11 must-sees at the Japanese New Film Festival – the Reel Bits
Operating in hybrid mode this year, JAPAN CUTS returns to bring us the best of new Japanese cinema. Here are some of our favorite picks.
JAPAN CUPS is by far one of our favorite festivals on the calendar. Showcasing some of the most recent Japanese releases, the mix of mainstream, independent, emerging voices and experimental dishes makes this a must-attend event.
This year, the festival is taking place in hybrid mode, with a mix of films showing at the Japan Society in New York and a selection available through their online platform. Here you’ll find everything from internationally acclaimed directors like Miike Takashi and Kiyoshi Kurosawa to emerging talent. With a full lineup of nearly 30 films and a dozen short films, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Ticket packages for movies, conferences and events are now all available on the JAPAN CUTS website. The films start screening from August 22, 2022.
Go Seppuku yourselves
Toshiaki Toyoda quickly became a festival fixture, in part thanks to his remarkable sound and vision collisions in Call of the wolf and The day of destruction. Here he wraps up his politically urgent resurrection trilogy and you know it’s going to be a furious blast of visuals with a thrilling soundtrack. You don’t watch a Toyoda movie, you feel it vibrating deep in your rib cage.
The Great Yokai War: The Guardians
It wouldn’t be a Japanese festival without Miike Takashi on the bill. With its annual output alone, you could fill half a program! A sequel to 2005 The Great Yokai War, it’s a hell of a closing night for the festival this year. It is also said to include the main character from the 1966 Daiei film series. Daimajin!
It’s a summer movie
A heartfelt love letter to film, or at the very least it’s a push against the idea of movies disappearing. Soshi Matsumoto’s first feature film, after a career in advertising and short film, is a kind of sci-fi movie that sees a group of school friends attempting to make a samurai film, but discover that the one of them is a time traveler from the future. THIS IS A SUMMER FILM is exactly what it says: a film about the joys of summer in all their fleeting and overwhelming moments. Read our full review.
Beautifully shot and impeccably cast, Sode Yukiko’s third feature film unfolds in book chapters to portray a life, well … lived. Based on the novel by Mariko Yamauchi, we’ve named the Story of Two Women of Sode one of the best movies of 2021 to date. When we meet quite bourgeois Hanako (Mugi Kadowaki), she recently separated from her fiancé. Province-born Miki (Kiko Mizuhara) worked hard to secure a place at a posh college, but has since seen tougher times. ARISTOCRATS may not appeal to all tastes: it wanders to the slow rhythm of its own drum. Yet its themes of belonging and expectation are universal, and one can’t help but think that this is the kind of film that will reveal more of its subtleties as you watch it. Read the full review.
The wife of a spy
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s World War II dramatic thriller starring the incomparable Yū Aoi and Issey Takahashi began life as a TV movie followed by a theatrical version. The director of To cure, Tokyo Sonata, Before disappearing and more recently To the end of the earth always worth watching, and a Yū Aoi film is compulsory at all Japanese film festivals.
Atsushi Funahashi’s article is a timely film about workplace sexual harassment in the #MeToo era, dealing with a high-profile sexual harassment case and social media backlash. Based on a true story, this drama uses documentary techniques and firsthand accounts of an actual case of sexual harassment to deepen the polarizing reactions of the Japanese.
Wonderful and weird go hand in hand in this truly bizarre movie that just keeps getting weirder – and it’s just a things to like about it. It begins with a series of random arrivals at a mansion being packaged for sale by an original series of family members. After the disgruntled girl sends out a social media invitation to a party, the event becomes a festival, with food stalls and activities. Still, nothing can really prepare you for the second half of this movie. From a child transforming into a stick to a mutant coffee bean spinning out of control, the storyline is both a midsummer sex comedy and a pure train of thought. Read our full review.
Goldfish: dreaming of the sea
Director Sara Ogawa is best known for her on-camera work, most recently Dear patient. For his first directorial release since 2017 Beatopia, Ogawa tells the story of an 18-year-old who faces the displacement of growing up in foster homes and finds herself in the position of caring for a girl abused by her mother. If it looks stunning, it’s because longtime Hirokazu Kore-eda cinematographer Yutaka Yamazaki is behind the camera.
The return of Leo
A few years ago, Anshul Chauhan Kontora completely blew us away. Performing as part of the short film programs, his follow-up – on an aspiring actor who returns home with a woman harboring a monumental secret – plays for the audience of JAPAN CUTS. Make sure to add this and some of the other great shorts (which also include Born fish and Among us four) to your must-see list.
Spaghetti Code Amour
Impossible not to watch a movie with this title, right? The first feature film by Takeshi Maruyama, who directed the viral ‘Labyrinth‘clip for MONDO GROSSO. It’s described as a coming-of-age movie following 13 People Unexpectedly Connected. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s also shot beautifully.
To sleep Like to dream
Appointed by the BFI as one of the best Japanese films of all time, it’s a black and white film that features two detectives in the 1950s trying to track down an actress inside a 1915 movie frame. Filled with plenty of cinematic references, this 35th anniversary edition of the first film by Kaizo Hayashi has received a 2K restoration and is ready to find a whole new generation of moviegoers.
You can follow all of our JAPAN CUTS 2021 coverage here. Be sure to also check out our coverage of past JAPAN CUTS festivals.
You can read even more Japanese film covers – from the silent era to festivals and other contemporary releases – right here on The Reel Bits. Plus, go beyond Japan with more Asian films in focus.