[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.]
Tomorrow is the final day of Japan Cuts. It's been a long road, but we're nearly there. Just a few more reviews to write and our coverage will be all done. It's both a wonderful prospect (we're done!) and a sad one (it's over...), but I will wait until Monday's roundup to talk about all that. In the meantime, we've got some opinions about some movies. One final advance review as well as some older ones that should have been rounded up quite some time ago.
Nonetheless, for those of you attending: Enjoy the final day of the festival! For everyone else: You're still cool. Probably.
Lonely Swallows (Kodoku na Tsubametachi Dekasegi no Kodomo ni Umarete | 孤独なツバメたち デカセギの子どもに生まれて)
Synopsis: Lonely Swallows is a documentary that follows the struggles of Japanese-Brazilian children living in Japan. In Hamamatsu, the city of automobile factories, there are hundreds of thousands of young Japanese-Brazilians who came to Japan when they were very young with their immigrant parents. Many of them drop out after junior high school, and start working at factories. Due to economic recession, many of their families lose their jobs, forcing to return to Brazil. The film follows five Japanese-Brazilian children struggling to realize their dreams while they are torn apart from their families and friends over the course of two and a half years.
Thoughts: Sometimes when examining a large issue, it's important to focus on particular stories that can speak to the common experiences of the whole. That sort of explains the approach of directors Kimihiro Tsumura and Mayu Nakamura in Lonely Swallows. Each of the people chronicled in the documentary deals with issues of community and isolation, with the underlying ideas of home and identity present throughout. Eduardo's segments of the movie were the most compelling just given the unfortunate trajectory of his life, much of it due to events and circumstances beyond his control. If Lonely Swallows falls short anywhere, its on a technical level. The film was shot handheld on a so-so HD camera, and some imagery is not as well considered as it could have been. In addition, at one point some audio from a Simpsons episode playing in a nearby room bleeds into an interview with Eduardo. But even despite those faults, Lonely Swallows is an intimate portrait of these lives, all of it driven by their voices and their concerns. If it doesn't dazzle from polish, it does from genuine expressions of emotion.
Verdict: Consider it. [Read the full review]
Tokyo Playboy Club (Tokyo Pureiboi Kurabu | 東京プレイボーイクラブ)
Synopsis: Katsutoshi (Nao Omori) gets himself in trouble at his temp job in a garage when he kills an obnoxious student with a wrench. He flees to Tokyo, where he shacks up with his friend Seikichi who runs a slimy night club, ironically called the "Tokyo Playboy Club." But even in the seediest, darkest corners of the Shinjuku area, and, in fact, anywhere Katsutoshi goes, trouble follows. Playing like a frantic Guy Ritchie film with occasional pit stops for ramen and the refueling of character and plot, Tokyo Playboy Club features a rich assortment of feral men, each vying to outdo his fellows.
Thoughts: I don't know if Tokyo Playboy Club is actually a forgettable experience or if seeing Gyo immediately afterwards really obliterated my brain. Either way, I don't remember the film as well as I remember pretty much any other movie I saw at NYAFF/Japan Cuts, whether they're good or bad. Nonetheless, I know I enjoyed the film. I know I laughed while watching it and came out happy that I saw it. I have some issues with its main character, and it's kind of slow-paced, but on the whole there isn't much to complain about. It won't blow you away, but you'll have fun with it.
Verdict: See it. [Read the full review]
Tormented (Rabito Hora 3D / ラビット・ホラー 3D)
Synopsis: In this trippy fairytale tinged with a bit of J-horror and dripping with gothic atmosphere, cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Infernal Affairs) teams up with Japan's J-horror icon Takashi Shimizu to deliver a twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. The film opens with a splat as 10-year-old Daigo puts a sick rabbit out of its misery with a cinderblock. Taunted as "rabbit killer" by his classmates, his mute sister (Hikari Mitsushima) lets him withdraw from school, the same way their father has withdrawn from life and stays at home illustrating pop-up fairytale books. The whole family is still stunned with grief after the death of his first wife, and the death of his second wife, Daigo's mother. Each member of the family is isolated in their own private fantasy world of grief and suffering, and it's up to a six-foot-tall, possibly evil bunny to drag them down the rabbit hole and into the real world.
Thoughts: Tormented features one of the worst plot twists in the history of ever. A good plot twist should change everything you have just seen in some unique way. Give it a spin that makes sense and gives you a completely different perspective on the narrative. What it shouldn't do is complete negate everything that you just saw. Tormented does that second thing, and I didn't realize until afterwards just how absolutely insane it was. Aside from that, the movie is stereotypical J-Horror (it was directed by the creator of Ju-On/The Grudge) with a damn good soundtrack. Even so, the film just makes no goddamn sense and isn't worth the agonizing it would take to understand the plot.
Verdict: Skip it. [Read the full review]
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