All posts filed under: Eye On

Taste of Emptiness Feature Image

Taste of Emptiness

High schooler Satoko lives a comfortable life surrounded by kind parents and close friends. An ever so small uneasiness begins to grow in her life. It’s an indescribable anxiety, and impulses she can not prevent. Satoko realizes that at some point she has become mired in an eating disorder. Not knowing the reason why, Satoko’s anxiety grows and steadily traps her as her relationship with family and friends also grow strained. Then one day in town she happens upon a dangerous seeming woman, Maki. Her interactions with Maki is a release for Satoko. Based on director Tsukada Marina’s actual experiences of suffering an eating disorder while a university student, her debut feature deals with a sadly universal problem throughout the world. But the movie does not aim to dwell on the disorder nor the motivations which engendered it. Though the heroine’s anguish is very much Tsukada’s own, she hoped to draw focus on what turned her on the path to recovery. As it turns out, she met a woman on whom the character of Maki …

Red Snow Feature Image

Red Snow

Thirty years ago, a young boy disappeared amid mysterious circumstances involving a sociopath, her troubled daughter, and a devastating fire. Today, what is known of the tragedy is shrouded in a morass of clouded and fictionalised memories, stubborn silence, and well-rehearsed lies. When a journalist arrives intent on getting to the bottom of the long-closed case, a tinderbox of pent-up emotions and misplaced guilt ignites; a spiral of violence erupts from the clash of competing histories and debilitating psychological injuries. (Int’l FF Marrakesh) The first thing one will notice about Red Snow is its distinctive palette and cinematography. At face value this accomplishes to provide the crime-centered story a noir aesthetic, but it is also safe to say this director who originally worked in the short film format and in video art was also looking to visualize the muddled nature of human memory at the core of the characters’ psyche also essential to noir. Strong thematics and powerful imagery have been a hallmark for Kai who has co-directed several acclaimed short movies, while her solo directorial shorts have …

Life Untitled Feature Image

Life: Untitled

On the fourth floor of an anonymous building, the lives of female escorts intersect as they wait for calls from their customers. Kano (Sairi Ito) has just joined the group. Quickly disillusioned, she nonetheless sticks around as an employee, managing bookings, cleaning up, and bearing witness to the lives of her coworkers. An eclectic group of women gravitate around the place, their lives “yet to be titled”, yet full of unspoken dreams, desires, heartbreaks and rivalries – all repressed in the face of the everyday misogyny inherent to the trade, and to Japanese society. (Fantasia Film Festival) There are more than a few reviews of Yamada Kana’s debut feature which reference the legendary filmmaker Mizoguchi Kenji in comparing how it differs from the “tradition” of brothel-set movies in Japanese cinema, specifically in how it portrays sex workers with dignity despite their lower social status and stigma of their profession. Other genres have served up the hooker, the call girl, etc. for more exploitive purposes. As Japan Cuts writes: “Portraying an industry frequently exploited in Japanese media …

Mrs. Noisy Feature Image

Mrs. Noisy

A once successful novelist, Maki (Shinohara Yukiko), moves into a new apartment hoping it’s the change she needs to get herself out of her writing slump. However, every time she seems on the verge of an inspired breakthrough, she is violently interrupted by her neighbor’s furious beating of the futons. Day and night, the incessant thwacking drives Maki past annoyance and well into an all-out rage. She confronts the neighbor, Miwako (Ootaka Yoko), and the seemingly small argument snowballs into a fight that gets caught on camera. The video goes viral on social media, and the two inadvertently get caught up in a media storm. But in the ensuing fallout, Maki gets an idea for a novel. (Japan Foundation) The timing for Amano Chihiro’s movie couldn’t have been more appropriate, hence its success with audiences both on the domestic and international film festival circuit. The story is a simple microcosm the themes of which viewers realize are applicable in various facets of their life and even on a much broader scope. More importantly, it shows how …

Wasted Eggs Feature Image

Wasted Eggs

Junko is nearly 30, nearing the customary “best before” age of Japanese society, and is feeling stronger pressure from those around her. Without a significant other or even a particular wish to have children anytime soon, she decides to become an egg donor; and not just for the free Hawaii trip that would be the prize if her candidacy is successful. At a counsellng session, she meets her niece Aki who has similar plans. Together, they soon see how competitive social and evolutionary rules can mess up the best human relationships, particularly when such rules are mixed with the fossilized attitudes of a society which is frantically hanging on to traditions. At the age of 32 when she completed Wasted Eggs, Kawasaki Ryo is almost certainly drawing on real experiences and feelings for a society that continues to pressure women to marry and raise children, and unfortunately many Japanese women still consider to be the epitome of femininity. The decision between having a career or having a family still beleaguers contemporary Japanese women, including filmmakers like …

Empty Feature Image

Empty

Watarase Machi is an extreme part-timer who bounces around a number of part-time jobs on mornings, afternoons, and evenings for 365 days of the year. One day at the Japanese pub where she works, Machi meets a reclusive artist named Yoshito who wants to use her as a model for a painting. Fascinated by Yoshito’s sketches, she begins living with him as they become further involved. Nevertheless, Machi comes to develop an odd feeling for the image of herself on Yoshito’s canvas.And then she meets an arts writer, Itogawa Yo and ends up conversing with him by parroting what she heard from Yoshito as if it were own thoughts. Yo becomes very interested in Machi and from that day forward she records her conversations with Yoshito and recites them back to Yo on their dates.Machi would have lived as a different person to Yoshito and Yo each, but on Christmas Eve just before the painting is completed, the situation takes a sudden turn. Director Nomura Nao produced this mid-length movie to complete her graduation from …

Rent a Friend Feature Image

Rent a Friend

Do platonic friendships between the sexes really exist? Despite a lack of personal experience, columnist Nasa thinks it’s possible. After a chance encounter with a charming friend-for-hire, she contrives to use his rented friendship to fuel a new article series exploring the topic. Intrigued by rented friend Sota’s concept of a “friendship-romance switch”, Nasa secretly sets out to test their individual limits but quickly finds herself in too deep. When Nasa’s vocalist roommate also finds an easy connection with Sota through their shared passion for music, a messy triangle blurring the lines of friendship and “something more” emerges. – (Australian Center for the Moving Image) Akiyama Mayu’s feature length debut is one of those movies that should be immediately relatable. Not quite a “battle of the sexes,” the movie does pose a question to the audience which has no right answer, but most likely opinions of which fall along gender lines. Akiyama, herself, was inspired by an article about “rental friends.” It prompted her to actually rent one herself whom she interviewed much like the protagonist. …