You don’t get much chance to see Japanese films in London (or the rest of the UK) but, thanks to the Japan Foundation, over the next couple of weeks there’s going to be a positive glut. So suddenly we go from nothing to see to too much to see. How are you going to prioritise? Let me help out, with my Japan Foundation Touring Programme top five.
1 Top classic – Mikio Naruse’s Scattered Clouds
Not to be confused with the more famous Floating Clouds, this is Naruse’s last film, made in 1967 in colour. Naruse began his career in 1930 and made eighty-nine films, many of them with female protagonists, a rarity at the time. They’re not exactly cheery, but they are beautiful, poignant love stories. In Scattered Clouds a recently widowed woman finds love in an unexpected place.
2 Top anime – A Letter to Momo
The latest release by renowned anime director Hiroyuki Okiura, this story of a girl who moves to a big house in the country and encounters some bizarre creatures, sounds like it may be in My Neighbour Totoro territory. We’re promised heart-warming, emotional storytelling. It’s in Japanese with English subtitles, so no incongruous dubbing, and it’s hand drawn.
3 Top comedy – The Handsome Suit
Made in 2008, this was the first feature from director Tsutomu Hanabusa,who went on to make the Sadako 3D horror film series. it’s the story of a an overweight chef who can’t find love until he dons a suit that makes him look like a male model. According to reviews on the IMDb it’s fast-paced, funny and sweet enough for you to forgive its cheesiness.
4 Top all-rounder – Wood Job
This is the film that opens the Japan Foundation Season. It’s a coming-of-age story about an eighteen year old boy who leaves the city to enrol in a one-year forestry programme. It’s directed by Shinobu Yaguchi who made the Japanese box office smash hits Waterboys and Swing Girls and is based on a novel by popular author Shion Miura.
5 Top heavyweight – Blood and Bones
Anything that stars ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano has got to be worth your time. it sounds pretty grim – it’s described as an ‘unflinching portrait ‘of a Korean immigrant struggling to succeed in Japan and the effect on those around him of his brutal and violent nature. It’s directed by Yoichi Sai and won four Japanese Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Screenplay.
The Japan Foundation Film Programme opens at the ICA on 30 January and runs until 5 February. After that it tours ten venues around the country.