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    Cannes 2015: ‘An’ (Sweet Red Bean Paste), a taste of Japan

    Alright-ness continues at this year’s festival with the Un Certain Regard opening film An (“Sweet Red Bean Paste”) by Cannes regular Naomi Kawase. The film stars Masatoshi Nagase as Sen, a middle-aged dorayaki pastry maker with alcohol issues and Kirin Kiki as Tokue, an elderly woman eager to work as Sen’s assistant in the pastry shop. The youthful touch is provided by Kyara Uchida as a shy schoolgirl having a hard time getting along with her single mother. Reluctant at first, Sen ends up admiring Tokue’s unique bean paste making talent and employs her to the displeasure of the pastry shop’s owner. Gradually, the three generations forge an intimate friendship as their respective traumas are revealed. More

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    Cannes Day 1: Hospitality, Warmth and Good Looks

    Arriving in Cannes jetlagged on a cloudless summer morning (the Mediterranean summer’s already here) I was greeted by a cultural shock of sorts – the hundreds of festival staff, hosts, security, building contractors, are all extremely friendly, helpful, polite and funny – the antithesis of Paris. The Parisian crowd stands out a mile away from […] More

  • Still the Water Jun Yoshinaga

    GFF 2015: ‘Still the Water’ is an exquisite, Zen-infused coming of age drama

    Set on the Japanese tropical island Amami, Still the Water is a Zen-infused coming of age drama, exploring the personal revelations that come with life, death and love. Directed by the Caméra d’Or winner Naomi Kawase and selected to compete for last year’s Palme, it is a serene, contemplative film that comes alive in moments of harmony and rupture. Shot using primarily handheld cameras, Kawase casts a documentarian’s gaze over what develops into a quietly forceful narrative, allowing the exquisite setting to provide much of the visual flair. More

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    Night Train to Tokyo: ‘Café Lumière’ and Ozu’s Legacy

    Taiwan’s Hsiao-hsien Hou has often spoken of his admiration for Japanese master Yasujirō Ozu. In the 1993 documentary Talking with Ozu, attached to the Criterion edition of Tokyo Story and featuring such commentators as Claire Denis and Aki Kaurismäki, he compares the man’s work to that of a mathematician: one that observes and studies in a detached, clinical fashion. Often, returning to […] More

  • Still the Water poster

    Cannes 2014: ‘Still the Water’ recedes from Kawase’s magic

    Naomi Kawase’s particular brand of spiritual filmmaking reaches its most explicit in Still the Water, a coming-of-age tale mixed with themes of love, death, and nature. Though it comes across as a story still interested in exploration of big ideas through a humble sort of filmmaking, this wears Kawase’s pet themes on its sleeves and doesn’t hold back from finding ways to promptly shoving them in the audience’s faces. Because of this evident literalization, the film solely rides upon the execution of actions: dances, songs, and tears. Like the waves of its local beach, Still the Water rises and recedes, leaving it an enjoyable but infuriating mess. More

  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya - Isao Takahata

    Cannes 2014: ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ a beautiful but floundering anti-fairy-tale

    Taking many of its features from Studio Ghibli mainstays, Isao Takahata’s latest film The Tale of Princess Kaguya tackles an age-old folktale from Japan, bringing the studio’s warmth and childhood imagination to a mythic scale. It’s based upon The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter with a visual style imitating children’s storybooks or perhaps the scroll of the tale itself. It’s an act of wonderment to be in the presence of fluid, beautiful hand-drawn animation in a time clamoring for more and more computers at play, but the nostalgic value only barely supersedes its rough-and-tumble approach to adapting the anti-fairy-tale to the big screen. More

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    ‘Okami’, the novel of games

    Okami is one of the most beautiful games to watch come to life on screen. Some might find the computer generated voices and large amounts of reading off putting. However, as someone who has practically grown up inside a book, Okami is simply an animated novel that I am able to interact with. More

  • The Tale of Iya Rina Takeda

    GFF 2014: ‘The Tale of Iya’ is a film of serene and organic beauty

    Shot with remarkable assurance on 35mm film, Tetsuichirô Tsuta’s second feature The Tale of Iya instantly has the feel of a classic. It opens with a scene of serene and organic beauty, starting with a flurry of snow falling from the half-lit sky. A man in traditional rural dress walks out of a humble wooden shrine and stumbles through the drifts, simultaneously battling with and assimilating the hostile conditions. He comes across a car accident; the driver is flung through the windscreen and both passengers are obviously dead. Moving on, he notices a flash of pink on the frozen river, a baby girl in a snowsuit crawling on the ice. He watches her for a moment, then walks over and picks her up, as the snow continues to fall around them. More

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    Fantasia Film Fest 2013: Top Five Sion Sono Films

    Closing off the 2013 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival is a new film by long time Fantasia favourite Sion Sono. Sion Sono is one of the few filmmakers to completely embody the ethos of Fantasia and he has been an almost constant presence at the festival since he won the award for most […] More

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    Glasgow Film Festival 2012: ‘A Boy and His Samurai’ is a generally charming family film

    A Boy and His Samurai Written and directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura Japan, 2010 Yoshihiro Nakamura’s fish-out-of-water comedy, based on a manga, concerns an Edo period samurai thrust forward in time to contemporary Tokyo and befriended by a single mother and her young son. Instead of a narrative rooted in the action film genre like one may […] More

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