All posts tagged: debut feature

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 …

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 …

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. …

Blue Hour Feature Image

Blue Hour

30-year-old commercial ads director Sunada seems to have it all: a successful career, a kind husband, and a stylish Tokyo home far from her rural hometown. But everything is not as it seems behind-the-scenes as she grows disconnected from her husband and feels increasingly anxious about her career in a field women seldom rise to the top. In an attempt to escape her frustrations, she impulsively decides to go on a road trip to the hometown she broke free of so many years ago. Along for the ride is her high-spirited best friend Kiyoura, but her reunion with an alienated family will open old wounds and childhood memories that will only complicate matters further. The story of Sunada is not at all too uncommon. Most people in Tokyo are not from Tokyo, having moved there from other regions, some quite rural, lured either by the dazzle of big city life or the greater job opportunities available there. The fact this is probably true in many other countries as populations continue to shift from rural areas …

Red Comet Club Feature Image

The Red Comet Club

Once every several decades, a red comet becomes observable from the Earth. High school student Jun hears of a curious theory that a time paradox will induced by creating a strong magnetic field when a comet passes. Together with his companions in the astronomy club, he sets about creating a “comet core” which will have the same strong magnetic field as the comets which hurtle through space. Gratifying days pass uneventfully. Jun is surrounded by companions who will immerse themselves in something so trivial; and beside him is his childhood friend, Hana. In fact, the realities of the comet really don’t matter. And there is certainly not a single thing he hopes for. It’s difficult to say if the intriguing yet deceptively simple-sounding premise of director Takei Yuri’s feature-length debut can be labeled “lo-fi sci-fi”, but the final line of the synopsis leads one to think the movie may be worth viewing to find out whether or not the statement is true. Online film site Cinefil.tokyo commented that “Takei Yuri, who timelessly succeeds the bloodline …

Eye-On-Orphans'-Blues

Orphans’ Blues

Ema exists in a world where summer seems to go on forever. Recently, she’s become rather forgetful so she always has a notebook handy, and there are all sorts of notes pasted everywhere at home as well. One day she receives a drawing of an elephant in the mail from Yan, a childhood friend from her days at an orphanage whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Hoping to see her dear friend again, Ema sets out on a journey to find Yan using the letter’s postmark as a clue. Along the way, she happens to run into Ban whom she’s known since childhood like Yan, and also makes the acquaintance of Yuri, Ban’s girlfriend. Having failed in their attempt to flee to Tahiti, Ban and Yuri slowly but surely become companions on Ema’s journey. Meanwhile, Ema’s feelings toward Yan are beginning to intensify as is her dread over her accelerating memory loss. Fukuoka born Kudo Riho decided to pursue filmmaking in her second year of high school. She had been moved by Nishi Kanako’s novel ‘Sakura’ …