Sunday, July 23, 2023

After a year off Japan Cuts returns July 26 to August 6


I was four films into the slate of Japan Cuts when I emailed one of the press people handling the festival to say that the selections this year were doing what the best films at a festival does, which is make me want to see what comes next.

I love Japan Cuts. The annual survey of current Japanese cinema is always a blast. It's a grand look at all of Japanese cinema, not just the crazy stuff. Its a series that has opened the eyes of everyone who has attended  it to the work of dozens of filmmakers we might never have noticed. 

More importantly it's possibly you're only shot at seeing many of the films in English.  I say this as a guy who has attempted to run down a favorite film of two over the years and not been able to find copies with English translations.

It is a festival that will broaden your horizons and introduced you to some new favorites.

What I love about this year is that the Japan Society is bringing us the glorious FISH TALE about someone who loves fish so much they become a media sensation. The film premiered last year where it played Fantasia and it caused anyone who saw it to call people in New York to see what the reaction was to the film. The people at Fantasia were certain that New York Asian or Japan Cuts would be showing the film. NYAFF didn't select the film and Japan Cuts couldn't show it for reasons having to do with renovations to the theater. I saw the film for Fantasia last year and loved it and completely understood why everyone was calling everyone they knew to see it. Don't miss out, buy a ticket.

Other films must see films playing the Festival: 

THE LEGEND AND BUTTERFLY- is a grand historical romance, based on actual events that is a true big screen film. Its the sort of epic they don't do any more. This is a BIG screen film that should be seen BIG.

MONDAYS is a crazy film about an office trapped in a time loop and forced to relive one day over and over again.

I AM A COMEDIAN is a portrait of comedian Disuke Muramoto who started to use his comedy to address forbidden subjects. Sure he lives in a country with free speech but there are sill things the authorities don't want you to say. It's a funny and frightening tale of today.

I AM WHAT I AM is a tale of a young woman who wants not to be involved with anything approximating romance. She simply wants to be. Its a wonderful non-romantic tale.

SINGLE 8 is an excellent look at how Star Wars influenced a generation of filmmakers who picked up cameras and made films. I lived some of this.

(Reviews started to drop earlier today so a review of excellent festival opener THE FIRST SLAM DUNK ran co-branded to Fantasia and a review of the must see BEST WISHES TO ALL also ran)

A  couple of films I saw and liked but I'm not doing a full review but I still wanted to mention:

PEOPLE WHO SPEAK TO PLUSHIES ARE KIND is a really good film. See it.

SAGA SAGA is the story of what happens in small town named Saga  when an actress comes home and connects with two other women in the village. This is a very good film that I liked but which didn’t connect with me enough so I’m not doing a review lest it come out negative, which is not at all how I feel about the film. I just don't have the proper words to do it justice.

THE HAND is the story of a young woman with an interest in older men. A tribute of sorts to the Pink film genre (there is a sex scene every 10 minutes) it wasn't, like most films in the genre my cup of tea. However if you like this sort of thing it's recommended.

Regarding the Short films

 This film is a delight. 11 silent films from 12 filmmakers unspool over the course of an hour. Narrated by Ichiro Kataoka the films run the gamut from mystery to romance to samurai to kaiju. It’s the cinematic equivalent of box of chocolates where everything you pick up is a delight. This film or collection is an absolute must see.

Flashback Before Death 
An artistic short film about a film returning home and flashing back. It’s a film you will either be enthralled with (there are some wonderful passage) or it’s a film that you will find pretentious. I’m somewhere in the middle.

Okamoto Kitchen
This feels like the first episode of an anime series about food trucks in LA. It’s an amusing film that I would love to see expanded.

Setagaya Game is a very long short (it runs 40 minutes which is the outer length of what is considered a short) about a young man who is forced to play a deadly game. Don’t let the lack of a budget fool you, directors Go and Ken Ohara have a talent for  shooting action and if things break right they will soon be doing something with a big budget.

Having pretty much seen the entire festival I can honestly say it's all good, go buy tickets.

For tickets and more information go here.

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