Author: Ben Dimagmaliw

Eye-On-A-Crimson-Star

A Crimson Star

Filmmakers, particularly writer/directors, drawing on their personal lives to inform or even inspire the movies they direct is not uncommon. When leading a production crew and directing actors on one’s first few films, communicating what one wants based on one’s experiences more than likely aids in achieving the desired results. At the age of 19, director Igashi Aya directed her Toho Gakuen Film Techniques Training College graduate thesis, Tokeru. She stated the movie was the story she could make at that age as a young girl living in the Hokkaido countryside. Tokeru is an outpouring of her frustration at watching and hearing her classmates banal conversations and pointless ambitions. The emotional and adolescent confusion portrayed by the lead character as well as the authenticity of its worldview across its 45 minute runtime attracted the attention of Kawase Naomi which lead to Tokeru being screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cindefondation section. Now 22, Igashi is working to complete her latest project, A Crimson Star, which by all accounts deals with matters as they relate to …

Eye-On-Our-House

Our House

At its core Kiyohara Yui’s Our House is a story of two women. Seri is an adolescent girl living in an old house with her mother who Seri knows is planning to get remarried with her new lover. Sana is an amnesiac who is given sanctuary in the home of Toko, a woman seemingly harboring many secrets. Gradually, however, the movie begins to reveal why it won two awards at the Pia Film Festival, and earned screenings at the Berlin International Film Festival’s Forum Section and at the Lincoln Film Center in New York. With a high-concept usually found in science fiction and the forward thinking of an experimental movie, Kiyohara slowly begins overlapping these stories occurring in parallel as the boundaries between them become increasingly porous. Yet, nothing about it suggests it is a “genre” movie per se. Though there is a level of spookiness applied by Kiyohara as the occupants of the house begin to sense one another–no doubt attributable to her mentorship with Kurosawa Kiyoshi–the contrivance is primarily a form of storytelling. …

Eye-On-Amiko

Amiko

Rebellious teens and social rebelliousness have been and are an oft used theme in movies though some of the most memorable works were products of the social unrest of the 60s and 70s, both abroad and in Japan. While a fair degree of such movies are still offered by the independent scene abroad, much of the spirited filmmaking pioneered by such filmmakers as Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Sono Sion, Tsukamoto Shinya, and Ishii Sogo in the late 70s and 80s has all but vanished in Japan. So, when a movie that recaptures much of the feel of those bygone days emerges, not just stylistically but in terms of its content, people take notice. That the director of this movie is a 20-year-old young woman, the youngest ever to participate in the Forum Section of the Berlin International Film Festival, is further cause for excitement. Amiko is the story of a high school girl in a small provincial town who is absolutely convinced the Japanese have lost any sense of spontaneity. But a long conversation with Aomi, a …

Eye-On-Eriko-Pretended

Eriko, Pretended

Millennials and the possible Japanese counterpart “Yutori Generation” [used describe a children brought up and educated in a non-pressure system in response to the stress and overburden placed on them to achieve] have been oft maligned by their elders for poor work attitudes, a sense of entitlement, and a narcissistic streak. Whoever is to blame and the solutions which are needed are a discussion for some other blog, but key to both is how said generation views itself and filmmakers in their 20s are beginning to take a look at who they are and where they are going. Eriko, Pretended from writer/director Fujimura Akiyo a graduate of Meiji Gakuin University and the New Cinema Workshop film school, looks to be a standout entry in this sphere primarily for its set up and development. Ten years ago, Eriko left her provincial town and headed for Tokyo in pursuit of her dream of being an actress, though has nothing to show for it except a bit part in a commercial beneath a rabbit costume. Nevertheless, she tells …

Eye-On-Beloved-Nora

Beloved Nora: A Chance Encounter with Happiness

In terms of the role they play in the lives of humans, pets have gone from being “domesticated animals” fulfilling a function for their masters to being integral members of the family. Whether cat, dog, fish, bird, snake, or something more exotic, pets figuratively and often times literally occupy a special place in the home. For young children, they may seem like another sibling. For adults, they may be viewed like their own children; in some cases, pets take the place of children who have left they nest or had never been. This is the essential focus of Beloved Nora – A Chance Encounter with Happiness (lit. translation). The story revolves around an insignificant screenwriter, Tsukumo Sakumi and the stray cat which wanders into his life. Naming the cat Shiro, he and his wife, Hiori, decide to keep it. Without children of their own, the couple dote on Shiro like parents would a child. Then one day Shiro does not return home after going outside. Sakumi disregards his work to go in search for Shiro, …

Eye-On-Samurai-and-Idiots

Samurai and Idiots–The Olympus Affair

The whistleblower has often provided movies with an underdog character whom audiences can root for such as Russel Crowe’s character in Michael Mann’s The Insider. In 2002 Time magazine’s Persons of Year were three women, real whistleblowers who exposed FBI intelligence failures as well as corruption at corporate giants Enron and WorldCom. They were hailed as heroes for defying the larger entity to which they belonged in order to expose truth . In 2011, then president and CEO of the Japanese Olympus Corporation, Michael Woodford, blew the whistle on a 1.7 billion dollar fraud the company kept secret for more than two decades and was abruptly dismissed from his post by the board of directors citing “cultural differences” in management style. Instead of being hailed a hero, the few Japanese media that bothered to cover the story used the angle of this just being another example of a foreigner failing to adapt to the Japanese way. The international press, however, reported a brewing scandal in which Woodford’s ousting was done to damage control the effect …

Eye-On-The-Night-I-Swam

The Night I Swam

Some movies are better experienced than talked or written about. They take advantage of the medium of cinema in ways that sometimes are forgotten by even the most experienced, respected filmmakers. Movies are a visual medium. They are meant to show rather than tell. The Night I Swam, a Japanese/French co-production co-directed by A Young Poet’s Damien Manivel and Hold Your Breath Like a Lover’s Igarashi Kohei, certainly seems to epitomize this. On paper, the story is described thusly: a 6-year-old boy is awoken by the departure of his father, a fisherman, every night when he makes his way to the market in town. Finding it impossible to fall back to sleep, the young boy draws a picture as the household slumbers and then slips it into his satchel. In the morning on his way to school, still drowsy, he strays off his usual path and wanders into the snow…. Visually, however, it is the young boy’s journey we are shown that is the heart and soul of the movie. Shot in the majestic snowy vistas of Hokkaido and completely devoid of …