Shinsedai Cinema Festival 2012 – Tentsuki Review (Kirk Haviland)

Shinsedai Film Festival 2012 (Toronto)

Tentsuki

Starring: Taku Manabe, Natsumi Seto, Ryuzaburo Hattori and Akaji Maro

Written by Masafumi Yamada and Takeshi Miyamoto

Directed by Masafumi Yamada

Tentsuki is a strange little film. Clearly inspired by the likes of David Lynch and the more obscure works of Takeshi Miike, Yamada’s Tentsuki takes place in a rural part of Japan that is inhabited by the quirkiest of characters and scenarios. But is there enough of a cohesive plot to carry the film forward?

Noburo (Manabe) is having quite the string of bad luck. After losing his job when his boss closes the company and runs away during the night, Noburo goes back to the company office and breaks in as he now needs a place to live. Shortly after breaking in Noboru receives some visitors in the form of the local Yakuza looking for their payout. Seeing Noburo in the office they assume he is a delegate of the company and demand their money. Noburo manages to escape and runs away to the country where he has a friend who acts as a building landlord. After setting up in one of the apartments Noburo meets the strange inhabitants of the building including the beautiful but mainly catatonic Miyuki (Seto). Miyuki seems to be content to drink away most of the days and can be seen in her catatonic state all over the building – oh and did I mention that she in convinced the “growth” on her back is actually a set of wings breaking out to the surface? Nobuoro starts a job as a safety guard, basically keeping people clear of construction areas which are inhabited by even more quirky characters. As Noburo and Miyuki’s relationship develops and the Yakuza start to close in, more details come to light from Miyuki’s past that might just send Noburo off and running again.

Manabe and Seto manage to execute this script to the best of their ability. Noburo comes off as apathetic and bumbling through most of the film, but this is probably the intention of director Yamada. Seto is adorable and safely steals every scene she is part of. Seto is truly the standout of Tentsuki. Another standout is the senior guard that teaches Noburo the ins and outs of the job, a nice piece of comic relief. Yamada’s direction is a little all over the place as I feel he got lost in worrying about atmosphere more that plot. The film meanders way too much and even at a reasonable 96 minutes feels very long in places. The film does look great though as most of the scenes are staged well and the backdrop of Kyoto shines.

Ultimately Tentsuki did not work for me very well as its meandering nature and my perceived feelings of a lack of direction and depth left me wanting. I cannot recommend Tentsuki, but I am fully aware that there is a whole audience out there who will probably disagree completely.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Shinsedai Cinema Festival – End of the Night Review (Kirk Haviland)

Shinsedai Film Festival 2012 (Toronto)

End of the Night

Starring Kuniaki Nakamura, Nami Komiyama, Masayuki Shionoya

Written and Directed by Daisuke Miyazaki

When it came time for Daisuke Miyazaki to make his directorial debut, after directing second unit for director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, he decided to look to the past. Inspired by the rich history of yakuza/hit man films from Japan, especially the works of the great Takeshi Kitano, Miyazaki has created a hit man saga of his own.

Hit man Tamegoro (Shionoya) is sent to kill a young couple. After performing the deed Tamegoro discovers a young baby in a crib. After calling his mother, Tamegoro decides to bring the baby home and raise him as his own. We flash forward to the now teenaged Akira out on his first assignment with his “father” Tamegoro in which they are assigned to take out a family, much like his own, who have a daughter whose eventual death becomes a fixation for him. Ten years later Akira (Nakamura) is a fully accomplished hit man, living the solitary life most hit men do, Tamegoro has retired to run a comforter shop but still sets up all of Akira’s contracts (along with those of his “brothers”). But one day Akira encounters someone who will change the course of his destiny forever, the grown up version of Yukine (Komiyama), a girl who he thought his father had killed 10 years ago. Just as fascinated as he was ten years prior, Akira sets out to help Yukine, to his own detriment, which causes a familial rift and has professional consequences.

Miyazaki has crafted an extremely successful little noir film filled with homages to films from the past, both Japanese and Hollywood alike. Nakamura’s performance is engaging and accomplished as Akira. He brings a stoic calm to the character with an underlying sense of danger and volatility that constantly keeps him aware and on edge. The rest of the performances here are strong as well, especially Shionoya’s Tamegoro as the father figure with a special relationship with his own mother. As a first feature Miyazaki delivers an extremely accomplished piece of cinema, his future is indeed bright.

End of the Night was the runner up for the Best Film Audience award for Shinsedai, a very deserving recipient if you ask me. End of the Night is a definite recommend, try to catch up with it as it continues its festival run across the globe.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto, including the rest of our Shinsedai 2012 coverage. 

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Shinsedai Cinema Festival – Zero Man vs. the Half-Virgin Review (Kirk Haviland)

Shinsedai Film Festival 2012 (Toronto)

Zero Man vs. the Half-Virgin

Starring Chihiro Itakura, Miho Hoshino, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Hideo Tsubota, Don Brown and Sakichi Sato

Written and Directed by Sakichi Sato

Preceeded by Dark on Dark

Directed by Makato Ohtake

Sakichi Sato is a master of oddball cinema. The mastermind behind the scripts for Takeshi Miike’s Ichi the Killer and Gozu and writer/director of his own Tokyo Zombie; Sakichi has shown that no subject is too taboo or bizarre for him to tackle. So naturally a story where a policeman can see numbers on people’s foreheads, but only when his is sporting a full erection, is something that should surprise none of Sato’s fans.

First some words on the odd and entertaining short film Dark on Dark. The film starts a simple scheme, as a man and enormously endowed woman gain money by charging money to men who subsequently have one of the woman’s breasts placed on their heads. Bald men are objects of jealousy as they “get skin on skin contact” and the men squeal delight. But this comedy also features a fight between school girls and a faction of what appears to be transvestites and a randy hot tub sequence amongst its goofiness. A very fun watch and perfect primer for the feature following it.

Zero Man begins when Sakuragi wakes up with total amnesia in a community police outpost, he’s also in uniform. When his partner returns he asks him a myriad of questions in an effort to discover who he truly is. Still hazy on his whereabouts and history Sakuragi discovers his amnesia has also come with another interesting twist, when he is erect and aroused he sees numbers on people’s foreheads. What do the numbers mean? Is the zero emblazoned on his forehead a reference to his virginity, if so then his partner has had 3 partners which makes sense but what about the American tourist with a 55 on his forehead? How about the young kid running around with a 13, or the mysterious woman who comes and stares at Sakuragi every day who has a 0.5? In an effort to discover the answers for all these questions Sakuragi embarks on a series of misadventures, mostly with his hand firmly down his pants, that lead to a startling discovery and near death situations along the way to his ultimate answer.

Sakichi Sato manages to imbue his crazy, insane dark comedy with a lot of laughs and some endearing performances, especially from our lead. The premise does lose some steam by the end of the movie, but the true revelation of the meaning of the numbers pulls the film together. The female lead does a fine job with what turns into a very challenging role by the time we find out everything. Long in parts, the film could have been edited a little more tightly. Sato still manages to put forth an entertaining experience.

Not of the level of his previous work, Zero Man does manage to work more than it doesn’t. Zero Man vs. the Half Virgin is a mild recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Shinsedai Cinema Fesival 2012 – Ringing in Their Ears Review (Kirk Haviland)

Shinsedai Cinema Festival 2012 (Toronto)

Ringing in their Ears

Starring – Fumi Nikaido, Kurumi Morishita, Tatsuya Sakamoto and Shinsei Kamattechan

Written and Directed by Yu Irie

The group Shinsei Kamattechan has become a formidable force to be dealt with in the Korean music scene its inception in 2007. Composed of members Noko (lead singer, guitar and keyboards, who also happens to be a shut-in), Mono (keyboards and guitar), Misako (Drums), and Chibagin (Bass), Shinsei grew a rabid fan-base by way of online videos and message boards as they are completely internet driven, including webcasting their live shows. Inspired by their story director Irie has crafted a fictional story set in the world of the band.

The characters of Ringing in their Ears are comprised of a single mom and her son. The mom works two jobs, cleaner by day/exotic dancer by night, to support herself and her young son. Her son is an avid Shinsei Kamattechan fan, to the point where he is constantly getting in trouble for watching videos at school, and is constantly glued to his laptop at home, most nights having to put himself to sleep. We are also introduced to a female high school student who happens to be a top Shogi (a game similar to chess) player in the final stages of a tournament she is excelling in. She is turned on to Shinsei by her boyfriend, who dumps her for her best friend when she can’t go to the Shinsei concert which is the same night as her tournament finals, and immediately connects with them. Her brother himself has become a complete shut-in after teaching her how to play Shogi and she has started to lash out and pull away from her parents who are determined she go to university instead of becoming a ‘pro’ shogi player. We are also given a band related story as their manager is pressured to change the lyrics for a song to make it more marketable and his grappling with the decision to support the label or the band.

The film builds as it goes towards the climatic live show which really delivers. All the performances for Shinsei Kamattechan are electric in the film and really deliver. Apparently they are even much better than their real live performances. The Shogi playing High School girl (Nikaido) really is endearing and fascinating in a great performance. The child obsessed with Shinsei also performs admirably. The band comes off fairly well, but there isn’t a lot of their acting in the film which works well to hide their limitations. As I’ve stated the music really does soar on-screen and Director Irie really capture the frenetic essence of the band’s stage show well here.

Ringing in their ears may be a very good introduction to the world of J-Pop and Japanese music for the uninitiated and still manages to tell a good story in the process. Ringing in their ears is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto, including the rest of our Shinsedai 2012 coverage. 

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5 Reasons You Need to Check Out the Shinsedai Cinema Festival (Kirk Haviland)

Shinsedai 2012 Festival Preview

Shinsedai Film Festival July 12-15th 2012 (Toronto)

The Revue Cinema – 400 Roncesvalles Ave (Just south of Dundas West TTC station)

In Japanese the phrase Shinsedai stands for “new generation” and it is this declaration that festival creators/programmers Chris Magee and Jasper Sharp live by when setting this festival in motion. Dedicated to bringing the newest in independent Japanese films to Toronto film fans, Shinsedai’s 4th year of programming starts this Thursday bringing an eclectic mix of titles for fans to discover. Like my TKFF preview I will give you my 5 reasons for making sure not to miss this year’s fest.

5. Location, Location, Location

After toiling its wares out in Richmond Hill at the JCCC for the last 3 years, Shinsedai will finally make its debut in the west end of Toronto at the Revue Cinema. The Revue’s location, a mere minute walk from Dundas West subway station, makes it extremely more accessible than previous incarnations of the fest. The friendly staff and comfortable surrounding and seating afforded by the Revue will make those four film marathons on Saturday and Sunday pass by like a breeze.

4. Guest Filmmakers in Attendance

This year Shinsedai welcome four of the filmmakers from their lineup to Toronto to show their films at the festival. Yu Irie will be here for his festival opening film, the semi-biographical film Ringing in their Ears (more later on this), Daisuke Miyazaki with End of the Night, and Kotaro Terauchi whose short Mrs. Akko and her husband will play as part of the Yubari Fanta showcase. Last, but definitely not least, the mastermind behind the Takeshi Miike films Ichi the Killer and Gozu, writer/director Sakichi Sato, will be in town with his latest opus Zero Man vs the Half Virgin. A unique opportunity to meet these fantastic filmmakers in such an intimate venue.

3. Friday July 13th Programming

The Friday of the fest bring us two very eclectic films that should prove to be quite a fascinating double-bill. We start with the 1938 film The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen, one of the earliest examples of horror on film from Japan and a fascinating look at the way films were made in Japan as war loomed on the horizon, and years later the bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our second feature is the previously mentioned Zero Man vs Half Virgin, a delightfully twisted sex comedy using the premise behind the film The Frighteners with the numbers appearing on foreheads of characters, but for a vastly different reason.

2. Opening and Closing Films

For the opening and closing efforts programmers Chris MaGee and Jasper Sharp have picked two equally intriguing but different films. Ringing in their Ears is the story of Japanese band Shinsei Kamattechan as told through live concert footage and a fictionalized surrounding story of one of their fans. The concert footage looks to be enthralling. For closing night we get Tentsuki, a mind trip about a factory worker who sees something that forces him into hiding and all the bizarre characters he meets there. I’ve been told that Miike’s Gozu is the level of strangeness I should be expecting from this one.

1. Pink Film Double Bill – Battle Girls and Bondage

Now this truly is a rare opportunity. Back in 1997 I was briefly introduced to this whole side of Japanese filmmaking while attending the only Toronto based edition to ever take place of Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival at the Bloor Cinema. It was here that I saw A Wife to be Sacrificed. Not a Pink film by definition, mainly due to its almost 2 hour running time, it is considered a classic and heavy influence on the pink films that followed. Now you may think Pink Films are Porn but they are most definitely not and while Japan does have a very thriving porn industry, Pink films have plotlines and stories told in one hour time segments that have character development and tell complete stories – just with a healthy dose of sex and kink. Think of movies like 9 ½ Weeks and Wild Orchid with, dare I say, less restrictions on their sexual content and context. The amount of directors who thrived in this industry prior to global success is numerous, some of which now have Oscar nominations under their belt.

Tickets are still available.

I’ll see you at the Revue!

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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Contact me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

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