Japan Film Festival in Poland 2013 – Warsaw, Poland

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Japan Film Festival in Poland 2013 will take place in Warsaw, Poland from June 16th – June 19th, 2013 at Kino Kultura Theater.

The films scheduled to be screened at the film festival were selected with the supervision of Jerzy Skolimowski and counsel from the Polish Film Institute. In addition to the classic masterpieces, the Film Festival will put an emphasis on introducing the 21st century films of Japan, such as adaptation from the novel written by Haruki Murakami, whom Mr. Skolimowski mentions to be the most famous Japanese person in Poland. In addition, the blockbuster film based on original comics as well as acclaimed animation film and documentary depicting the Great East Japan Earthquake were selected for the screening at the Japan Film Festival in Poland 2013.

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The Japan Film Festival in Poland 2013 is an affiliated project of Polish Film Festival 2013 scheduled to be held in approximately 10 cities throughout Japan including Tokyo starting from November of 2013.

The 9 Film Selection

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Tokyo Story (東京物語 Tōkyō Monogatari) directed by Yasujirō Ozu. 

Tokyo Story is the greatest treasure of Japanese cinema, Yasujiro Ozu’s most enduring masterpiece. The film is depicted with austere and refined cinematic style in which we get a comprehensive view of all the Ozu’s films that rendered stories about families which he continually portrayed throughout a lifetime. Through an aging couple on their journey from their rural village to visit their children living in Tokyo, such themes as parent and grown child relationship, family ties, aging, death and isolation are depicted with deeply affecting spirituality and tranquility; and are followed by the revealing of the collapse of family. Recently, Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story was chosen as the best film in British Film Institute’s The Greatest Film polls of “Director’s Top 10” voted by the world’s renowned directors and was published in the Sight & Sound.

Yasujiro Ozu

About the Director
Yasujirō Ozu (小津 安二郎:12 December 1903 – 12 December 1963) was a Japanese film director and screenwriter. He began his career during the era of silent films. Ozu made fifty-three films: twenty-six in his first five years as a director, and all but three for the Shochiku studio. Ozu first made a number of short comedies, before turning to more serious themes in the 1930s. Marriage and family, especially the relationships between the generations, are among the themes in his work. His outstanding works include Late Spring (1949), Early Summer (1951), Tokyo Story (1953), and Floating Weeds (1959). He made great use of ellipsis, where many events are not depicted visually, and he also used a style of cinematography in which the camera rarely moves and is usually positioned below the eye level of the actors. His reputation has continued to grow since his death, and he is widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential directors.

Staff / Cast
Director: Yasujirō Ozu
Producer: Takeshi Yamamoto
Screenplay: Kōgo Noda and Yasujirō Ozu
Starring: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama and Setsuko Hara
Music: Kojun Saitō
Cinematographer: Atsuta Yuharu
Film Editor: Yoshiyasu Hamamura
Motion Picture Studio: Shochiku
Release date(s): November 3, 1953
Running time: 136 minutes
Country of Film Production: Japan
Language: Japanese

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Tokyo Story – A Review by Roger Ebert ★★★★ (October 16th, 1972)

Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” tells a tale as simple and universal as life itself. It is about a few ordinary days in the lives of some ordinary people, and then about the unanticipated death of one of them. What it tells us about the nature of life or death is not new or original — what could be? — but it is true.

Ozu’s story can be summarized in a few words. An old couple make the long train trip to Tokyo to visit their children. During their stay of a week or 10 days, they are treated politely but with a certain distraction; life moves quickly in the big city, and there is not always time for the parents and their courtly provincial ways. On the train journey home, the mother falls ill. The children are summoned, and all but one are at the bedside when she dies.

There is great sadness, of course, and sympathy for the old father. But life must go on. The children were casually indifferent to their parents in life. Now that the mother is dead, they speak of their regrets that they didn’t do more for her; but they also maneuver quietly for some of her possessions, and within a day after the funeral they have all returned to the city, leaving the father alone.

Of all the relatives, the one who is most considerate of the father is not even a blood relative: a daughter-in-law, the widow of a son who died, was the warmest toward the old couple when they were in Tokyo, and now she is the kindest to the old man. He tells her, after his wife’s funeral, that she should remarry as soon as possible. “My son is dead,” he says, “and it is not right for you not to marry.” He says he would feel better if she forgot his son; he does not see any irony in this attitude, so soon after his wife’s funeral, and perhaps there really isn’t any.

“Tokyo Story” was made in 1953, or at about the same period that a group of great Japanese films was beginning to make a first impression on Western audiences. The best known are “Rashomon,” “Ugetsu Monogatari” and “Gates of Hell.” But “Tokyo Story” was not imported at that time, and its current national release represents a kind of posthumous tribute to Ozu.

It is clear that “Tokyo Story” was one of the unacknowledged masterpieces of the early-1950s Japanese cinema, and that Ozu has more than a little in common with that other great director, Kenji Mizoguchi (“Ugetsu”). Both of them use their cameras as largely impassive, honest observers. Both seem reluctant to manipulate the real time in which their scenes are acted; Ozu uses very restrained editing, and Mizoguchi often shoots scenes in unbroken takes.

This objectivity creates an interesting effect; because we are not being manipulated by devices of editing and camera movement, we do not at first have any very strong reaction to “Tokyo Story.” We miss the visual cues and shorthand used by Western directors to lead us by the nose. With Ozu, it’s as if the characters are living their lives unaware that a movie is being shot. And so we get to know them gradually, begin to look for personal characteristics and to understand the implications of little gestures and quiet remarks.

“Tokyo Story” moves quite slowly by our Western standards, and requires more patience at first than some moviegoers may be willing to supply. Its effect is cumulative, however; the pace comes to seem perfectly suited to the material. And there are scenes that will be hard to forget: The mother and father separately thanking the daughter-in-law for her kindness; the father’s laborious drunken odyssey through a night of barroom nostalgia; and his reaction when he learns that his wife will probably die.

We speak so casually of film “classics” that it is a little moving to find one that has survived 20 years of neglect, only to win Western critical acclaim nine years after the director’s death.

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Yojimbo (用心棒 Yōjinbō) directed by Akira Kurosawa

Yojimbo is Akira Kurosawa’s thrilling samurai masterpiece which was inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s novel “Red Harvest”. A mysterious ronin, a master less samurai wanders into a small post town and into a feud between two rival gangs. The ronin drifter who calls himself “Kuwabatake Sanjuro,” tells the gangs that he will take sides with the best bidder. Eventually Sanjuro uses his cunning tactics to play off one gang against the other; manipulating the two gangs into wiping each other out and finally cleans up the town. The thrilling and realistic sword-fighting; deformation of characters with the use of prosthetic makeup; the large-boned drama direction depicting the mixture of barbarous and humorous scenes, which greatly influenced the Japanese period drama made from this point forward and furthermore gave a massive influence to many of the spaghetti Westerns.

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About the Director
Akira Kurosawa (黒澤 明: March 23, 1910 – September 6, 1998) was a Japanese film director, screenwriter, producer, and editor. Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years. Kurosawa entered the Japanese film industry in 1936, following a brief stint as a painter. After years of working on numerous films as an assistant director and scriptwriter, he made his debut as a director in 1943, during World War II with the popular action film Sanshiro Sugata (a.k.a. Judo Saga). After the war, the critically acclaimed Drunken Angel (1948), in which Kurosawa cast then-unknown actor Toshiro Mifune in a starring role, cemented the director’s reputation as one of the most important young filmmakers in Japan. The two men would go on to collaborate on another 15 films. Rashomon, which premiered in Tokyo in August 1950, and which also starred Mifune, became, on September 10, 1951, the surprise winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was subsequently released in Europe and North America. The commercial and critical success of this film opened up Western film markets for the first time to the products of the Japanese film industry, which in turn led to international recognition for other Japanese filmmakers. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Kurosawa directed approximately a film a year, including a number of highly regarded films such as Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961). After the mid-1960s, he became much less prolific, but his later work—including his final two epics, Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985)—continued to win awards, including the Palme d’Or for Kagemusha, though more often abroad than in Japan. In 1990, he accepted the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Posthumously, he was named “Asian of the Century” in the “Arts, Literature, and Culture” category by AsianWeek magazine and CNN, cited as “one of the [five] people who contributed most to the betterment of Asia in the past 100 years”.

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Staff / Cast
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Producer: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa and Tomoyuki Tanaka
Screenplay: Ryuzo Kikushima and Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yoko Tsukasa and Isuzu Yamada
Music: Masaru Sato
Cinematographer: Kazuo Miyagawa and Takao Saito
Editor: Akira Kurosawa
Distributor: Toho
Release date(s): April 25, 1961
Running time: 110 minutes
Country of Film Production: Japan
Language: Japanese

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Yojimbo – A Review by Roger Ebert ★★★★ (April 10th, 2005)

Almost the first thing the samurai sees when he arrives is a dog trotting down the main street with a human hand in its mouth. The town seems deserted until a nervous little busybody darts out and offers to act as an employment service: He’ll get the samurai a job as a yojimbo — a bodyguard. The samurai, a large, dusty man with indifference bordering on insolence, listens and does not commit. He wants sake and something to eat.

So opens “Yojimbo” (1961), Akira Kurosawa’s most popular film in Japan. He was deliberately combining the samurai story with the Western, so that the wind-swept main street could be in any frontier town, the samurai (Toshiro Mifune) could be a gunslinger, and the local characters could have been lifted from John Ford’s gallery of supporting actors.

Ironic, that having borrowed from the Western, Kurosawa inspired one: Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964), with Clint Eastwood, is so similar to “Yojimbo” that homage shades into plagiarism. Even Eastwood’s Man With No Name is inspired, perhaps, by the samurai in “Yojimbo.” Asked his name, the samurai looks out the window, sees a mulberry field, and replies, “Kuwabatake Sanjuro,” which means “30-year-old mulberry field.” He is 30, and that is a way of saying he has no name.

He also has no job. The opening titles inform us that in 1860, after the collapse of the Tokugawa Dynasty, samurai were left unemployed and wandered the countryside in search of work. We see Sanjuro at a crossroads, throwing a stick into the air and walking in the direction it points. That brings him to the town, to possible employment, and to a situation that differs from Hollywood convention in that the bad guys are not attacking the good guys because there are no good guys: “There is,” the critic Donald Richie observes, “almost no one in the whole town who for any conceivable reason is worth saving.” It’s said Kurosawa’s inspiration was Dashiell Hammett’s novel Red Harvest, in which a private eye sets one gang against another.

Sanjuro’s strategy is to create great interest about himself while keeping his motives obscure. He needs money and so presumably must hire himself out as a bodyguard to one of the two warring factions. There is the silk dealer and the sake merchant, both with private armies, who occupy headquarters at either end of the town. In between, the townspeople cower behind closed shutters and locked doors, and the film’s visuals alternate between the emptiness of the windswept street, shots looking out through the slats of shutters and the chinks in walls, and shots from outdoors showing people peering through their shutters.

Richie, whose writings on Kurosawa are invaluable, notes that Kurosawa’s shots are always at right angles to what they show; they either look straight up and down the street, or straight into or out of the buildings, and “there are very few diagonal shots.” The purpose may be to emphasize the simplicity of the local situation: Two armies face each other, the locals observe the main street as if it’s a stage, and the samurai himself embodies the diagonal — the visitor who stands at an angle to everyone and upsets the balance of power. Indeed, in a crucial early scene, as the two sides face each other nervously from either end of the street and dart forward fearfully in gestures of attack, Sanjuro sits high above the action in the central bell tower, looks down and is vastly amused.

His strategy is to hire himself out as a yojimbo to first one side and then the other, and do no actual bodyguarding at all. His amorality is so complete that we are a little startled when he performs a good deed. A farmer and his wife, possibly the only two good people in the town, are kidnapped. Sanjuro, employed by the side that kidnapped them, kills their six guards, frees them, tears up a house to make it look like there was a fierce struggle, and blames it on the other side. Disloyal to his employer? Yes, but early in the film, he is offered 50 ryo by one of the leaders, only to overhear the man’s wife telling him, “We’d save the whole 50 ryo if we killed him after he wins.”

Sanjuro’s strategy is an elaborate chess game in which he is playing for neither side but plans instead to upset the board. “In this town, I’ll get paid for killing,” he muses, “and this town would be better off if they were dead.” His planning is upset by the unexpected appearance of Unosuke (Tatsuya Nakadai), the younger brother of one of the sake dealer’s bodyguards. The samurai often walk about with their empty sleeves flapping at the sides, their arms folded inside their kimonos. (Eastwood, in the Leone movies, always keeps one hand under his poncho.) When Unosuke finally reveals one of his hands, it holds a pistol — the first one seen in the village. This upsets the balance of power and tilts against Sanjuro’s plans, which depend on his skill as a swordsman who can kill any number of the others without being wounded himself.

The gun provides Unosuke with a sneaky kind of self-confidence, and he produces the weapon gloatingly from time to time. Occasionally, he kills people in cold blood, just to prove that he can, in events leading up to a final bloodbath. One of the first people Sanjuro meets in the town is the coffin-maker, and there is a nice moment when he first goes out to do battle and advises him, “Two coffins. Noon, maybe three.” By the end there is no business for the coffin-maker, because there is no one to pay for coffins.

That kind of dark humor is balanced in the film by other moments approaching slapstick, as when the injured Sanjuro is smuggled away in a large barrel; when his bearers pause in the middle of the street, the samurai tilts up the lid of the barrel to provide a droll commentary on the progress of the manhunt for him.

Richie believes “Yojimbo” is the best-photographed of Kurosawa’s films (by Kazuo Miyagawa, who also shot “Rashomon” and such other Japanese classics as Ozu’s “Floating Weeds” and Mizoguchi’s “Ugetsu”). The wide screen is fully employed for dramatic compositions, as when the armies face each other across an empty space. And there is a dramatic sense of depth in scenes were Sanjuro holds the foreground while forces gather in the background. Shutters, sliding doors and foreground objects bring events into view and then obscure them, and we get a sense of the town as a collection of fearful eyes granted an uncertain view of certain danger.

“Yojimbo” was followed quickly by Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro” (1962), which also stars Mifune, the greatest modern Japanese actor, playing the same character or one so similar as makes no difference. He acts as the adviser for nine uncannily similar brothers who are remarkably inept samurai. The choreography in “Sanjuro” is one of its best jokes; the brothers do everything together: Nod, recoil, agree, laugh, gasp, and they follow Sanjuro in a kind of conga line, until he snaps, “We can’t move around like a centipede.”

The difference between the two films is that “Sanjuro” is a comedy in which ancient samurai traditions are exposed as ludicrous by the pragmatic hero, while “Yojimbo” is more subversive: The samurai were famed for their unyielding loyalty to their employers, but Sanjuro, finding himself unemployed because of the collapse of the feudal system, becomes a modern man and is able to manipulate both sides because they persist in thinking he will be faithful to those who pay him.

There is a moment at the end when old and new hang in the balance. The wounded Sanjuro no longer has his sword, but we have seen him practicing with a knife — skewering a bit of paper as it flutters around a room. He faces Unosuke, the gunman. Without revealing precisely what happens between them, let me ask you to consider the moment when Unosuke aims his pistol at Sanjuro. It may be loaded, it may not be. Sanjuro cannot be absolutely sure. He is free to move away or to disarm Unosuke, but instead he sits perfectly motionless, prepared to accept whatever comes. This, it strikes me, is the act of a samurai aware that his time has passed and accepting with perfect equanimity whatever the new age has to offer.

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The Woman in the Dunes (砂の女 Suna no onna) directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara

The Woman in the Dunes is one of Japan’s leading avant-garde novelists, Kobo Abe’s best known work, which was adapted to screenplay by Abe himself and was cinematized by the director, Hiroshi Teshigahara. A man who visits the dune lands to collect insect lodges at the widow’s house for a night but is in shock when he learns that he is held captive as a laborer to shovel out the sand on following day. A man makes numerous attempts to escape from the house which reminds him of pit dug in sandy soil by an ant‐lion larva but he fails. Eventually the man and widow become like husband and wife and he merges with the inhabitant of the village. The film, The Woman in the Dunes makes an allegorical depiction of such aspects as critique of civilization, the absurdity of endless labors that seem like punishment and uncertainty of the existence of modern man along with suspense and elegantly composed visuals.

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About the Director
Hiroshi Teshigahara (勅使河原 宏:January 28, 1927 – April 14, 2001) was an avant-garde Japanese filmmaker. In 1965, the Teshigahara/Abe film Woman in the Dunes (1964) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1972, he worked with Japanese researcher and translator John Nathan to make the movie Summer Soldiers, a film set during the Vietnam War about American deserters living on the fringe of Japanese society.

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Staff / Cast
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Producer: Kiichi Ichikawa and Tadashi Oono
Novel and sceenplay: Kōbō Abe
Starring: Eiji Okada and Kyōko Kishida
Music: Toru Takemitsu
Cinematographer: Hiroshi Segawa
Fil Editor: Fusako Shuzui
Distributor: Toho
Release date(s): February 15, 1964
Running time: 123 minutes, 147 min. (director’s cut)
Country of Film Production: Japan
Language: Japanese

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The Woman in the Dunes – A Review by Roger Ebert ★★★★ (February 1st, 1998)

“I love staying at local homes,” the man says, accepting an offer of hospitality after he misses the last bus back to the city. He has been collecting insects in a remote desert region of Japan. The villagers lead him to a house at the bottom of a sandpit, and he climbs down a rope ladder to spend the night with the woman who lives there. She prepares his dinner, and fans him as he eats. During the night, he awakens to observe that she is outside, shoveling sand. In the morning, he sees her sleeping, her body naked and sparkling with sand. He goes outside to leave. “That’s funny,” he says to himself. “The ladder is gone.”

There is a harsh musical chord at this moment, announcing the harsh surprise of “Woman in the Dunes” (1964), one of the rare films able to combine realism with a parable about life. The man (Eiji Okada) is expected to remain in the pit and join the woman in shoveling sand, which is hauled to the surface in bags by the villagers. “If we stop shoveling,” the woman (Kyoko Kishida) explains, “the house will get buried. If we get buried, the house next door is in danger.”

I am not able to understand the mechanics of that explanation, nor do I understand the local economy. The villagers sell the sand for construction, the woman explains. It is too salty to meet the building codes, but they sell it cheap. But surely there are choices other than living in a pit and selling sand? Of course there is no logic beneath the story, and the director, Hiroshi Teshigahara, has even explained that sand cannot rise in steep walls like those on the sides of the pit: “I found it physically impossible to create an angle of more than 30 degrees.”

Yet there is never a moment when the film doesn’t look absolutely realistic, and it isn’t about sand anyway, but about life. “Are you shoveling to survive, or surviving to shovel?” the man asks the woman, and who cannot ask the same question? “Woman in the Dunes” is a modern version of the myth of Sisyphus, the man condemned by the gods to spend eternity rolling a boulder to the top of a hill, only to see it roll back down.

In a way the man has himself to blame. He makes his desert trips to escape He seeks solitude and finds it. The film opens with a montage of fingerprints and passport stamps, and then there is a closeup of a grain of sand as big as a boulder, and then several the size of diamonds, and then countless grains, with the wind rippling their surface as if they were water. There has never been sand photography like this (no, not even in “Lawrence of Arabia”), and by anchoring the story so firmly in this tangible physical reality, the cinematographer, Hiroshi Segawa, helps the director pull off the difficult feat of telling a parable as if it is really happening. The score by Toru Takemitsu doesn’t underline the action but mocks it, with high, plaintive notes, harsh, like a metallic wind. The first time I saw the film, it played like a psycho-sexual adventure. The underlying situation is almost pornographic: A wandering man is trapped by a woman, who offers her body at the price of lifelong servitude. There is a strong erotic undercurrent, beginning with the woman displaying her sleeping form, and continuing through hostility, struggle and bondage to their eventual common ground.

More than almost any other film I can think of, “Woman in the Dunes” uses visuals to create a tangible texture–of sand, of skin, of water seeping into sand and changing its nature. It is not so much that the woman is seductive as that you sense, as you look at her, exactly how it would feel to touch her skin. The film’s sexuality is part of its overall reality: In this pit, life is reduced to work, sleep, food and sex, and when the woman wishes for a radio, “so we could keep up with the news,” she only underlines how meaningless that would be.

The screenplay is by Kobo Abe, based on his own novel, and it reveals the enormity of the situation slowly and deliberately–not rushing to announce the man’s dilemma, but revealing it in little hints and insights, while establishing the daily rhythm of life in the dunes. The pit-dwellers are serviced by villagers from above, who use pulleys to lower water and supplies, and haul up the sand. It is never clear whether the woman willingly descended into her pit or was placed there by the village; certainly she has accepted her fate, and would not escape if she could. She participates in the capture of the man because she must: Alone, she cannot shovel enough sand to stay ahead of the drifts, and her survival–her food and water–depend on her work. Besides, her husband and daughter were buried in a sandstorm, she tells the man, and “the bones are buried here.” So they are both captives–one accepting fate, the other trying to escape it.

The man tries everything he can to climb from the pit, and there is one shot, a wall of sand raining down, that is so smooth and sudden the heart leaps. As a naturalist, he grows interested in his situation, in the birds and insects that are visitors. He devises a trap to catch a crow, and catches no crows, but does discover by accident how to extract water from the sand, and this discovery may be the one tangible, useful, unchallenged accomplishment of his life. Everything else, as a narrative voice (his?) tells us, is contracts, licenses, deeds, ID cards– “paperwork to reassure one another.”

Hiroshi Teshigahara was 37 when he directed “Woman in the Dunes,” which won the jury prize at Cannes and two Oscar nominations. His father had founded a famous school of flower arranging in Tokyo–a school where I once took a few classes, getting just a glimpse of the possibility that to arrange flowers harmoniously could be a triumph of art and philosophy, and a form of meditation. He was always expected to take over management of the school (“a situation ironically similar to that of the protagonist of “Woman in the Dunes,’ the film notes observe). He seems intrigued by variety, and has made documentaries on the boxer Jose Torres and on a wood block artist, has worked in ceramics, directed opera, staged tea ceremonies, and directed seven other feature films. He also, according to plan, took over the flower arranging school.

“Woman in the Dunes” seemed to disappear for years. I tried to rent it for film classes, and couldn’t. At Teshigahara’s school in Tokyo, I was told vaguely by a translator that the master had chosen to look in new directions, instead of back at his old work. But now a fresh print has been released by Milestone, an American company dedicated to rescuing films, and seeing the film in 35 mm., I found it as radical, hard-edged and challenging as when I first saw it.

Unlike some parables that are powerful the first time but merely pious when revisited, “Woman in the Dunes” retains its power because it is a perfect union of subject, style and idea. A man and a woman share a common task. They cannot escape it. On them depends the community–and, by extension, the world.

But is struggle the only purpose of struggle? By discovering the principle of the water pump, the man is able to bring something new into existence. He has changed the terms of the deal. You cannot escape the pit. But you can make it a better pit. Small consolation is better than none.

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Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (戦場のメリークリスマス: Senjō no Merī Kurisumasu) directed by Nagisa Oshima

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a sensational film which was jointly produced by Japan, United Kingdom and New Zealand and was directed by Nagisa Oshima who made his emergence in the international film arena. The film takes place in 1942 at the prisoner of war camp run by the Japanese Army based in Java and is depicted through Captain Yonoi who is tormented by guilt for not being able to participate in Japan’s February 26 Incident, a 1936 military coup d’état; and Yonoi’s subordinate, the brutal Sergeant Hara; Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence who speaks Japanese fluently; and the beautiful Major Celliers who’s been transferred here. The film is a portrayal of culture clash between the Western Europeans and the Japanese. Although Oshima had already established significant reputations for his unpredictable casting, the film gave an opportunity for Ryuichi Sakamoto to make his mark as an international composer and Takeshi Kitano as a director and actor to join the ranks of the world’s filmmakers.

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About the Director
Nagisa Oshima (大島 渚 Ōshima Nagisa: March 31, 1932 – January 15, 2013) was a Japanese film director and screenwriter. His films include In the Realm of the Senses and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Oshima made In the Realm of the Senses in 1976, a film based on a true story of fatal sexual obsession in 1930s Japan. Oshima, a critic of censorship and his contemporary Akira Kurosawa’s humanism, was determined that the film should feature unsimulated sex and thus the undeveloped film had to be transported to France to be processed. An uncensored version of the movie is still unavailable in Japan. Oshima testified in a Japanese court about whether the film was obscene. “Nothing that is expressed is obscene,” the director said. “What is obscene is what is hidden.” In his 1978 companion film to In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion, Oshima took a more restrained approach to depicting the sexual passions of the two lovers driven to murder, and the film won the 1978 Cannes Film Festival award for best director. In 1983 Oshima had a critical success with a film made partly in English, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, set in a wartime prison camp, and featuring rock star David Bowie and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, alongside Takeshi Kitano. The movie has become a cult classic. Max, Mon Amour (1986), written with Luis Buñuel’s frequent collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, was a comedy about a diplomat’s wife (Charlotte Rampling) whose love affair with a chimpanzee is quietly incorporated into an eminently civilised ménage à trois. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, he served as president of the Directors Guild of Japan.

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Staff / Cast
Director: Nagisa Oshima
Producer: Jeremy Thomas
Screenplay: Nagisa Oshima and Paul Mayersberg
Original Story: Laurens van der Post
Starring: David Bowie, Tom Conti. Ryuichi Sakamoto and Takeshi Kitano
Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Cinematographer: Toichiro Narushima
Film Editor: Tomoyo Oshima
Distributor: Universal Pictures (U.S.), Palace Pictures (UK)
Running time: 123 minutes
Country of Production: Japan and United Kingdom
Language: Japanese and English

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Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – Criterion Review (November 2nd, 2010)

Few film genres cover such a wide range of perspectives and styles as do those about war. War movies range from those that glorify combat to those that reveal its deepest, darkest horrors; from those that take place direct on the battlefield to those that revolve around ancillary elements; and from those that are intensely patriotic to those that are pointedly critical of one’s own nation’s actions. Nagisa Ôshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a “war” film that explores the intense conflict between different cultural mores when those very mores themselves are being challenged by the brutal realities of a world at war. My review after the jump:

Masquerading as a war movie, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is an intense character study that takes place in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. The film focuses on the interconnected relationships of four men: Colonel John Lawrence (Tom Conti), a British officer who has spent time in Japan, speaks Japanese and is thus able to bridge the cultural divide; Major Jack Celliers (David Bowie), the new prisoner whose rebellious nature threatens to disrupt the delicate balance of the camp; Sergeant Gengo Hara (Takeshi Kitano), a brutal soldier representative of how far the Japanese military has swayed from its own code, but with whom Lawrence has developed a strange friendship; and Captain Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto), the camp commander whose inner conflicts are manifested by the outer conflict between Japanese / military morals and actual brutality around him.

Although Bowie is the most recognizable face to Western audiences, Mr. Lawrence is a Japanese film and thus ultimately Hara and Yonoi are the most dynamic and interesting characters. Their paths are divergent. Yonoi initially saves Celliers from death at the hands of a kangaroo court, thus standing up for traditional Japanese honor in the face of it breaking down around him. His own fascination with his new prisoner—which at the very least has to do with him having a like code, a similarly haunted past, and possibly even homosexual overtones—transfers real psychological power to the British major even while Yonoi thinks he is maintaining physical control. As Celliers’s rebelliousness increases, Yonoi descends into the very violence and false justice he formerly stood against, and when Celliers shames him with a kiss, Yonoi’s defeat is complete.

The brutal Hara, on the other hand, maintains ongoing philosophical discussions with Colonel Lawrence, rationalizing his own violent actions as actually being in line with true Japanese values while claiming to fail to understand the British, their morals and their actions. But it is he, on a night of heavy drinking that may or may not be influencing his actions, that releases Celliers and Lawrence on the eve of their planned executions in direct contradiction of Yonoi’s orders. Four years later in 1946, on the eve of Hara’s own execution, Colonel Lawrence visits Hara in his cell in the film’s epilogue. Celliers and Yonoi are both long dead, but Hara is a changed man, at peace with himself and his impending death, fully redeemed. He once again wishes his unique friend, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”.

The performances are riveting throughout and the cinematography captures the look—minus any graininess—of World War II period combat footage as well as any I have seen thus adding a very real quality to the narrative.

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Pacchigi! (a.k.a. Break Through! 박치기, パッチギ! ) directed by Kazuyuki Izutsu.)

Pacchigi! is a teenage romance film directed by Kazuyuki Izutsu. Set in Kyoto in 1968, the film is centered on a love relationship between a Japanese boy and a girl who is a North Korean resident in Japan. Izutsu succeeds in depicting the lives and adolescence of each lover’s community vividly. “Pacchigi” is a Korean brawl term which means “Headbutt”. ‘Imjing River’ a Korean folk song, that encourages the boy and girl’s earnest feelings for overcoming the ethnic differences with the power of music, is a song that wishes for the unification of the Korean Peninsula, which is divided into north and south. There is a story behind the version of ‘Imjing River’ sang by a Japanese pop music group, The Folk Crusaders. The record was released in 1968, but due to the political consideration, a voluntary ban of the sales was imposed upon the song.

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About the Director
Kazuyuki Izutsu (井筒和幸, born 30 May 1952) is a Japanese film director, screenwriter and film critic. Born in Nara Prefecture, he started making 8mm films in high school, and directed his first 35mm film, a pink film, in 1975. He earned a citation from the Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award in 1981 for Gaki teikoku, and his Boys Be Ambitious won the best picture award at the 1996 Blue Ribbon Awards. He received two Japanese Academy Award nominations in 2006 for writing and directing Pacchigi! and won the award for best director at the 27th Yokohama Film Festival for that film. Izutsu frequently appears on television in Japan and is known for his critical commentary. He has also directed many television commercials.

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Staff / Cast
Director: Kazuyuki Izutsu
Starring: Erika Sawajiri, Shun Shioya and Yōko Maki
Cinematographer: Hideo Yamamoto
Release date(s): January 22, 2005
Country of Film Production: Japan
Language: Japanese

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Death Note (デスノート Desu Nōto) by Shusuke Kaneko

Death Note is a Japanese manga series created by writer Tsugumi Ohba, manga artist Takeshi Obata and was adapted into a two-part live-action film directed by Shusuke Kaneko. The film was a big hit not only in Japan but also throughout Asia, Europe and United States; and a spinoff film L: Change the World was produced as a result of the success. A man picks up a notebook by chance, which happens to be the “Death Note”, that grants its user the ability to kill anyone by writing their name in the notebook; with this power, the man continues to execute criminals who are unable to bring to justice by law. The public calls the executioner “Kira” and worships him like a god but the police considered the act as crime and send the world-famous detective, “L” to solve the case. The confrontation and game of wits between the two geniuses begins.

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About the Director
Shusuke Kaneko (金子 修介, born June 8, 1955) is a Japanese film director and screenwriter notable for directing the Heisei Gamera trilogy, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, and the live-action film adaption of Death Note. Shūsuke Kaneko began his career in film with Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno film series, in which he served as assistant director to Kōyū Ohara. The series also gave Kaneko his directorial debut with writer Kōichirō Uno’s, Kōichirō Uno’s Wet and Swinging (1984), which earned Kaneko the Best New Director award at the Yokohama Film Festival. He is today best known for his films in the kaijū film genre.

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Staff / Cast
Director: Shūsuke Kaneko
Producer: Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kohashi and Takahiro Satō
Music: Kenji Kawai
Film Studio: NTV and Warner Bros.
Licensor: VIZ Pictures, Warner Bros.
Release date: June 17, 2006
Runtime: 125 minutes

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More about comic and anime
As of June 2006, Death Note had sold around twenty million copies in Japan. On December 31, 2008, Comipress reported that the twelve volumes from the series had sold 26,500,000 copies. It was also nominated for Best Manga at the 2006 American Anime Awards but lost. In 2007, the first three volumes of Death Note were on the American Library Association’s 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list. On ICv2’s “Top 10 Shonen Properties Q2 2009”, Death Note was the third best manga property from North America. During January from 2007, Oricon made a poll in which they asked Japanese fans from manga and anime which characters from any series they would most like to see in spinoff series. The overall winner from the poll was L, who also ranked first in the women’s poll and second in the men’s poll.
Anime News Network (ANN) writer Zac Bertschy noted that the difference between Death Note and other manga from the same genre was very big due to the murders the main character (Light Yagami) commits as well as how he hides his identity of Kira. Although Bertchy mentioned some readers from other shōnen would be surprised with the dark themes of Death Note, he praised the series for its “great art, great story, compelling characters.” Julie Rosato from Mania Entertainment found the story to be very entertaining, having liked Light’s development in the story and L’s introduction as well as how the latter starts suspecting of the former’s identity. Additionally, he praised the story as it is “building a climax” with each detail introduced in the first chapter, making the reader to look forward to upcoming chapters.[72] Briana Lawrence from ANN liked the series’ ending as most of the characters from the story were “given a chance to shine” and due to the fact the notebook and other aspects from the series had little importance in the focus of Death Note and now they play a more important part. However, she did not like how the epilogue made no mention of what happens with Misa Amane and how Near and Mello were still treated like parts of L.

Douglas Wolk of Salon said that a rumor circulated stating that the creators intended to create Death Note to last half as long as its actual run & Ohba and Obata had been persuaded to lengthen the storyline when Death Note’s popularity increased, noting that the rumor “makes sense, since about halfway through the series, there’s a point that seems like a natural ending”. In addition he said that fans wrote “thousands” of Death Note fan fiction stories and posted them on the internet.
The anime was also commented with Tom S. Pepirium of IGN saying that Death Note’s “heavy serialized nature” is what “makes the show so engaging and discussion worthy.” Pepirium, saying that translating Death Note is “no small task,” said that Stephen Hedley created a dub with “nothing clunky.” Pepirium added that Karl Willems, director of the dub, assembled a “stunning voice cast of professionals” with a “solid tone minus some of the cheesy yelling and screaming of other dubs.” John Powers of the NPR show Fresh Air finds the show “addicting” and equates its similarity to the American TV series Lost.It was also listed as the 51st best animated show in IGN’s Top 100 Animated Series.

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Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森 Noruwei no mori) directed by Tran Anh Hung

Norwegian Wood is a film adaptation from the novel of the same title by Haruki Murakami which became a record-breaking best seller as soon as its publication was announced in 1987. Numerous film companies showed their interests for the novels adaptation to film, but the writer hesitated to give the permission so easily. However, because Murakami liked the films directed by Tran Anh Hung from Vietnam, he gave the permission under the condition that the film was going to be set in Japan with the Japanese actors. The director dramatized the novel to screenplay on his own and the adaptation of the film was completed starring Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi and Kiko Mizuhara. The song, ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Beatles, in which the title was named after, is used effectively in the film.

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About the Director

Tran Anh Hùng (born December 23, 1962) is a French film director of Vietnamese ancestry. Trần was born in Đà Nang, Central Vietnam, and emigrated to France when he was 12 following the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Tran has long been considered as having been in the forefront of the wave of acclaimed overseas Vietnamese cinema in the past two decades. His films have received international notoriety and acclaim, and until recently had all been varied meditations on life in Vietnam. His Oscar-nominated debut (for Best foreign film) was with The Scent of Green Papaya (1993) which also won two top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, and his follow-up Cyclo (1995) featured top Hong Kong movie star Tony Leung Chiu Wai, also eventually winning a top prize at the Venice International Film Festival. The Vertical Ray of the Sun, released in 2000, was the third film in what many consider now to be his “Vietnam trilogy.”After a sabbatical, it was officially announced that Tran is back behind the helm with the noir psychological thriller I Come with the Rain (2009), which features a star-studded international cast including Josh Hartnett and Elias Koteas. It was announced in July 2008 that Tran would direct an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood. The film was released in Japan in December 2010.

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Staff / Cast
Director: Tran Anh Hung
Producer: Chihiro Kameyama and Shinji Ogawa
Screenplay: Tran Anh Hung
Based on novel, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi and Kiko Mizuhara
Music: Jonny Greenwood; and Can
Cinematographer: Mark Lee Ping Bin
Film Editor: Mario Battistel
Distributor: Toho
Release date(s): September 2, 2010 (Venice), December 11, 2010 (Japan)
Running time: 133 minutes
Country: Japan
Language:Japanese

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Norwegian Wood- A Review by Roger Ebert ★★★ (January 18, 2012)

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” — “Norwegian Wood,” by Lennon and McCartney

There’s something depressing about a young couple helplessly in love. Their state is so perfect, it must be doomed. They project such qualities on their lover that only disappointment can follow. Perhaps such truths help explain the success of Haruki Murakami’s international best-seller Norwegian Wood. It’s easier to identify with loss than love, because we have had so much more experience of it.

The novel has been filmed by Tran Anh Hung, born in Vietnam, long resident in Paris; his “The Scent Of Green Papaya” (1993) was a gorgeous romance I thought was one of the best films of that year. He seems to fall in love with his actors, finding beautiful faces and then caressing them in closeup.

Here he begins with two best friends and the girlfriend of one of them. (I thought of “Jules and Jim.”) Life is joyous and carefree. Then Kizuki (Kengo Kora) commits suicide. At the risk of sounding crass, may I suggest he wanted to quit while he was ahead? Do suicidal young lovers realize that romance is short but death is long?

Kizuki leaves behind his girlfriend, Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), and his best friend, Toru Watanabe (Ken’ichi Matsuyama). It feels wrong to them that they are only two. On her 20th birthday, Naoko loses her virginity to Toru and explains why Kizuki, who was so close to her ever since sixth grade, never made love with her. The reason is not what you may be thinking.

Naoko disappears. Toru occupies himself with school, and then meets Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), a ribald girl who likes sex and flavors her speech with cheerful obscenities. Midori was the most popular character with the readers of Murakami’s novel, probably because she wasn’t as gloomy as the others. Here she is much toned down because Tran is more drawn to poignancy about the transience of happiness.

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Word comes that Naoko is living in some sort of retreat in a beautiful distant area, a place that seems halfway between a spa and a sanatorium. Here she is inseparable from an equally beautiful woman, a fellow patient who teaches music there. Toru comes to visit, and what follows between Naoko and him are dreamy scenes of languorous caresses and whispering poetic love talk. They are photographed in scenes of nature and snow, as if Tran seeks to create in his visuals the tenderness of their love. Let’s hope Naoko doesn’t learn about Midori. The naughty girl isn’t all that important to Toru really, but she represents a flaw in Naoko’s idea of Toru, and she is too fragile to sustain such a blow.

I’m sure there are ages and personalities that would find the young love in “Norwegian Wood” irresistible. Maybe a loving young couple would find their own story in it, as so many have found themselves in “Romeo and Juliet.” There is something in the nature of director Tran Anh Hung, however, that seems to resist happy endings. In the emotional arc of his art, the high point seems to be bittersweet. It’s sweet all the way up, wavers in dread and slides down to doom.

The movie’s cinematography, by Mark Lee Ping Bin, paints each frame in rapture. The actors are so attractive they could be models for Vogue, and perhaps they are; certainly they’re effective in their roles, which require a lot of soft, intimate dialogue. There are a couple of points in the film when the Beatles song slips in; I wonder if Toru took note of this lyric: When I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Animation film 時をかける少女 Toki o Kakeru Shōjo) directed by Mamoru Hosoda

The original story of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is from the Juvenile Science Fiction of the same name written by Yasutaka Tsutsui and was published in 1967. Numerous adaptations have been made for a wide range of media since the publication and this film will be its third within the four film adaptations made. This is the first animation version and is considered to be a sequel rather than a remake due to its setting that takes place twenty years after the previous event. The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda and the screenplay was written by Satoko Okudera. Initially, the film was released as a limited engagement in mini-theaters, but due to the good reputation spread through word of mouth, it has enjoyed an extraordinary long run.

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About the Director
Mamoru Hosoda (細田 守, born September 19, 1967) is a Japanese film director and animator. Formerly employed at Toei Animation, he went to work at Madhouse from 2005 to 2011. Hosoda left Madhouse in 2011 to establish his own animation studio, Studio Chizu. He first came to public attention in the early 2000s with the first two films in the Digimon Adventure series and the sixth film in the One Piece series. In the later 2000s, he diversified more with other films, including 2006’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, 2009’s Summer Wars, and 2012’s Wolf Children. Hosoda studied oil painting at the Kanazawa College of Art.

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Cast / Staff
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Producer: Takashi Watanabe and Yuichiro Saito
Screenplay: Satoko Okudera
Based on novel, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui
Voice Actors: Riisa Naka, Takuya Ishida, Mitsutaka Itakura, Sachie Hara and
Mitsuki Tanimura
Music: Kiyoshi Yoshida
Cinematographer: Yoshihiro Tomita
Film Editor: Shigeru Nishiyama
Animation Film Studio: Madhouse
Distributor: Kadokawa Herald Pictures
Release date(s): July 15, 2006
Running time: 98 minutes
Country of Producton: Japan
Language: Japanese

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More about the film
Justin Sevakis of Anime News Network praised the film for its “absolute magic.” Sevakis also noted that the film has “more in common with the best shoujo manga than [author Yasutaka] Tsutsui’s other work Paprika”. He said that the voice acting has “the right amount of realism [for the film]” and gave an overall grade of “A-“. Ty Burr of The Boston Globe praised the film’s visuals and pace. He also compared the film to the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Yoshifumi Kondo. Nick Pinkerton of The Village Voice said that “there’s real craftsmanship for how [the film] sustains its sense of summer quietude and sun-soaked haziness through a few carefully reprised motifs: three-cornered games of catch, mountainous cloud formations, classroom still-lifes.” Pinkerton also said that the film is the “equivalent of a sensitively wrought read from the Young Adult shelf, and there’s naught wrong with that.” Author Yasutaka Tsutsui praised the film as being “a true second-generation” of his book at the Tokyo International Anime Fair on March 24, 2006

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Senzo ni naru (a.k.a. Roots) directed by Naoshi Sato

Naoshi Sato is a hale old man of 77 from the Rikuzen-takata city of the Iwate Prefecture, which was destroyed when the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami attacked in March 11th, 2011. Senzo ni naru is a documentary that follows Naoshi who lost the house in tsunami and his son washed away and drowned in the flood, but is still determined to rebuild his house in the exact same spot. The film is directed by Kaoru Ikeya. Through the stubborn old man who struggles alone in the hometown that has been thoroughly destroyed by the disaster, the documentary succeeds in making a humane depiction of what was the consequence of the unprecedented disaster, the role of natural disaster administration and the strength and spirit of Japanese people who overcome the hardship n by themselves and create their own future.

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About the Director
Kaoru Ikeya was born on 14 October 1958 in Tokyo. He studied aesthetics and art theory at Doshisha university in Kyoto, and started working as an assistant director for television in the 80s. Since 1989, he has made numerous television documentaries about China. In 2002, he shot his first feature-length film EN’AN NO MUSUME.

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Staff / Cast
Director: Kaoru Ikeya
Producers: Yôko Gon and Yoko Kwon
Cinematographers: Masaharu Fukui, Hideki Kaneko and Yûta Sakaguchi
Film Editor: Koichi Tayama
Runtime: Japan:118 min
Country of Production: Japan
Language: Japanese

More about the Film
Naoshi is a hale old man of 79 from the Kesen district of Iwate Prefecture who has spent his whole life working as a woodcutter and carpenter. When the tsunami hit in March 2011, the wooden beams of his house didn’t even warp after water reached the second floor, although his son was washed away and drowned in the flood. Naoshi is determined to rebuild his house in the exact same spot, to live out his days in the place he was born and continue to honor his son’s memory. Yet this determination is challenged on several fronts: by his wife, who feels duty bound to stay with him, by the local authorities and their construction restrictions; and maybe even by his own body, given that his prostate cancer is only in remission. Kaoru Ikeya follows Naoshi’s rebuilding efforts for more than a year, exhibiting a perfect understanding of when to ask questions and when to remain silent. As the seasons pass, the debris is cleared, and roots reattach, this tender portrait of a quietly stubborn man opens out into a complex study of the many ambivalences the reconstruction process brings with it: a tangled web of family duty, traditional customs, community spirit and municipal legislation.

Guest speakers for Japan Film Festival in Poland 2013

-Profile –

Kazuyuki Izutsu (Director)
Born 30th on May in 1952, Izutsu made his directorial debut with Iku iku maito gai – Seishun no mon mon (literally: “Someday in the future I might – Adolescence Distress” – 1975). He earned the media attention with the film, Gaki teikoku (a.k.a. Empire of Kids) in 1981. He established the “Director’s Company” a film production company with renowned Japanese directors such as Kazuhiko Hasegawa, Banmei Takahashi, and Shinji Somai in 1982. His best known films are Nidaime wa Christian (literally: Heir is a Christian – 1985), Inujini sesi mono (literally: Those who die in vain – 1986), Uchuu no hosoku (a.k.a. Universal Laws -1990), Kishiwada shonen gurentai (a.k.a. Boys Be Ambitious -1996), Nodo jiman (a.k.a. Amateur Singing Contest -1999), Geroppa! (a.k.a. Get Up! – 2003), Ogon o daite tobe (a.k.a. Fly with the Gold – 2012) and Pacchigi! (a.k.a. Break Through! Or We Shall Overcome Someday – 2004). He is also a successful film critic and TV commentator.

Reika Kirishima (Actress)
Born August 5th, 1972 . Kirishima made her debut as an actress in the television drama Brother. She earned the media attention in 2005 with the film, Stranger of Mine (Unmei janai hito) followed by Kowai Douyou (literally: Scary nursery rhymes) in 2007 and a film, Inju, la bête dans l’ombre (a.k.a. Injû ) directed by Barbet Schroeder in 2008. She was selected for the role of Reiko in the Tran Anh Hung’s film, Norwegian Wood adapted from Haruki Murakami’s novel of the same title in 2010. She is an up-and-coming
actress who focuses her career on films and television drama; and is expanding her acting activities extensively.

Related web site in Polish
http://stopklatka.pl/-/61583017,jerzy-skolimowski-wybiera-japonskie-arcydziela

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