Nippon Connection 2021: our recommendations

Introduction

The 21st Nippon Connection Film Festival is upon us, a cinematic feast of “Fine entertainment, food for thought, five world premieres and a touch of Japanese wackiness and warmth”. While we of course encourage the audience to explore the many films this rich festival has to offer, we do want to introduce our recommendations, films that we think are worth seeing and offer certain experience, whether pleasing or confronting.

Our recommendations

Aristrocrats (2021) by Yukiko Sode.

Aristocrats is a great narrative, not only because Yukiko Sode beautifully evokes how women become victim of the traditional patriarchal elite and how subjective happiness is not found in the mere acceptance of one’s own exploitation, but also because she succeeds in revealing something (highly problematic) about this class via the way she structured her narrative as such. Yet, this a-dramatic structure might also put off and disappoint spectators. Yet, it seems that Sode intended to generate some disappointment in the spectator. A risky choice, because it will divide her audience, but also brilliant because it shows that she is not afraid to play with her spectators to make her point. 

A Girl Missing (2020) by Koji Fukada

With A Girl Missing, Koji Fukada delivers another amazing narrative. His latest narrative succeeds, due to its inventive a-chronological structure and the powerful performances by Mariko Tsutsui and Mikako Ichikawa, in exploring, in a nuanced but moving manner, the destructive power of the media, the danger of leaving things unsaid, and the fact that mundane or empty speech is, by its reliance on the imaginary dimension, structured by misrecognition.

Daughters (2020) by Hajime Tsuda

Hajime Tsuda’s Daughters is a great narrative. With his simple, gentle, and authentic exploration of how a pregnancy rewrites one’s current and future life, Tsuda proves that one does not need a complex narrative or a profound thematic depth to touch the spectator. And given the traditional ideas and ideals that persist in the Japanese Other, Tsuda’s narrative might very well play an important role in ‘decriminalizing’ the notion of conscious single motherhood.

Yes, Yes, yes (2021) by Akihiko Yano

Yes, Yes, Yes is a raw and powerful drama narrative that confronts the spectator with the inherent difficulty of accepting the loss of a loved one. In a very precise manner, Yano shows the need for loss to be socialized and how the failure to bring the notion of loss into play at an intersubjective level causes either a social or a subjective ravage. An impressive debut by Akihiko Yano.

One Night (2019) by Kazuya Hiraishi

While One Night is a great narrative, offering a nuanced and rich exploration of interpersonal dynamics, Shiraishi’s narrative fails in giving this rich tapestry of interpersonal conflict a fitting finale. The finale may be touching and provide a shimmer of hope for the future of this broken family, but its forced and melodramatic nature might deprive the spectator from the genuine catharsis he was looking for.   

Red Post on Escher Street (2020) by Sion Sono

Red Post on Escher Street is a powerful formal experiment by Sion Sono. While some might argue that Sono’s latest lacks narrative density, those spectators do not realize that Sion Sono explores his theme, the vitality of desire, in a kaleidoscopic manner. With his characteristic visual and vocal poetry, Sion Sono does not only offer an eloquent celebration of the beauty of the crazy little thing called desire, but also delivers a truly powerful encouragement for the contemporary subject to unshackle himself from the societal or psychological imposed restrictions and fight for his/her inherently transgressive desire.

Red post on Escher Street (2020) by Sion Sono

Special Actors (2019) by Shinichiro Ueda.

While Shinichiro Ueda’s follow-up Special Actors is not able to reach the heights of his monster-hit One Cut Of The Dead at any point, Ueda still delivers a smartly constructed, highly unpredictable and fun exploration of the ‘rent-an-actor’ phenomenon and the necessity for the subject to pass through anxiety in order to manifest himself as a desiring subject.

Shiver (2021) by Toshiaki Toyoda

Shiver is not only an unforgettable audiovisual experience, but also delivers the proof that, in these Covid times, there are ways to share culture with the world. While Toyoda’s film cannot in any way replace the concert experience, this audiovisual experience does introduce the art of taiko music in a fresh and innovative way – highly intimate and, strange as it may sound, very tactile.

Day of Destruction (2020) by Toshiaki Toyoda

While Day of Destruction may seem like a badly developed narrative at first, spectators able to read the subtext – a subtext that becomes that much clearer if one has seen A Wolf’s Calling (2019) and knows some of Toyoda’s background, will easily see that that’s not the case at all.  With Day of Destruction Toyoda does not only offer a truly pleasing audiovisual experience but also a powerful poetic exploration of the ills of Japanese society and the need to change it for the better.   

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