Getting international recognition is a big issue for aspiring actors, and that includes everyone in Japan who would love to add to their acting resume a trophy/award from a prestigious international film festival. While it is not an assurance that a critical acclaim or recognition would bring in more casting scoops, it is an important factor in pushing one's career into higher gear.

Think of the young Yuya Yagira after winning the Best Actor trophy at Cannes. The same can be said of Shota Sometani's win at Venice with an equally prestigious acting award - the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor for Sion Sono's Himizu.

Says Mark Kermode @The Guardian:

In the wake of the disaster Sono opted to use the devastation as a backdrop to Himizu, which emerges from the wreckage as a quasi-apocalyptic ode to the persistence of the human spirit and the indestructibility of (troubled) young dreams. Perhaps it is these staggering vistas of devastation (think of John Hillcoat's The Road multiplied by a factor of 10) which lend such philosophical weight to a project which is nevertheless still defined by the director's trademark anarchic excess; at times you really want him to back off and just play a straight bat, although to do so would be grossly uncharacteristic. Yet amid the familiar hyperkinetic madness, we find two very affecting performances – by Shota Sometani as angst-ridden Sumida and Fumi Nikaido as the relentlessly perky Keiko – which anchor the drama's central theme of the young generation carrying the weight of the world upon their not-so-fragile shoulders. There are moments of intense stillness, too – dreamy vistas of a lakeside paradise, eerie visions of love among the ruins – which punctuate the frenzied air of (self-)destruction and suggest a growing maturity in the fiftysomething film-maker who has previously been accused of terminal adolescence. [ read more ]

[ Shota in one of the most intense scenes in the movie, where he is about to go to the city to kill anyone he thinks is not worthy of living ]

[ The film's end is both tragic and hopeful, with the two kids running, and Sumida about to give himself up - 'Sumida Ganbaru' Sumida - don't give up! don't give up! ]

Himizu is a scalding critique of those from the Japanese "baby boomer" generation who blame younger generations for their own financial and moral incompetence. Director Sion Sono draws on historical (World War II) and contemporary (the Fukushima nuclear disaster) examples to illustrate his point. However, while our failures are collective, the decision to succumb to or endure these hardships remains a personal choice.

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Friends asked me, why promote Sometani so much - every video, every single casting news. 

The answer: He's so fucking talented!

I don't usually swear but watching that Himizu ending made me realize just how awesome the movie is - the intense roller coaster ride from hell, death and tragedy and then to redemption. You enter a dark, lonely and devastating place only to exit with a blinding light at the end of the tunnel - truly an inspiring piece of cinema.

Up Next: Essential Shota Sometani dramas.

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