and because there were more movies on the schedule for tomorrow we headed out.

Thank you to everyone at NYICFF for a super Opening Night.
Opening Night Party

Information from the Japan Society on their co-presentation with MOMA of: Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan's Greatest Cameraman

NYC's Most Comprehensive Celebration of Japanese Cinematographer Encompasses 30 Years and 27 Films of One of the Most Influential Film Artists in History

Retrospective Series at Japan Society and MoMA Features Masterpieces and Rarities in 35mm & a World Premiere Restoration of Yasujiro Ozu's Floating Weeds

Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan's Greatest Cameraman

April 12-29, 2018, at The Museum of Modern Art
April 13-28, 2018, at Japan Society

** Related Screenings March 2 & April 6 at Japan Society, and April 6-12 at Film Forum **

New York, NY – Working intimately with directors like Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa on some of their most important films, Kazuo Miyagawa (1908-99)pushed Japanese cinema to its highest artistic peaks through his lyrical, innovative, and technically flawless camerawork. Considered the greatest cinematographer of postwar Japanese cinema whose career endured through the 1990s, Miyagawa has influenced generations of leading filmmakers around the world.

In celebration of the 110th anniversary of Miyagawa's birth, and coinciding with Japan Society's 110th Anniversary season, the Society presents Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan's Greatest Cameraman. Co-organized and co-presented by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), with additional titles screening at Film Forum and as part of the Society's Monthly Classics series, this career-spanning selection displays the preeminent cinematographer's great versatility, including major masterpieces and rarely shown titles, screening in 35mm and new digital restorations. Spanning two months and three venues, the citywide celebration encompasses 27 films, representing over 30 years of Miyagawa's career.

The series at Japan Society launches April 13 with a brand new 4K restoration of Ozu's Floating Weeds, featuring an introduction with Miyagawa's son Ichiro Miyagawa and Miyagawa's longtime camera assistant Masahiro Miyajima, followed by a public reception. Additional highlights among the Society's selection are very rarely screened 35mm prints imported from Japan unavailable on streaming or U.S. home video, including The Rickshaw ManA Certain KillerThe Devil's Temple, and The Spider Tattoo. Also screening on 35mm are the seldom screened Ballad of OrinZatoichi and the Chest of Gold and Odd Obsession, as well as the 4K restoration of Tokyo Olympiad. Landmark classics Rashomon and Street of Shameround out the Society's presentation.

For its portion of the series, MoMA presents the World Premiere of the Floating Weeds restoration for the series launch on April 12, as well as repeat screenings of Japan Society's lineup and additional titles through April 29, including Bamboo Doll of EchizenChildren Hand in HandConflagrationGonza the SpearmanHer BrotherSilenceSinging LovebirdsSuzakumonTaira Clan Saga,  The Gay Masquerade, and Sisters of Nishijin.

Preceding the retrospective, new 4K restorations of Mizoguchi's A Story From Chikamatsu and Sansho the Bailiff, both shot by Miyagawa, run at Film Forum from April 6-12.  Additionally, Japan Society screens films featuring the work of Miyagawa as Monthly Classics, including Kurosawa's Yojimbo on March 2, and Mizoguchi's Ugestu on April 6.

"There hasn't seen a substantial retrospective of Miyagawa's incredible work in New York City since 1981 when Japan Society presented 25 films with Miyagawa in attendance," said Aiko Masubuchi, Senior Film Programmer at Japan Society. "On the occasion of his 110th birthday and our 110th anniversary, it is an honor to partner with MoMA and work with Film Forum to expand the line-up for the largest, most comprehensive retrospective dedicated to the master cinematographer, and give a new generation of New Yorkers an opportunity to fully appreciate one of the most seen but least known film artists in history."

"Kazuo Miyagawa is credited with having invented a filmmaking technology, the 'bleach bypass,' on Kon Ichikawa’s Her Brother (1960), a process by which he gained greater control over color saturation and tonality," said Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art. "For more than 50 years, such technological and artistic innovations have influenced cinematographers as far ranging as Vittorio Storaro and Roger Deakins, who have similarly used Miyagawa's bleach bypass technique to cast a silvery sheen over their color images, as well as other conceits like his use of mirrors outdoors to create dappled effects of sunlight and shadow."

Tickets for Japan Society Screenings: $13/$10 seniors and students/$9 Japan Society members, except for screening of Floating Weeds + reception: $17/$14/$13. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets for at least three different films in the same transaction receive $2 off each ticket.

For MoMA's full line up and ticket information, visit moma.org. For Film Forum's related selections, visit visit filmforum.org.

JAPAN SOCIETY SCREENING SCHEDULE
All films below screened at Japan Society and presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

Floating Weeds (Ukigusa)
Friday, April 13 at 7:00 pm
**New 4K restoration
**Introduction with Ichiro Miyagawa, Kazuo Miyagawa's son, and Masahiro Miyajima, Miyagawa's longtime camera assistant
**Followed by a reception
1959, 119 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. With Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyo, Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi.
When an aging actor returns to a small seaside town with his travelling kabuki troupe, he is reunited with a former lover and their illegitimate son, bringing out the bitter jealousy of his current mistress. A remake of his own 1934 silent classic, Yasujiro Ozu's third foray into color filmmaking resulted in one his most visually evocative films—a late period masterpiece that marries the director's distinct style with Miyagawa's extraordinarily deep understanding of color and light. With this brand new restoration, the film is given dazzling new life. "In Floating Weeds, [Miyagawa] created the most pictorially beautiful of all of Ozu's pictures." —Donald Richie


Rashomon                         
Saturday, April 14 at 4:30 pm
1950, 88 min., DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. With Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura.
Speaking about Miyagawa's camera work for Rashomon, director Akira Kurosawa said, "I think black-and-white photography reached its peak with that film." An international breakout success, Kurosawa's magnificently shot film about the unknowability of truth burst doors open for Japanese cinema when it won the Golden Lion at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. Working with the master director for the first time, Miyagawa pushed the possibilities of cinematographic expression and technique with elaborate tracking shots, expressive lighting with mirrors, and, most famously, by shooting straight into the sun. "Rashomon is a film where the camera has a starring role." —Akira Kurosawa


The Rickshaw Man (Muhomatsu no Issho)                                                                                          
Saturday, April 14 at 7:00 pm
1943, 80 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. With Tsumasaburo Bando, Ryunosuke Tsukigata, Keiko Sonoi, Kyoji SugiCo-presented with The Japan Foundation.
This seldom seen classic about a crude but honest rickshaw man who falls in love with an army captain's widow is an early highlight in Miyagawa's career, directed by his frequent collaborator Hiroshi Inagaki (whose 1958 color remake is better known). Marked by Miyagawa's ambitious camerawork, the film culminates in a tour-de-force display of technical skill with a meticulously planned 2 ½ minute sequence in which 46 individual shots are superimposed to create a sublime dream-like montage of light, shadow and movement—all accomplished without an optical printer or light meter.


A Certain Killer (Aru Koroshiya)                                               
Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 pm
1967, 82 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Mori. With Raizo Ichikawa, Yumiko Nogawa, Mikio Narita, Mayumi Nagisa. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
A stylish crime thriller by genre director Kazuo Mori from a script by Yasuzo Masumura, starring Daiei superstar Raizo Ichikawa as a nihilistic ex-kamikaze pilot restaurateur who moonlights as a contract killer for the yakuza. A solitary figure, the silent hitman's ascetic lifestyle is intruded upon by an insistent young woman and ambitious gangster who eventually plot to betray him. Shot amidst a backdrop of barren wastelands and equally stark interiors, Miyagawa's muted colors and precise widescreen framing visually match the icy, calculated persona of Ichikawa's killer in this little-known late '60s gem.
   

Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (Zatoichi Senryo-kubi)                                                                                    
Friday, April 20 at 7:00 pm
1964, 83 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro. With Shintaro Katsu, Mikiko Tsubouchi, Machiko Hasegawa, Tomisaburo Wakayama.
In this sixth installment of the popular Zatoichi film series, the blind masseur is mistakenly accused of stealing a large sum of tax payments belonging to poor villagers. To clear his name, he sets out to find the actual thieves. Both working on the Zatoichi series for the first time, director Kazuo Ikehiro and Miyagawa inject a hefty dose of style with impressive visuals, including a flashy opening credit sequence and an unforgettable final showdown between Shintaro Katsu's Zatoichi and a sadistic rival swordsman played by Katsu's brother Tomisaburo Wakayama.


Tokyo Olympiad (Tokyo Orinpikku)                                                                                        
Saturday, April 21 at 2:00 pm
** New 4K restoration
1965, 170 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kon Ichikawa.
Commissioned by the Japan Olympic Committee, director Kon Ichikawa and Miyagawa supervised a team of 164 cameramen, furnished with over 100 cameras and almost 250 lenses, to cover every angle of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Whittled down from over 70 hours of footage, the result is an epic yet intimate film that captures the human drama of the games with artistry and supreme technical skill. Initially rejected by the Olympic organizers, it nevertheless went on to become a huge international sensation and remains one of Ichikawa's (and Miyagawa's) greatest achievements. Winner, 1965 Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI Award. "So singular and stylized is Ichikawa's approach to his record of the 1964 Olympics that it can hardly be called a documentary."—James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario


The Devil's Temple (Oni no Sumu Yakata)                                                                                           
Saturday, April 21 at 6:00 pm
1967, 82 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Misumi. With Shintaro Katsu, Hideko Takamine, Michiyo Aratama, Kei Sato. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
A woman visits an abandoned mountain temple outside Kyoto in medieval Japan where her husband, a fallen nobleman turned vicious killer, is living with his lover. Failing to win him back, she refuses to leave for months until a traveling priest seeking shelter enters the temple and unwittingly instigates a deadly battle of wills. Primarily known for his masterful chanbara films, director Kenji Misumi teamed with Miyagawa to transform this four-person chamber drama about exorcising evil into an operatic, visually flamboyant and psychologically charged masterpiece of mood and claustrophobic mise-en-scene.


The Spider Tattoo (Irezumi)                                                                                       
Saturday, April 21 at 8:00 pm
1966, 86 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasuzo Masumura. With Ayako Wakao, Akio Hasegawa, Gaku Yamamoto, Kei Sato. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
In this darkly erotic Junichiro Tanizaki adaptation directed by Yasuzo Masumura, a beautiful young woman is abducted and sold to a geisha house where a large spider is unwittingly tattooed on her back. Motivated by a supernatural thirst for vengeance, she ruthlessly manipulates the men who lust after her, leaving a pile of bodies in her wake. Using Eastman stock, Miyagawa referenced the rich colors and sharp tones of ukiyo-e woodblock printing to create images that emphasize contrast and clarity, paying particular attention to vibrant whites and reds—especially blood.
  

Street of Shame (Akasen Chitai)                                                                                              
Saturday, April 28 at 2:00 pm
1956, 87 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. With Ayako Wakao, Aiko Mimasu, Machiko Kyo, Michiyo Kogure.
Kenji Mizoguchi's final collaboration with Miyagawa (after eight films together) was also his final film—a heart-wrenching drama about the lives of five women working at Dreamland, a brothel in Tokyo's red light district, who struggle to reconcile their dreams in the face of a grim socioeconomic reality. Primarily known for his elegant period films, Mizoguchi's swan song is startlingly contemporary, imbued with documentary-like realism that implements his eye for imaginative blocking and use of deep focus. A poignant summation of the great director's thematic and stylistic interests.


Odd Obsession (Kagi)                                                                                   
Saturday, April 28 at 4:30 pm
1959, 107 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kon Ichikawa. With Machiko Kyo, Ganjiro Nakamura, Junko Kano, Tatsuya Nakadai. Co-presented with The Japan Foundation.

When injections can no longer rejuvenate an aging man's declining virility, he discovers that jealousy offers a good substitute. Taking advantage of an attraction between his daughter's handsome lover and his younger wife, he orchestrates an affair between them to reawaken his once-insatiable libido. Adapted from Junichiro Tanizaki's famous novel, Kon Ichikawa's farcical black comedy about aging and male sexual anxiety features Miyagawa's uniquely subdued color cinematography, which emphasizes the contrast between black shadows and white light to illuminate the film's complex treatment of the conflict between private passions and public decorum. Winner, 1960 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize. "A beautifully stylized and highly original piece of filmmaking—perverse in the best sense of the word, and worked out with such finesse that each turn of the screw tightens the whole comic structure." —Pauline Kael


Ballad of Orin (Hanare Goze Orin)                                                                                           
Saturday, April 28 at 7:00 pm
1977, 117 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Masahiro Shinoda. Shima Iwashita, Yoshio Harada, Tomoko Naraoka, Tomoko Jinbo. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
A late career highlight for Miyagawa, this gorgeously shot film about the life and tribulations of a wandering outcast goze (blind female musician) in early 20th century Japan had Miyagawa and director Masahiro Shinoda travel all over the country to scout picturesque locations. After interviewing surviving goze in preparation, Miyagawa (whom Shinoda suggested was the film's "real director") resolved to, "create a sense of the ideal beauty that these blind women had inwardly visualized." The result is some of most beautiful color photography in the veteran cameraman's large body of work. Winner, 1978 Japan Academy Prize and Mainichi Film Award for Best Cinematography. "If Ballad of Orin were photographed with the usual Japanese competence, it would be worth seeing. The camera of Kazuo Miyagawa raises it higher." —The New Republic


≥≥RELATED TALK AT JAPAN SOCIETY

Saturday, April 14 at 3 pm
During this special conversation, Ichiro Miyagawa, eldest son of Kazuo Miyagawa, and Masahiro Miyajima, Miyagawa’s longtime camera assistant, will discuss the legendary cinematographer’s life and work. The talk will be moderated by Joanne Bernardi, Professor of Japanese and Film and Media Studies at the University of Rochester, who studied with Miyagawa from 1976-77 at Osaka University of the Arts.
Approx. 60 min. This event is free with the purchase of a ticket to any film in the series. Seating is limited. Ticketholders will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.


≥≥RELATED 'MONTHLY CLASSICS' SCREENINGS AT JAPAN SOCIETY

Yojimbo                                              
Friday, March 2 at 7:00 pm
1961, 110 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. With Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yoko Tsukasa, Isuzu Yamada.
In writing about Akira Kurosawa's scruffy samurai classic starring the iconic Toshiro Mifune, preeminent Japanese film historian Donald Richie matter-of-factly states, "Yojimbo is the best-filmed of any of Kurosawa's pictures." A masterclass in widescreen framing and composition, the black and white cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa (and second unit cameraman Takao Saito) maximizes the film's minimal set, mostly consisting of a small town's dusty main road, with ingenious use of deep focus and wide angle lenses. Hugely influential in style and subject,Yojimbo went on to inspire a number of reworkings, including Sergio Leone's career-catapulting western A Fistful of Dollars.                                                                                                                                                                                            
Ugetsu                 
Friday, April 6 at 7:00 pm
1953, 94 min., DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. With Machiko Kyo, Mitsuko Mito, Kinuyo Tanaka, Masayuki Mori.
This new 4K restoration of Kenji Mizoguchi's towering masterpiece offers viewers an opportunity to appreciate the nuance of cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa's exquisite images. A haunting and elegant fable about the illusory nature of desire set during the civils wars of Japan's 16th century, Ugetsu seamlessly weaves reality and fantasy together with painterly images that unfurl like scenes from an emaki scroll. Among the film's many breathtaking moments, the waterfront picnic between a potter and the ghost of a noblewoman is reportedly the only scene Miyagawa shot for Mizoguchi (out of eight total films) for which the famously stone-faced director complimented him.

ABOUT KAZUO MIYAGAWA
  
"Naming the most skillful cinematographer of a country is often a difficult task. In Japan the job is simplified somewhat by the international reputation earned by Kazuo Miyagawa," wroteAmerican Cinematographer in 1960. By then a respected industry veteran renowned for his work on masterpieces like Rashomon and Ugetsu, Miyagawa would go on to solidify his standing as Japan's preeminent cinematographer throughout the rest of his extraordinary career, working on over 130 films, many of them among the best Japanese cinema has to offer.

Miyagawa, born in Kyoto in 1908, found the roots of his interest in image making through an early study of sumi-e ink painting, which informed his appreciation of the subtle tonal variations within black and white. This eventually led him to take up monochrome still photography as a teenager. After high school, Miyagawa landed a job at Nikkatsu's Kyoto studio. He worked in the film lab, developing and tinting prints until he joined the cinematography department in 1928, where he cut his teeth as a focus puller and second-unit cameraman.

Miyagawa continued to develop his technical expertise and ingenuity, receiving his first credit as cinematographer in 1935. Often working on comedies during this time, he earned the nickname "the comic cameraman." It was in 1943 that he had a major artistic breakthrough with The Rickshaw Man, directed by his early mentor Hiroshi Inagaki, with whom he learned to effectively use tracking shots, cranes and other cinematographic devices. The Rickshaw Man was produced by Daiei--who took over Nikkatsu's Kyoto studio that same year, and for whom Miyagawa continued to work almost exclusively until 1969.

After contributing to the immense success of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon in 1950, Miyagawa worked with Kenji Mizoguchi on several of his most well-known films--including UgetsuSansho the BailiffA Story from Chikamatsu and his first color film, New Tales of the Taira Clan--helping perfect Mizoguchi's signature visual style. He continued to make his mark at Daiei with other major directors like Kozaburo Yoshimura and Kon Ichikawa, working on up to five films a year. Never hesitating to experiment with cinematic technique, Miyagawa tested the limits of new technologies such as anamorphic formats and color film stocks. Perhaps most notably, he is credited with innovating a bleach bypass film-developing technique for Ichikawa's Her Brother, resulting in a uniquely washed out color.

Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, Miyagawa also worked with several of Japan's most inventive genre directors such as Kazuo Mori and Kenji Misumi, tackling yakuza, chanbaraand exploitation films, including several entries in the popular Zatoichi series. In the later part of his career, he found a creative partner in Japanese New Wave auteur Masahiro Shinoda, with whom he continued to make visually superlative films that garnered international attention such as Silence and Ballad of Orin, the latter of which earned him a Japanese Academy Prize for Best Cinematography. In 1978, Miyagawa received the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon from the Japanese government for his contributions to Japanese art. In 1981, he was honored by members of the American Society of Cinematographers at a tribute hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Miyagawa remained professionally active into his eighties, spending the last part of his life teaching film technique at Osaka University of the Arts, and passed away in Tokyo in 1999 at the age of 91.

~

Japan Society Film offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society's arts and culture programs. For more, visit www.japansociety.org/film.
Founded in 1907, Japan Society in New York City presents sophisticated, topical and accessible experiences of Japanese art and culture, and facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge and innovation between the U.S. and Japan. More than 200 events annually encompass world-class exhibitions, dynamic classical and cutting-edge contemporary performing arts, film premieres and retrospectives, workshops and demonstrations, tastings, family activities, language classes, and a range of high-profile talks and expert panels that present open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.

During the 2017-18 season, Japan Society celebrates its 110th anniversary with expanded programming that builds toward a richer, more globally interconnected 21st century: groundbreaking creativity in the visual and performing arts, unique access to business insiders and cultural influencers, and critical focus on social and educational innovation, illuminating our world beyond borders.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit www.japansociety.org.

Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan's Greatest Cameraman at Japan Society is made possible through the generous support of The Globus Family. Japan Society Film is generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, Masu Hiroshi Masuyama, James Read Levy, Geoff Matters, David S. Howe, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Mr. and Mrs. Omar H. Al-Farisi, Laurel Gonsalves, and Akiko Koide and Shohei Koide.

The series at The Museum of Modern Art is sponsored by MUFG Union Bank.

March Engagements at The Quad Cinemas

March 2018
Upcoming engagements at the Quad include: Rachel Israel's Tribeca Film Festival award-winner Keep the Change, Arnaud Desplechin's Cannes favorite Ismael's Ghosts, and Al Pacino's long-awaited Salomé & Wilde Salomé starring Jessica Chastain

With special guests Al Pacino, Itzhak Perlman, Arnaud Desplechin and more!

Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach
Opens Fri March 2 — 50th anniversary restoration | exclusive New York engagement
Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, 1968, Italy/West Germany, 94m, DCP
A galvanizing classic of arthouse cinema, this full-length feature debut from Straub-Huillet made their reputation as rigorous observers of transcendent aesthetic experience, in a musical film as rewarding as it is precise. Featuring ensemble performances recorded live in front of the camera — often in the very spaces where the works originally premiered — and biographical excerpts from the diary of Bach’s second wife, the film defiantly eschews editorializing to emphasize the pleasures (and idiosyncrasies) of the music, and of a life in art. A Grasshopper Film release. In German with English subtitles.

"A minimalist love story of enormous richness" —Chicago Reader


Souvenir
Opens Fri March 2
Bavo Defurne, Belgium/Luxembourg/France, 90m, DCP
Isabelle Huppert shines as a one-time singer (and Eurovision runner-up) who retired after a split with her manager/husband. Now spending her days working in a pâté factory and evenings on the couch, she’s jolted from her stupor by a budding friendship with a handsome young co-worker, and even starts entertaining the notion of a musical comeback. A beautifully observed character portrait, Souvenir gives the incomparable Huppert the chance to show her ample comedic flair. A Strand Releasing release. In French with English subtitles.

Official selection: Toronto International Film Festival

“A poignant Huppert performance.” —The Hollywood Reporter


Itzhak
Opens Fri March 9
Alison Chernick, U.S., 83m, DCP
One of the most celebrated musicians of our time, Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman gets his due in this engaging verité portrait of the master at home in New York and on tour. In between arresting performances, sharing insights on composition with students and colleagues, and spending quality time with his wife Toby, Perlman’s gregarious personality shines through in this delightful jaunt through a storied career. A Greenwich Entertainment release

With Itzhak Perlman and Alison Chernick in person opening weekend

“Good music and good company make Itzhak a pleasure.” —Variety



Keep the Change
Opens Fri March 16
Rachel Israel, U.S., 94m, DCP
Free of cynicism and full of wit and warmth, this offbeat comedy charts the romance between tactless David (Brandon Polansky) and ultra-sunny Sarah (Samantha Elisofon), who meet at a social program for adults with autism in New York. He has no interest in being there and she has a penchant for clichés that drive him crazy. But antagonism eventually gives way to attraction and writer/director Israel’s unfussy embrace of her characters’ quirks is as refreshing as it is subtly radical. With a perfectly cast Jessica Walter as David’s judgmental mother. A Kino Lorber release.

Winner of the Best U.S. Narrative Feature and Best New Narrative Director prizes, Tribeca Film Festival.

With Rachel Israel and special guests in person opening weekend

"An ode to self discovery that's as funny as it is sweet."—Variety


Ismael's Ghosts
Opens Fri March 23
Arnaud Desplechin, France, 135m, DCP
In his latest film Arnaud Desplechin (My Golden Days, Kings & Queen) continues his highly personal approach to the relationship film, with his trademark serio-comic emotional turbulence and sprinkling of autobiographical echoes. Working on his next film, widowed filmmaker Ismaël (perennial Desplechin stand-in Mathieu Almaric) settles in at a coastal cottage with his astrophysicist girlfriend Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to rewrite his script. His private and professional life, not to mention mental stability, are thrown into chaos, however, when his presumed-dead wife Carlotta (Marion Cottilard) reappears without warning. A Magnolia Pictures release. In French with English subtitles.

Opening night: Cannes Film Festival, Official Selection: New York Film Festival

With Arnaud Desplechin and special guests in person opening weekend

“There is so much to unpack here that this might just be the cinematic equivalent of Christmas morning.”—The Hollywood Reporter



Salomé & Wilde Salomé
Opens Fri March 30 — Exclusive New York engagement
Al Pacino, 2013/2011, U.S., 81m/95m, DCP
Banned from public performance in the UK for 40 years, Oscar Wilde’s wildly controversial 1891 one-act play Salomé has been a long-standing obsession for Al Pacino. After holding a reading in 2003, Pacino brought the play to the stage in 2006 (with a cast including then-newcomer Jessica Chastain in the title role and Pacino himself as King Herod) and shot for this electrifying film version. Wilde Salomé, in the tradition of Pacino’s Looking for Richard, goes behind the scenes and explores the actor/director’s ongoing fascination with the play and its author. Together, these two films—screening here in their first-ever NYC engagements—create a fascinating diptych and provide a window into the artistic mind and process of one of our greatest performers.

With Al Pacino in person March 30

“Engrossing...personal and obsessive.”—The Hollywood Reporter

Philip K. Dick ’18: The Tolls (short)

Considered more of a historical urban legend than established fact, “Die Glocke” or “The Bell” was reported to be a National Socialist super weapon that combined Atomic research with occultism. It is a terrifying prospect if it actually existed—as it apparently does in an alternate dimension. Unfortunately, it will threaten the looming Allied victory in parallel realities as well in Liz Anderson’s short film, The Tolls, which screens during the 2018 Philip K. Dick Film Festival in New York.

Distraught over the presumed death of his wife Sadie, everyman GI Wes usually kills himself atop the Presidio overlooking the Bay. This time will be different, much to the surprise of Hans, a dimension-hopping SS officer, who is used to stepping over Wes’s body as he infiltrates the base. Instead, the grieving soldier pursues the German into the field of the German uber-reactor, jumping together into a world where Hitler was victorious. That is certainly alarming, but Wes soon discovers his Sadie is alive in this dimension, albeit married to a Nazi officer. He is in profound danger, as are other dimensions, but his Sadie seems to be the same person, with the same values.

The Tolls is a remarkably inventive time travel/alternate history film that actually holds some pretty mind-blowing implications when you think about it after the fact. Regardless, Anderson and her co-screenwriter-lead actor Wylie Herman squeeze an awful lot of narrative and sf speculation into a mere twenty minutes. This premise, along with these characters could easily sustain a full-length feature, but it would be hard to top the potency of the short film.

Herman is terrific as Herman, believably wrestling with some cosmic challenges, as well as some acutely human pain. As Hans, Anthony Cistaro (from Witchblade) again makes quite a suave and sinister villain. Plus, the Presidio Park locations really makes it all look big and cinematic.

The Tolls is way better than most of the time/interdimensional travel films that have recently come along, at least since Mi Yang rocked Reset. (The one exception would the equally excellent, but radically different Paleonaut, which also screens at the PKD Fest.) This is the kind of film that will fire up true genre fans, because it shows how much an inspired cast and crew can pull off when they work together on a nifty concept. Very highly recommended, The Tolls screens this Sunday (2/25), as part of Block Eleven: International Sci-Fi Shorts 3, at the Philip K. Dick Film Festival.

Dante Lam’s Operation Red Sea

Like the Wolf Warrior franchise, Hong Kong action auteur Dante Lam’s latest Mainland production was largely funded by the PLA and supported with extensive in-kind donations of military hardware. At least in this case, we get their money’s worth. Apparently, the military granted Lam’s every over-the-top request and the results are all up there on the screen when Operation Red Sea opens today in New York.

Basically, Red Sea is a loose thematic sequel to Lam’s blockbuster, Operation Mekong. This time around, the military takes center stage and the ripped-from-the-headlines story is based on 2015 evacuation of Chinese nationals from Yemen. Refreshingly, there are no western bad guys. Instead, they are Middle Eastern terrorists and Somali pirates (in the prologue). Sure, there is flag-waving, but it is not nearly as distracting as in the Wolf Warrior films.

Given the evacuation plot, Red Sea bears some resemblance to Wolf Warrior 2, but the action scenes, also choreographed by Lam, far exceed anything in Wu Jing’s hit duology. To a large extent, the film is one long action sequence, as one rescue mission begets another and eventually morphs into an operation to recover stolen yellowcake from a mad mullah. If you think that sounds like a criticism, you are sorely mistaken. Lam pulls out all the stops, giving us infiltrations, drone warfare, house-to-house combat, sniper duels, tank battles, helicopter attacks, and hand-to-hand combat during the mother of all dust storms.

Arguably, it is halfway realistic too, since a number of Jiaolong commandos are killed in the line of duty. Frankly, Lam does not spend a lot of time on boring old character development. Jiang Luxia’s Tong Li probably stands out the most, simply because she is a woman (who has no trouble hanging with her male colleagues). Ironically, the most memorable performance comes from Hai Qing, as French-Chinese reporter Xia Nan. Eventually, we learn became so driven to expose terrorists because her husband and young son were murdered in the 7/7 London bombings, which is a nice character development touch.

Red Sea is just a pedal-to-the-medal action movie that constantly doubles, triples, and quadruples down on explosions, mayhem, and blood & guts. In terms of sheer spectacle, it is tough to beat. Alas, Lam pays the piper with a closing shot across the bow basically warning the world better stay out of the South China Sea, if we know what’s good for us, but up until then, it goes down pretty smooth. Highly recommended for action fans, Operation Red Sea opens today (2/23) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Princess Cyd (2017)


Utterly wonderful film about a 16 year old girl who goes to stay with her aunt for a summer and ends up falling for a barista working at the local coffee shop.

This is a great romance that transcends the cliché of the genres this is a film that truly makes you care about the people at its center as people and not as one thing or another. Not only is the film not forcing a choice upon Cyd as to guys or girls Allowing her to be fluid, the film also doesn’t judge. There is no real big deal about who Cyd is interested in. It may sound like no big deal but in so many similar films the choice is everything, here it doesn’t matter so much as Cyd finds a place for her heart to call home. I was absolutely delighted.

I was also delighted that for most of the film everything seemed real. Yes it’s clear that director Stephen Cone is trying to manipulate things for some deeper meaning, but at the same time the kick ass cast subvert him and make this a film about the people at it’s core.

Highly recommended, this is one of those films that I cursed myself about after I saw it since I could have seen it so much earlier than Netflix.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Terence Stamp plays at the Metrograph this March

A 15-Film Retrospective of the Rich and Varied Career of the Iconic Actor
Includes Teorema, Poor Cow, The Limey, Far from the Madding Crowd, and more!
Beginning Friday March 23, Metrograph will present a 15-film retrospective of actor Terence Stamp. To say that Stamp was a handsome young man is as unnecessary as observing that the sky is blue—in his 1962 film debut, Billy Budd, he plays nothing less than Herman Melville’s paragon of male beauty. But Stamp, a working-class son of London, is one hell of a fine actor, too, a fact that 1960s lions like Pier Paolo Pasolini, William Wyler, Joseph Losey, Ken Loach and Federico Fellini took full advantage of. Past his ingenue years, the always-commanding Stamp has had a rich and varied career, from Superman II to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to the hard-boiled neo-noir of The Limey, which allowed him to dust off the cockney accent of his boyhood. “I just decided I was a character actor now,” he’s said of leaving the ‘60s behind, “and I can do anything.”
 
Billy Budd (Peter Ustinov/1962/123 mins/35mm)
A film debut for the ages, Billy Budd has the supernally gorgeous Stamp in the title role, a pure-of-spirit recruit on a circa 1797 British naval ship whose radiance draws the ire of master-of-arms John Claggart, one of the most menacing looming sociopaths ever played by Robert Ryan-which is saying something. Director Ustinov co-stars, while DP Robert Krasker gives us maritime splendor and below deck intrigue in widescreen black-and-white.

The Collector (William Wyler/1965/119 mins/DCP)
A late triumph for studio-era veteran Wyler, who turned down The Sound of Music (!) to instead make this skin-crawling study in obsession. Wyler’s film takes full advantage of the new license of the 1960s in depicting Stamp as a mentally-unbalanced lepidopterist and Samantha Eggar as the art student crush who becomes an unwilling human addition to his collection in this harrowing, psychologically acute adaptation from John Fowles’ novel.

Modesty Blaise (Joseph Losey/1966/119 mins/DCP)
Stamp is the Cockney cat-burglar partner to Monica Vitti’s titular spy seductress and jewel thief in Losey’s one-of-a-kind, eye-popping Pop art comedy/thriller, which pits our sleek twosome against camp criminal genius Dirk Bogarde, with Tina Aumont in on the action and outlandish ultramodern sets in DeLuxe Color- just in case there wasn’t already quite enough decorative decadence.

Far from the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger/1967/168 mins/35mm)
The dashing, dandyish Sergeant Troy of Thomas Hardy’s canonical 1874 novel finds his perfect interpreter in Stamp, here vying with Peter Finch and Alan Bates for the attentions of headstrong (and very lucky) lass Julie Christie, fresh off her Oscar for director Schlesinger’s Darling. The backdrop of rolling, picturesque, unspoiled green English countryside would be beautiful shot by almost anybody, but when the cinematographer is Nicolas Roeg, the results are otherworldly.

Poor Cow (Ken Loach/1967/101 mins/DCP)

Young Cockney mother Carol White’s no-good husband is in the slammer, so she doesn’t think twice when Stamp’s dashing young burglar comes a-calling. Loach’s deeply empathetic slice of working-class life is invested with a raw vigor by vivacious camerawork which explores the grotty backstreets and pub locals that make up the character’s world. A prequel of sorts to Soderbergh’s The Limey, which lifts its flashback scenes from Loach’s film.

Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini/1968/98 mins/35mm)
Toby Dammit (Federico Fellini/1968/37 mins/35mm)

If it’s 1968 and one is making a movie about a mysterious, irresistible stranger who drops into the home of a Milanese industrialist and then proceeds to methodically seduce the patriarch and his entire family, there’s only one man for the job—and Pasolini made the obvious choice. Italian stars Massimo Girotti and Silvana Mangano are heads of the household, but it is the blue-eyed Christ-devil Stamp and his painted-on slacks that are in control here. Screening with Toby Dammit, Fellini’s very loose, endorphin rush adaptation of Poe’s “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” with Stamp as a supremely dissipated, translucently pale English actor own into Rome for an awards ceremony, assailed by leering faces and lurid images from the moment he sets foot on the tarmac.
Superman II (Richard Lester/1980/127 mins/35mm)
Playing General Zod in the 1978 Superman proved the unexpected beginning of a professional renaissance for Stamp, who reprised the role in this spectacular 1980 sequel, which finds Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel relinquishing his powers to pursue a human romance with Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane, only to meet assault on all fronts led by Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and Stamp’s Zod, a villainous performance for the ages. Print courtesy of the Tarantino Archives.

The Company of Wolves (Neil Jordan/1984/95 mins/35mm)
Jordan’s juicy Gothic fantasy is a fractured fairy tale sprung from the short stories of Angela Carter, visualizing the macabre, often erotic, and always astonishing dreams of a disturbed adolescent girl, whose fevered visions include the landscape of production designer Anton Furst’s magic forest, marvelous lycanthropic transformations done via old-school analog effects, and a certain uncredited actor in the role of the Devil himself.

The Hit (Stephen Frears/1984/98 mins/35mm)
The cream of English screen acting is on display in Frears’ auspicious, underseen feature debut, in which turncoat gangster Terence Stamp is ferreted out of hiding in his Spanish villa by two hitmen-old pro John Hurt and youthful hothead Tim Roth, taking their quarry on the road while police inspector Fernando Rey follows in hot pursuit, acquiring firebrand Laura del Sol, and a heavy load of problems, along the way.
Alien Nation (Graham Baker/1988/91 mins/35mm)
A neo-noir-inflected high-concept sci-fi cult cop movie done in high ‘80s style, Los Angeles-set Alien Nation imagines the difficulties facing a city striving to assimilate a population of 300,000 alien “Newcomers” after they crash land in the Mojave Desert. Veteran detective James Caan is unhappily teamed with alien partner Mandy Patinkin, but puts prejudice aside to go after a crime kingpin: Stamp, smashing in the leopard print pate of a Newcomer.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott/1994/104 mins/35mm)
With a date to take the stage at a casino in faraway Alice Springs, Australia, a fabulous foursome leave Sydney to blaze a flaming trail across the outback together. Stamp’s transgender Bernadette joins drag queens Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Felicia (Guy Pearce), and their beat-up lavender tour bus, Priscilla. Along the way they stand up to intolerance with humor and goodwill, scale landmark Uluru in drag, and look for a little more much-deserved happiness. “I was less stunning than I’d hoped,” Stamp said of his first turn as a female lead.


Bowfinger (Frank Oz/1999/97 mins/35mm)
Steve Martin writes and stars as flim-flam man producer Bobby Bowfinger, planning to shoot his action masterpiece Chubby Rain with megastar Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) in the lead role. This is complicated by the fact that Ramsey refuses to star in the movie, which calls for hidden cameras and a sweet, nerdy “double,” Ji (Murphy, again). With Heather Graham as a ruthless wannabe actress, and the finest Cahiers du Cinema cameo in American movies of the 1990’s.

The Limey (Steven Soderbergh/1999/89 mins/35mm)
Career criminal Stamp lands in Los Angeles to ferret out his daughter’s murderers, and God help whoever stands in his way. With excerpts of Poor Cow, jigsaw puzzle editing gambits that recall John Boorman’sPoint Blank (1967), Peter Fonda as a Big Sur-based ex-hippie-ish heavy, and Stamp returning to his East London roots, The Limey has all the elements of a pure throwback, but manages at the same time to feel bracingly turn-of-the-millennium. An elegant and deadly object.