Thursday, July 7, 2011

JAPAN CUTS Lands + Under-The-Radar Gems

© 2011 “Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha” production

Japan Society’s fifth consecutive JAPAN CUTS film festival (July 7-22) is the world’s largest festival of Japanese cinema, featuring 33 screenings, 32 films, 31 premieres and an array of special guests and exclusive parities.

Highlighting the wild diversity and extreme artistry of Japan’s newest movies and encompassing “the hard, rough, sharp, smooth and soft edges of today’s Japanese film scene,” the selection ranges from eye-popping blockbusters to jarring genre flicks to heart aching indies.

Samuel Jamier, Japan Society’s chief film programmer who curated the festival, said “a substantial number of titles this year can’t be easily categorized or confined to strict genre boundaries.” In a video interview (below), he also hoped the festival gives audiences “the most original and creative” examples of what’s coming out of Japan today.

As with years in the past, JAPAN CUTS 2011 includes several co-presentations with the New York Asian Film Festival, including the sold out July 7 opening film Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure, an animated adaptation of Tezuka’s spectacular and philosophically deep manga of the Buddha (also screening July 10); the “almost impossible to define” Milocrorze: A Love Story July 10; and JAPAN CUTS’ first sell-out Gantz, a grindhouse adaptation of a popular Japanese manga that pits teenagers in trendy black leather costumes with advanced war gear against aliens hiding on Earth.

Opening weekend also contains some not-to-be-missed gems, such as Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano (July 8), an intricately plotted tale of an introverted, shy office worker who does part time in the porn industry. The noiseful Ringing in their Ears (July 7) revolves around a rock group competing with managers, obsessed groupies, shut-ins, single parents and kindergarten teachers as they prepare for a concert.

Firefox News’ Peter Gutiérrez, who has been writing about the festival since its inception in 2007, featured some of his favorite under-the-radar fare (including Sword of Desperation, A Night in Nude, Torso and Birthright), and Steve Dollar writing for The Wall Street Journal had this to say:
The series also offers less easily characterized films. The 4½-hour "Heaven's Story" marks a serious turn by director Takahisa Zeze (known as the "King of Pink" for his softcore sex comedies), who maps a sprawling revenge drama about a little girl who comes of age obsessed with the serial killings of her family. Sora Aoi, the AV idol (sex star) turned mainstream actress, stars in Masashi Yamamoto's "Three Points," an episodic drama that surveys the lower depths in three Japanese cities. Likewise, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's "Sketches of Kaitan City" brings a realist eye to the working-class struggles described in the fiction of the late Yasushi Sato.
--August Dinwiddie

Note: JAPAN CUTS opens today. Tickets can be purchased online, through the box office at 212-715-1258, or in person at Japan Society. Members receive $3-$4 discounts, and if you purchase five tickets or more, you get $2 off each ticket (only for orders made by phone or in-person). Also, we’re testing out a new screen so enjoy the new view!
Gantz tix already gontz! © 2011 Gantz Film Partners

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