With the year of 2017 coming to an end, it is time for Psycho-cinematography to finally look back on what has become a pleasant and surprising year of Japanese cinema. While the commercial industry churned out the usual melodrama’s and beloved manga/anime were turned into live-action movies, the Japanese indie scene also proved to be alive and kicking.
[Be sure to also check out our top 10 Japanese movies of 2018 and our Top 10 Japanese movies of 2019.]
In short, Japanese cinema provided something for everyone – and through many of these cinematographical products a window on contemporary Japanese society was offered. Of course not all movies made this year are a must-see. So with our top 10, we aim to give a personal advice on which movies one should see.
Psycho-cinematography’s top 10 2017
10) Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High (Nagai Akira)
Teichii might be lighthearted, with moments of slap-stick comedy and the kind of homo-eroticism fans of manga have come to love, but for all its lightheartedness, the narrative also underlines that sons should never fight their fathers battles, but find their own subjectivity and own dream to attain in life. In general, Teichii (…) is a pleasant and often funny ride exploring high-school life in the showa era, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t raise above the standard affair, and the comedy, as over-acting so typically of Japanese comedy is present, remains something of an acquired taste.
9) Love and Other cults (Uchida Eiji)
While Love And Other Cults lacks some punch and often fails, partially due to the short running time, to treat its themes more deeply, it is still an enjoyable narrative. At times lighthearted, at times more darkly serious, Love and Other Cults‘s subtle blend of various emotional layers, does evoke the difficulties a subject can have in finding a place to call home, implicitly implying that a sense of belonging is only to be found in a place conditioned by one or more meaningful human relations as such.
8) Memoirs of a Murderer (Irie Yu)
Memoirs of a murderer does everything a thriller has to do. While the way the narrative is structured provides the necessary tension, catching the viewers’ wish to know, the personal drama mixed into the narrative is successful in arousing sympathy for the main characters. In short, as long as one doesn’t expect to find any deep psychological truths on the nature of the serial killer in the narrative or a deep character study of a murderer as such, Memoirs of a murderer proves to be as thrilling and satisfying as the original was.
7) Blade of the immortal (Miike Takashi)
While Blade of the Immortal never attains the heights of Miike’s other samurai narratives, it does provide the thrills we’ve come to except from Miike in this genre. As limbs get scattered and blood flows, one comes to realize that there might be only one Japanese director who can compose these massacres with such stylish precision. Besides the satisfyingly framed action, the narrative, albeit somewhat thin on plot, provides enough depth and drama, to keep one engaged from sword-fight to sword-fight.
6) Party ’round the globe (The Watanabe brothers)
Party ’round the globe provides the spectator with a very unusual blend of slice of life and narrative and a road-movie. While almost nothing happens in the narrative – the emptiness and repetitiveness of Hikaru’s life and his lack of desire put on display, party ’round the world‘s narrative rhythm does exert a strange charming attraction on the spectator. Nevertheless this narrative simplicity enables the Watanabe brothers to paint a purified account of the guiding nature of desire and the importance of taking part in the social field.
5) What a Wonderful Family 2 (Yamada Yōji) (Note 1)
What a Wonderful Family! 2 proves to be a worthy sequel, equally amusing and, by times, funny as the first narrative was. It is an endearing and heartwarming exploration of the complexity of family relations, and also shows in a touching way the honest care of family-members for each other and, most importantly, that happiness is to be found in the very daily problems family life indisputably generates. We’re already hoping for another sequel.
4) Swaying Mariko (Segawa Koji)
Swaying Mariko may at times feel rough around the edges, but Koji Segawa crafted a strange, compelling and, at times, slightly confronting slice of life narrative. And while the narrative touches subtly upon various psycho-social dimensions, its most powerful message (…) is that that it is never good to leave things unsaid – and that only communication between subjects can mend a relationship and can safe subjects from the no-good position they fundamentally adopt. Segawa, give us more of your psychological narratives, but (…) please make them a little bit longer.
3) Bamy (Tanaka Jun)
Tanaka’s debut feature proves to be an accomplished product. Even though some of the music used undermines the power contained in the cinematography, Bamy is a fresh and compelling horror narrative, framing the unsettling unheimlich so sensible on the silver screen. If this movie can be understood as a flower bud showing great promise, we can’t wait till Tanaka’s cinematographical style comes into full bloom.
2) Love and Goodbye and Hawaii (Matsumura Shingo)
Love and Goodbye and Hawaii is fabulous in its narrative simplicity and its focus on the speech interactions as such. In a gentle and subtle manner the narrative expresses its views on life, love and relationships, views that, by the emotional investment of the spectator in the characters and their narrative, do not fail to struck an emotional cord.
1) Noise (Matsumoto Yusaku)
Noise is a slow, subdued but very powerful narrative about the importance of human connection and the far-reaching subjective effects modern Japanese capitalistic society can have on the subject. In this respect, Matsumoto (…) questions contemporary Japanese society and the effects it has on the very social fabric that, in normal circumstances, would give a subject a safe place from where it can speak. It is a questioning, empowered by the effective cinematography and the deep nuanced performances, that will long linger in the spectator’s mind.
Before We Vanish (Kurosawa Kiyoshi): We hope to provide an in-depth review of Kurosawa’s powerful and moving sci-fi inquire into humanity, the symbolic register and human relationships as such at a later date. Nevertheless, we reward Before we Vanish a shared fifth place.
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