Posts Tagged ‘Japanese’

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2017) ****

Dir.: Mari Okada (Co-director Toshya Shinohara); Anime with the voices of Manaka Iwami, Miyh Irino, Ai Kayano; Japan 2018, 115 min.

This debut anime by writer/director Mari Okada (who scripted Anthem of the Heart) is a stunning and moving portrait of an immortal teenager to coming to terms with inevitable loss of her close friends and family. Maquia (Iwami) belongs a to the clan of the Iolphs, elf-like creatures, who live forever, locked in their teenage years. A fiercely proud and loyal people, their heritage is preserved and passed on in their craft of weaving, called Hibbiol. But the Iolphs’ secret of immortality is coveted by a neighbouring kingdom, and Maquia’s friend Leilla is captured and forced to marry the Crown Prince of the Royals after they ambush the Iolphs. Leilla soon bears him a child who she is not allowed to see. 

Meanwhile Maquia wonders around lost in the world of the humans, depressed and disorientated. Finding a baby boy, whose mother was killed by the King’s forces, Maquia adopts him and calls him Erial (Irino). The remainder of the story involves Maquia’s development from child to adult, stuck in her teenage body and overcoming existential angst. There are delightfully rendered scenes of the countryside, where mother and son spend an enchanting time together. But when they move to the capital, their relationship becomes complicated with Maquia staying a teenager and her son growing up. Gradually the two come to terms with each other in the moving finale that is considerably enhanced by Kenji Kawai’s original score. 

Okada avoids romanticising her story, concentrating on the fate of her heroine and her struggle to find an identity in the human world in a wonderfully emotional feature dominated by memory and loss. AS



The Third Murder (2017)

Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda | Thriller | Japan | 120′
Festival favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda (Still Walking, Nobody Knows) offers an engrossing murder mystery about a defence lawyer who believes that his client — a self-confessed killer — is the fall guy for a conspiracy. A lengthy crime procedural provides the backbone to this luminously filmed but alienating arthouse affair that asks the question: who is judging the judges?

The central character is the suave and convincing lawyer Shigemori (Fukuyama Masaharu/Like Father, Like Son) who is called to investigate the case of a man who has spent three decades in prison for a double murder and has subsequently confessed to killing his factory-owning boss and burning his body. We witness the murder in the opening scene, so clearly Misumi (Yakusho Koji) must be guilty; strangely, it is Shigemori’s father who handed him a life sentence, instead of the death penalty, but times have changed.

The problem is that Misumi keeps changing his story, making things difficult for
Shigemori, the son of a retired judge, who is forced to keep writing and re-writing his script in order to get the most plausible defence for the murderer. To make matters worse, his own personal life is fraught with problems: estranged from his daughter, who is caught for shop-lifting, he is also separated from his wife. As he gets to know Misumi over their constant meetings, it soon emerges that their behaviour is very similar, they appear to be one in the same person, on different sides of the law.

This is a subtle but thematically rich crime thriller, brilliant in concept but less so in execution, despite Takimoto Makiya’s stunning camerawork, and Ludovico Einaudi’s moody score. The fault, at least for non-Japanese speakimg audiences, is its dialogue-led narrative which keeps us glued to the subtitles while scanning up and down the screen in case we miss vital clues, making it heavy-going, despite its universal themes rippling out to provide endless food for thought. MT

Hirokazu Kore-eda was born in Tokyo, where he studied literature at Waseda University. He is a master dramatist whose features include Maborosi (95), After Life (98), Distance (01), Nobody Knows (04), Hana (06), Still Walking (08), Air Doll (09), I Wish (11), Like Father, Like Son (13), Our Little Sister (15), and After the Storm (16), all of which have played the Festival. The Third Murder (17) is his latest film.


House | Hansu (1977) | Dual format release

Dir: Nobuhiko Obayashi | Chiho Katsura | Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba | Fantasy Horror | 88′

This utterly outlandish cult fantasy flick feels like Five Go Mad in Dorset translocated to Japan and directed by Mario Bava. Nobuhiko Obayashi’s second feature follows the endlessly silly and psychedelic shenanigans of a motherless Japanese teenager who sets off with her six school friends to escape a much yearned for summer holiday with her dad and his new, weirdly placid girlfriend. Oshare (Ikegami) and her mates eventually fetch up in a carnivorous countryside cottage belonging to her aunt, who has since died and haunts the property along with her demonic cat. The cartoonish craziness is a non-ending nubile nightmare featuring phantasmagorical happenings: a carnivorous piano; a vomiting picture, spooky sound effects (including a catchy piano theme tune), as the giggly girls disappear one by one in this lewd, low-budget grand guignol gobsmacker.   MT





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