Pochi’s back! I’ve missed writing these JFF blog posts. I hope I was of help last year and I’m really looking forward to introducing more movies to you guys.

I thought I’d write about the new genre in this year’s program: Slice of Life. I really think the Japanese are masters of slice of life films. In fact, I sense a bit of this slice of life aesthetic in a lot of movies, even in animated ones. I think this genre is perfect for wanting to feel like you’re in Japan. Seeing the characters just going about their everyday life and immersing yourself in the dialogue… Slice of life is also great if you’re feeling introspective!

Sometimes they’re a little sad, sometimes it’s very feel good. Often there’s a bit of comedy, but never slapstick. I’ve rounded up the slice of life movies this year and some other titles that are a bit more stylized but certainly provide us with a window into another world.

SOMETHING LIKE, SOMETHING LIKE IT

Something Like, Something Like It follows the everyday life of an ex-IT yuppie who decided to take up rakugo (a traditional form of Japanese comedy and storytelling). As an apprentice, he goes about his training obediently-even when he’s given the ridiculous task of searching for a missing rakugo artist without barely any leads.

The movie is shot around different locations in Japan: you’ll definitely feel immersed in a quintessential Tokyo fringe suburb, and you also get to see different tourist spots around Japan too.

You won’t be LOLing when you see this movie but it’s just delightful! If you’re a fan of Japanese traditional theatre, the snippets of rakugo would make it worthwhile to see.

Screening in: Sydney and Melbourne

Image © 2016 “Something Like Something Like It” Film Partners

THE ACTOR

In The Actor we meet Takuji Kameoka, professional movie extra. He’s 37, single, and has never had a major acting role. We follow him from one film shoot to another, which always end with a visit to a local izakaya (bar) where he pretty much drinks himself to sleep.

Just as we get the impression that Kameoka has zombied his way through life, we learn more about the actor and his career. We even see a spark of determination in the lonely Kameoka when the opportunity to appear in a foreign film comes up.

The dead-pan comedy in The Actor is on point, but what makes it really entertaining is how it walks you through Japanese film sets and even takes you behind the scenes of a stage play! The Actor is mildly existential, mildly entertaining, mildly sad… Mildly everything.

Screening one night only in: Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne

Image © 2016 “The Actor” Film Partners

NAGASAKI: MEMORIES OF MY SON

Nagasaki: Memories of My Son, also known as Living With My Mother or Haha to Kuraseba, is a nostalgic drama about a son who goes back home to his mother as a ghost. Directed by one of Yasujiro Ozu’s protégés, Yamada Yoji (What a Wonderful Family!, Tokyo Family), Ozu fans would appreciate the style of this film.

The movie is set in the beautiful port town of Nagasaki in 1948, only a few years after the atomic bomb fell. While I didn’t really know how Nagasaki looked like in the 1940s, watching this film definitely feels like travelling back in time.

Screening in: Sydney and Melbourne

Image © 2015 “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son” Film Partners

SETO & UTSUMI

Seto and Utsumi are high school buddies who spend their afternoons killing time by the river. Sometimes people they know pass them by but for the most part they just sit there talking about everything under the sun like cats, nirvana, and ginormous potatoes. With all the dialogue in it, I would describe it as a Japanese Richard Linklater film!

Seto & Utsumi is probably one of the most exciting titles in this year’s line up because it’s so different from how Japanese films usually are. It’s a bit ironic that it’s exciting because nothing climactic or dramatic actually happens in the film!

While most films about high school students (like Chihayafuru and BAKUMAN。) are full of ambition and youthful energy, Seto and Utsumi literally just chill and talk (and sometimes argue). Despite no major dramas, it’s an insightful film about life and friendship.

Screening one night only in: Sydney and Melbourne

Left image & header image © 2016 “SETO & UTSUMI” Film Partners © Kazuya Konomoto (Akitashoten)

KAMPAI! FOR THE LOVE OF SAKE

Kampai! is a passionate documentary which delves into the lives of three individuals who have dedicated their lives to sake. We meet Kuji-san, a fifth-generation Japanese brewery owner, and two foreign nationals who are equally well-known in the field of sake: Philip Harper, the only non-Japanese master brewer to date, and journalist John Gauntner, aka “The Sake Guy”.

Screening in: Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne

Image © 2015 WAGAMAMA MEDIA LLC.

TWISTED JUSTICE

Twisted Justice is a unique film in our crime & mystery genre, since it’s based on actual case wherein police were embroiled in gangster affairs in Hokkaido, Japan. The infamous issue is referred to as “the Inaba case” in Japan.

Indie director Kazuya Shiraishi has made a grindhouse-influenced film which traces the development of main character Officer Moroboshi from the 70’s until the early 00’s. Shiraishi definitely did not hold back in portraying the rotten aspects of power and corruption. In a sense, it’s a unique film that acts as a window into the underworld of criminal activity.

Screening in: Sydney and Melbourne

Image © 2016 “Twisted Justice” Film Partners

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  • 10 Jan 2017
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Written by JFF Staff MK Header photo by Nathan Tam   The twentieth Japanese Film Festival (JFF) has drawn to a close for another year!...