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. 

Film Festival Circuit II: Eiga Sai 2015 and the introduction to Ryuhei Matsuda

Watching Eiga Sai has been an addictive habit and if I could turn back, I would have wanted to have attended the very first edition of Eiga Sai. But I think when it started I was still in college, so it would have been a little difficult to spend almost the whole day to queue just to ensure a seat. Nevertheless, I’m still happy that it’s my third year attending it and I have my former then current work to thank for it because it opened more doors for me to discover my Japanese addiction.

The recent Eiga Sai was also attended by director Yuya Ishii and producer Takuro Nagai of the opening feature “Our Family” (2014) starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kyozo Nagatsuka and Mieko Harada about a family in the midst of breaking apart but a sudden news of their mother being diagnosed with cancer brings them back together.

It is based on Kazumasa Hayami’s same-titled novel and Ishii’s follow-up project to the commercial and critical success “The Great Passage” (2013) starring Ryuhei Matsuda. Ishii shared that he made the film because he understands some issues and situations the Wakana family is going through and can be likened to his own family.

This year’s line-up also includes contemporary films “Parasyte,” “Wood Job,” “Thermae Romae II” and “Princess Jellyfish.” And under the savory Japan category are “It’s A Beautiful Life – Irodori,” “A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story,” “Patisserie Coin de Rue,” and two documentaries “The God of Ramen” and “Wa-shoku – Beyond Sushi.”

The Road to Ryuhei Matsuda

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It seriously makes me happy everytime I get to see one of my favorite actors at the big screen, even more so when it’s free, which is why I always make an effort to watch their film when it’s included in either the Eiga Sai or Korean Film Festival.

Just like 2013’s Eiga Sai where I first watched Kenichi Matsuyama at the big screen, who of course happens to be one of my favorite actors, this time, I was able to watch an actor who’s also very talented and popular for the first time who just became one of my favorites after seeing him in “Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko” (Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto).

The Great Passage opens the door 

Co-starring Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri

Unlike Kenichi Matsuyama, who I started following since I watched the first Death Note film back in 2006 or 2007, I have only seen or heard about Ryuhei Matsuda on Screen Red some weeks before the Eiga Sai started in Edsa Shangri-La Mall. I happened to chance upon his award-winning film “Fune Wo Amu” (The Great Passage) and Japan’s representative at the 2014 Academy Awards best foreign language film. But I wasn’t able to start the film so I ended up not watching it the first time. I saw it again few days after on TV, but again it already started.

And when the line-up for this year’s Eiga Sai came out, I saw his name in one of the films, and just like I always do I read each and every film’s synopsis and check out their trailers to make a shortlist. Fortunately, I ended up having the film on my shortlist because I like the trailer and the plot. So that’s the story of how Ryuhei Matsuda became one of my most favorite actors, next to Kang Dong-won who’s always been my top bias for the longest time, which means he already has pushed down some of my other favorite actors on the list who I have known longer than him. That’s how strong his effect on me.

Shota Matsuda in Hana Yori Dango 

Shota is the one in blue coat, first from right

But there is something else that totally sent me off the roof. That’s when I found out Shota Matsuda is his little brother. I’ve known Shota since the first Hana Yori Dango in 2005 but I think I saw the drama a year later, as I was motivated to watch the Japanese version of Meteor Garden that I so love. It just so happens that my favorite character is Hua Ze Lei in the Taiwanese version, who is Rui Hanazawa in the Japanese one that was portrayed by Shun Oguri. But in all honesty, I think Shota is the best looking among the four and and he’s perfect for Soujiro Nishikado’s playboy demeanor. Well that’s when until recently, I came to know about his beloved onii-chan.

I did kinda notice the similar surname but I didn’t pay much attention, and initially thought they just have the same surname but no relation. Finding out the real connection between them was a huge surprise, not that they don’t resemble each other, they do when you look closely, but more on the idea that they’re both very handsome and the fact that they’re even brothers – they share the same parents, same blood, growing up together makes it something close to a miracle. It’s not everyday, even in celebrity siblings that you get two brothers or two sisters who are both equally handsome and very talented. It was like my mind wasn’t very ready to take the awesome fact, totally blew my mind.

But then things took a different turn and I came to adore Ryuhei more than Shota. The very first thing I noticed about him is his tender cat eyes, they just look so mysterious and somewhat sad. His eyes speak volumes of things and stories in the most mysterious ways. And I love it when he smiles because I get to see his dimples and his silly laugh in the Mahoro series all got me. I find his features different from Shota despite having a resemblance to each other, because Shota is more of the conventional kind of a good looking guy and Ryuhei is not, which is why my vote goes to Ryuhei.

Mahoro Films and Series 

Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benriken, the first film

I started with Ryuhei at the recent Eiga Sai through the second film titled Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto and third installment of the Mahoro series, one of the most popular and most successful series of film and TV adaptations from the the Naoki Prize-winning series of novels by Shion Miura.

Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi – the series

In this second film, Gyoten (Ryuhei) has been staying with Tada (Eita) in running his benri-ya (handyman business) in Mahoro, a fictional laidback place in Japan for two or three years since the events from the first film (2011) and the series (2013). They accept almost all kinds of odd jobs, from cleaning, organizing, walking pets, driving and more. And most of the time, the two get involved with their clients more than they should. Tada and Gyoten are both divorcees, with past stories they want to forget and run away from.

Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko – the second film

This time, the two buddies are tasked by the local gang leader Hoshi (Kengo Kora) to investigate a mysterious cult group that produces and sells organic vegetables. Things get more messy when Nagiko, Gyoten’s former wife with whom he has a young daughter named Haruka is placed in the care of Tada while she’s away overseas. Tada is scared of what Gyoten might do, especially since he knows Gyoten doesn’t like kids and even more so when he finds out the little girl is his daughter.

Scenes from the series

What I love about the duo of Ryuhei and Eita is that they really complement each other, this one of a kind chemistry I haven’t seen in male actors before. And because of their amazing combination, I feel as an audience that Tada and Gyoten would be at lost without the other.

At the time Gyoten met Tada again in years at the bus station from the first film, it was the right moment for the both of them. Tada, then still couldn’t moved on from the passing of his son that led to his divorce, while Gyoten was on his way to kill his parents because they keep asking Nagiko to see Haruka. I know these all now because I’ve already finished the first film and the series after seeing the second film of course.

It’s also a unique story of two former classmates who find themselves face to face with each other again and becoming best buddies in the process, helping each other out when one needs the other. I have never seen such a story in any of the dramas I’ve seen before.

It’s also very unpredictable and highly enjoyable, I could never guess what adventure would the two be involved with in the next episode. Well-acted, mainly from Ryuhei and Eita who carry the direction of the film and series, picturesque cinematography and fun-loaded, naturally funny story and episodes.

And because of everything, Gyoten Haruhiko has become one of my most favorite fictional characters ever.

I’m also very delighted to know that The Great Passage, in which he won a number of best actor awards will be out in English edition next fall by Amazon Crossing as I was told by a caring staff from Kobunsha, its original publisher when I asked a sample English translation of the novel.