Archive for the 'Japan movies' Category


Currently reading

Current reading “Paprika” by Yasutaka Tsutsui. I saw the anime of this book a few years ago and have read other works by Tsutsui, Hell and Salmonella men on Porno and other stories. I’m a big fan. Like his other works, this is translated by Andrew Miller.




Solntse/The Sun

The BFI is currently featuring a directorspective of Aleksandr Sokurov, a Russian film director. I am pretty much ignorant of Sokurov’s work but he is described as a spiritual voice of Russian film. He is famous for several movies, it seems, including Russian Ark and other films depicting St Petersburg. But what interested me in Sokurov was a tetralogy known as the “Men of Power” series, which he has recently done looking at “three individuals who have wielded extraordinary destructive authority during the 20th Century: Lenin (Taurus), Hitler (Moloch), and Hirohito (Solntse). The fourth film is about Faust, “the mythical forerunner” of these later men. Sokurov won the Golden Lion Award at Venice this year for Faust. But  I was interested in the third of these movies, a movie called The Sun (Solntse) looking at the Emperor Hirohito.

Made in 2004, this movie covers a couple of days around the time when Japan surrenders and the Emperor goes to meet General MacArthur. As the film review by JG Ballad notes:

The Sun resembles a dreamlike newsreel filmed by a secret camera deep in the emperor’s bunker. We see Hirohito waited on by his cringing retainers, who dress and feed him as if he were a handicapped child, which in effect he was. As he waits for them to button his shirt, or murmurs to his marine biology specimens in his private laboratory, he resembles a royal figure rather closer to home: well-meaning, babied by his wife and utterly disengaged from reality

This movie doesn’t really seek to deal with the argument about the extent to which we think Hirohito was a guileless puppet at the mercy of military leaders or whether he was complicit and enthusiastic about the war. He is a rather sympathetic character in that he appears so child-like and human but at the same time he does not appear to be without an understanding of the war and his role. The movie does lean toward  the ‘guileless puppet’ image more so than the other image but mostly it doesn’t bother to delve into that debate.

But the most important part of this film is the depiction of the bombing of Tokyo; Hirohito’s nightmare vision. Julian Graffy describes it as:

…a stunning vision of apocalypse unlike almost anything Sokurov has shot…The emperor imagines Tokyo as an infernal landscape of burning, bombed-out buildings being raided by gross and terrifying creatures of the deep.

It is indeed stunning to see the camera swoop over the burning landscape. Bomber planes fly into the view of the screen and then morph into birds and then sea monsters. Bombs that drop and swim away like fish to cause havoc as the air ripples and turns into an underwater scene. Below the bombs explode in short bursts of flames that merge into an already burning city. As the viewer you feel like you are flying around above watching it all. It was amazing.

Sokurov has done other works looking at Japan, including Oriental Elegy and A Humble Life. Both of which I didn’t get time to see but looked quite interesting and are more documentary, not movies..


Japan films – Zipangu

The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen

While we’re on the topic of film festivals, this year we stumbled across Zipangu: the Japanese Film Festival. Previously I have not been aware of any Japan Film Festivals in London. The schedule is not as long as the LKFF mentioned in the previous post. Also, Zinpangu has some emphasis on experimental stuff which is a little beyond my interest or knowledge of Japanese cinema. In the end we decided to go and see just one film: The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen. This is an old 1938 ghost cat movie (as the title makes clear). Apparently there is a ghost cat sub-genre and there were several ghost cat movies made in Japan during this period. However, most of the them have been lost, which made this movie a rare treat. I had not previously been aware of such a sub-genre but am happy to know it. As the Zipangu web site explains, this movie is:

“A quintessential example-of-the-period “ghost cat” (bakeneko or kaibyō) movie, a substantial supernatural subgenre based in folklore that stretches back at least as far as Shozo Makino’s The Cat of Okazaki (Okazaki no neko, 1914), this was one of at least six such titles released between 1937-40, many of which were written by Kenji Hata, to feature Japan’s first scream queen, Sumiko Suzuki.

Although old, it was a very enjoyable movie, very Japanese with fabulous clothes and street scenes of 1930s Japan. Particularly interesting were the scenes of the Kabuki theatre as I imagine it was like back in the late 1930s.


Wales, Anime and Birthday

We did a short trip to Cardiff, Wales last week. The weather was windy and cold for the most part put that didn’t dampen our spirits.  The first day was spend shopping but next day we took a walk to nearby Llandaff to visit the cathedral. The first part of the walk took us through Brute park.

Then on to Llandaff Cathedral

After the walk and the Cathedral we wandered to a nearby pub for lunch and some local ale.

The final day we went down to the dock but it was cold and windy so I didn’t take any photos.

The Skycrawlers

I also saw Mamoru Oshii’s latest movie, The Skycrawlers. Oshii is best known as the Director of Ghost in the Shell.This was a movie is set in an alternative, sci-fi World War II, with eternally adolescent Kildren fighter pilots who live everyday with the knowledge that it could be their last. It is aptly described as “a thought provoking drama boasting stunning art direction but matched by deep character development”. We also got a free movie poster at the end of the movie.

Blog Birthday

Today is the anniversary of the start of this blog. I was advised to avoid dull reminisces of the history of the blog. So I have. (Happy 8th birthday blog!!)


Yasujiro Ozu

The BFI is doing a series of films by Yasujiro Ozu who is best known for three movies known as the Noriko trilogy. the last in the trilogy is Tokyo Story, which is regarded as Ozu’s masterpiece. Ozu is best known for making films which look into the lives of lower middle class families. He has also done some comedies. I went to see Tokyo Story last night.


This story is of an elderly couple who travel from their rural dwellings to Tokyo to visit their children, who are now grown and married. The Noriko character in this story is the widow of the elderly couple’s son who died (or rather, never returned) after the war. Of all the children she is the one who gives the old parents the most attention. The other children are busy and married and moved on with their lives. The movie reflects on the way Japan has changed so that children now drift away from their parents and develop their own lives. Children become different people from the sons or daughters that they were and their parents can barely recognise them and have less to do with their lives.

The story was slow but it was fascinating to watch these children treat their parents in a way that is very familiar – as a bother who comes to visit and take up their time and sleep in their already crowded and tiny living space when there are so many other things to be getting on with.

The series runs into February so hopefully there will be time to see more of his work.

July 2018
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