It’s film festival season right now – and the BFI London Film Festival returns 4 – 15 October this year! While the wealth of Japanese films that will be screening may not be good news for your wallet, it’s good news for those of you who can’t get enough of them.
Whether it’s comedy, LGBT, action or short films, there’s something for everyone in terms of Japanese films. Tickets are on sale now and selling fast, so here’s what’s in store…
Blade of the Immortal (director: Takashi Miike, 2017)
In the Shogunate era, a samurai cursed with immortal life teams up with a young girl to avenge the murder of her parents. Haunted by the death of his sister, Manji sees a chance for redemption when he meets a young girl whose parents have been murdered. The culprits, a team of master swordsmen, come from the Ittō-ryū, a cruel school of fighting that demands victory by any means necessary. One by one, Manji tracks them down in this savage and inventive action thriller. Blade of the Immortal is legendary Takashi Miike’s 100th film.
Close-Knit (director Naoko Ogigami, 2017)
Knitting is catharsis for Rinko, a transwoman whose maternal feelings are stirred by the arrival of her boyfriend’s 11-year-old niece, Tomo. Abandoned by her mum, resilient Tomo is used to fending for herself and now Rinko (played by heartthrob Toma Ikuta) must gain the trust of the insecure little girl. Those seeking Western gender politics or a sassy trans heroine are in for something different here. Although Rinko’s knitting patterns do have a subversive streak, her feminine values are more aligned with genteel passivity and familial subservience. A quietly subversive and emotionally rich film to treasure.
Lu Over the Wall (director Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)
Kai lives in a small fishing town with his superstitious grandfather. The old man warns him of the dangers of the merfolk, who he believes will cause them harm. When confronted by bullies, Kai is helped by Lu, a fun-loving mermaid who loves music but is vulnerable to sunlight. With a local seafood company posing a threat to the town and a number of its inhabitants hostile towards the mer people, Lu, Kai and his friends must club together to ensure both communities survive.
Big Fish and Begonia (directors Xuan Liang, Chun Zhang, 2016)
Beneath the human world is a mystical domain whose inhabitants, once they turn 16 years old must travel through a vortex to observe mankind for a week. During this time, they are barred from direct contact with the human beings. Young Chun takes the form of a dolphin, but on her journey unwittingly finds herself in a life and death situation involving a human boy that results in her making a huge decision. Big Fish & Begonia is an exceptional, visually breathtaking Chinese animated fantasy, as near to the best of Studio Ghibli as you’re likely to find anywhere.
Funeral Parade of Roses (director Toshio Matsumoto, 1969)
Take a walk on the subversive side with Toshio Matsumoto’s wild, kaleidoscopic vision of the underground scene in 1960s Japan. Matsumoto’s journey takes us through the drag queen bars, dimly-lit nightclubs and student digs that defined Tokyo’s counter-cultural landscape is a hallucinogenic blast. Eddie, one of the most desired hostesses at Bar Genet, has a tryst with the bar’s owner, infuriating the bar’s domineering drag queen-cum-matriarch Leda, ultimately leading to violence. Blending fictional drama with dramatic documentary footage, Matsumoto rails against Japanese patriarchy, American imperialism and what he saw as his country’s inability to reconcile its outdated value system with a rapidly changing world.
Mutafukaz (director Shojiro Nishimi)
If you see just one dystopian hip hop sci-fi animated feature this year… Loser pizza-delivery boy Angelino and his flaming-headed buddy Vinz live in a Californian ghetto called Dark Meat City. It’s a cockroach-infested hell hole but it’s home and orphan Angelino survives by keeping his big round head down. However, after clocking a mysterious girl Angelino starts seeing odd things about certain people on the street. And this They Live-style revelation sends him on the run from some shadowy square-jawed men in black. Pop culture references abound, from Batman and Ren and Stimpy to Grand Theft Auto. But nothing comes close to the high levels of WTF-ness on display here.
Delete Beach (director Phil Collins, 2016)
A collaboration between artist Phil Collins and leading animation studio Studio 4°C.
And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool (director Makoto Nagahisa, 2016)
To & Kyo (director Tsuneo Goda, 2017)
Tsuneo Goda of Domo internet meme fame takes us on an animated tour of Downtown Toyko.