Yasujiro Ozu: Good morning…

Tonight was our next film in the fantastic Yasujiro Ozu season at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. Again tonight’s film was a new one for us, and somewhat unexpected after the serious nature of the Ozu films that we have seen. “Ohayo…” (Good morning…) was a beautifully realistic slice of Japanese life, set in and around the breakfast tables of shoulder-to-shoulder suburban family homes. Very funny (fart jokes abound, I’m not kidding!) and telling (the nosy neighbors with nothing better to gossip about), this tail follows the antics of two young brothers up to mischief. It’s a great film, but desperate for some restoration love!\n\nMore over at the BiteSizedJapan blog…\n\nPS: Nachos and IPA at the Filmhouse bar = love.

Ozu

Seems to be part of being an editor is to read and watch absolutely everything to do with your magazines subject. Maybe that’s obvious, and I’m not complaining.\n\nOver the next few weeks Sirin and I are following the Yasujiro Ozu season up at The Filmhouse Cinema. I have to confess I’d never seen any of this classic Japanese directors work, and we were pleasantly surprised by “Tokyo Story” last night. Unexpectedly accessible for a Japanese a movie of the 50s, with exceptional attension to details: the relationships between the depicted family members was almost painful to watch at times as our “hands” (as mere voyeurs) are tied and out vision fixed by the static knee-high camera work. It’s a great film, the characters believable and the story down to Earth, and as someone who studies Japanese culture this film really felt like a snapshot of “real life” in post-war Japan.\n\nWe’ve posted a review over at BiteSizedJapan.

Avatar

It’s hard to ignore the hype when it comes to the usual rubbish from Hollywood, and if you fall for it expectations are rarely fulfilled. This has only happened twice to me: I hear everyone raving about a movie but manage to avoid seeing any spoilers, specials, previews, clips, magazine interviews… you name it. That first film was Terminator 2, and right until the moment Arnie saves John Conner I thought Arnie was Mr Evil Killing Robot. It made the movie for me! I felt so lucky because, I really had no idea what to expect.

Work and other commitments kept me out of the ‘film’ loop for the last month or so, so the vast majority of the Avatar hype passed me by. I knew it was 3D, and very expensive, and I had seen the trailer. That was it. Nothing could have prepared me for sitting down and watching this film. First off, the 3D is just outstanding. My inner nerd wanted to stand up in the middle of the screening and jump up and down excitedly like a 5 year old screaming “did you see that! did you see that!?”. You quickly forget the pig-ugly glasses you have to wear, and the weird brain twisting that goes on as your reality is warped: the 3D is something really, really new. It was like watching Star Wars for the very first time.

The computer graphics were also quite superbly executed. May Jar Jar rot in his cartoony pixelated grave! For the first time these CGI characters were 100% convincing. At no point was I pulled from the movie by shaking computer-game characters and dodgy wire-removal stunts. And the forests… you have to see this movie for the forests! Just beautiful.

The down side? Mediocre wannabe eco-friendly heroic storyline and paper-thin characters. But you’ll forget all that 🙂

Nausicaa

Let’s face it, we’re smitten with pretty much everything that comes out of Studio Ghibli.\n\nYesterday, film night at the Forest Cafe in Edinburgh with Atsuko and friends: the classic 80’s anime Nausicaa and the Valley of the Winds. This film continues to amaze me: so beautiful, and more relevant today than ever before. Following the film we had a discussion group. Is there really a sound ecological ‘green’ message to Nausicca? Why does director Miyazaki focus on young female protagonists? Is the film a more abstract metaphor for the time in which it was created?\n\nFor me it was a beautiful (sometimes frightening) fairytale, and lets leave it at that…\n\nYou can see Atsuko’s notes from the viewing here.\n\n

Scottish Japanese Community

Over the last few weeks we’ve been following the Nagisa Oshima retrospective at the Filmhouse here in Edinburgh. We bumped into Atsuko Betchaku who was there to organise a film discussion group, and after the film we had an interesting chat.

Atsuko is also in the process of putting together of the Japanese Institute of Scotland. The proposed Institute shares many of the goals of Bite Sized Japan. While the focus of the Institute is focused on Scotland (where BSJ is based) I’m hoping that in the future we’re going to be able to work together on local events (such as a film-group). To quote their web site:

Two Purposes of the Japanese Institute of Scotland:\n\nスコットランド日本会館の二つの目的

  • Assist to create the environment where Japanese population can live with ease in the local community as members of multicultural society of Scotland
  • 日本人がスコットランドの多文化社会の一員として地元コミュニティの中で、安心して暮らせるような環境を 創る支援をすること。
  • Spread information about Japan and culture related to Japan in Scotland
  • スコットランドにおいて、日本についての情報、日本に関する文化を広めること。

Thirsty?

Last night Sirin and I went to see Chan-wook Parks latest movie Thirst at the Filmhouse. Korean director Chan-wook Park is probably most famous (infamous!) for his Vengeance trilogy, which he followed with the visually (and emotionally) striking “I’m a cyborg”.

Unlike the slew of Vampire themed films that seem to be choking the cinemas at the moment, Thirst manages to breath new life into a worn-out genre I think. Mixing frankly stunning camera work, unflinching violence and a healthy dose of eroticism, Thirst explores the relationship between a priest with a dark secret and the girl next door… but I wouldn’t want to give too much away!

Nagisa Oshima

After last years eye-opening “Wild Japan” season at the Filmhouse, it’s really good to see one of its most infamous contributors getting a season of his own.

Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (our second movie this season) was quite an experience. Typically “adult” in nature, an Oshima trait, there was some startling cinematography and rather disturbingly honest scenes. This follows “Double suicide, Japanese Summer”.