Celebrate NYAFF’s Sweet 16th with 15 Japanese Films

The New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) is celebrating 16 years with 15 Japanese films that will screen at Walter Reade Theatre and SVA Theatre. Keeping true to the strange themes that have been championed by Subway Cinema since it created the festival in 2002, the films range from blockbusters to cult classics and everything in between. This year’s festival features five LGBTQ-themed films, two from Japan. Naoko Ogigami’s Close-Knit has a transsexual protagonist, while Sang-il’s wild and violent mystery thriller Rage stars Go Ayano, who was awarded the Rising Star Asia at last year’s NYAFF, as a homeless stranger invited into the home of a semi-closeted salaryman (Satoshi Tsumabuki) as his live-in-lover.

Another highlight of this year’s festival are three films that celebrate Japan’s unique “Roman Porno” genre, each having their North American premieres: Aroused by GymnopediesDawn of the Felines, and Wet Woman in the Wind. Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest film studio, is celebrating 45 years since they birthed the soft-core Roman Porno genre (roman derives from the French word for novel). Invented to save a dying industry, they gave carte blanche to directors with minimal rules: Keep it under 80 minutes with a sex scene every ten. This allowed for wild stream-of-consciousness works of both the highest and lowest caliber. Now, Nikkatsu has enlisted top contemporary talent for the Roman Porno Reboot Project, taking the provocative, envelope-pushing format to a whole new level.

Here’s the lineup of the 15 Japanese films to be screened during the 16th season of the New York Asian Film Festival.

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Japanese Girls Never Die – © 2016 Japanese Girls Never Die Film Partners

Japanese Girls Never Die

Daigo Matsui, 2016

Sunday, July 2 at 5:15 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

As the original Japanese title (Haruko Azumi Is Missing) indicates, Japanese Girls Never Die is centered on the disappearance of a woman, a void around which the film revolves: 27-year-old, unmarried Haruko (Yu Aoi), stuck in a no-prospect office job and a one-way love for her oddball neighbor, is barely more than a spectator in her own colorless life—until she vanishes. Enigmatic graffiti, based on her missing person poster, suddenly decorates the walls of the suburban town, the result of two self-declared artists’ whimsical and random experiments. Meanwhile, a gang of giggling schoolgirls brings terror and violence to the streets, savagely assaulting random men. Daigo Matsui’s film throws many things at the viewer: A vibrant protest against the oppression of women, a provocative pop-art manifesto, and the improbably touching story of a gone girl, all dexterously interwoven.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

A Double Life – © 2016 A Double Life Film Partners

A Double Life

Yoshiyuki Kishi, 2016 – North American Premiere

Monday, July 3 at 12:30 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

Tama (Mugi Kadowaki), a shy doctoral candidate in philosophy, feels stalled in her studies and somewhat detached from life. In an almost Faustian moment, her philosophy professor (Lily Franky) makes a strange recommendation that will change everything about the way she sees the world: much like French photographer Sophie Calle, whose work is based on “following strangers,” he suggests that she pick up a stranger and follow him every day so she learns his dullest routines and deepest secrets. On the spur of the moment, she selects her neighbor, a successful book editor who seems like the perfect family man. As Tama follows him closely for a few days, she discovers the thrill of becoming a stranger’s shadow and realizes there is more to the ordinary man than meets the eye. Soon her growing voyeuristic obsession gets her inextricably tangled in other people’s secret lives. A Double Life offers up a truly original voice in new Japanese cinema.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Survival Family – ©Fuji Television, Toho, Dentsu, Altamira Pictures

Survival Family

Shinobu Yaguchi, 2017 – New York Premiere

Monday, July 3 at 9:15 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

A master of Japanese black comedy bites again. A typical middle-class, middle-aged salaryman (Fumiyo Kohinata) and his stay-at-home wife (Eri Fukatsu) live a typical life in a typical Tokyo flat with their daughter (Wakana Aoi), a fake-eyelash-sporting high-schooler, and their son (Yuki Izumisawa), a university student who shields his emotions behind his technological gadgets. Safe, and a bit spoiled, in their comfort zone, they are unprepared for what comes next. One morning, they wake up to a complete blackout. They rush to work and school, doggedly determined to maintain business as usual. As the outage continues and supplies run low, they go on an epic road trip, cycling from Tokyo to their grandfather’s farm on Kagoshima, following a children’s map of Japan. A post-apocalyptic comedy full of laughs and harsh lessons, it will lead you to question everything you take for granted.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

The Long Excuse – ©2016 The Long Excuse Production Committee, courtesy of Elle Driver

The Long Excuse

Miwa Nishikawa, 2016

Tuesday, July 4 at 5:15 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

Acclaimed director and Kore-eda protégée Miwa Nishikawa (Wild BerriesSwayDear Doctor) based this film on her own emotionally complex novel. When egotistical celebrity writer and cheating husband Sachio (Masahiro Motoki, Departures) loses his loyal wife (Eri Fukatsu) to a tragic bus accident, he appears nonplussed at best. He initially feigns grief, but then finds himself inexplicably befriending another widower, a poor and simple man truly devastated by the loss of his wife in the same crash. Despite his despicable character, Sachio bonds with the man and his two adorable children, even looking after them while their father is at work. As he grows attached to this newfound family and rediscovers his wife through memories, his pain finally becomes tangible. Motoki’s stellar and nuanced performance as a flawed man on an unexpected path of redemption further deepens Nishikawa’s profound dramatic trajectory.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Wet Woman in the Wind – © (C)2016 NIKKATSU

Wet Woman in the Wind

Akihiro Shiota, 2016 – North American Premiere

Tuesday, July 4 at 8:00 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

A tornado of unbridled sexual desire is unleashed when a free-spirited seductress sets her sights on a reclusive playwright in this stream-of-consciousness tale. This striking entry in Nikkatsu’s “Roman Porno” redux series transcends its sexploitation raison d’être by featuring a character who overturns the inhibitions of all who cross her path. Director Shiota cuts to the chase, taking advantage of the subgenre’s sparse requirements: there’s a sex scene every ten minutes with a total running time no longer than 80 minutes. The gleefully anarchic plot explores the human psyche through sexuality within a psychodrama that is as hilarious as it is titillating. Featuring a tour de force performance by Yuki Mamiya, Wet Woman in the Wind may prove to be the visceral climax of the series. Q&A with actress Yuki Mamiya and director Akihiko Shiota

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Dawn of the Felines: © 2016 NIKKATSU

Dawn of the Felines

Kazuya Shiraishi, 2016 – North American Premiere

Tuesday, July 4 at 10:30 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

Dawn of the Felines follows the experiences of three Tokyo call girls, from perverted johns to kinky underground nightclub spectacles to the constantly present threat of being busted by the cops. This descent into the night is a raw chronicle of urban loneliness and survival in the same vein as Kazuya Shiraishi’s earlier films The Devil’s Path and Twisted Justice. Paying tribute to Noboru Tanaka’s 1972 “Roman Porno” classic Night of the Felines, Shiraishi explores the same moral universe with an even more assured authorial grip, never straying outside the formal framework of the genre. Instead of carnal kicks, Shiraishi goes sin-deep and presents the cracks and flaws behind the smiling facades of the sex workers, who are never portrayed as victims.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Rage – © 2016 “RAGE” Film Partners

Rage

Lee Sang-il, 2016 – New York Premiere

Wednesday, July 5 at 6:00 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

Three strangers. Three suspects. The word “rage” painted in blood on the wall at a macabre murder scene. This sets the stage for a typical thriller—but nothing typical ever happens. Instead, Lee Sang-il’s first masterpiece concerns itself with the fascinating strands and complex ramifications that inexorably lead to another, more abstract, but possibly greater crime. One year after the bloody murder, with a nationwide manhunt still underway, three young men without a past appear in the lives of three very different people. In a Chiba fishing village, a father comes to doubt the intentions of his daughter’s new boyfriend. In Tokyo, a gay businessman suspects the quiet, handsome stranger he took in after a random encounter in a sauna. In Okinawa, a high school girl from Tokyo becomes intrigued by a rugged-looking young man who lives on a modern desert island. Rage is tragic, epic, and heartfelt.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Love and Other Cults – Courtesy of Third Window Films

Love and Other Cults

Eiji Uchida, 2017 – North American Premiere

Saturday, July 8 at 6:00 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

The latest irreverent black comedy from Eiji Uchida (Greatful DeadLowlife Love) is a wild tale of gangs, cult religion, and love in backwater Japan. Touching on such social issues as child neglect, teenage delinquency, and the sex industry, it is centered on the lives of marginalized teens Ryota and Ai (Sairi Ito) as they struggle to escape their rotten world. Ryota wants a normal life, only to fall in love with Ai and follow her down deeper and seedier paths. Ai has fended for herself from an early age, drifting from a neglectful mother to an oddball cult, with a brief attempt at normal school before bouncing from a druggie dropout community to a middle-class family. Among the strong, young leads (including a bunch of Sion Sono regulars) are some real local delinquents, ensuring that the film had to be shot under police supervision.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Close-Knit – © 2017 Close-Knit Film Partners

Close-Knit

Naoko Ogigami, 2017

Saturday, July 8 at 8:00 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

When 11-year-old Tomo’s irresponsible single mother leaves her on her own for the umpteenth time, she turns to her Uncle Makio to look after her. Makio’s pretty girlfriend, Rinko, proves an excellent surrogate mother, and the three form an indelible bond, but not without complications. Naoko Ogigami has defined her own distinct voice with several maverick features centered on women (Kamome Diner, Glasses, Rent-a-Cat). Utilizing an amusingly quirky and often bittersweet mode of storytelling, Ogigami creates unique spaces that offer a respite from the irritations of daily life to both her characters and viewers. Close-Knit finds her taking things to a new level, incorporating a transgender character, presented in a decidedly objective and novel form, and performed in a note-perfect portrayal by uber-popular pretty boy idol Toma Ikuta. Q&A with director Naoko Ogigami.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

The Suffering of Ninko – © Tricycle Film

Suffering of Ninko
Norihiro Niwatsukino, 2016

Sunday, July 9 at 8:30 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

Ninko is a devout and unusually handsome young Buddhist monk in Edo-period Japan – with a serious predicament: Wherever he goes women and men find him sexually irresistible and follow him around like rats to the Pied Piper. He seeks righteousness but since sex is considered a sinful indulgence, Ninko finds himself overwhelmed with guilt. No matter what odds, he tries to resist but is then literally assaulted in the woods by a voluptuous specter wearing a Noh mask, a manifestation of his fears and desires. Finally unable to parse the difference between reality and hallucination, Ninko must make a steadfast commitment in one direction or the other. The Suffering of Ninko is a wild fever dream that combines several cinematic and artistic traditions, from animation to ukiyo-e, into a jaw-dropping cinematic outburst that must be seen to be believed. It’s “beyond weird even by Japanese standards,” according to Variety.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Destruction Babies – © 2016 Destruction Babies Film Partners. All Rights

Destruction Babies

Tetsuya Mariko, 2016 – New York Premiere

Sunday, July 9 at 10:00 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

Channeling an unbridled angst similar to that of Tsai Ming-liang’s breakthrough debut Rebels of the Neon God, this visceral cinematic diatribe treads the terrorist paths of Larry Peerce’s The Incident and Penelope Spheeris’s The Boys Next Door. Taira lives on the outskirts of a small Japanese seaport town. Consumed by an overwhelming ennui that morphs into a fervent and unfocused rage, he heads downtown and starts picking fights with every tough-looking guy he finds, leaving in his wake an apocalyptic streak of violent mayhem. No explanations are given for the deadpan displays of violence, yet there is definitely something deeper brewing under the surface. With a tone that rings both authentic and fantastically absurd, the film plays as an indictment of societal ills and its byproduct: the irreversibly damaged human psyche. It’s arresting and well crafted, imbued with a refreshingly raw aesthetic.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Traces of Sin – © 2017 “Gukoroku – Traces Of Sin” Production Committee. All Rights Reserved.

Traces of Sin

Kei Ishikawa, 2016

Monday, July 10 at 6:00 p.m.

Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater – 165 West 65th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)

One year after the bloody murder of an upper-class couple, reporter Tanaka (Satoshi Tsumabuki) revisits the unsolved case, despite resistance at work and personal troubles. Tanaka is disturbed to uncover details that challenge his original reporting: The butchered well-to-do husband and wife were not the ideal socialites they appeared. One-by-one, his interview subjects remove their masks, painting a disturbing portrait of Japan’s social elite. Director Kei Ishikawa’s impressive first feature, which was produced by Office Kitano and premiered at the Venice Film Festival, uncovers the darkness at the heart of human nature in a rare depiction of class warfare in Japan. Hikari Mitsushima (Love Exposure) gives an outstanding performance as Tanaka’s damaged sister, who gravitates towards life’s dark corners. If Traces of Sin were a cocktail, it would be The Great Gatsby with a dash of Psycho. Q&A with director Kei Ishikawa

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

The Mole Song – Hong Kong Capriccio – (C)2016 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK, SHOGAKUKAN, J STORM, TOHO, OLM (C)NOBORU TAKAHASHI, SHOGAKUKAN

The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio
Takashi Miike, 2016

Friday, July 14 at 6:00 p.m.

SVA Theatre – 333 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)

Takashi Miike’s most entertaining and delirious film in years, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio returns to the pop madness of The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji and turns it up to eleven, resulting in a yakuza extravaganza that proudly stands on its own. (Sure, there’s a first part, but who cares?) Enter Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta), the most incompetent cop in Japan, so inept he got fired for stealing lingerie, who finds himself dangling from a helicopter stark naked but for a newspaper to cover his male pride. So, Reiji’s back. And this time, he’s up against the Dragon Skulls, a Chinese gang that’s made an unholy alliance with a dishonored yakuza to bring pain on the almighty Suki-ya clan. Thanks to the uniquely brilliant wit of screenwriter Kankuro Kudo (Too Young to Die), it outshines its predecessor on every level, and the most sufficient response is just three letters: WTF.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Happiness – © 2016 LiVEMAX FILM

Happiness

Sabu, 2016

Friday, July 14 at 8:30 p.m.

SVA Theatre – 333 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)

Masatoshi Nagase stars as the enigmatic Kanzaki, who strolls into a somber little town carrying a mad-scientist-like electronic helmet. He invites an elderly shopkeeper to try the machine, which awakens in her a long forgotten memory of unmatched happiness, and cures her of the melancholy she’s endured for years. Soon folks are lining up to try out this magical invention. However, it is unclear why Kanzaki is doing this. Eventually it emerges that he has a dark and very personal agenda. Veteran cinematic innovator Sabu weaves an ethereal meditation on emotion, memory, loss, and revenge. While reminiscent at times of works by his fellow countrymen Hirokazu Kore-eda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this tale is wholly original and provocatively strange, illuminating the suppressed emotions and malaise that plague modern society.

 

New York Asian Film Festival, NYAFF, Japan, NYC, Subway Cinema, FilmSociety Lincoln Center, SVA Theatre, Walter Reade Theatre, Japanese films

Aroused by Gymnopedies – © 2016 NIKKATSU

Aroused by Gymnopedies

Isao Yukisada, 2016 – North American Premiere

Friday, July 14 at 10:30 p.m.

SVA Theatre – 333 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)

This entry in Nikkatsu’s “Roman Porno” redux series – from Isao Yukisada, director of the sentimental terminal illness blockbuster Crying Out Love in the Center of the World – is as cerebral and emotionally resonant as it is evocative, unexpectedly incorporating the classic Erik Satie piano pieces referred to in the title. Yukisada observes a bizarre day in the life of Shinji (Itsuji Itao), an indie soft-porn director and film professor whose somber and laconic mood speaks to some deep-seated demons. When his lead actress (Izumi Okamura) quits, the production stalls and Shinji wanders from one misjudged sexual encounter to the next. Shinji attracts desirable and vulnerable women wherever he goes, toying with them like a skillful filmmaker manipulates the audience. This all builds to a shocking and hilarious crescendo of rampant sexual desire and wild catharsis.

Tickets are $14, $11 for students and seniors (62+), and $9 for Film Society members. See more and save with a 3+ film discount package and All Access Pass. To purchase tickets and to see the entire lineup of films, please visit filmlinc.org.