Ruined Heart

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Ruined Heart

Words by Daniel Knighton 

Ruined Heart is not the ideal movie for a traditional movie theatre or home theatre viewing experience. And no, it doesn't really pass as the traditional art film either. However, you could say it works successfully as a music video. Or, perhaps, even some kind of multi-effort demo reel.

All flair with some fashion, Heart is an international set piece hosted in the Philippines by home director Khvan, featuring Japan’s own badass Tadanobu Asano with Mexican hottie Nathalia Acevedo as the two attractive showoffs in the center of the lens, managed regularly beautifully by Aussie cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

There isn’t much of a story to talk about. Some dead bodies, people pointing guns at each other, running, the lovers, some other lovers; also some orgies with bands playing, and midgets, the guy holding an umbrella for some scenes, holding an umbrella and wearing a horse mask in others. How about hiring a screenwriter guys?

That would probably detract from the point. All the activity, which is ninety percent buried under a soundtrack of oldies and psych music, moves along the harsh Philippines urban landscape in a heroin trip-like state. It has some flakes of Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, but it mostly hums and styles around like the film’s nearest doppelgänger, Fallen Angels (also shot by Christopher Doyle).

A combination of this sort certainly is some kind of original experience. It also does suggest a lucid cultural underbelly to the Philippines worth exploring further. There is some eye-candy choreography followed by colourful locations balanced with colourful props. Asano runs around some scenes holding a camera pointing at himself, interestingly taking what’s behind the fourth wall and holding it in the palm of his hand. It suggests a cognitive disassociation with self, paralleling to the lovers’ experience in the film, who we don’t know why, nor do they ask themselves why, they’re there.


 

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Rurouni Kenshin 3 - The Legend Ends

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Rurouni Kenshin 3 - The Legend Ends

Words by Natsumi Shiroko

I still remember my excitement after watching the first Rurouni Kenshin, in 2012. The director, Keishi Otomo showed the new possibility of Japanese action film. In Japan, following the success of second film, Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno released in August 2014, Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends was released in September 2014. Considering the high popularity of original comics, the opening box-office record of more than 1.3 billion yen ($12 milion) made from more than 1 million admissions over the three-day holiday weekend the film opened on can be said to be a great success. Here in the UK, the journey finally comes to the end. Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends will be released in the UK this April.

In Rurouni Kenshin 2, Kenshin (Takeru Sato) leaves for Kyoto to confront Shishio Makoto (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who claims that he is a successor of Kenshin as an assassin and aim to take over the government. During the battle with Shishio’s henchman, Sojiro Seta (Ryunosuke Kamiki), his unique sword, Sakabatou (Reverse-Blade sword) is broken into two. Following Kenshin, Kaoru (Emi Takei) also joins the battle with Shishio’s cohort, but is kidnapped by Shishio. In Rurouni Kenshin 3, after failing to save Kaoru from Shishio, Kenshin drifts to the island where Hiko Seijuro (Masaharu Fukuyama), his former mentor lives. Kenshin asks him to teach an ultimate fighting technique to beat Shishio.

In the series of Rurouni Kenshin films, the director Keishi Otomo makes much use of his experiences and connections made during his career and this has made it possible for him to collaborate with the busiest actors and actresses working in Japan at this moment. In Japan, just like in many countries, television dramas and commercials are one of the pathways to becoming a film director and Otomo has had a long career where he has succeeded in making various television series. As a fan of Ryomaden, a Sunday night historical drama series made by Otomo, it was pleasure to see the reunion of some the actors such as Satoh, Fukuyama and Yusuke Iseya (Aoshi Shinomori) with director Otomo. At the same time, it is undeniable that Otomo’s style, like the music of the film which is composed by Naoki Satoh who also worked on Ryomaden, features many similarities to the television shows. At times the film made me feel like I was watching sequences from TV drama, Ryomaden.

What audience can expect most from this film is katana (sword) action scenes. The katana Kenshin who determines to be non-lethal to provide a safer Japan for a new generation, uses is Sakabatou (Reverse-Blade sword) which can be used to knock out opponents rather than kill. Therefore, unlike normal samurai dramas, Kenshin’s opponents do not end up just being bloodied dead bodies. Rather, we can see and enjoy Kenshin’s cutting-air katana technique The film’s combination of wire-work movement with katana action will also satisfy Asian Kung Fu film fans. The final battle scene is spectacular. Thinking of the original comic which is a long series and has lots of side stories for many of the protagonists I can say that Otomo succeeded in putting all the character’s journey to the end together although it is hardly possible to depict all the complex stories in 135 minutes.


 

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FROM MY TO YOU

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FROM MY TO YOU

Words by Hana Sato

Quite a few of manga-based film have been produced these days. It would be one of the trends in the film industry. But, to be honest, many of them have let me down. So I did not really expect From Me to You (2010), and then when I saw it, I was attracted in few minutes.

From Me to You is not just teenager’s love story between Shota Kazehaya (Haruma Miura) and Sawako Kuronuma (Mikako Tabe). But more likely it is about difficulties they face in their school life, particularly friendship. Cinematography is beautiful. You could see the transition of seasons and colour that would describe character’s feeling. Also the reference to Ring (1998) makes the film interesting. Casts for student roles are young and fresh. They act greatly and show how naive teenagers are. Especially, Haruma Miura and Mikako Tabe are notable. Miura shows freshness and kindness of Kazehaya as he is in the comics. Also we could see dilemma of Kazehaya. Tabe’s facial expression and crying are amazing. She could present the innocence of Kuronuma very well. Perhaps some may think the film is unrealistic, and others might find it interesting to see Japanese school system, for instance, the relationship between students and teachers. But there will be something you could sympathize and reminds you of your school life.

Of course comic’s fans, even if you have not read the original comic, you can enjoy the film as I did. This would be one of the best manga-based films for me.

 

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FRIENDSHIP

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FRIENDSHIP

Word by Fausto Vernazzani

Shimada is crying, maybe he has recently lost his wife in an accident, or to another man. We cannot be sure of it. It will need a few minutes in “Friendship” in order to reveal us the true nature of Shimada: he’s an actor in both worlds. Takashi Yamamoto is in front of a camera, attending as many auditions as he can to break the wall and finally be a famous actor, someone who could eventually shape and give sense to someone life. Especially his own.

Mikihiro Endo is the real director behind the camera, screenwriter together with Hiroshi Okada for this entertaining and “educational” movie “Friendship” seems a product of the Eights, similar to those basis which allowed Alejandro Amenabar to create his famous “Abres los ojos”, a sort of sociological flick where a curious agency provides an emotional situation to their clients, giving them a karaoke night they always dreamt of, a drink with their long lost sons or a secret reunion with thier terrorist friend. It’s a place where both common people and unemployment actors can finally find a reason to their hidden desires and aspirations.

Friendship simply cannot delude the audience’s expectations, and its protagonist, Yamamoto, has clearly a splendid future in front of him, more than often resembling a young Koji Yakusho, with whom he shares a strong ability to express felling with the slightest movements of his eyes. Endo’s first movie looks more than a simple graduation project, it could easily be compared to a professional’s work.

 

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Walking with My Mother

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Walking with My Mother

Words by Yoshito Seino

The Japanese documentary film scene tackles a wide range of genres and stories which provide a revealing background to unique elements of Japanese society and Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is the best showcase of these films for international audiences. From the Flash Back Memories by Tetsuaki Matsue, winner of the best audience award at the 25th TIFF, and the 2012 film GFP Bunny directed by Yutaka Tsuchiya are just two examples that both demonstrate aspects of how Japanese documentarians are challenging traditional notions of what a documentary film is by being innovative in their use of cutting-edge technology and music. I bet you that these elements that make the films stand out ensure that they take a unique position around the globe and help people from other cultures gain an understanding about what is happening in Japan.

This year’s TIFF puts the focus on pure style – Walking with My Mother tells the story of a 70-year-old woman named Sachie Sakaguchi who lives a melancholy life due to the death of her daughter and husband. The director is Katsumi Sakaguchi, her son, and he captures her life over four years.

Sachie, the titular mother, moved to Tokyo from her rural hometown Tanageshima (south of Kyushu) in order to get work. Soon after her arrival she got married but her life was beset by harsh events. Through a shocking situation her daughter passed away when Sachie was in her late forties and her husband was admitted to hospital without voice. Katsumi follows his mother with a handheld camera as the director while he encourages her on in life as her son; “Why do you go out at midnight?” Katsumi asks his mother –“It is because I do not want to be die,” she replies. Soon after, his mother arrives in a park after walking there, she begins poking the ground with a stick, a feeling that she is intensely alone building. The sound is not just sound; rather it is designed to emphasis the realistic and sad nature of the scene. However Katsumi speaks loudly, defiantly, “You will not die because you can walk too much.”

Walking with My Mother is not just the story of Sakaguchi’s family but a portrait of family life in general. The universal theme asks essential questions about how we prepare for illness. It is not easy but life goes on; Katsumi as both son and director is trying to document the good remedies for his mother’s problems as well as happier times.

When she moves back to hometown, her natural smile comes backs; she gets involved in family life again. What is the meaning of family, life and a person’s hometown? Walking with My Mother is providing the clear answer for the future.

Image provide by Tokyo Film Festival.

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