Takashi Miike to be honored with 2014 Maverick Director Award at Rome Film Festival

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Prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike will be the recipient of the 2014 Maverick Director Award at the upcoming Rome Film Festival, event organizers announced today.

The Maverick Director Award, the festival’s website states, “is dedicated to filmmakers who have contributed to the invention of a new, original, and unconventional cinema.”

Miike was already schedule to appear at the festival, which runs from Oct. 16-25 in Rome, Italy, to world-premiere his latest film, As the Gods Will.

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‘Killers’ invade: Indonesian-Japanese co-produced film added to Japan CUTS 2014 lineup

Already diverse and eclectic, the 2014 Japan CUTS film festival in New York City (which begins July 10th through the 20th) has recently added the psychological-thriller Killers to its lineup.

Co-produced by Japanese film studio Nikkatsu and the Indonesian Guerilla Merah-Films, Killers follows the exploits of a Japanese serial killer named Nomura (played by Kazuki Kitamura) who uploads footage of his tortures and murders onto the internet. Nomura’s snuff films fascinate an Indonesian journalist named Bayu (played by Oka Antara), who in turn begins to kill and upload his murderous acts onto the internet as well. Nomura soon becomes aware of Bayu’s work, leading to a dark and twisted confrontation between both men.

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Japan CUTS 2014 unsheathes a lineup of cutting edge films

 

Photo courtesy of 2013 “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” film partners

Photo courtesy of 2013 Why Don’t You Play in Hell? film partners

Fans of Japanese film, clear your schedules for July 10-20 as you’ll undoubtedly want to attend the 8th annual Japan CUTS film festival held at the Japan Society in New York City.

For 10 days, the Japan Society will become a mecca for Japanese cinephiles as the Japan CUTS 2014 festival will screen 27 films from the Land of the Rising Sun – including works by such notable Japanese directors as Sion Sono, Takashi Miike, Katsuhito Ishii and Hideo Nakata.

Though often difficult to assemble, Programmer for Japan CUTS 2014 Joel Neville Anderson stressed the importance of having a diverse collection of films presented at the festival.

“Curating festivals of a national cinema is necessarily problematic, swinging between exhaustive cultural surveys or limited selections of titles with international arthouse appeal, between a lineup that is representative and one that is exceptional,” Anderson said in a press release issued by Japan Society.

Anderson said the “tactic” at Japan CUTS has always been to place a heavy emphasis on “diversity” in the films they curate.

“This is especially so this year,” he said.

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Film lineup for 16th annual Boston Underground Film Festival has been announced

Bacchus-statueThe fine folks at the Boston Underground Film Festival have announced the lineup for their 16th annual event (BUFF16) and fans of Asian underground cinema are in for several treats.

Japanese director Sion Sono, a Lost in the Miso favorite, will be having his 2013 film Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Click the link to see the trailer!) screened at the event. Word has it that the film is less like his recent, more serious work (Himizu and The Land of Hope) and more akin to his audaciously over-the-top four hour epic Love Exposure. BUFF16 offers this synopsis of Why Don’t You Play in Hell?:

“A renegade film crew becomes embroiled with a yakuza clan feud in this bloody ode to 35mm cinema, the thirty-first feature film from Japan’s prolific provocateur auteur Sion Sono.”

Japanese cinema will also be represented at BUFF16 with the 1974 cult classic and Japanese exploitation film School of the Holy Beast. BUFF16 says of the film:

“A young nun seeks to uncover the dark secrets of the Sacred Heart Convent in this nunsploitation classic. School of the Holy Beast is as blasphemous and shocking as it is artistically stunning.” 

The writer of the violently schlocky Tokyo Gore Police, Maki Mizui, will have his directorial debut Kept screened at BUFF16.

The Japanese short film The Tale of Love Suicide, directed by Ken Hirata, will also be showing.

The Philippines also gets some BUFF16 love with EDSA XXXthe latest film by Filipino director Khavn. BUFF16 describes the film as:

“Nothing ever changes in the ever-changing Republic of Ek-Ek-Ek. The year is 2030. The place is a Filipino bizarro-future akin to Biff Tannen’s 1985 (but with more palm trees).”

These five films are clearly enough reason for any Boston-area fan of Asian cinema to attend this year’s Boston Underground Film Festival. I’ve personally attended the festival in the past and I can highly encourage anyone in the greater Boston area to support the great work being done by the people at BUFF.
BUFF16 starts Wednesday, March 26 and ends Sunday, March 30, and films are shown at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA.
I hope to see you there!

 

‘The Wind Rises’ Review: Miyazaki’s last film before retirement mostly soars

Photo courtesy of www.thewindrisesmovie.tumblr.com

Rating: PG-13

Length: 126 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki 

Stars: 

 Jiro Horikoshi – Joseph Gordon-Levitt (voice)

Honjo – John Krasinki (voice)

Naoko Satomi – Emily Blunt (voice)

The animated film The Wind Rises is a monumental moment in world cinema, as it is not only legendary Japanese animated filmmaker Hayao Miyzaki at the top of his game, but also it being his last film before retirement. Interestingly, The Wind Rises is also his most provocative.

The film has caused a bit of controversy in Miyazaki’s native land as it is a fictionalized WWII-era biography of Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the aeronautical engineer who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane – an aircraft that would be used by the Japanese Imperial Navy to attack Pearl Harbor.

The Wind Rises, which harkens back to the sweeping Hollywood epics of yore, tells the tale of the starry-eyed Horikoshi, whose dreams of one day building elegant and beautiful airplanes come true – a reality that will inflict heartache upon not only himself but the world at large.

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Apocalypse Now: The back-story to ‘Snowpiercer’ has been revealed in an animated short

Just how did the passengers of the Snowpiercer – a colossal train that never stops running – wind-up aboard their new home? Well, according to the animated prequel to Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer that has recently surfaced online, they fought tooth and nail to procure their seats.

With a visual storytelling style similar to that of a motion comic, the 4-minute animated prequel does a serviceable job in succinctly telling the back-story to the upcoming dystopian film (it opens in South Korea on August 1), and will give those who view it a better understanding of the film’s world.

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Takashi Miike + Tom Hardy = ‘The Outsider’

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Oh wow…

Oh wow, indeed.

The magnificent English actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Bronson, Inception, The Warrior and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike (Audition, The Bird People of China, Ichi the Killer, The Great Yokai War and 13 Assassins) are rumored to be teaming up for upcoming film The Outsider. 

Taking place in the aftermath of WWII, The Outsider tells the story of an American G.I. who, after becoming an American prisoner of war, later works his way up into the ranks of the Yakuza.

How can the prospect of such a film not give film enthusiasts goosebumps?

Based on an original story idea by John Linson (executive producer of Sons of Anarchy), The Outsider was scripted by Andrew Baldwin.

Keeping it ‘REAL’: Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns to theaters this year

Photo Courtesy of www.SciFiJapan.com

It’s been a long five years since Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa last released a film on the big screen but fans of his work need not wait much longer.

On June 1st, Kiyoshi’s REAL will open in theaters across Japan and, if you’re like me and do not live in Japan, don’t be too sad as REAL will undoubtedly make appearances at international film festivals and, eventually, find its way onto DVD and Blu-ray.

Kiyoshi, who has directed popular Japanese films such as Bright Future (2003), Pulse (2001), and Cure (1997), will make his directorial return with an adaptation of the award-winning Japanese novel A Perfect Day for Plesiosaur. The novel, written by Rokuro Inui, came out in 2011 and, according to SciFiJapan, won the Grand Prize at This Mystery is Excellent! – an annual mystery fiction competition held in Japan.

According to IMDB, the plot synopsis to REAL is as follows:

“Koichi and Atsumi are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss to understand the circumstances that drove her to do such a thing. Now she is in a coma and Koichi needs to find out the reason. Since Koichi is a neurosurgeon he has access to the latest studies and so he takes part in a medical procedure that will allow him to enter Atsumi’s subconscious. Through ‘sensing’, a type of neurosurgical procedure allowing contact with the intentional aspect of a comatose patient’s mind, Koichi tries to discover why Atsumi tried to kill herself, and to bring her back to consciousness.

When he enters her mind she asks him to find a picture which she drew as a child. It is the key to a suppressed memory connected to a childhood trauma, an incident buried in their past which will bring their minds together and allow him to get close to truly knowing his love.”

Sources: Twitchflim and SciFiJapan

Sion Sono will use YouTube to find actors for his next film, ‘Tokyo Tribes’

Photo courtesy of www.YesAsia.com

Santa Inoue’s manga Tokyo Tribes will be getting a live-action treatment by none other than Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono (Himizu, Noriko’s Dinner Table and Suicide Club).

The even bigger news?

Sono has created a YouTube channel that will hold open auditions for anyone interested in being casted in a role.

Those who visit the Tokyo Tribe open audition channel on YouTube will find Sono and Inoue in two introductory videos as well two sample audition videos.

Tokyo Tribes, originally a manga and later an anime, tells the story of a future Tokyo where street gangs, or “tribes,” battle for supremacy. For those concerned that Sono, whose last few films have included his transgressive “Hate” trilogy (Love Exposure, Coldfish and Guilty of Romance) as well as Himizu and The Land of Hope which both deal with the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011, has sold out by choosing to direct a film adaptation of a popular manga and anime, well, don’t worry. Sono’s choice to cast his film via YouTube auditions shows he is as unconventional as ever.

Sources:  Nippon Cinema and Twitchfilm

The 2013 Korean Cinematic Invasion

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No one can deny the groundbreaking cinema which has been coming out of South Korea for over the last ten years. Korean films such as A Tale of Two Sisters, Oldboy and The Host have amassed dedicated cult followings worldwide.

So it was only a matter of time before some of the biggest directors in South Korea’s New Wave of Cinema – chief among them being Kim Jee-woon, Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho – would wash up on US shores, Hollywood beckoning them to showcase their skills on the largest stage in the world.

Years from now, there is a chance 2013 could be looked back upon as the year of the Korean Cinematic Invasion of the United States, with not one, not two, but three English language directorial debuts by Korean filmmakers.

However, this movement has gotten off to a rocky start.


Kim Jee-woon’s ‘The Last Stand’

The Last Stand - Photo Courtesy of www.thelaststandfilm.com

This January, director Kim Jee-woon released the R-rated action movie, The Last Stand, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (who hadn’t starred in a leading role for almost a decade). The critical response to the film was mixed (it currently sits at a “rotten” rating of 59%, just one percentage point from being considered “fresh,” on film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes) and it was a flat-out bomb commercially. According to the website Boxofficemojo, The Last Stand yielded a disappointing $12 million in the United States. With a production budget of around $45 million, it was considered a colossal failure considering it was expected to usher in a new era of Schwarzenegger films.

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