JAPAN CUTS 2012 Announces Droolworthy Line Up

Dustin Chang, Contributing Writer
Armed with a total 39 films, among them 33 premieres, this year's JAPAN CUTS, running from July 12th - 28th in NYC, promises to be the biggest and the best and one can't help but feeling like a kid in a candy store looking at the delirious line up.


From profound to perverted, fantastic to fetishistic, momentous to monstrous, JAPAN CUTS 2012 selections have unyielding artistry and out-of-control eccentricity, offering the hard, the rough, the sharp, the smooth and the soft edge of today's film scene from Japan. Highlights include the irresistible blockbuster love comedy Love Strikes!; Toshiaki Toyoda's enigmatic terrorist art house gem Monsters Club; the controversial cannibal anime Asura; the World Premiere of moral shocker Ushijima the Loan Shark, which features the impressive film debut of AKB48's Yuko Oshima (recipient of the festival's first-ever Cut Above Award for Outstanding Debut); Hisako Matsui's haunting docudrama Leonie; Yoshihiro Nakamura's mind-warping, bizarro comedy Chips; Toshi Fujiwara's provocative and poetic documentary on post-tsunami Japan No Man's Zone; and two older titles finally back to the big screen: Toshiaki Toyoda's meditative jailbreak classic 9 Souls, and the original ballroom blitz Shall We Dance?, offering the impossibly rare opportunity to watch on 35mm.

 

This year's fest pays tribute to the late actor Yoshio Harada, screening his final film Someday and 9 Souls, mentioned above. The festival also highlights the career of living legend Koji Yakusho, presenting five of his most inconic films: Chronicle of My Mother, Cure, Shall We Dance?, Toad's Oil (which Yakusho also directed), 13 Assassins, and The Woodsman and the Rain. Yakusho will be on hand for the latter's July 20 screening for an introduction, Q&A and reception. On that occasion, the festival will award the star the first ever JAPAN CUTS prize, the Cut Above Award for Excellence in Film. Yakusho will also appear for the July 21 screening of Takashi Miike's hit samurai action movie 13 Assassins.

 

Marking 16 months after Japan's Tohoku region was devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crises, the Focus on Post 3.11 Cinema series encompasses Women on the Edge, Chips, A Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima, No Man's Zone and the shorts series We Are All Radioactive.

 

This year's parties include the Striking Love! JAPAN CUTS Opening Party, following the July 14 screening of Love Strikes!, with an introduction and Q&A with star actress Masami Nagasawa--this year's recipient of NYAFF's Rising Star Asia Award; and the  DON'T STOP! JAPAN CUTS Party following the July 26 screening of Don't Stop!, featuring an introduction with director Kenji Kohashi. Other special guests during the festival are Monsters Club director Toshiaki Toyoda for the July 15 screening introduction and Q&A; No Man's Zone director Toshi Fujiwara for the July 22 screening introduction and Q&A; and Leonie director Hisako Matsui for the July 27 screening introduction and Q&A

 

Finally in the how-lowbrow-can-you-go category, the festival includes two Anime from Hell for the 18-and-over crowd, Asura and Gyo; three delectably depraved shorts screened back-to-back as The Atrocity Exhibition; and the outrageous Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead by modern schlockmeister Noboru Iguchi (RoboGeisha, Mutant Girls Squad).

 

"This year's expanded and expansive edition of JAPAN CUTS reflects our (slightly maniacal) ambition to be the ultimate platform for Japanese cinema in North America - in the world perhaps?" says Japan Society's chief film programmer and festival curator Samuel Jamier.  "In this respect, the explosive, purposefully off-balance mix of dark-themed hard-core actioners, blockbusters, hit comedies, nano-budget indie titles and philosophical art house pieces emphasizes the wild diversity of the production in the archipelago, as well as its incredible resilience, despite the rise of its East Asian neighbors and the current severe economic conditions. We might not be solving the epistemological conundrum that is Japanese and world cinema (or event zombie apocalypse), but we're giving it a good try."

 

Tickets:  $12/$9 Japan Society members, seniors and students, except for the July 14 screening of Love Strikes!, $25/$20, and the July 20 screening of The Woodsman and the Rain, $35/$25. Patrons who purchase more than 5 tickets for at least 5 different films, receive $2 off of each ticket. Special offer available only at Japan Society Box Office or by telephone (offer not available online.) Japan Cuts 2012 film passes are available: $315/$210 Japan Society members, seniors and students. Passes are not valid for the July 14 screening of Love Strikes! and the July 20 screening of The Woodsman and the Rain. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Box Office, by calling 212-715-1258, or at www.japansociety.org.

 

JAPAN CUTS 2012 SCREENINGS (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)

All films are in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.

 

About the Pink Sky (Momoiro Sora o)

Sunday, July 22 at 5:20 pm

New York Premiere

Japan. 2011. 113 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Keiichi Kobayashi. With Ai Ikeda, Ena Koshino, Reiko Fujiwara, Tsubasa Takayama.

High school girl Izumi finds a wallet containing ¥300,000 (almost $4,000) that belongs to Sato, a wealthy boy. Instead of returning it, she lends a hefty sum to an older fishing buddy with financial problems. Her classmates Hasumi and Kaoru later force her to return the wallet, but, unable to account for all of the money, Izumi agrees to help Sato console a friend in the hospital by creating a newspaper containing only "good news." Keiichi Kobayashi's serene coming-of-age story owes its underlying energy to the young actors (all newcomers) who deftly balance quirky humor, teenage uncertainty and subtle shifts in adolescent consciousness.

 

Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban)

Sunday, July 15 at 1:30 pm

New York Premiere, Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

Japan. 2012. 135 min., DigiBeta, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Miike. With Hiroki Narimiya, Takumi Saito, Mirei Kiritani, Akiyoshi Nakao, Ryo Ishibashi.

A big-budget, live-action movie directed by Takashi Miike, Ace Attorney is a letter-perfect adaptation of the first game in the Nintendo video series, following Phoenix Wright's rise from novice counselor to law god supreme. When his mentor, Mia Fey, is murdered investigating a long-buried cold case, Wright winds up defending the prime suspect--her sister, Maya. The pandemonium that follows includes a giant samurai, a talking parrot, sea monsters, a heaping helping of cartoon logic and a mystery so utterly ludicrous Jessica Fletcher would need to be taking psychotropic drugs to work it out. Who is Redd White? What is the secret of DL-6 that could change the face of video game law? And what's with the Blue Badger? Miike has done video game adaptations before (Like a Dragon), but this time he's operating on a higher level. Case closed.

 

Asura (Ashura)

Thursday, July 12 at 6:30 pm

North American Premiere, Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

Japan. 2012. 75 min., HD Cam SR, feature animation film in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Keiichi Sato. With the voices of Somegoro Ichikawa, Rie Miyazawa, Koji Okura, Sarutoki Minagawa.

In 15th-century Kyoto, at the foot of a wrecked shrine, a beast is born in fire and destruction. Plunged into an age of war, chaos and starvation, and taught to eat human flesh by the madwoman who gave birth to him, he is called "Asura," for the warlike Buddhist spirit, or "anti-god." Based on George Akiyama's legendary banned manga, Asura is a brutal anti-Miyazaki movie about the depths we'll sink to in the worst of times. Lensed by anime veteran Keiichi Sato and featuring two legendary Japanese voice actresses, Masako Nozawa (Dragonball, Galaxy Express 999) and Megumi Hayashibara (Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion), it is, like its creator, harsh, uncompromising and relentless. But underneath the scars it has a battered, bleeding, burning human heart. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

The Atrocity Exhibition: 2 Short Features and 1 Short Screened Back to Back

Friday, July 13 at 8:40 pm

Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

18+ These films are unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club (Sensei o Ryuzan saseru Kai)

North American Premiere

Japan. 2012. 60 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Written and directed by Eisuke Naito. With Aki Miyata, Kaori Kobayashi, Hiromu Takara, Nanase Takemori, Suzuno Aiba, Sawaki Muroga, Yuriko Onuma.

Murderous Mizuki, ringleader of five bored junior high girls, sets her sights on teacher Sawako (Aki Miyata). Stronger than her ineffectual colleagues, Sawako wants to help her students but can't get their parents on the phone. Four months pregnant, she becomes increasingly concerned for her safety and the safety of her unborn child. When the bravura finale comes, it's light-years beyond dime-store Western psycho-thrillers. Let's Make the Teacher... is loosely based on a true story, and not for the faint of heart.

 

Henge (Metamorphosis) (Henge)

North American Premiere

2012. 54 minutes. HD Cam. In Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hajime Ohata. With Kazunari Aizawa, Aki Morita, Teruhiko Nobukuni.

Yoshiaki suffers from violent seizures and under hypnosis speaks in an unknown, alien language. His doctor wants to institutionalize him, but his wife Keiko refuses to give up. The relationship is put to the test when the bugs that live in Yoshiaki's mind grow insatiable, and he begins to transform into an insectoid horror. Ohata's theme is unconditional love versus disease, and the bravura Michael Bay-on-an-indie-budget finale is a mighty roar of underground filmmaking brio. The first long-form feature from newcomer Hajime Ohata, Henge grossed out the audience at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival.

 

The Big Gun (Dai Kenju)

North American Premiere

Japan. 2008. 31 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hajime Ohata. With Takahiro Ono, Hiromi Miyagawa.

In this award-winning first short film from Hajime Ohata, director of Henge, a rundown, family-owned iron works gets a quick, lucrative job from a client who wants them to disassemble a revolver and make at least 10 copies. Owner Ikuo agrees, because he really doesn't have any choice. The client, however, is the yakuza, and Ikuo realizes once he turns in the job, his shop will become nothing more than a production facility for death. And so Ikuo fights back the only way he knows how: by building The Big Gun.

 

The Brat! (Kusogaki no Kokuhaku)
Saturday, July 28 at 7:00 pm

North American Premiere

Japan. 2012. 94 min. HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Taichi Suzuki. With Hiroki Konno, Sayaka Tashiro, Masato Tsujioka, Rika Imai, Haruka Nakagawa, Hiroshi Kitayama, Kenichi Takahashi, Tomiko Ishii.

In this angry romantic comedy, aspiring young filmmaker Daisuke (Hiroki Konno) attributes his continuous lack of success to his ugly physique. While a better-looking classmate is now an up-and-coming director, Daisuke is shooting a documentary that will neither bring him success nor satisfy his creative urges. Daisuke has hit rock bottom and is about to throw himself off a rooftop when he is interrupted by Momoko (Sayaka Tashiro), an aspiring actress who has landed a brief supporting role in the same production. Momoko reveals her own concerns about her performance and when Daisuke is able to successfully coach her, the two slowly become friends. Konno was given a Best Actor special mention at Yubari's Off Theater Competition. The Brat! also picked up the press-selected Cine-gar Award, as well as the Special Jury Prize.

 

Chronicle of My Mother (Wagahahano ki)

Saturday, July 21 at 6:00 pm

New York Premiere

Japan. 2011. 118 min., 35mm, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Masato Harada. With Koji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Kaho Minami, Rentaro Mikuni.

Masato Harada's moving period drama about the relationship between a self-centered writer and his ageing mother draws on an autobiographical novel by Yasushi Inoue. Kosaku (Koji Yakusho, Shall We Dance?), married with four daughters, is a successful writer and tyrannical husband and father. When his mother (Kirin Kiri) begins to display signs of dementia, duty demands that he take care of her. She moves in and, as her grip on reality loosens, facts about the past--specifically why she saw fit to abandon her son after the war--come to light. Chronicle is an unabashedly emotional epic with shades of Yasujiro Ozu's melodramatic masterpieces. Winner of the Special Grand Prix at the Montreal World Film Festival.

 

Chips (Potechi)

Sunday, July 15 at 8 :00 pm

International Premiere

Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

Closing film of the New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts co-presentations

.Japan. 2012. 68 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. With Gaku Hamada, Fumino Kimura, Nao Omori, Eri Ishid, Yoshihiro Nakamura, Mayu Matsuoka, Ryohei Abe.

Drawing on a short story from Kotaro Isaka's omnibus Fish Story, this is the fourth film directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura from a work by the bestselling author. Set in Sendai, a northern city devastated by the March 11 catastrophe, Chips addresses life in Japan after the tsunami with delightfully offhand black humor while focusing on two men whose lives are both parallel and poles apart--one a star professional baseball player and the other a burglar, both with manifold invisible threads of fate connecting their lives. Part of the series Focus on Post 3.11 Cinema. Preceded by a screening of We Are All Radioactive.

 

Cure

Saturday, July 21 at 11:00 pm

Japan. 1997, 111 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. With Koji Yakusho, Masato Hagiwara, Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Anna Nakagawa, Yoriko Doguchi.

Renowned for his horror films, Japanese writer-director Kurosawa Kiyoshi made his international breakthrough in 1997 with the psychological thriller Cure. Detective Takabe (Yakusho Koji) is assigned to investigate a series of murders in which the victims are killed by knife and left with an X-shaped wound carved across the throat and chest. All of these murders, however, have been committed by different people who are apprehended shortly afterward. With the help of psychologist Sakuma, Takebe traces the case to a young mysterious man with no memories of his past and strong hypnotism abilities. Pulled into a dangerous mind game, Takebe finds that the man is starting to have an unsettling effect on him as well.

 

Don't Stop!

Thursday, July 26 at 7:00 pm

Introduction and Q&A with Kenji Kohashi, followed by DON'T STOP! JAPAN CUTS Party!

International Premiere

Japan. 2011. 109 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Kohashi.

Don't Stop! documents the journey of "CAP," a hard-as-nails 46-year-old man who realizes his lifelong dream, to go to America and ride a Harley down Route 66. CAP's love affair with America and motorcycles began when he was young, but when he was 26, a traffic accident immobilized his left hand and lower body. Over the next 20 years, much of his life has been spent either in bed or in a wheelchair. In a 10-day, 4200 km trip across the U.S., encounters and miracles happen along the way to breathe fresh life into CAP and his friends.

 

A Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima (Totechita Chikichita)

Saturday, July 28 at 1:00 pm

North American Premiere

Japan. 2012. 90 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Atsushi Kokatsu. With Jurina, Kosuke Toyohara, Chieko Matsubara, Shono Hayama.

A middle-aged man (Kosuke Toyohara) who owns an architectural firm falls into debt. He runs away from his creditors and lands in a place called Fukushima. There he meets a young girl named Rin (Jurina) who claims he is her son. This leads to interesting connections that are made through Rin, as he meets and befriends several other people, forming relationships well beyond the usual range of age and family. Part of the series Focus on Post 3.11 Cinema. Preceded by a screening of We Are All Radioactive.

 

Girls for Keeps (Garu)

Wednesday, July 18 at 7:30 pm

International Premiere

Japan. 2011. 124 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa. With Kumiko Aso, Karina, Yuka Itaya, Rei Dan, Rosa Kato, Michiko Kichise, Osamu Mukai, Yusuke Kamiji, Jun Kaname, Kento Hayashi, Eriko Hatsune, Mei Kurokawa, Kenichi Yajima.

Like a Japanese Sex and the City, Girls follows the love lives and workplaces of four beautiful women: Yukiko, a 29-year-old fashion designer, is starting to feel pressure to start dressing her age; Seiko, an office worker, finds it difficult to be taken seriously by her elder male subordinates after a recent promotion; Yoko, who feels guilty about having feelings for a rookie employee who is 12 years younger; and a hard-working single mother named Takako. Based on the bestselling novel Girl by Hideo Okuda.

 

Gyo

Saturday, July 14 at 5:30 pm

New York Premiere, Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival
Japan. 2012. 70 min., B.R., in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takayuki Hirao. With Mirai Kataoka, Takuma Negishi, Ami Taniguchi, Masami Saeki.

The apocalypse decends in the form of bio-mechanical fart-propelled mutant zombie fish. From the mind of horror manga artist Junji Ito, the psycho genius behind Tomie and Uzumaki, Gyro is based on Ito's Gyo--The Death Stench Creeps and directed by Takayuki Hirao (Futakoi Alternative), with Takuro Takahashi (Garden of Sinners) in charge of character design. The story focuses on Kaori, who is attacked by rotting sea creatures while on holiday with her girlfriends in Okinawa. They somehow survive by the skin of their teeth but after Kaori loses cell phone contact with her boyfriend in Tokyo, she rushes back to the capital fearing that this is not just poor network coverage. Festival organizers warns: Don't eat before watching. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

Hard Romanticker (Hado Romanchikka)

Friday, July 13 at 6:30 pm

New York Premiere, Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

Japan. 2011. 108 min., 35mm. in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Su-yeon Gu. With Shota Matsuda, Kento Nagayama, Tokio Emoto, Sei Ashina.

Writer-director Gu Su-yeon's new film draws on his own semiautobiographical account of growing up as a delinquent zainichi Korean (Japanese-born, but of Korean ancestry) in the seaside city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, a working-class hellhole overflowing with sex and fury. Day after day, (fictional) Gu finds fresh foes and draws the ire of local hoodlums. While working multiple dead-end part-time jobs, he cruises around town on his scooter in search of gangland trouble: leaping across rooftops with irate hordes of punks in hot pursuit, running off with a fetching belle in a sailor suit, and rescuing a schoolgirl from being butalized at a glue-sniffing orgy. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

Isn't Anyone Alive? (Ikiteru Mono wa Inainoka)

Sunday, July 22 at 7:20 pm

North American Premiere

Japan, 2011. 113 min. HD Cam, In Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Gakuryu (Sogo) Ishii. With Shota Sometani, Rin Takanashi, Konatsu Tanaka, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Jun Murakami.

People start dying inexplicably, one after the other, after they talk about a bizarre urban myth at a university hospital. As the air of this "energy void" spreads throughout the world, an absurd black comedy emerges. Creator of Crazy Thunder Road (1980), Burst City (1982), The Crazy Family (1984), Angel Dust (1994), Electric Dragon 80,000V (2001) and more, Gakuryu Ishii (previously known as Sogo Ishii) amuses by totally overstepping genre boundaries with striking images and music. Adapted from Shiro Maeda play of the same name.

 

Leonie (Reoni)

Friday, July 27 at 7:00 pm

U.S. Premiere

Japan. 2010. 99 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hisako Matsui. With Emily Mortimer, Shido Nakamura, Mieko Harada, Keiko Takeshita, Christina Hendricks.

"Why I became an artist is related deeply to how my mother lived through her life," said legendary artist Isamu Noguchi. Leonie Gilmour, an American editor and journalist, falls in love with famous Japanese poet Yone Noguchi and gives birth to a son, Isamu Noguchi, who became the world-renowned sculptor and architect. Acclaimed director Hisako Matsui (Yukie, Oriume) found inspiration in Leonie's life story seven years ago when she read Masayo Duus' The Life of Isamu Noguchi. Determined to share the tale of this extraordinary woman with the world, Matsui spent several years working through 14 drafts of the screenplay. The resulting film, shot on location across Japan and the U.S., brings together an impressive international ensemble of talented filmmakers.

Lonely Swallows (Kodoku na Tsubametachi Dekasegi no Kodomo ni Umarete)

Saturday, July 28 at 5:00 pm

U.S. Premiere

Japan. 2011. 88 min., HD Cam, documentary, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Mayu Nakamura.

Lonely Swallows is a documentary that follows the struggles of Japanese-Brazilian children living in Japan. In Hamamatsu, the city of automobile factories, there are hundreds of thousands of young Japanese-Brazilians who came to Japan when they were very young with their immigrant parents. Many of them drop out after junior high school, and start working at factories. Due to economic recession, many of their families lose their jobs, forcing a return to Brazil. The film follows five Japanese-Brazilian children struggling to realize their dreams while they are torn apart from families, friends and beloved over the course of two and a half years.

 

Love Strikes! (Moteki)

Saturday, July 14 at 7:15 pm

Sunday, July 22 at 1:00 pm

U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

July 14 screening features an introduction and Q&A with Masami Nagasawa, this year's recipient of NYAFF's Rising Star Asia Award, and is followed bythe  Striking Love! Japan Cuts Opening Party!

Japan. 2011. 118 min., 35mm, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Hitoshi Ohne. With Mirai Moriyama, Masami Nagasawa, Kumiko Aso, Riisa Naka.

Hitoshi Ohne's romantic comedy, based on a hugely popular manga and TV series, became a massive hit in Japan and was selected for the Top Films of 2011 by The Japan Times, Kinema Jumpo and Eiga Geijutsu. Love Strikes! is the hopelessly endearing tale of Yukiyo Fujimoto (Mirai Moriyama), a diffident, nowhere guy who suddenly becomes the ultimate hot chick magnet. Yukiyo lands a job at a webzine devoted to pop culture, but his forced celibacy is the butt of all his colleagues' jokes. Yukiyo gives full vent to his self-pity via Twitter, and hooks up with a fellow user who seems to share his tastes in pop subculture. They arrange to meet but instead, shockingly cute Miyuki (Masami Nagasawa, who took home the 2012 Japanese Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her part) shows up. Then, as Yukiyo's moteki--Japanese slang for a period of unexplained romantic popularity with the opposite sex--begins to hit full swing, Miyuki might not be as unattainable as he thought. He meets and makes quick progress with the reserved Rumiko (Kumiko Aso); ditzy bar hostess Ai (Riisa Naka); and feisty coworker Motoko (Yoko Maki).

 

Monsters Club (Monsutazu Kurabu)

Saturday, July 15 at 6:00 pm

U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

Introduction and Q&A with Toshiaki Toyoda

Japan. 2011. 71 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Toshiaki Toyoda. With Eita, Ken Ken, Yosuke Kubozuka, Jun Kunimura.
Struck by a lightning bolt of inspiration after reading Unabomber Ted Kaczynski's manifesto, director Toshiaki Toyoda headed up into the mountains where he shot without a script for two weeks, retelling the Unabomber story from the point of view of the bomber. Ryoichi has withdrawn to a snowbound mountain cabin where he mails out letter bombs to corrupt CEOs, writes in his journal, and goes about the hard business of living off the grid. But he can't escape society; it's too big and too hungry to let anyone go for long. Haunted by a monster (inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's Totoro, and played by Japan's genius pansexual drag artist, Pyuupiru) Ryoichi is dragged closer and closer to returning to civilization, a move that threatens to shatter him.

 

No Man's Zone (Mujin Chitai)

Sunday, July 22 at 3:15 pm

North American Premiere

Introduction & Q&A with director Toshi Fujiwara

Japan. 2012. 103 min., HD Cam, documentary in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Toshi Fujiwara. With Arsinee Khanjian.

A man wanders through the 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the stricken nuclear reactors at Fukushima. The cherry trees are in bloom, the radiation is invisible and a gaping emptiness looms where the tsunami engulfed streets and houses. The man is wearing normal clothing, like anyone suffering the disaster, though he occasionally encounters white "ghosts" in protective clothing. As in Tarkovsky's Stalker, No Man's Zone is both a place and a mental state. A voice accompanies the filmmaker's wanderings, that of Armenian-Canadian actress Arsinée Khanjian, a voice from a place of exile, unfamiliar and sympathetic. No Man's Zone is a complex reflection on the relationship between image and fear, on being addicted to the apocalypse, on the ravaged relationship between man and nature. Part of the series Focus on Post 3.11 Cinema. Preceded by a screening of We Are All Radioactive.

 

Rebirth (Yokame no Semi)

Tuesday, July 24 at 7:00 pm

U.S. Premiere

Japan. 2011. 147 min., DigiBeta, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Izuru Narushima. With Jun Fubiki, Gekidan Hitori, Mao Inoue, Eiko Koike.

A woman named Kiwako abducts a baby from a man with whom she has had an affair. For four years Kiwako raises the child as her own, traveling and attempting to live a normal life, until one day she is arrested. The child, named Erina, is then returned to her birth parents, but she can't find peace. As an adult, Erina also becomes involved with a married man and becomes pregnant. To confront her past, Erina goes to Shodoshima where she lived with Kiwako as a child. Winner of the Japanese Academy Prize for Picture of the Year and based on a novel by Mitsuyo Kakuta.

 

Rent-a-Cat (Renta Neko)

Wednesday, July 25 at 7 pm

U.S. Premiere

Japan. 2011. 110 min., DigiBeta, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Naoko Ogigami. With Mikako Ichikawa, Reiko Kusamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Maho Yamada.

Every day Sayoko walks along the banks of the river towing her cats in a little handcart, with a parasol to shade against the heat and a megaphone over her mouth, calling out "Cats for rent! Are you lonely? Why not rent a cat?" Sayoko's cat rental helps lonely people fill the emptiness in their hearts. But Sayoko is also lonely--ever since her grandmother's death she has lived with her cats in an overgrown haven in the midst of the big city where all she hears--apart from the cats' meowing--are her eccentric neighbor's insults. One day, a young man turns up from Sayoko's past. He follows her home and all at once Sayoko's life falls to pieces. "A gentle charmer of a film." --Screen Daily

 

Roadside Fugitive SR (SR Saitamanorappa Rodosaido no Tobosha)

Sunday, July 22 at 9:30 pm

U.S. Premiere

Japan. 2011. 110 min. HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yu Irie. With Eita Okuno, Ryusuke Komakine, Shingo Mizusawa, Jun Miho.

Dignity is demolished and dreams are dashed in Roadside Fugitive, the third installment in Yu Irie's 8000 Miles series. Two years after Ikku (Ryusuke Komakine), Tom (Shingo Mizusawa) and Mighty (Eita Okuno), formed the rap group Sho-gung in their hometown of Fukuya, Saitama Prefecture, it has disbanded and the members are off on another series of misadventures. Irie's goofy, misfit protagonists are finely drawn characters who amuse and endear. Their failure to realize their dreams, or even to hold down a proper job, comes to stand for the punctured ambitions of Japan's so-called NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) generation.

 

Scabbard Samurai (Saya Zamurai)

Saturday, July 14 at 1:00 pm

U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival

Japan. 2010. 103 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto. With Jun Kunimura, Masato Ibu, Itsuji Itao, Rolly.
Set in the Edo period, Scabbard Samurai is about Kanjuro, a broken-down samurai who wishes to fight no more after the death of his wife. The local lord has branded him a deserter and ordered him to either avenge his honor by committing seppuku, or he has 30 days to make the lord's young son smile, which hasn't happened since the death of his mother. Scabbard Samurai is Hitoshi Matsumoto's most grounded film to date. Featuring his trademark deadpan humor, the movie is a side-splitting tearjerker that never takes the easy way out.

 

Shall We Dance? (Sharu wi Dansu?)

Saturday, July 21 at 1:00 pm

Japan. 1996. 136 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Masayuki Suo. With Yakusho Koji, Takenaka Naoto, Suho Yoshikazu, Taguchi Hiromasa.

Before Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez ever put on their dancing shoes, there was the winning Japanese comedy that inspired the American remake. Sugiyama Shohei (Yakusho Koji) seems to have it all: a supportive wife, a beautiful child, a nice house and a well-paying job. But for some reason, that certain "something" is missing from Sugiyama's life. On his evening commute home, Sugiyama notices a beautiful woman staring out the window of a dance studio. One fateful night, he decides to get off the train and seek out this mystery woman, a decision that soon plunges him headlong into the competitive world of ballroom dancing. With its uplifting message and irreverent sense of humor, Masayuki Suo's Shall We Dance? is a classic feel-good film.

 

Smuggler (Sumagura Omae no Mirai o Hakobe)

Thursday, July 12 at 8:15 pm

U.S. Premiere, Co-presented with The New York Asian Film Festival

Japan. 2011. 114 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Katsuhito Ishii. With Satoshi Tsumabuki, Masatoshi Nagase, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Hikari Mitsushima.

Struggling actor Kinuta gets in way over his head, borrowing money all over the place as he pursues his thespian dreams. His debts are sold to a company which agrees to forgive them if works them off. But the moving job he's been offered isn't quite what it seems. He's just been made a "smuggler," one of the debt slaves who do dirty work for the yakuza. Black market sharecroppers, he and his crew lug dead bodies to shallow graves, bag body parts and drag them to the incinerator when hits go wrong. And worse. But what doesn't kill Kinuta makes him stronger and he discovers that he's changing from a spineless actor into a man with a mission. Part of the tribute to Yoshio Harada. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

Someday (Ooshikamura Soudouki)

Thursday, July 19 at 6:30 pm

U.S. Premiere

Japan. 2011. 93 min., DigiBeta, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Junji Sakamoto. With Yoshio Harada, Michiyo Okusu, Ittoku Kishibe, Takako Matsu, Koichi Sato.

Zen Kazamatsuri (the late Yoshio Harada) runs the Deer Eater restaurant in a rural mountain village in Nagano Prefecture. He's also the lead actor in a kabuki play held by the little town, a tradition dating back over 300 years. A wrench is thrown into Zen's life when, shortly before the opening of the play, his estranged wife who had run out on him decades ago return half-senile and not remembering having left him at all. Zen must figure out how to live with his new-old wife while rehearsing. D.P. Norimichi Kasamatsu completely captures the beautiful backdrop of the Ooshika mountainside, as well as a lengthy and vibrant kabuki performance, and director Junji Sakamoto's ensemble drama is enlivened with plenty of gentle comedy and some fantastic performances by a veteran troupe of acting stalwarts.

 

Space Battleship Yamato

Saturday, July 28 at 9:00 pm, Closing Film

North American Premiere

Japan. 2010. 137 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki. With Takuya Kimura, Meisa Kuroki, Toshiro Yanagiba.

The landmark 1974 animated series Space Battleship Yamato finally gets live-action treatment from director Takashi Yamazaki. In the year 2199, earth has become a wasteland after five years of radiation attacks from an unseen alien enemy called the Gamilons. One of the survivors is Kodai Susumu (Kimura Takuya), who picks up a mysterious device one day while hunting for scrap metal. After discovering a map to a planet inside the device, the military sends out its last battleship--the Yamato--in the hopes that it'll be the key to save humanity. Kodai joins the Yamato crew and quickly proves to be a worthy team member. With only a year left before the end of earth, what will the Yamato crew find at the end of their long and perilous journey? One of the highest-grossing Japanese films of all time, Space Battleship Yamato is a sci-fi spectacular for audiences of all ages.

 

Toad's Oil (Gama no Abura)

Saturday, July 21 at 3:30 pm

Japan. 2009. 131 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Koji Yakusho. With Koji Yakusho, Satomi Kobayashi, Eita, Kaoru Yachigusa, Toru Masuoka.

Acclaimed actor Yakusho Koji directs and stars in the exquisite drama. Yakusho's directorial debut follows an immature father's efforts to cure his family's woes after a terrible accident. Rich in magical realism and nostalgic memories, this humanist film approaches a devastating topic with light steps and visual novelty. Yakusho gathers together an interesting cast for his surrogate family, including hot young actor Eita (April Bride), Kobayashi Satomi (Glasses), and model Nikaido Fumi and K-1 champion Sawayashiki Junichi in their movie debuts.

 

Tokyo Playboy Club (Tokyo Pureboi Kurabu)
Saturday, July 14 at 3:15 pm

East Coast Premiere, Co-presented with The New York Asian Film Festival

Japan. 2011. 97 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yosuke Okuda. With Nao Omori, Ken Mituishi, Asami Usuda, Yasushi, Fuchikami.

Katsutoshi (Nao Omori) gets himself in trouble at his temp job in a garage when he kills an obnoxious student with a wrench. He flees to Tokyo, where he shacks up with his friend Seikichi who runs a slimy night club, ironically called the "Tokyo Playboy Club." But even in the seediest, darkest corners of the Shinjuku area, and, in fact, anywhere Katsutoshi goes, trouble follows. Playing like a frantic Guy Ritchie film with occasional pit stops for ramen and the refueling of character and plot, Tokyo Playboy Club features a rich assortment of feral men, each vying to outdo his fellows. International Film Festival Rotterdam 2012 Tiger Award Competition. Tokyo Filmex 2011 Official Competition--Student Jury Prize.

 

Tormented (Rabitto Hora)

Sunday, July 15 at 4:15 pm

North American Premiere, Co-presented with The New York Asian Film Festival

Japan. 2011. 83 min., B.R., in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Shimizu, Director of Photography: Christopher Doyle. With Teruyuki Kagawa, Hikari Mitsushima, Tamaki Ogawa, Nao Ohmori, Takeru Shibuya.

In this trippy fairytale tinged with a bit of J-horror and dripping with gothic atmosphere, cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Infernal Affairs) teams up with Japan's J-horror icon Takashi Shimizu to deliver a twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. The film opens with a splat as 10-year-old Daigo puts a sick rabbit out of its misery with a cinderblock. Taunted as "rabbit killer" by his classmates, his mute sister (Hikari Mitsushima) lets him withdraw from school, the same way their father has withdrawn from life and stays at home illustrating pop-up fairytale books. The whole family is still stunned with grief after the death of his first wife, and the death of his second wife, Daigo's mother. Each member of the family is isolated in their own private fantasy world of grief and suffering, and it's up to a six-foot-tall, possibly evil bunny to drag them down the rabbit hole and into the real world. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

Ushijima the Loan Shark (Yamikin Ushijima-kun)

Wednesday, July 25 at 9:15 pm

World Premiere

Japan. 2012. 130 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Masatoshi Yamaguchi . With Kento Hayashi, Takayuki Yamada, Yuko Oshima, Asuka Kurosawa, Kyosuke Yabe, Hirofumi Arai.

Based on the 4 million-seller comic series by Shohei Manabe, Ushijima the Loan Shark is a controversial work that shows the harsh reality of social disparity and working poor in contemporary Japan. Jun has expanded his club, Bamps, through broad personal connections. Next, in order to hold the biggest show ever, he visits Cow Cow Finance for an illegal loan--but feeling that Ushijima the loan shark didn't take him seriously, he decides to welsh on the loan. Then, Jun starts to use his girlfriends to make money by selling live tickets. One day, Ushijima is arrested on a charge of blackmail, in a plot laid by Jun.

 

We Are All Radioactive (Bokura wa Minna Houshanou)

A series of short films screened before each Post 3.11 Cinema feature

U.S. and Japan. In English/Japanese with Japanese/English subtitles. Directed by Jason Wishnow and Lisa Katayama.
A year after the triple disasters hit northeastern Japan in March 11, 2011, many small towns along the coast still struggle with the same unanswered questions: Is food and water safe? Can I sell my fish and vegetables at the market? Will our children develop cancer? Can we ever trust the government again? In the summer of 2011, a few months after the quake, director Lisa Katayama's film crew befriended a group of surfers based in Motoyoshi--a small coastal town 100 miles north of Fukushima. Living in tents pitched on one of the only unaffected patches of land in town, these surfer-turned-activists rally to get a multi-generational community of fishermen and farmers back on their feet. The crew shot interviews with locals, anti-nuclear activists and global experts on radiation, and gave waterproof video cameras to the residents of Motoyoshi to film through their own lens. Part of the series Focus on Post 3.11 Cinema.

 

Women on the Edge (Giri Giri no Onnatachi)

Saturday, July 28 at 3 pm

North American Premiere

Japan. 2011. 101 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Masahiro Kobayashi. With Miho Fujima, Yuko Nakamura, Makiko Watanabe.

Few filmmakers were capable of coming up with an original response to the disaster on March 11, 2011 but Masahiro Kobayashi found a personal way. He invited three actresses to his family home in the disaster-stricken area. Women on the Edge has four leads--three actresses and a house in the countryside tarnished by the disaster. However, in the house's immediate surroundings everything seems normal. The three actresses play the sisters Takako (Watanabe Makiko), Nobuko (Nakamura Yuko) and Satomi (Fujima Miho). The sisters, who haven't seen each other for 10 years, have a frosty relationship and their reunion is unplanned. The desolate landscape after the disaster exacerbates the mood. Part of the series Focus on Post 3.11 Cinema. Preceded by a screening of We Are All Radioactive.

 

The Woodsman and the Rain (Kitsutsuki to Ame)

Friday, July 20 at 7:00 pm

New York Premiere

Introduction and Q&A with actor Koji Yakusho, followed by a reception with the actor

Japan. 2011. 129 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shuichi Okita. With Koji Yakuso, Shun Oguri, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Masato Ibu.
An award-winning comedy starring Koji Yakusho (Eel, 13 Assassins) and Shun Oguri (Gaku, Crows Zero). Katsu, a 60 year-old lumberjack, lives in a small, tranquil village in the mountains. When a film crew arrives to shoot a zombie movie, Katsu finds himself unwittingly roped into assisting the production and is increasing frustrated by the pushy crew, especially the young, seemingly spineless director Koichi. However, an improbable friendship soon develops between Katsu and Koichi, as Katsu comes to see joy in the filmmaking process, and gradually helps Koichi to recover his sense of self. Soon, their bond inspires an unusual collaboration between the villagers and the film crew. Special Jury Prize--Tokyo International Film Festival. 

Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead (Zonbi Asu)

Tuesday, July 17 at 7:30 pm

New York Premiere

Japan. 2011. 84 minutes, HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Noboru Iguchi. With Asami, Mayu Sugano, Ashana Mamuro, Yuki and Kentaro Kishi.

A steaming heap of bad taste from the twisted mind of cinematic madman Noboru Iguchi (RoboGeisha, Mutant Girls Squad). Wracked with guilt over the suicide of her sister, karate student Megumi accompanies a group of older friends on a trip into the woods. Things start to go badly when Maki finds a parasitical worm inside a fish--and wolfs it down alive in the hopes that it'll help keep her skinny. Attacked by a crowd of undead who emerge from an outhouse toilet, the group seeks refuge at the home of Dr. Tanaka and his daughter Sachi. Unbeknownst to them, Tanaka has been conducting experiments on the parasites and the zombies. Featuring special effects by Yoshihiro Nishimura and some truly jaw-dropping contributions from Iguchi's genius subconscious. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

9 Souls (Nain Soruzu)

Thursday, July 19 at 8:30 pm

Japan. 2003. 120 min. 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Toshiaki Toyoda. With Yoshio Harada, Ryuhei Matsuda, Michiru Kaneko, Genta Dairaku, Eita, Yuu Fujiki, Asami Imajuku, Jun Inoue, Itsuji Itao, Misaki Ito.

When a bomber, a patricide, a pornographer and a mad biker, together with various other social detritus, break free from jail, it is not surprising that mayhem follows. What surprises is the degree of sympathy that brilliant young director Toshiaki Toyoda (Blue Spring) elicits with elegant ease, as the gang of misfits roams the land in a despair that is crueler for being comic. This is humanity on the run to nowhere. Although originally inspired by The Great Escape, the film has more of a feel of Les Miserables mixed with a hallucinogenic, cut with speed. A truly original addition to the jailbreak genre! Par of the Tribute to Yoshio Harada. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

13 Assassins (Jūsannin no Shikaku)

Saturday, July 21 at 8:20 pm

Introduced by actor Koji Yakusho

Japan. 2010. 141 min. 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Miike. With Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki. Masachika Ichimura, Mikijirō Hira.

Miike Takashi took on his first period swordplay epic with 13 Assassins, the 2010 remake of the 1963 Kodo Eiichi film of the same name. Working with a bigger budget and a star-studded cast, he delivers entertaining swordplay thrills that earned cheers from audiences all over the world and four grand prizes at the Japan Academy Awards. In a time of peace, the shogun's sadistic brother Naritsugu (Japanese boy band SMAP's Inagaki Goro) goes on a killing spree. Riled by his lord's cruelty, Naritsugu's head samurai Shinzaemon (Yakusho Koji) assembles a band of samurai to assassinate the lord on his trip home. Despite being outnumbered by Naritsugu's bodyguards, led by Hanbei (Ichimura Masachika), the band of heroic samurai have assembled an intricate plan that will lead to the greatest battle of their lives. 18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 or older.

 

~

 

Japan Society's JAPAN CUTS is an inimitable platform for contemporary Japanese cinema, showing the diversity and vitality of one of the most exciting world cinemas. Since its launch in 2007, the festival has attracted over 25,000 filmgoers and presented over 110 feature films, many never-before seen in the U.S. The first annual JAPAN CUTS was one of the most successful single events in the Society's 2007-08 centennial celebration. Noted for its "rich and varied selection of recent Japanese films" (David Kehr, The New York Times), JAPAN CUTS has premiered several films that have gone on to garner international acclaim, including: About Her Brother, Buddha, Confessions, Death Note, Fish Story, Gantz, Haru's Journey, Kamome Diner, Love Exposure, Milocrorze,The Mourning Forest, Ninja Kids!!!,Sawako Decides, Sukiyaki Western Django, Sway, Sketches of Kaitan City,United Red Army, Vacation, and Yasukuni. Every year JAPAN CUTS features a number of panels, post-screening parties, and exclusive Q&As with filmmakers and actors. Past festivals have included appearances by Sora Aoi, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Yoshimasa Ishibashi, Shusuke Kaneko, Naomi Kawase, Masahiro Kobayashi, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Kentaro Moriya, Miwa Nishikawa, Naoko Ogigami, Natsuki Seta, Shota Sometani, Sion Sono, Tomorowo Taguchi, Gen Takahashi, Toshiaki Toyoda, Hitoshi Yazaki, and Isao Yukisada.

 

Now in its 11th year, the New York Asian Film Festival is North America's leading festival of popular Asian cinema, which the New York Times has called "one of the city's most valuable events." Presented by Subway Cinema presents the 2012 festival runs June 29-July 15 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater and Japan Society. More at http://www.subwaycinema.com/nyaff12/.

 

The Japan Society Film Program offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society's arts & culture programs. The Film Program has included retrospectives of great directors, thematic series and many U.S. premieres. Some original film series curated by the Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. For more, visit http://www.japansociety.org/film.

 

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a world-class, multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan. More at http://www.japansociety.org.

 

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and V subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit www.japansociety.org.

 

JAPAN CUTS is co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival.  This series is funded by a grant from The Japan Foundation. Additional support is provided by UNIQLO and Sapporo USA, Inc. Sony SRW-5800 HDCAM-SR Studio VTR is provided courtesy of Sony Electronics Inc. Transportation is generously supported by Japan Airlines, the exclusive Japanese Airlines sponsor of Film Programs at Japan Society. Additional transportation is generously supported by United Airlines. Hotel accommodations are provided by The Kitano New York. Media sponsorship is provided by WNYC. Japan Society's 2012-2013 Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by The Globus Family, Kenneth A. Cowin, David S. Howe, Omar Al-Farisi, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Catanzaro, Laurel Gonsalves, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, and Randall I. Stempler.

 


JAPAN CUTS 2012 Schedule At-A-Glance

 

 


Thursday, July 12

6:30 - Asura

8:15 - Smuggler

 

Friday, July 13

6:30 - Hard Romanticker

8:40 - The Atrocity Exhibition (Let's Make the Teacher... + Big Gun + Henge)

 

Saturday, July 14

1:00 - Scabbard Samurai

3:15 - Tokyo Playboy Club

5:30 - Gyo

7:15 - Love Strikes! + Striking Love! JAPAN CUTS Opening Party!*

 

Sunday, July 15

1:30 - Ace Attorney

4:15 - Tormented

6:00 - Monsters Club*

8:00 - Chips

 

Tuesday, July 17

7:30 - Zombie Ass

 

Wednesday, July 18

7:30 - Girls for Keeps

 

Thursday, July 19

6:30 - Someday

8:30 - 9 Souls

 

Friday, July 20

7:00 - The Woodsman and the Rain, Centerpiece Gala Presentation*

 

Saturday, July 21

1:00 - Shall We Dance?

3:30 - Toad's Oil

6:00 - Chronicle of My Mother

8:20 - 13 Assassins*

11:00 - Cure

 

Sunday, July 22

1:00 - Love Strikes!

3:15 - No Man's Zone*

5:20 - About the Pink Sky

7:20 - Isn't Anyone Alive?

9:30 - Roadside Fugitive

 

Tuesday, July 24

7:00 - Rebirth

 

Wednesday, July 25

7:00 - Rent-a-Cat

9:15 - Ushijima the Loan Shark

 

Tuesday, July 26

7:00 - Don't Stop! + DON'T STOP! JAPAN CUTS Party*

 

Friday, July 27

7:00 - Leonie*

 

Saturday, July 28

1:00 - A Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima

3:00 - Women on the Edge

5:00 - Lonely Swallows

7:00 - The Brat!

9:00 - Space Battleship Yamato

 

*Director or actor introduction and/or Q&A!

 
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