Everything Japanese

 

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The last day of Eiga Sai Ph at the Shang Cineplex was on July 16, Sunday. And like how the film festival always starts during the first week of July, it also always concludes before or after my birthday — so the dates always include my birthday. However, this year it actually concluded on my birthday.

It kinda reminds me of how Harry Potter either premieres a new movie before or after my birthday or during November. It’s only either July or November.

I decided to skip Saturday, July 15 screening of “Anthem of the Heart” and ended up losing P100 because I already have a ticket but then again, if I went I would have lost more money than just P100 because I would have to spend more.

So I opted to watch something on the last day instead. Initially, I was looking at watching Naomi Kawase’s “Sweet Bean” despite having doubts about it for having read negative reviews when it premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

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Then again, I couldn’t watch it because I was again late and so I ended up watching the documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland.” The docu is part of my shortlist but not really a high priority but I must say, it’s a better choice to have watched the docu instead.

I may have missed seeing inside the Tsukiji Fish Market last year, I only saw it from the outside on my late night walk; seeing the documentary makes me feel like I had ventured into every corner of the fish market in reality. And because I love fish, it was a sight how the Japanese put so much high regard with the fresh seafood culture and how they both have fun and in-depth knowledge about what they do and take pride in it.

 

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A lime torte cake that I was able to buy on a last-minute decision from Starbucks because it’s the only one that’s open when I went out of Shang. 
I haven’t had a cake since Ryuchan’s birthday last May 9th. I say it like I was actually there on his birthday. Delusional me.

Eiga Sai Ph 2017: 20 Years of Japanese Cinema.

 

Despite failing to get a ticket last Saturday for the last Shang Cineplex screening of opening film, “Her Love Boils Bathwater,” I still have a chance to see it sans the director’s talk and not on the big screen but probably via projector since it will be playing on August 19 at the UP Film Institute for free.

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Atsuko Maeda is one lucky girl — she got to work with both of the Matsuda brothers — Ryuhei and Shota but she co-starred with Shota first in “Initiation Love” (2015). 
Even Akira Emoto, who plays Ryuhei’s dad in this film has co-starred with both brothers, first with Shota in “Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit” (2008). I love Ryuchan’s mom here, Masako Motai. She is simply adorable, she’s a darling. There’s something with her smile and her face that gives me the warm feeling inside. 
Yudai Chiba, as Koji, the younger brother is cute and funny but his hair is terrible. I know him from “Ao Haru Ride” as Toma Kikuchi.

On the other hand, I was successful this past Wednesday at catching my other priority film — “The Mohican Comes Home,” a dramedy about an ailing father and his long-absentee struggling punk musician son and their unusual family. Starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Yudai Chiba, Akira Emoto, and Masako Motai.

One of the greatest pleasures of my fangirl life is being able to watch a high-bias actor on the big screen. That extreme euphoria of seeing Ryuhei again on the big screen, like he’s larger than life and that I have a maximum of 2 hours to ogle at him. I first saw him on the big screen at the 2015 Eiga Sai in “Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto.”

The Mohican Comes Home easily becomes one of my favorite Japanese movies now, and of course one of my favorite Ryuhei movies.There’s so much about this film that I can relate to, except the idea of being a punk rocker and the pregnant girlfriend.

Some of the subtle real-life moments of the film that I find really touching and relatable:

  • When Eikichi (Ryuhei Matsuda) takes over the conducting duties from his Dad Osamu (Akira Emoto) for the practice of the local school’s brass band of middle school students, in which Eikichi changes the tune that they usually play by taking the cue from the student drummer — he finds himself enjoying with the school band and ends up laughing altogether resulting to his Dad’s annoyance as he hears them over the phone;
  • When Eikichi asks his Dad to write his last wishes so that he can see if he can do something about them;
  • When Eikichi dresses up as Eikichi Yazawa, his Dad’s idol and Hiroshima’s Elvis because his Dad wrote he wants Yazawa to visit him;
  • When Eikichi simply walks behind his Dad not knowing where his Dad is going until they reach the graveyard;
  • When Eikichi tries his best to find that same pizza his Dad ate on his 60th birthday by ordering all kinds of pizza from (3) pizza chains and asking them to have it delivered to their place in Tobi Island, Hiroshima;
  • And the beach scene — that quiet conversation between Eikichi and his Dad and when he finds himself crying while trying to stop it in the middle of eating ‘onigiri.’

And this is why Eiga Sai is such a blessing because Japanese films are harder to find and if I do find them, there are no available English subs online. Even DVDs with subs are hard to come by.

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Since I’m still sad about missing last year’s Eiga Sai and my favorite “The Great Passage” (due to an overseas personal trip), I hope next year, I’d get to see another Ryuhei film, perhaps “My Uncle” which also premiered in Japan last November and crossing my fingers, “Before We Vanish” that had its international premiere at the Un Certain Regard section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and will premiere in Japan this September 9th.

It would also be nice if they’d (The Japan Foundation, Manila) get to include more old films and maybe stage a Studio Ghibli film festival because other countries are bringing back Ghibli films to the big screen like a film festival or at least include some Ghibli films next year.

Among the films, I’ve seen “Departures” before already and saw “In This Corner of the World” at a regular screening last week. I’m still looking to watch Sweet Bean on Sunday, closing day of Eiga Sai at Shang Cineplex and If Cats Disappeared From The World on August 17 – UP Film Institute.

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This year, there are 20 films to celebrate the 20 years of Japanese cinema in the Philippines, and will also make the rounds this August until the 29th at the UP Film Institute, CCP, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Bacolod, and Iloilo.

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The line-up this year includes (3) 20th anniversary features:

*Departures / Memories of You / Sting of Death

Besides Her Love Boils Bathwater and The Mohican Comes Home, other award-winning and critically-acclaimed contemporary films include:

*In This Corner of the World (In connection Manga Hokusai Manga Exhibit)

*Sweet Bean

*The Long Excuse

*The Magnificent Nine

*Creepy

*Chihayafuru Part I/II

*What A Wonderful Family

*If Cats Disappeared From The World

*Bakuman

*The Anthem of the Heart

*Tsukiji Wonderland

*Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016: Reflections

*Poolsideman

*Sadako vs Kayako

For screening schedules, check Eiga Sai Ph official Facebook. 

A Silent Voice, Masako Nozawa, Makoto Shinkai win Japan Movie Critics Awards

I have great love for #KoenoKatachi, and I’m happy to know that over a week from its premiere here, it’s still showing in cinemas. 😁😀😍👏👍👍🎞️🎉🎌🎏🇯🇵️.
🤞I hope I can watch again on the big screen before it concludes its run, though I already have a download copy. It’s still much better to watch for the first time on the big screen, and I’m glad I was able to because the visuals are a sight in this too and so worthy to be seen on the big screen.

“…which Makoto Shinkai himself referred to as a polished and grand piece of work that even he is unable to replicate. ” Even Makoto Shinkai loves it. 😁😍

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Leiji Matsumoto also honored at May 16 ceremony.

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‘Sleepless’ at the QCIFF

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Again, it’s another last minute post. I’ve been meaning to write about this since I saw the film last month at the 3rd QC International Film Festival but I haven’t gotten around to write on it. This is my 6th film festival of the year. The last is Cinema One Originals also last month where I saw Hou Hsiao-Shien’s “The Assassin” and an animated short film “Memorya” by Jovanni Tinapay.

2015 is definitely the year of the movies and I’m happy to know I was able to see that much this year, some were even free. It seems like I actually spent a lot on seeing movies this year more than anything else, even books, though I had some book purchases as well.

Like as mentioned in my previous posts, it has become a habit for me to attend and watch film festivals whether or not I’m going to write it for Pinoy Gazette, and I especially like to try the ones I haven’t attended before. This time, there’s Cine Europa which I had one movie and another one from the French Film Fest.

Another first for me this time is the 3rd QC International Film Festival. I actually really wanted to attend last year’s season but it coincided with Cinema One Originals. Luckily this time, they weren’t happening on the same dates.

I decided to watch one this romantic-comedy titled “Sleepless” starring Dominic Rocco and Glaiza De Castro from the direction of Prime Cruz and screenplay by Jen Chuansu, both former freelance writers from Star Cinema.

I was initially attracted to it when I read it’s about two insomniac and how these two different but similar people have come to form a connection during the hours while most people are asleep; talking about random matters from zombie apocalypse, to Facebook posts, superpowers, love, and all those in between.

And while I wasn’t particularly impressed with the chemistry, I can say that I’m very fond of the two characters’ simple interactions. Their conversations and at how they can almost talk about anything is one thing I really appreciate and that’s the core of real friendship.

I felt that there’s some sort of romantic spark going on but the film didn’t need to venture to that just so it can validate the value, realism and meaning of the film. I find that one thing particularly interesting.

Another highlight of the film is how beautifully it captured Manila by night and how the night becomes the witness to Gem (De Castro) and Barry’s (Rocco) nocturnal loneliness and the eventual development of their unique bonding and friendship. It’s part of the story, as if it’s breathing among them.

The way the film depicted Manila by night is something that affects anyone like them or even anyone who isn’t insomniac – the complete silence that it can almost break something and the things nocturnal people do at night.

To me, it’s like the night has become their home and their only solace from the life that they have to face during the day. I can relate to this a lot because I myself is someone who likes to be awake during the wee hours of the night. It simply has that unique calm and quiet feeling that the day doesn’t give.

I’d still give it 3/5 stars although it didn’t necessarily topped “That Thing Called Tadhana” by Antoinette Jadaone which I so love. But then again, the film has its own faults (cliche relationship of Gem to a married man or the awkward incorporation of animation) but it has its own distinct shining moments that any rom-com film doesn’t have.

‘A Second Chance’ : Love’s Lost Identities

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I wasn’t intending to read a review about A Second Chance this morning (Nov.29) but I read it anyway, though I’m not particularly influenced by reviews, from ClickTheCity by Philbert Dy. One important thing he mentioned was about the ending. And when Anna and I saw the movie today, I finally understood what he meant.

Like the review, I’d give it 4*/5 because I was a little disappointed with the ending. I feel like the writers rushed it too much, that they had to force them to make amends with each other. If it were told the other way, it would have been a lot better.

If I were the writer, which I’m not, but I wanted Popoy to leave for London so he could reclaim himself, the talented engineer and the self-respect he lost from all the circumstances, and because it is also what Basha needs.

I wanted to see Popoy doing well in London and Basha happy managing the firm, that despite being away, they remain to be married and are gradually patching things up the long-distance way. They just need some time and distance apart to regain the identities they’ve lost and to come back to who they really were as individuals.

I can honestly say that I like this one better than the first because this time it isn’t only about petty quarrels, wanting for space, being controlled, breaking-up, getting back together. They’re dealing with matters of more weight this time, of matters they promised at the altar to face together.

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I honestly think Popoy and Basha rushed into things. For me, they didn’t really have to get married right away after getting back together. They could have continued on with their own separate careers as an engineer and an architect.

In the last scene from One More Chance, he did say he won’t be going away anymore but really that could change. It’s an honest to goodness opportunity that will benefit the two of them in the long run. He should have taken the London offer. And there’s also the idea of putting up their own firm, it was too soon. I felt like they didn’t think about it properly, like they just felt the need to put up their own because now they are married. Because let’s face it, when you work with your wife or husband, you’re definitely bound to get into big arguments combining that of personal matters. It’s a one big mess. At the end of all this, it was all because they love each other.

I also felt bad for Popoy. I get that part of the fault is his because he allowed matters escalate to its worst. But if there’s anyone who’s most disappointed, it’s him. He wanted to rush things, in two years, he would have already built the dream home that he promised to Basha, so he ended up taking too many projects. It was beyond him, and it wasn’t all his fault as well. He lied to her because he didn’t want to hurt her, but of course she’ll eventually find out and that will hurt her more.

Basha decided to stay with him and took matters in her hands, but everytime, she shoves it in his face without saying anything that she’s right, that she’s the one taking charge of everything now, that he should have listened to her all along. It’s like everyday, she’s making less of Popoy, of what’s little that’s remained of Popoy’s respect for himself from the events that happened.

But I’m also not dismissing the challenges Basha had to face, like the loss of their supposed first baby, how they’re trying to get pregnant again but it just won’t work, and how she keeps wondering why Popoy’s always in a hostile mood but she keeps trying to reach out to him.

I also find the calamity proof structure interesting. If one really thinks about it, Popoy has a good point of trying to get the idea out, pitching it to clients, and that one day someone is going to understand and believe in the idea. Because if he never tried to put it out, then it’ll feel like he’s already lost when he hasn’t started anything about it. Although I have to admit that the idea may be a little too advanced for some, or that Popoy is thinking too much beyond since it all depends on what they need or want.

They both had difficulties of their own despite being married, and because they’re shielding each other from the possible pain and anger, that very love that they’re holding onto is also what’s driving them apart. And as they grow more into strangers, they’re slowly losing how to trust each other and losing the identities of the people they originally married.

 

Film Festival Circuit III: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in Cinemalaya Film Fest

When I heard about “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” being screened for this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival under the Independents: Asian Showcase section, I told myself I had to take the opportunity cause it’ll never have a regular screening in cinemas here so this is the only chance I got. I managed to tagged along my college friend Anna to watch it with me on August 9, one of the only two screenings for the Isao Takahata gem at the CCP Main Theater.

At first though, I was a little put off by the animation style of the film. It reminded me of the style of another Isao Takahata film, “My Neighbors The Yamadas,” although I haven’t really seen this one fully, partly because I wasn’t so interested. But fortunately, I went ahead to watching Princess Kaguya and I was definitely proven wrong on my apprehension regarding the animation. The film is Isao Takahata’s final film. The director is best known for “Grave of the Fireflies,” which I have seen and really brought me utter sadness and tears. I still find it hard to watch it again.

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The film is based on a 10th century folktale called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and is considered the very first Japanese prose narrative from the Tokugawa period. It centers around the bamboo cutter Okina (Takeo Chii) and his discovery of a little child inside a bamboo shoot. He brings her home to his wife Ona (Nobuko Miyamoto), but when she carries the child she suddenly grows into a normal looking baby.

The couple decided to raise the child and naming her Kaguya (Aki Asakura), which means “radiant night” in Japanese. There was a shining light coming out of the bamboo shoot to where Okina found her, thus the name that means radiant night. The little Kaguya becomes friends with the local children and they also noticed how she strangely grows too fast like a bamboo, so they started calling her “takenoko” or little bamboo and developing a special friendship with Sutemaru (Kengo Kora).

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But the mysteries didn’t end with her discovery, Okina found gold coins and elegant silk robes inside the very same bamboo, and he was convinced that Kaguya is a gift from heaven and is destined for nobility. With this Kaguya’s life is changed entirely, from the suburbs to the city to learn the ways and principles of a noble lady fit for the high society.

The news of her elegant beauty has quickly spread, eliciting attentions from noblemen to the emperor. But on the day she was solemnized as Kaguya-hime (Princess Kaguya), she realized how most people only cared about her physical looks and that she’s only being named a princess due to her father’s wealth.

Despite her bold disobedience at times to her father and mentor Lady Sagami (Atsuko Takahata), she still yearns to please her father in the best of her abilities but upon hearing how people deride even her father makes her start to realize that all the things about her nobility is unworthy.

One of my favorite scenes in the film. Just look at that. 

One of the strong themes tackled in the film is how women of nobility are stripped of their free will, thrown into situations other people have decided for them without consideration to their opinions and feelings. Another is how women are merely treated as possessions and status symbols and how they are lured by men with money, flamboyant words and promises.

And yes not to forget the animation itself that initially turned me off. I have to say it really is majestic. The hand-drawn or brush-stroke style makes every scene feel and look like its being sketch as it happens on screen. The whole film is a masterpiece painting that comes alive before the audience. It can also  be likened to traditional Japanese painting such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

And of course, a Ghibli film is not complete without its accompaniment of musical score from perennial genius and Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi that complements each and every moment of the film, from the joyful discovery of Kaguya, her early experiences as a human, to saying goodbyes, to good memories of friendship, and new beginnings and challenges as a princess.

Infinitely beautiful, truly one of the very best animated films ever made.