Tuesday October 21, 2014
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The 100 Best Contemporary Japanese Movies - Psycho Drama has launched an ambitious project to compile 100 of the best modern-day Japanese movies from the last 2 decades or so. Featuring the best young actors of their generation - from Joe Odagiri, Takako Matsu and Tadanobu Asano, to Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Mao Inoue, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shun Oguri and Masanabu Ando to the current crop of exciting young talents - Shota Sometani, Yuya Yagira, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kento Yamazaki, Fumi Nikaido and Ai Hashimoto. [ click here ]

I am amazed at the audacity of some critics who keep on comparing the original Misaki Kobayashi's 1962 film Harakiri with Satoshi Miike's remake. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I can't help but feel annoyed for making it a big issue. Here's just an example:

Now, this was a totally pointless film. It adds nothing to the great original, it only downgrades every aspect of it. The incompetend actors couldn't possibly compare with the standard Tatsuya Nakadai and the others set 40 years before. [ source ]

I'm sorry but there is no such word as incompetend!

You can praise to high heavens the 1962 original black and white version and tell me about its timeless appeal. But what can I say? I just love Miike's version, and I admire Ebizo Ichikawa, Koji Yakusho, Eita Nagayama and the entire cast.

Since Psycho Drama's focus is on young acting talents, we can't help but put the spotlight on Eita. Aside from the actual Seppuku, Eita's many scenes were simply awesome - one of them is when he has to eat the eggs that fell on the ground.

On Eita's acting highlight, it was shot is such a way that you can't help but feel for the character. I remember one scene in Atonement when James McAvoy saw the massacre of young girls, it has that kind of impact on me. I've seen Eita in Dear Doctor, Memories of Matsuko, Wild 7 and Season of Snow, but this movie is perhaps his best performance yet.

Says Miike of Eita's appeal as Motome:

Eita holds the charisma of youth. His appeal is his subtle sensitivity and depth in his presence. On the surface, he appears quiet and kind, but amid that stillness lies a knife with an incredible cutting edge which contributes to his sharp performance. [ source ]

I also think this is a time when we need to listen to the filmmaker himself.

It just so happened that this kind of epic film was my next film after 13 Assassins. I don't plan to make only films like this. The touchstone benchmark is quality over quantity. By quality, I mean what kindles your heart or whether or not it makes you feel free as you devote yourself to the filming. Next fall, I will shoot a TV drama for late night television that is ruinously low-budget. But with low-budget works comes an excitement that can only be relished through low-budget.

What excites me about ressurecting this film from the past is being able to feel first hand the existence of the universal human suffering which Harakiri: Death of a Samurai depicts at its core as it transcends time, genres and countries.

My new versions share everything in common with the old films yet everything is a little off. Since things like originality or being finicky about some worthless triviality were thrown away a long time ago, one cannot compare two works by lining them up next to each other. They are only connected in tandem as part of the flow of time in which they were created. [ source ]

What the Movie is all about: Seeking a noble end, poverty-stricken samurai Hanshiro requests to commit ritual suicide at the House of Ii, run by headstrong Kageyu. Trying to dismiss Hanshiro's demand, Kageyu recounts the tragic story of a similar recent plea from young ronin Motome.

Peaceful times in Edo (ancient Tokyo) have resulted in massive ronin unemployment, and those who cannot find new samurai positions are condemned to poverty. Many turn to petty extortion by threatening to commit hara-kiri at a noble house in the hope of receiving a handout to leave the owners in peace. With this in mind, desperate Motome calls on the House of Ii to try and save his sickly wife and dying baby. But Kageyu's samurai convince him to make an example of Motome and call his bluff. Dreadfully, Motome has long sold his sword and is forced into an agonizing suicide using a bamboo blade.

Hanshiro is shocked by the horrifying details of Motome's fate, but remains true to his decision to die with honor. At the moment of the hara-kiri, Hanshiro makes a last request to be assisted by Kageyu's samurai who are coincidentally absent. Suspicious and outraged, Kageyu demands an explanation. Hanshiro confesses his bond to Motome and tells the bittersweet tale of their lives... Kageyu will soon realise that Hanshiro has set in motion a tense showdown of vengeance against his house...

I've watched many movies that moved me, made me cry, made me laugh so hard it hurts. But I can't help but admire this movie for the emotional impact it brings. I watched 13 Assassins and marveled at the fight scenes, but there is such power of beauty, of subtlety in Harakiri you cannot find in the former.

Have you seen this movie already? What can you say about the film and the acting? Let us know what you think!

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East Winds Film Festival from October 31st-Nov 2nd

In partnership with Coventry University and Third Window Films, East Winds will be celebrating East Asian film and culture through a selection of 11 International, European and UK Premieres from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand, ranging from star-studded action blockbusters and chilling horrors to touching dramas and delightful comedies.

Alongside some pretty major titles such as the European Premieres of 'Partners in Crime', 'Z Storm', 'Record of Sweet Murder' and 'Teacher's Diary' (Thailand's Oscar submission) there are also many other UK premieres and 2 new Third Window genre titles: 'Greatful Dead' and 'The Lust of Angels' which will play.

More details at the Film Festival website

Essential Sites & Blogs

13oys and Men  - Promoting the awesome and talented young Japanese actors, with lots of screenshots and insights into the careers of top and upcoming young talents. 

Asian Addicts Anonymous - Comprehensive reviews and recaps of exciting Japanese drama, including interesting post on Asian music and movie news.

Dorama Doll - a new blog that will feature recaps of selected Japanese dramas, most probably related to Johnny & Associates talents, with some great recommendations on what to watch if you're new to the J-drama scene.

Genkinahito's Blog - Reviews, news, box office results & some amazing insights into Japanese films, including manga and anime.

My Drama Tea - Honest and insightful reviews of Japanese drama, also reviews of Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese dramas, with music news and movie reviews.

Ritsu No Dorama Land - J-dorama reviews with a difference, complete with recaps that really complements the review. 

One Take on Japan - A series of articles about the Japanese movie industry written by Don Brown, who makes English subtitles for Japanese films.

OtherWhere - Excellent and varied trailer showcase, insightful reviews of Japanese movies (both indies and mainstream), and a great resource for news on Studio Ghibli too!

The Corner of the Mind - Drama reviews (with detailed analysis of up and coming dramas via first impressions) and anime spotlights.

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