JAPAN CUTS 2017 Brings 30+ Films to Japan Society

New Yorkers have tremendous access to Japanese films, thanks to the multitude of film festivals that are devoted to introducing cinema from Japan. The biggest showcase of Japan’s best films is JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society’s yearly festival. Now in its eleventh season, JAPAN CUTS 2017 runs from Thursday, July 13 through Sunday, July 23, screening 28 feature films and six shorts covering all genres from blockbusters to indie films to avant-garde, to documentaries to classics to animation. The festival also features appearances by special guest filmmakers and stars, post-screening Q&As, parties.

Special guest director Yoshihiro Nakamura kicks off the festival on Thursday, July 13 by introducing the opening night film MUMON: The Land of the Stealth, making its U.S. Premiere. Known for his masterful genre blenders, MUMON is Nakamura’s modern take on the traditional jidaigeki (period drama), full of fantastical ninja moves that uphold genre standards, yet imbued with a unique sense of eccentricity and playfulness. Nakamura will also appear in a post-screening Q&A, followed by a rollicking Opening Night Party held in Japan Society’s historic theater and waterfall atrium.

JAPAN CUTS will present the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film to Joe Odagiri, the remarkably talented box office golden boy and matinee idol of Japan. Odagiri will receive the award before the Centerpiece Presentation screening on Thursday, July 20, the East Coast Premiere of Nobuhiro Yamashita’s critically acclaimed drama Over the Fence. A baseball-themed Home Run Party follows the screening in celebration of the film and the performance that anchors it. Demonstrating the breadth of his talent and penchant for taking on difficult roles, Odagiri also participates in a Q&A following the U.S. Premiere screening of Kohei Oguri’s FOUJITA, about the life of the complex titular painter, on Friday, July 21.

The festival’s Closing Film offers a poignant and indelible deviation from traditional Japanese war dramas: Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World, winner of the Japan Academy prize for Animation of the Year. A deeply moving coming-of-age story about a persevering young woman, In This Corner of the World captures civilian life under the catastrophic tide of World War II with a tone that is at once mournful, optimistic, and enchantingly heart-swelling. The film’s prolific producer Taro Maki, who has worked on Patlabor, Satoshi Kon’s masterpieces, and many other titles, will attend the post-screening Q&A.

“Cinema emerging from a specific region is tied to its traditions of cultural identity, artistic creation and modes of production, yet moving images are fluid and circumvent borders, revealing a tension between insurgent film culture and a fixed idea of national cinema during precarious moments of change,” say festival programmers Aiko Masubuchi, Kazu Watanabe, and Joel Neville Anderson. “This eleventh edition of JAPAN CUTS reveals a cinema contending with crisis and breaking boundaries of form and content, complicating traditional gender roles and sexuality, addressing traumas of war and racism, uncovering buried histories and revealing the potential for social resistance. Highlighting artistic achievement as well as featuring works that catch the zeitgeist of the global cultural moment and the state of cinema in and around Japan, JAPAN CUTS offers a dynamic venue to discuss art and culture, inviting festival participants to come away inspired to create what’s next.”

JAPAN CUTS 2017 FULL LINEUP
All films are in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted. 

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Yusuke Iseya in MUMON
© 2017 MUMON Film Partners

Opening Film, followed by the Opening Night Party
MUMON: The Land of Stealth SOLD OUT*
Thursday, July 13 at 7:00 p.m.
U.S. Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with director Yoshihiro Nakamura
2017. 125 min. HDCAM. Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. With Satoshi Ohno, Satomi Ishihara, Ryohei Suzuki, Yusuke Iseya, Yuri Chinen.

Raised suckling poison arrows among the sparring Iga ninja factions, Mumon (Satoshi Ohno, of idol group Arashi) is a carefree 16th century mercenary. When the ninja council makes a power play to defeat the young Nobukatsu Oda struggling to step into his father’s warlord shoes as they expand rule across the country, Mumon jumps into the fray to satisfy his new bride Okuni’s (Satomi Ishihara of Shin GodzillaAttack on Titan) demand he make good on his promises of wealth. Yet Mumon soon finds what is worth fighting for beyond money or nation. A longtime JAPAN CUTS favorite known for his offbeat dramas, Yoshihiro Nakamura (Fish StoryGolden Slumber) takes on the jidaigeki epic with his signature sense of play featuring a jazzy soundtrack and fantastical ninja tricks.

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Rio Hiiragi in Tokyo Idols
© Van Royko

Tokyo Idols
Friday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m.
East Coast Premiere
Video introduction with director Kyoko Miyake
2017. 88 min. DCP. Directed by Kyoko Miyake. With Rio Hiiragi.

This revealing, thought-provoking new documentary by Kyoko Miyake traces the budding career of RioRio (the stage name of 19-year-old Rio Hiiragi), an aspiring pop singer climbing the ranks of stardom as an idol in Tokyo. One among 10,000 teenage girls considered idols, RioRio is part of a billion dollar industry and a unique, male-dominated otaku culture of obsession that has grown exponentially since the 1990s and gradually infiltrated mainstream Japanese popular culture. With a journalistic approach, Miyake uses RioRio’s journey (as well as that of her number one fan Koji, a 43-year-old former salaryman) as an opportunity to explore the multifaceted and often complicated issues of gender dynamics, female sexuality, fame and consumerism in the internet age inherent to idol worship in Japan.

World Premiere, Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Documentary Competition.

“A lively inquiry that reveals more contradictions than consensus.” –Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
© “The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue” Film Partners

The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue
Friday, July 14 at 8:30 p.m.
North American Premiere
2017. 108 min. DCP. Directed by Yuya Ishii. With Shizuka Ishibashi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ryuhei Matsuda, Paul Magsalin, Mikako Ichikawa.

Shinji (Sosuke Ikematsu) is a day laborer working construction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Blind in one eye and manically talkative, he accepts the label of being “weird” in order to cover up a deep sense of alienation. Mika (Shizuka Ishibashi) is a nurse who moonlights as a bartender at a girlie bar. Cool and detached, she ponders the meaninglessness of life as she walks Tokyo’s streets, harboring disappointment and hurt from a recent breakup and the death of her mother. Having given up on so much, will these two loners give each other a chance? Reinventing his visual style, the latest from celebrated writer/director Yuya Ishii (The Great PassageSawako Decides) is a poetic meditation on disenchantment and recovery.

World Premiere, 2017 Berlin International Film Festival: Forum.

 

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Kenichi Matsuyama. Satoshi – A Move for Tomorrow
© 2016 “Satoshi no Seishun” Film Partners

Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow
Saturday, July 15 at 12:00 p.m.
New York Premiere
2016. 124 min. DCP. Directed by Yoshitaka Mori. With Kenichi Matsuyama, Masahiro Higashide, Shota Sometani, Ken Yasuda, Tokio Emoto.

This portrait of the brief but brilliant life of shogi prodigy Satoshi Murayama tells the story of a master player who knows his time is running out. An underdog from the start, he developed nephrotic syndrome as a child, yet excelled at the board game often referred to as “Japanese chess.” From Osaka and with an unpredictable playing style, he rose through the ranks of the game before being diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1997. Following surgery he went right back to playing and rejected drug treatment, battling the cool-headed champion Yoshiharu Habu from Tokyo in a famous “Habu in the east, Murayama in the west” match. In the title role, Kenichi Matsuyama physically transformed himself for a performance that earned him Best Actor at the 59th Blue Ribbon Awards.

World Premiere, Tokyo International Film Festival, Closing Film.

“His story is that universal one of a legend in any field, those so pure they would dedicate their entire lives.” –Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press

Preceded by:
Spread
2016. 1 min. Directed by Yoko Kuno.

 

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Hengyoro
© 2016 Courtesy of “Hengyoro” Film Committee
L: Susumu Taira, R: Sabura Kitamura

Hengyoro (Queer Fish Lane)
Saturday, July 15 at 2:30 p.m.
International Premiere
2017. 81 min. DCP, in Okinawan and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Go Takamine. With Susumu Taira, Saburo Kitamura, Misako Oshiro, Ryuichi Ishikawa, Katsuhiro Kawamitsu.

The long-awaited latest feature from Okinawa’s preeminent filmmaker Go Takamine (Untamagiru) is a freewheeling impressionistic work set in a fantastical realm informed by reality, memories, indigenous folklore, and theatre. X years after the oft-referenced but never elaborated upon “Shima pshoo” incident, aging Tarugani and Papajo are best friends who live in the Patai Village where those who failed to die continue to exist. When the two find themselves framed as thieves who stole an illegal substance from the local store, they set out on the road, chased by three dripping wet mysterious women. An utterly unconventional visceral feast.

“I thought it would be great if one were to cut open this film, not just red but grey blood would flow.” –Go Takamine

 

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Yosuke Kubozuka. Alley Cat
© 2017 “Alley Cat” Film Partners

Alley Cat
Saturday, July 15 at 4:15 p.m.
North American Premiere
2017. 129 min. DCP. Directed by Hideo Sakaki. With Yosuke Kubozuka, Kenji Furuya, Yui Ichikawa, Hiroshi Shinagawa, Erisa Yanagi.

A depressed ex-boxer (Yosuke Kubozuka) self-medicating for the injuries that ended his career finds a stray cat that brightens his day, but she is snatched up by a comical grungy mechanic (Kenji Furuya). Calling each other by the competing names they gave the cat, Maru and Lily, the odd pair is abruptly sucked into a political conspiracy with Saeko (Yui Ichikawa) and her son at the center. Witnessing another injustice in which the economic and social elite prey on the vulnerable, the two strays set off on the road to redemption, or at least peaceful cat ownership.

 

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A Whale of a Tale
© 2016 Fine Line Media Inc.

A Whale of a Tale
Saturday, July 15 at 7:00 p.m.
North American Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with director Megumi Sasaki
2016. 95 min. DCP, in English and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Megumi Sasaki.

Entering the political fray of environmentalism versus tradition raging around the issue of dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan since the 2009 release of The Cove, Megumi Sasaki’s documentary is the finely balanced film essay the frayed topic has been waiting for. Instead of propping up images of animal slaughter or beleaguered fishermen, A Whale of a Tale focuses on points of contact and communication between the two sides, foreign activists devoting years to the cause and agricultural workers who have developed a first-name familiarity. Sasaki (Herb & Dorothy) collaborates with journalist Jay Alabaster to examine the historical and material conditions that contributed to local whaling practice and the pressures of globalism and localism that keeps this issue in ideological deadlock—at least for now.

World Premiere, Busan International Film Festival.

Tokyo Docs Awards 2015, Best Pitch Award.

 

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Tatsuya Fujiwara. Memoirs of a Murderer
© 2017 “Memoirs of a Murderer” Film Partners

Memoirs of a Murderer
Saturday, July 15 at 9:30 p.m.
New York Premiere
2017. 117 min. DCP. Directed by Yu Irie. With Tatsuya Fujiwara, Hideaki Ito, Toru Nakamura, Kaho, Shuhei Nomura.

When a mysterious man (Tatsuya Fujiwara) announces his book confessing to a series of decades-old gruesome murders shortly after the statute of limitations has passed, its publication incites a media frenzy. Performing outlandish gestures of apology to his victims’ families while describing his crimes in proud detail, the self-professed killer’s eccentric flouting of norms and slick pompadour draws fawning admirers and ignorant media commentators. Watching the case he failed to solve become bestselling celebrity vehicle, a grizzled cop (Hideaki Ito) stalks this misanthrope-above-the-law before turning the media spotlight around on him. With bullets literally bursting through the camera lens, the versatile Yu Irie adapts Jung Byoung-Gil’s gripping Confession of Murder (2012) and adds more twisted turns to the original Korean mystery thriller.

 

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Atsushi Ito. Neko Atsume House © 2017 Hit-Point/”Neko Atsume House” Production Committee

Neko Atsume House SOLD OUT*
Sunday, July 16 at 12:00 p.m.
East Coast Premiere
2017. 92 min. Blu-ray. Directed by Masatoshi Kurakata. With Atsushi Ito, Shioli Kutsuna, Kayoko Okubo, Tae Kimura, Tomorowo Taguchi.

Novelist Masaru Sakumoto (Atsushi Ito) is in a professional rut. Once a celebrated hotshot in the literary world, he is now forced to churn out a zombie-themed serial novel to make ends meet. Panicked by feelings of failure, he seeks out an old house in the countryside to find inspiration and jumpstart his creativity. Once he settles in, however, he notices that he has some curious, whiskered neighbors. Initially annoyed, he eventually finds the battle to attract their attention oddly satisfying. Based on the popular smartphone game, Neko Atsume House uses its very simple premise to create an entirely unexpected and creative comedic drama about artistic integrity and personal fulfillment—with plenty of kawaii cats!

“Delightful, blood-pressure-lowering” –Mark Schilling, The Japan Times

 

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Ondekoza
© 1989 “The Ondekoza” Film Partners

The Ondekoza
Sunday, July 16 at 2:00 p.m.
U.S. Premiere
1981. 105 min. DCP. Directed by Tai Kato. 

The last work by master director Tai Kato (1916-1985), known best for his Toei yakuza films, is a visually striking and sumptuously colorful documentary about the influential Ondekoza taiko troupe from Sado Island, Japan. Following the physically intense training of the young Ondekoza members and intercut with performance footage shot with gusto within elaborate set-pieces, the film pushes the limits of documentary into the realm of feverish imagination. Upon its completion, Kato had said that it was the first time in his life he was able to make a film exactly the way he wanted. Previously released only at a very limited scale in Japan, this new 4K scan restoration in celebration of Kato’s centenary will be a new discovery for many.

World Premiere, 73rd Venice Film Festival, Classics Section.

“Watching a Kato picture is a pure pleasure.” –Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

 

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Love and Goodbye and Hawaii © 2017 Ippo
L: Kentaro Tamura, R: Aya Ayano

Love and Goodbye and Hawaii
Sunday, July 16 at 4:15 p.m.
North American Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with director Shingo Matsumura
2017. 93 min. DCP. Directed by Shingo Matsumura. With Aya Ayano, Kentaro Tamura, Momoka Ayukawa, Aoi Kato, Risa Kameda.

Rinko (Aya Ayano) and Isamu (Kentaro Tamura) have been living together for three years in what seems like an idyllic situation, except for one detail: They broke up with each other months ago. Even so, despite misgivings from her friends, the setup is comfortable enough for Rinko not to feel pressured to change it. When an attractive graduate student takes an interest in Isamu, however, Rinko is forced to confront her remaining feelings for him and the reality of their cohabitation. A unique twist on the romantic comedy, director Shingo Matsumura’s finely tuned film gently reveals deep emotional truths about love and relationships with subtlety and genuine empathy, delivered with pitch-perfect performances from his leads.

Winner, JAPAN CUTS Award, 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival: Indie Forum.

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
At the Terrace
© 2016 GEEK PICTURES
L: Kenji Iwatani, R: Kami Hiraiwa

At the Terrace
Sunday, July 16 at 6:45 p.m.
North American Premiere
2016. 95 min. DCP. Directed by Kenji Yamauchi. With Kei Ishibashi, Kami Hiraiwa, Ryuta Furuya, Kenji Iwatani, Hiroaki Morooka, Takashi Okabe, Atsushi Hashimoto.

A pompous company director and his attention-hungry wife host an evening soirée at their extravagant home. As the party winds down, a mixed group of remaining guests gathers on the terrace and continue drinking. After an innocuous comment is made about how lovely one guest’s arms look, however, the party takes a turn towards farce as the guests’ thinly veiled jealousy, carnal desires, and overwhelming insecurities become exposed. A Buñuelian satire of bourgeois social propriety, this whip-smart ensemble comedy skewers Japan’s professional class with uncomfortably perceptive insight. Adapted from director Kenji Yamauchi’s stage play Trois Grotesque, winner of the prestigious Kishida Drama Award in 2015.

World Premiere, 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival

 

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Haruneko
© Miner League

Haruneko
Sunday, July 16 at 8:45 p.m.
North American Premiere
2016. 85 min. DCP. Directed by Sora Hokimoto. With Keisuke Yamamoto, Ryuto Iwata, Minako Akatsuka, Llon Kawai, Yo Takahashi

Deep in the woods is a cafe that serves as a waystation for people who have determined, for whatever reason, to die. Here you’ll find The Manager (Keisuke Yamamoto) who, assisted by an elderly woman (Lily) and a young boy named Haru (Ryuto Iwata), will act as your host before taking you deeper into the forest where you dissolve into sound waves. In Sora Hokimoto’s enigmatic directorial debut, produced by industry veterans Shinji Aoyama and Takenori Sento, avant-garde aesthetics, theatrical artifice, music, and humor mix to produce a spherical, tonal narrative reaching catharsis in movement and music on the border of life and death. Produced in the wake of the passing of his stage designer father and featuring a positively electric soundtrack, Haruneko is thoroughly alive.

International Premiere, 2017 International Film Festival Rotterdam: Bright Future Award Competition.

 

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Once Upon A Dream
© 2007-2016 charm point

Once Upon a Dream
Tuesday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m.
International Premiere
2007-2016. 79 min. Blu-ray. Directed by Kei Shichiri. With Tsugumi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Koji Yamamoto, Saburo Otomo.

For the film’s 10th anniversary, experimental filmmaker Kei Shichiri presents an all-new sound and image remastering of his tour de force film (formerly translated as Before the Day Breaks). Based on a manga by Naoki Yamamoto, the film follows Aochi who sleeps and sleeps but never feels like she has slept enough. Shichiri, who explores the limits of sound and image in his diverse body of work, presents a highly evocative dramatic film in which humans barely appear on screen. The story is told through voiceover, sound, and visions of dreams and landscapes. Over the years, the film has gained fans, including contemporary auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who compared the film to those by Jean-Luc Godard.

“To express the instability of existence—this is exactly what I want to express in my animations and I respect Shichiri for giving it shape in such bold, experimental spirit.” –Koji Yamamura

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
Daguerrotype
© FILM-IN-EVOLUTION – LES PRODUCTIONS BALTHAZAR – FRAKAS PRODUCTIONS – LFDLPA Japan Film Partners – ARTE France Cinéma
L: Constance Rousseau, R: Tahar Rahim

Daguerrotype
Tuesday, July 18 at 8:15 p.m.
New York Premiere
2016. 131 min. DCP, in French with English subtitles. Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. With Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi.

Jean (Tahar Rahim) takes a job assisting Stéphane (Olivier Gourmet), a reclusive photographer obsessed with the daguerreotype, a 19th century process that requires subjects remain painfully still as their images are captured on a silver plate. Begrudgingly taking commissions for fashion shoots to get by, Stéphane’s true passion is taking life-sized portraits of his daughter Marie (Constance Rousseau), who eerily resembles his deceased wife. Jean soon falls for the ethereal Marie, who fantasizes about a life away from her gloomy situation, and hatches a plan for escape. Master of horror Kiyoshi Kurosawa travels to the birthplace of photography and cinema for this French-language thriller that speaks to his deep-seated anxiety over modernity and artfully evokes influences in Japanese and European supernatural traditions.

World Premiere, 2016 Toronto International Film Festival

“You’ll need patience for it to work on you, but all effort’s repaid tenfold, thanks to Kurosawa’s murmur-soft, immaculate craft and a trio of gorgeous central performances.” –Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

 

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Resistance at Tule Lake
© Resistance at Tule Lake

Resistance at Tule Lake
Wednesday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m.
East Coast Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with director Konrad Aderer
2017. 78 min. DCP, in English. Directed by Konrad Aderer.

A dominant narrative of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans is that they behaved as a “model minority,” cooperating without protest and proving their patriotism by enlisting in the army. Konrad Aderer’s documentary overturns this history, telling the story of the 12,000 Japanese Americans labeled “disloyal” who dared to resist the U.S. government’s program of mass incarceration at Tule Lake Segregation Center. Through the voices of contemporary descendants on pilgrimages to the concentration camp memorial site, rare stock footage and photographs, lawyers and historians, and invaluable oral history from those who lived through it, Resistance at Tule Lake brings to surface stories of dissent and noncooperation marginalized for seventy years—ever more vital today amidst new threats to the rights of immigrants and minorities.

“Aderer’s emotional, wrenching interviews with the ‘internees’—some of whom were deported to Japan because of answers to ‘loyalty’ questionnaires—make clear the consequences of race, wartime hysteria and political expediency.” –Tomio Geron, CAAMFest

 

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The Extremists’ Opera © King Records. All Rights Reserved.
L: Arisa Nakamura, R: Saori 

The Extremists’ Opera
Wednesday, July 19 at 8:45 p.m.
International Premiere
2016. 90 min. Blu-ray. Directed by Junko Emoto. With Saori, Arisa Nakamura, Yuki Sakurai, Suzuka Morita, Mayu Sakuma.

When theater director Naoko holds auditions for the first production of her newly established all-female theater troupe, she is mesmerized by Haru, who barges into the old garage where they rehearse. Naoko chooses Haru to be the lead as she leverages her power as director to pursue the romantic connection that fuels her voracious creativity. However as opening night approaches, jealous entanglements threaten the artistic and ideological aims of the project, as well as the relationship with Haru pulling Naoko from her womanizing ways. Based on her own semi-autobiographical novel Kokan, cult theater director and actress Junko Emoto makes her directorial debut in this playful drama relishing the toil and passion of a struggling creative life on and off stage.

18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older.

 

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Over the Fence © 2016 “Over the Fence” Production Committee
© 2016 「オーバー・フェンス」製作委員会 L: Joe Odagiri; R: Yu Aoi

Centerpiece Presentation, followed by the Home Run! Party
Over the Fence SOLD OUT*
Thursday, July 20 at 7:00 p.m.
East Coast Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with star Joe Odagiri, with CUT ABOVE award ceremony
2016. 112 min. DCP. Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita. With Joe Odagiri, Yu Aoi, Shota Matsuda, Yukiya Kitamura, Shinnosuke Mitsushima.

Third in a trilogy of film adaptations (following Sketches of Kaitan CityThe Light Shines Only There) from Yasushi Sato’s collection of short stories of hard-living in the northern port city of Hakodate, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s humorous, minimalist aesthetic in Over the Fence may suggest a softer approach. Yet this tale of a divorcee enrolled in carpentry vocational school to receive unemployment checks beginning a relationship with a bar hostess becomes a powerful story of damaged creatures clinging to one another, revealing human bonds as both salve and irritant as they face addiction, depression, and past traumas. Boasting an inventive score and subtly masterful portrayals by Joe Odagiri and Yu Aoi, Over the Fence fakes a bunt before hitting it out of the park.

Winner, 2016 Tama Cinema Awards for Best Film, Best Actor (Joe Odagiri), Best Actress (Yu Aoi).

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
Joe Odagiri. FOUJITA. © 2015 Foujita Production Committee. Eurowide Film Production

FOUJITA SOLD OUT*
Friday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m.
U.S. Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with star Joe Odagiri
2015. 126 min. Blu-ray, in French and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kohei Oguri. With Joe Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Ana Girardot, Angèle Humeau, Marie Kremer.

French and Japanese, modernist and traditionalist, artist and propagandist: Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita lived a life surpassing contradictions. Born in Tokyo, Foujita moved to Paris in 1913 at the age of 27 where he achieved fame for his nudes and cat paintings, befriending luminary contemporaries such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. By 1933 he returned to an increasingly nationalistic Japan and contributed militaristic art that promoted imperialistic expansion. This masterful, elliptical biopic by director Kohei Oguri (Muddy RiverThe Sting of Death) features a career highlight performance by Joe Odagiri, who perfectly conjures Foujita’s eccentric appearance and mannerisms, illuminating the complicated artist’s roaring desires and fluid ethical center amidst the excesses of bohemian life and bleak ambiguities of war.

World Premiere, Tokyo International Film Festival

“Director Kohei Oguri is literally in a class by himself.” –Tom Mes, Midnight Eye

 

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Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High © 2017 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK/SHUEISHA/TOHO ©USAMARU FURUYA/SHUEISYA All Rights Reserved.
L: Jun Shison, C: Ryoma Takeuchi, R: Yudai Chiba Bottom: Masaki Suda

Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High
Friday, July 21 at 9:30 p.m.
U.S. Premiere
2017. 118 min. DCP. Directed by Akira Nagai. With Masaki Suda, Shuhei Nomura, Ryoma Takeuchi, Shotaro Mamiya, Jun Shison.

Teiichi Akaba (Masaki Suda) has a singular dream: to crush the competition, become prime minister, and rule his own country. But first he just has to get through high school. An absurdist satire of Japan’s elitist pathways to the seats of power, Akira Nagai’s adaptation of Usamaru Furuya’s manga finds Showa era blue-blooded teens battling for the student council presidency. Sabotage, bribery, ritual suicide, fisticuffs, and more than a few unspoken crushes charge the boys’ all out warfare revealing the failures of hierarchical power systems and toxic masculinity. This achingly relevant, hilarious tale comes to a head when a working-class pro-democracy challenger questions the plutocrats’ factional wrangle and Teiichi is forced to recall the pure passion that drove him to his totalitarian bloodthirst.

“The boys […] represent real-life types in Japanese politics, where gilded elites rule and factions engage in Byzantine intrigues and double-crosses, just as their fathers and forefathers did.”

–Mark Schilling, The Japan Times

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
Hiroshi Abe. Shippu Rondo © 2016 “Shippu Rondo” Production Committee

Shippu Rondo
Saturday, July 22 at 12:00 p.m.
North American Premiere
2016. 108 min. DCP. Directed by Teruyuki Yoshida. With Hiroshi Abe, Tadayoshi Okura, Yuko Oshima, Tsuyoshi Muro, Keiko Horiuchi.

A secret biological weapon known as K-55 is stolen from a medical research lab by a disgruntled former employee who demands ¥300 million in exchange for its location. Unable to go to the police due to its illegal nature, research scientist Kazuyuki Kurabayashi (Hiroshi Abe) is tasked with recovering the anthrax-like weapon by the lab’s panicked director (Akira Emoto). Going off of a clue that K-55 is buried beneath snow, Kurabayashi heads to the nearest ski resort with his son on the pretense of a short vacation to begin his secret mission, enrolling the unwitting help of local ski patrol (Tadayoshi Okura and Yuko Oshima). A slapstick comedy thriller with heart, Shippu Rondo delivers big laughs amidst exhilarating chase sequences and dramatic twists and turns.

Based on the 2013 novel by Keigo Higashino.

 

SHORTS SHOWCASE
Saturday, July 22 at 2:15 p.m.
A program of wildly inventive and daring narrative short films from up-and-coming and well established filmmakers from Japan varying in tone, style, and genre. (Total running time approx. 84 min.)

  • Birds (Working Title), Koji Fukada. 2016. 8 min. Digital.
    This charming comedy by Koji Fukada (Harmonium) presents an awkward interaction between a wife, her husband, and his lover that reaches an absurd climax. North American Premiere.
  • We Are ShootingRaita Minorita. 2017. 26 min. Digital.
    Among the most stressful and thankless work done on a film set is undertaken by the production intern. It is no different for the plucky Reiko, who is reminded that “Moviemaking is a warzone!” International Premiere.
  • WHITE-T AND FEEBLE THINGS, Yun Su Kim. 2017. 30 min. Digital.
    Takara only wears spotless white T-shirts, but lately can’t seem to keep any of them clean. Meanwhile, he meets a mysterious contract killer and struggles with insecurities about his girlfriend. International Premiere.
  • Breathless Lovers, Shumpei Shimizu. 2017. 20 min. Digital.
    Suffering from heartbreak and asthma, 23-year-old Toshiyuki pushes the limits of his body to chase the ghost of his recently deceased boyfriend against the black-blue backdrop of Tokyo’s cityscape. International Premiere.

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
West North West © West North West Front: Sahel Rosa, Back: Hanae Kan

West North West
Saturday, July 22 at 4:15 p.m.
North American Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with stars Hanae Kan and Sahel Rosa
2015. 126 min. Blu-ray, in Japanese and Farsi with English subtitles. Directed by Takuro Nakamura. With Hanae Kan, Sahel Rosa, Yuka Yamauchi.

An exchange student from Tehran studying art, Naima (Sahel Rosa) instantly connects with the melancholy Kei (Hanae Kan) amidst the socially oppressive environment of a sterile Tokyo cafe. Despite the distance between Kei’s nocturnal bartender schedule and punk attitude and Naima’s academic rigor and religious devotion, an attraction between the two friends blooms, quickly inflaming the jealousy and anti-Islamic prejudice of Kei’s mercurial on-again, off-again model girlfriend Ai (Yuka Yamauchi). The uncertain corners of a romantic triangle spin through desire, love, and self-actualization in this slow-burning LGBTQ melodrama featuring memorable characters enlivened by Takuro Nakamura’s sensual, atmospheric direction and bold performances.

West North West is about the search for direction in life and the impossibility of knowing where you’re headed.” –Justin Chang, Variety

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
Yamato (California)
© 2016 DEEP END PICTURES INC.
L: Hanae Kan, R: Nina Endo

Yamato (California)
Saturday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m.
U.S. Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with director Daisuke Miyazaki and star Hanae Kan
2016. 118 min. DCP. Directed by Daisuke Miyazaki. With Hanae Kan, Nina Endo, Haruka Uchimura, Reiko Kataoka, Shuya Nishiji.

Frustrated teenager Sakura (the outstanding Korean-Japanese actress Hanae Kan, Nobody KnowsWest North West) lives in the town of Yamato by U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi. When she’s not brooding at home with her single mother and brother in close quarters separated only by a curtain, she seeks pleasure in solitude, flipping through her English dictionary and writing rhymes to develop her chops as a rapper. When Nina, the daughter of their mother’s absent American boyfriend arrives for a visit, she begins to push Sakura’s buttons to break out of her shell. Treading on the complicated physical and felt relationship between the U.S. and Japan, Daisuke Miyazaki’s second feature is a nuanced coming-of-age drama illuminated by veteran camerawoman Akiko Ashizawa.

World Premiere, 2016 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Montréal.

Yamato is like a kick in the butt to the apolitical and inward-looking attitudes of Japan’s film industry and domestic market.” –Maggie Lee, Variety

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
Ami Tomite. ANTI-PORNO
© 2016 NIKKATSU

ANTI-PORNO
Saturday, July 22 at 10:30 p.m.
East Coast Premiere
2017. 78 min. DCP. Directed by Sion Sono. With Ami Tomite, Mariko Tsutsui, Fujiko, Sayaka Kotani, Tomo Uchino.

Part of Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno Reboot Project celebrating the 45th anniversary of the genre that infamously saved the studio, ANTI-PORNO is a uniquely subversive take on Nikkatsu’s softcore sex label by festival favorite Sion Sono. Pacing a vibrantly-colored art studio that looks like something out of a Jodorowsky film, celebrity novelist, artist, and enfant-terrible Kyoko (Ami Tomite) terrorizes everyone around her, especially her eager-to-please assistant Noriko (Mariko Tsutsui), whom she sadistically (and quite literally) keeps on a leash. Just as Kyoko’s cruelty reaches its peak, however, the film takes an unexpected about-face that, in true Sono-style, breaks down cinematic barriers in order to tackle the subjects of art, misogyny and freedom with boundless energy and unbridled passion.

18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age and older.

“Sono’s effort is easily the most ambitious entry yet in the series of re-imagined softcore entertainments.” –James Marsh, South China Morning Post

Preceded by:
Summer’s Puke is Winter’s Delight
2016. 3 min. Directed by Sawako Kabuki.

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
My Dad and Mr. Ito
© Hinako Nakazawa, Kodansha Ltd. / 2016 “My Dad and Mr. Ito” Production Committee
L: Tatsuya Fuji, R: Juri Ueno

My Dad and Mr. Ito
Sunday, July 23 at 12:00 p.m.
U.S. Premiere
2016. 119 min. DCP. Directed by Yuki Tanada. With Juri Ueno, Lily Franky, Tatsuya Fuji, Tomoharu Hasegawa, Sei Ando.

Director Yuki Tanada (One Million Yen GirlRound Trip Heart) takes on the recent genre phenomenon of “age gap” romantic dramas, bringing her soulful style and feminist perspective. After driving Aya’s (Juri Ueno) sister-in-law up the wall, her cranky 74-year-old father (Tatsuya Fuji) moves in without warning. He promptly goes about criticizing 34-year-old Aya’s lifestyle: no children, pounding beers after her part-time job at a bookstore, and of course her older live-in boyfriend Mr. Ito (Lily Franky). At 54, he’s right in the middle of the father and daughter’s lifespans, leading to awkward hilarity. Yet the situational comedy of Tanada’s film deepens to become a sincere look at aging and communication amongst lovers and family.

“Both funny and searing, the film addresses issues of family and the plight of Japan’s aging, unwanted generation.” –Rob Schwartz, Metropolis

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
Akane Tatsukawa. Summer Lights © 2016 MPM Film

Summer Lights
Sunday, July 23 at 2:30 p.m.
North American Premiere
2016. 82 min. DCP. Directed by Jean-Gabriel Périot. With Hiroto Ogi, Akane Tatsukawa, Yuzu Horie, Keiji Izumi, Mamako Yoneyama.

Primarily known for his evocative non-fiction short films that confront issues of war, human rights, and political struggle, award-winning French filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot expands his ongoing interest in histories of violence with his first narrative feature, shot in Japan with an all-Japanese cast. A native Japanese filmmaker living in Paris visits Hiroshima for a documentary project about the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb. Shaken by the interviews he conducts with survivors, he wanders the nearby Peace Memorial Park where he bumps into an odd yet beguiling young woman. Together they journey from the city to the seacoast, uncovering traumas and personal histories about the city’s painful past along the way.

“A delicate treatment of one of the most crushingly tragic episodes in human history.” –Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
Yoshio Harada. Zigeunerweisen

Zigeunerweisen
Sunday, July 23 at 4:15 p.m.
North American Premiere
1980. 145 min. DCP. Directed by Seijun Suzuki. With Yoshio Harada, Naoko Otani, Toshiya Fujita, Michiyo Okusu, Akaji Maro.

The late, great Seijun Suzuki (1923-2017), best known for his brilliant avant-garde subversions of the yakuza genre (Tokyo DrifterBranded to Kill), re-established his filmmaking career in a completely new direction with the immense success of this independently produced metaphysical period drama. The first film in the so-called Taisho Trilogy, the story revolves around a love triangle between a university professor, his former colleague-turned-vagabond, and an elusive geisha, filled with ghostly occurrences and the haunting refrain of the Pablo de Sarasate composition from which the film is named. A critical and box office success, Zigeunerweisen swept the 1981 Japan Academy Prize and Kinema Junpo Awards with wins in major categories. Presented in a brand new digital remaster.

Winner, 1981 Japan Academy Prize for Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction.

 

JAPAN CUTS, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, Japanese cinema, Japanese films, Japanese movies, film festivals
In This Corner of the World
© Shout! Factory Films
Suzu Urano (Non)

Closing Film
In This Corner of the World SOLD OUT*
Sunday, July 23 at 7:15 p.m.
East Coast Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with producer Taro Maki
2016. 128 min. DCP. Directed by Sunao Katabuchi. With Non, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Daisuke Ono, Minori Omi, Natsuki Inaba.

Winner of multiple prestigious awards and named best Japanese movie of 2016 by the esteemed film publication Kinema Junpo, this much-acclaimed hand-drawn animation tenderly depicts the joys and sorrows of Suzu Urano, who begins her married life in the small coastal city of Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture. Set during WWII, the hardships and devastation of war creep in as life and the landscape around her become increasingly grim. As gentle and clear-eyed as Sunao Katabuchi’s humanist animation, Suzu perseveres through life as a participant and victim to one of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century with vulnerability and zest, falling in love and stumbling along the way.

Winner, 2016 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

Winner, 2016 Kinema Junpo Award for Best Film, Best Director, Reader’s Choice.

 

JAPAN CUTS 2017 screens from Thursday, July 13 through Sunday, July 23

Tickets: $14/$11 seniors and students/$10 Japan Society members
$20/$17/$15 for the July 13 screening of MUMON: The Land of Stealth and July 20 screening of Over the Fence including after parties.

Special offer: Five-Film Pass: purchase tickets for at least 5 different films in the same transaction and receive $2 off each ticket (excluding July 13 screening of MUMON: The Land of Stealth and July 20 screening of Over the Fence)

To purchase tickets, please visit Japan Society’s website or Box Office, or call 212-715-1258.

*For SOLD OUT films, a waitlist will begin one hour prior to the screening at the Box Office. Being on the waitlist does not guarantee admission.

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