Japanese Film Festival Australia announces program – The Reel Bits
The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) in Australia is back for a 25th anniversary edition, taking place across the country of October 28 to December 5.
The program, now available online at official festival website, is full of favorites from the festival and 2021 winners, as well as contemporary discoveries, a lineup of classics and an online selection.
HOKUSAI is the opening night film in All Cities. Hajime Hashimoto’s biopic of what is arguably Japan’s most famous artist, played by Yūya Yagira (Nobody knows). With a star-studded cast, be sure to catch the ukiyo-e work on the largest canvas you’re likely to see them on.
Leading the pack are a selection of festival winners, including Ryūsuke Hamaguchi THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY (偶然 と 想像). Previewing at the Berlinale this year, we saw Hamaguchi swap his generally longer forms for short stories in this winning Silver Bear anthology built around un-made choices. If his previous films were about lives lived in their entirety, then this one is about those that never happened. Indeed, the Japanese title of the film translates to something like “imagine by chance”.
He rubs shoulders with that of Naomi Kawase REAL MOTHERS (朝 が 来 る), a film we called a “delicate character piece, filled with characteristic beauty and lingering resonance” when it released in the US in January. In UNDER THE OPEN SKY (す ば ら し き 世界), the excellent Koji Yakusho once again finds himself on the wrong side of the law in this exploration of the institutionalization resulting from long-term incarceration. It’s a great character study.
Favorite of the festival HOLD ME (私 を く い と め て), with Real mothers and that of Miwa Nishikawa Under an open sky, also leads the strong collection of films directed by women. Sôshi Matsumoto THIS IS A SUMMER FILM (サ マ ー フ ィ ル ム に の っ て) is also wonderful: a coming-of-age movie is a heartfelt love letter to film, or at the very least it’s a push against the idea that they disappear.
BEYOND INFINITY AT TWO MINUTES (ド ロ ス テ の は て で 僕 ら) was another one we discovered at Fantasia this year. Kato (Kazunari Tosa) owns a small cafe where he discovers that his computer screen and television are windows to a version of himself two minutes into the future. If Time Loop Movie is quickly becoming our favorite subgenre, then this One Take Time Loop Movie should be our next sub-subgenre obsession.
Gangsters who don’t kill (and some who do)
Under the open sky is accompanied by two exceptional sequels in a section JFF calls “Gangsters and Outliers”. THE LAST OF WOLVES (孤狼 の 血 Level 2), the monitoring of Blood of wolves takes it all up a notch, with a more sophisticated story and a compelling central rivalry.
In the same way, THE FABLE: THE KILLER WHO DOESN’T KILL (ザ ・ フ ァ ブ ル 殺 さ な い 殺 し 屋) is one of those rare cases where the sequel surpasses the original. All of the esoteric elements fit together well, with some full scale backdrops that are world class.
Manga on screen
LIAR x LIAR (ラ イ ア ー × ラ イ ア ー) leads the manga adaptations section, bringing Renjūrō Kindaichi’s shōjo manga series to life in the story of a bizarre love triangle. THE AVENGERS OF TOKYO (東京 リ ベ ン ジ ャ ー ズ) was the one we caught at Fantasia this year, and it’s a time-traveling high school tale with a bit of a difference. After all, Tsutomu Hanabusa (Tori girl, Kakegurui, Project Dream: How to Build the Mazinger Z Hangar) is a great helping hand in bringing manga to life on screen.
The beautifully titled THE ANGULAR MOUSE DREAMS OF CHEESE (窮 鼠 は チ ー ズ の 夢 を 見 る) is another complete facet of the manga. Based on the manga by Setona Mizushiro (which Kyoto Seika University professor Keiko Takemiya called one of the BL genre, the live-action film comes from director Isao Yukisada, who directed Riverside few years ago.
For something a little more spooky there is THE NIGHT BEYOND THE TRICORN WINDOW (さ ん か く 窓 の 外側 は 夜), an adaptation of Tomoko Yamashita yaoi manga of exorcism and necromancy. It sounds like a fun night out.
It wouldn’t be a JFF without an anime. There are three special animated film screenings at this year’s festival. CITY CHIMNEY BIN (映 画 え ん と つ 町 の プ ペ ル), based on Akihiro Nishino’s 2016 children’s picture book, this is a high-level fantasy whose full swing will no doubt appeal to younger members. public.
Co-directed by Masashi Ando (who has worked on Studio Gibli films such as Abducted as if by magic and Princess mononoke) and Masayuki Miyaji (The attack of the Titans), THE KING OF THE DEER (鹿 の 王) is an adaptation of the series of novels by Nahoko Uehashi Shika no. Plus, it comes from the legendary Production IG A must-read for animation fans around the world.
Last but not least is SATOSHI KON: THE ILLUSIONIST, both a summary of an impressive career and a tribute to one of the driving forces behind animation in recent decades: Perfect blue (1997), Millennial actress (2001), Tokyo Sponsors (2003), and Paprika (2006).
Shuji Terayama in brief
Avant-garde filmmaker, poet and photographer, Tereyama was lost in the world when he died in 1983 at the age of 47. Working until his death, the frontman of the Japanese New Wave is given special attention to JFF with four of his film.
THROW AWAY YOUR BOOKS, COME ON THE STREETS (1971) is arguably one of his best-known works, a radical anti-establishment play that remains one of the greatest in the history of Japanese cinema. Also included in the collection of classics Tereyama’s Quest for Self-Discovery in PASTORAL HIDDEN (1974), the house of erotic art PASSION FRUITS (1974), and his oedipal and sensual work GRASS LABYRINTH (1979).
Cinephilia and beyond
Naomi Kawase isn’t the only movie fan favorite on the list this year. Self-taught host Takahide Hori reportedly spent seven years bringing the theatrical cut to his dystopia HEAD OF ORDER (ジ ャ ン ク ・ ヘ ッ ド) to international screens. With an aesthetic that sits at the exact intersection of Despicable Me and a clip from Tool, the meticulous level of detail found in every frame of this film is simply phenomenal.
Other movies include STAGE, the comedy of Shinji Hamasaki NOT COMPLETELY DEAD, cling film compulsory MIO’S COOKBOOK, mystery thriller IA AMOKmedical drama HIDDEN GUARD, and the documentary by Eiji Sakata SUMODO: THE SUCCESSORS OF THE SAMURAI.
The full Japanese Film Festival schedule, dates and tickets are now available on their website.
AUSTRALIA JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL takes place from October 28 to December 5, 2021. You can view all of our coverage and previous years on our JFF hub. Learn about the coverage of Japanese silent era films at festivals and other contemporary releases. Plus, go beyond Japan with more Asian films in focus.