[For the month of July, Japanator's sister site Flixist will be covering the Japan Cuts film festival, which is running in New York City from the 12th until the 28th. For your convenience, we will be posting review roundups here, but you can find all of Flixist's coverage here, and their coverage of the New York Asian Film Festival here.]
About two-thirds of the way up the screen at the Japan Society, there is a white, horizontal line that runs through the center while movies are showing. It's not very large, but it's definitely a defect. When I first saw it (while watching Asura), I thought that perhaps there was something wrong with the projection. But it continued to appear, and it wasn't just on the digital projections, the film ones had it too. I expect that not too many people have noticed it (or remembered if it they had noticed it), since it's not a significant distraction, so it's probably not worth the expense to fix it (whatever it is that's not working properly). Having read this, if you go to the Japan Society now, you probably will notice it. And then you'll probably hate me.
Which is sad. I'm sorry. Also, Toad's Oil is pretty good.
Toad's Oil (Gama no Abura | ガマの油)
Synopsis: Acclaimed actor Koji Yakusho directs and stars in the exquisite drama Toad's Oil. Yakusho's directorial debut follows an immature father's efforts to cure his family's woes after a terrible accident. Rich in magical realism and nostalgic memories, this humanist film approaches a devastating topic with light steps and visual novelty. Yakusho gathers together an interesting cast for his surrogate family, including hot young actor Eita (April Bride), Kobayashi Satomi (Glasses), and model Nikaido Fumi and K-1 champion Sawayashiki Junichi in their movie debuts.
Thoughts: Koji Yakusho's directorial debut is a strange story about family and eventually moral obligations. And it has a man kicking a bear in the gonads, so it's automatically pretty good. There's a real sense of authority to Yakusho's direction, allowing him to slip between the real and the surreal, the funny and the heart-wrenching. Ultimately this control over the material helps make moments that would be sentimental in a conventional film seem like genuine expressions of emotions that are deeply felt. It makes me hope that Yakusho goes behind the director's chair again and the experience is equally idiosyncratic.
Verdict: See it. [Read the full review]
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