Camera Japan Festival: 6 must-see narratives.

Introduction

As it is almost time for the most interesting festivals of the Netherlands to start, we want to aid the future spectator somewhat by giving six recommendations. Of course, these recommendations are based on the narratives we’ve already seen.

As we decided to only choose six movies, there was one movie that failed to make the cut. Nevertheless, we do want to encourage fans of the jidai-geki genre to see Bernard Rose’s Samurai Marathon (2019).

From the movies we haven’t seen, readers can look forward to our reviews of Seiji Tanaka’s Melancholic (2019), Kan Eguchi’s The Fable (2019), Sabu’s Jam (2018), and Okuyama Hiroshi’s Jesus (2019).

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Preliminary selection: 6 movies to watch.

Red Snow (2019) by Sayaka Kai

With its dreary and downright depressing atmosphere – no ray of sunshine to be seen, Red Snow ventures, in a psychological way, into the complex domain of truth. While this may put some people off, those that give the narrative a chance will become captivated by its moving evocation of the tension between speech and truth – a conflict sensibly highlighted by the evocative anti-climax.Red Snow might be only Sayaka Kai’s first feature-length narrative, but what she has crafted is truly impressive.

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Okinawan Blue (2019) by Kishimoto Tsukasa.

Okinawan Blue is no pure comedy, it is no pure drama, it is the best of two genres rolled all into one. What could’ve been easily an unbalanced affair – the comedy denying the drama its power, the structure of the narrative and the great acting performances turn this narrative into a perfectly balanced mixture of drama and lightheartedness. Beyond the perfect balance between lightheartedness and drama, Kishimoto also succeeded, and this is not a minor feat, in turning Okinawan Blue into one of the best visual advertisements for Okinawa of recent years.

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The Legend of The Stardust Brothers (1985) by Makoto Tezka.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is one of those rare narratives that has become better by aging, instead of turning ugly and sour. While the ripeness of the narrative is not able to beautify all its faults, the pure fun oozing from the narrative and the performances secures the enjoyment the spectator can extract from this energetic and truly irresistible legend. In other words, the time for this narrative to become, thanks to the release of the DVD/Blu-ray by Third Windows Films, a cult-classic has finally arrived.

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The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine (2018) by Takahisa Zeze. 

Even though Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine concerns sumo and socialistic and anarchistic ideals, Zeze’s narrative is, at heart, nothing other than a romance narrative. Chrysanthemum and The Guillotine may touch upon many themes, its true message, its moving answer to the themes as intersecting as the narrative unfolds, is only to be found in the very encounter of Chrysanthemum and one of our Guillotines. With Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine, Zeze movingly reveals that the ground for true revolution should be love and its goal the realization of that place where a woman can realize her agency as subject.

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Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018) by Mari Okada.

While Maquia’s narrative is epic in scale – offering an abundance of mesmerizing imagery – its true beauty lies in the fact that it reveals the most intimate, the realization of the fundamental importance of a mother for one’s life and the radical act of giving life, as more epic than anything men can cause, e.g. deathly wars, in the world. Yes, Maquia might offer some good-old melodrama – so please beware – but Okada has not failed to compose a truly refreshing take on the fantasy genre.

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We Are Little Zombies (2019) by Makoto Nagahisa.

Even though the fluid and energetic mix of styles might be a bit exhausting at times, We Are Little Zombies stands as an amazing achievement of creativity – a creativity born from Nagahisa’s choice to let the subjectivity of his protagonists dictate the cinematographical composition as such. Nagahisa’s visual and intellectual experiment, an experiment revealing his firm grasp of the medium of film and the evocative and poetic potential of the signifier, is one of the most original narratives to be released  dealing with the coming-into-being-of-grief through the questioning of the dimension of love. With We Are Little Zombies, Nagahisa has earned himself the honour to be considered as one of the most promising directors of Japan today.

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