Love Strikes (Moteki) (2011) – Film Review


Poor Yukiyo is a thirty-one year-old ‘second virgin’ with little self-confidence in life, especially with women. However, scoring a job at a very groovy webazine, he finds himself chasing one woman whilst being chased by another. But the relationships are complex, and Yukiyo has to find his inner-strength to reach his goal.

Most of this film is delightful, with the clumsy and awkward Yukiyo not seeing what is directly in front of him, and pursuing a hopeless goal. And then it gets creepy. I felt extremely uncomfortable during a chase sequence toward the end that is veering rapidly toward sexual assault. Really, that ruined the whole film for me. Shame, because otherwise it was darned funny.

Bushido Sixteen (Bushidou Shikkusutin)(2010) – Film Review


At sixteen, ditsy Sanae and her friends are starting a new year at middle school. But at their first kendo training, they meet Kaori, who is a very serious loner. After their intense practice bouts, Sanae realises that Kaori is the regional champion who she accidently beat the previous year. Kaori has transferred to their school with the sole purpose of meeting with Sanae and beating her, and is devastated to discover that Sanae is not serious about the sport. Kaori takes up a personal challenge to train Sanae until she is a worthy opponent.

Whilst the film is very long, it is a very interesting exploration of two teenage girls as they try to find the balance between their family lives and the challenges of dedication to sport.

We Were There: True Love (Bokura ga ita: Part 2) (2012) Film Review


We Were There: True Love is the sequel to We Were There: First Love that, unfortunately, I missed. Luckily, it seems to stand alone, mostly. The first film follows a group of school students, in particular Motohari and Nanami. They fall in love, but Motohari is still dealing with the death of his ex-girlfriend, Nana. True Love is set six years later. Nanami has spent five years waiting for Motohari to return to her; either to reunite or to say goodbye. Eventually, she tries to move on and falls into a relationship with another old classmate, Takeuchi. But the past will not disappear so easily.

The cynical side of me wanted to scream at the screen ‘get over it! He/she (depending on which character I was wanting to yell at) treats you like shit! Get over it!’. Of course, this would never happen. I only yell at the screen in the privacy of my own home; plus, I actually really liked this film. Whilst the characters’ decisions and actions were really annoying, I liked most of them, and I did want them all to be happy. But, it really could have happened a lot quicker, perhaps with fewer subplots. And a few less heartfelt monologues; especially the voiceovers. Still, it was value for money – I think there were at least three endings.

Handsome Suit (Hansmu Sutsu) (2008) Film Review


Handsome Suit is my pick of the festival so far. It is so funny, with a truly unexpected twist at the end that was perfect. The story is of Okhi, an overweight and ugly man running his late mother’s diner in suburban Tokyo. Whilst his customers and friends love him, he repulses women and is desperately lonely. Okhi is the perfect test subject for the producers of the Handsome Suit – a suit which, when worn, turns him into Hikariyama Annin. But is the happiness that beauty and wealth offer him greater than the happiness of his former life?

Handsome Suit was a late entry into the festival, replacing another film on the line-up. Looking online, it was actually released in 2008. I am so pleased that this film was included.  Muga Tsukaji and Shosuke Tanihara are marvelous as the two sides of Okhi – the ugly and the handsome. The comedy is slapstick and over-the-top as you would expect from film based on a manga series, but there is such heart. It is not getting another play at this festival, but keep your eyes open on SBS or at your specialty DVD shops. Definitely worth it.

The Wings of the Kirin (Kirin no tsubasa: Gekijouban Shinzanmono) (2011) Film Review

The Wings of the Kirin is a police drama following detectives as they investigate the mysterious murder of a man found under a statue of Kirin on Nihonbashi Bridge. A suspect appears, but Detective Kaga is not convinced of his guilt, and follows a complex investigation to try to find the truth.

The characters in this film are interesting and even, at times, amusing (especially the policeman who seems obsessed by the knife) although the storyline seems overly complex. There are characters and plot dead-ends that add little to the film, but are enjoyable none-the-less. I really want to see more of these characters – it feels like a television series rather than a one-off film. Bring me more Detective Kaga!

The Wings of the Kirin screens at Hoyts Fri Dec 7 at 6:00pm

Giants and Toys (Kyojin to gangu) (1958) Film Review

As part of the Yasuzo Masumura retrospective, Giants and Toys has a free screening at AMCI. In this 1958 classic, three caramel companies are using every idea possible to beat their competitor in an advertising war. It is a relatively simple story, but features some innovative film techniques new to the time.

Personally, I loved the concept of using a pretty and crazy girl whose teeth are rotten to advertise a lolly brand, especially as she will not simply be the pawn in their game.

Giants and Toys is a free screening at ACMI Tues Dec 4 at 2:30pm

Tokyo Koen (2011) Film Review

Tokyo Koen is listed on the website in the ‘Tear Jerker’ section, but I don’t think this really does it justice. Perhaps this comes down to definitions – I think of tear jerkers as being silly films that are overly sentimental or bordering on sadtacular. Tokyo Koen doesn’t fit any of these definitions. It is a drama with some romance that explores the complexities of several seemingly straightforward lives.

Koji is a student and aspiring photographer who takes candid photos of families in the parks of Tokyo. One day, he is approached by a man who pays him to follow and photograph one specific woman and her child. Meantime, he is dealing with his day-to-day life with his friends and family and all that this entails.

Personally, I wasn’t overly satisfied with much of the resolution in this film, but like life, things can go different ways than you anticipate. Still, it was a gentle look into life in Tokyo.

Tokyo Koen screens at ACMI Mon Dec 3 at 8:30pm


Thermae Romae (2012) Film Review

The 16th Japanese Film Festival started its Melbourne leg last night with the hilarious Thermae Romae, a comedy telling the story of Ancient Roman Lucius Modestus, architect of baths in 135BC. In his striving to build the best baths with the most innovative ideas, he inadvertently time travels to modern-day Japan and begins to use modern ideas in his designs. Sounds ridiculous? It totally is, but in a totally magnificent way. Hiroshi Abe’s portrayal of Lucius is earnest and serious, which is total contrast to the situations in which he finds himself, especially as his time travel often leaves him naked in unfamiliar situations. Add in a love interest with all of her crazy but supportive relatives and you have a truly delightful film. And absolutely no surprise that it is based on a manga series.

Thermae Romae screens again closing night – 4:30 Sun Dec 7 at Hoyts