“A confronting narrative (…), [exploring] the power of the imaginary and the destructive effects this imaginary can have on the position of the subject within society (…), that is now needed more than ever. “
If there is one contemporary Japanese director that is socially engaged, it is Ogata Takaomi. He proved this engagement with his first feature film Never Ending Blue (2009), which explored abuse and self-mutilation, and confirmed it with his third feature film Sunk in the Womb (2013), which was based on an incident in Osaka where two children were murdered after being abused.
“A [tense] (…) voyeuristic trip through the private spaces of the gokudōsha [that unfortunately is not able] to underline the futility of violence [in the same palpable way as its predecessor].”
When Takeshi Beat released Outrage (2010), it was clear that he personally wanted to try something different with the Yakuza genre he was already so well acquainted with, e.g. Sonatine (1993) and Hanabi (1997). Takeshi Kitano introduced more dialogue, changed the narrative into an ensemble piece, and aimed to create a documentary-like narrative of characters killing each other.
“[A fabulous confrontation] with the inherent dimension of the self-destructive pleasure, evoking the effects capitalism have on society as a whole along the way.”
Takashi Miike is a director that doesn’t need any introduction. Bursting on the international stage with Audition (1999), his human drama gone wrong, he also delighted or affronted audiences with Ichi the killer (2001) and visitor Q (2001). Violence has always had an important presence in Miike’s oeuvre – consisting now of more than 100 movies – and Graveyard of honour is no different.
“Another outstanding achievement; (…) a subdued and at times funny exploration of humanity [that] subtly shifts into a moving meditation of that irrational little thing called love.”
Those who have read our top 10 of 2017, might have noticed that Kurosawa’s Before we Vanish received a shared fifth place, without receiving an in-depth review. With the upcoming release of Before We Vanish by Super LTD, from 2 February in selected theaters, we were finally given the opportunity to present our review of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s (and Sachiko Tanaka’s) adaptation of Tomohiro Maekawa’s stage play.
“Notwithstanding the failure to turn Kaneki’s coming-to-terms into the moving experience it needs to be (…). [The narrative] is still one of the better high-budget live-action adaptations to appear in recent years.”
It has become a logical sequence nowadays in Japan, a good selling manga gets serialized, a successful serialization is then turned into an anime – sometimes it receives some light-novels as well, and, if a movie studio sees potential to earn money with it, a live-action movie is made (General-note 1).
“By exploring the problematic field conditioned by sexuality and money, [the narrative] (…)earns its place as a true classic of the Roman porno genre.”
For fans of the Roman Porno genre Tanaka Noboru is definitely not one of the forgotten directors. Actually, with narratives like A Woman Called Sada Abe (1975), Watcher in the Attic (1976) and Woman on the Night Train (1972), many would consider him one of the masters of the genre, a director that fully exploited the social and psychological possibilities of the genre.
“The likability of Gou Ayano as Tatsuhiko still shines, turning the second part of Tatsuhiko’s narrative, despite being thematically different and not being refreshing at all, [into] an enjoyable narrative to experience.”
After the commercial success Sion Sono’s manga adaptation Shinjuku Swan was – racking in 1.33 billion yen, it should not come as a surprise that a sequel would follow. But this time, besides Sion Sono returning to the directors seat, the highly acclaimed Japanese action director Kenji Tanigaki, best known by his work for the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, was attracted to help choreographing the narrative’s fighting sequences. While this focus on fighting might be an interesting addition, we cannot help but wonder if Shinjuku swan 2 is a worthy sequel or just a cheap cash-in.