Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Crime or Punishment reviewed

An alarm clock goes off. A hand stops it. The camera focuses on the daily routine of a office worker in Tokyo. On his way to work, he stops in his usual shop, to get a smile from a beautiful assistant, who gives him his usual purchases, just they are somebody else's purchases, as she mistook him. Then, this invisible man, people keeps banging, and looking down, on him, witnesses a murder, when a woman's body fell in front of him. He cannot find his mobile, so he crosses the street to a public phone, and gets run down by a fancily decorated truck. When the truck departs, a young woman is there, standing, watching, almost unbelieving what her eyes are seeing.

Meet Ayame Enjoji (Riko Narumi), a rather unknown, and shy, model who has been getting printed out upside down in a fashion/softcore magazine for men for which she models. A flashback reveals that she had come out of the magazine office, disgruntled because not only no one wanted to know about her complaints, but they laughed at her, being nicknamed as “the upside down” model. Her school friend, Momo (Sakura Andô), has become the cover girl, and laughs at her too.

Ayame steals a copy of the magazine from the shop, the same one we saw at the beginning, where a man wearing a uniform was sketching the floor layout. Of course, shy Ayame gets arrested and, as a PR stunt, her agency arranges for her to be the police chief for one day. On her first speech as such, high on a podium, in front of a bunch of press photographers, the wind lifts her skirt, and all the camera start clicking. This rather innocuous scene, I thought, is quite a key one in the film, as it points out at the flesh merchandise value attributed to young women (one of the furtive actions of the office worker we saw at the beginning was to grope young women in the underground), adding to their sense of unsecurity, a theme which has been treated a number of times in recent Japanese cinema.

As the police chief for a day, she is taken seriously by the force, and the officers wait for her commands in her rather surreal office. Commands that, at the beginning, she finds to be incapable of issuing. Ayame also meets her former boyfriend, now a detective, from whom she split five years before, a dark secret being the reason. There is a link here to the beginning of Crime or Punishment. However, near the end of her tenancy of her post, and resolving a hold up on that shop, she finds her feet, and becomes a self confident young woman, now sure in her path.

A riotous comedy, a parable on contemporary urban life in Japanese society, Crime or Punishment grew out of a scene in a play staged by Nylon 100°C, the theatrical company founded by Keralino Sandorovich, who also directed the film. In fact, this quality permeates through its scenes, many which were shot in enclosed spaces. The final scenes, in particular, had the hallmark of a theatrical comedy.

The DVD also contains excellent features, one of them being a short film of a scene from the play. Many of the actors from the play also acted in the film.

Crime or Punishment DVD is now on sale in Britain, brought to you by third window films.

Have you ever experienced a day when you are carrying on as usual just like the day before but strange things keep happening one after another on that particular day? This is a slapstick comedy, like Kafka’s novel, filled with incongruous nightmares and nonsensical laughter.
Ayame (Riko Narumi) is an unsuccessful girl celebrity, who happens to take on the PR role of a “police chief for a day”. The job of a campaign girl is to smile and act as a police chief for one day. It should have been a simple job, however, the police station staff treat her like the real police chief and look to her for instructions, which makes Ayame feel perplexed. In addition, she runs into her ex-boyfriend, Haruki (Kento Nagayama), who is now a detective at the station, which means her ex is her subordinate for the day.
Furthermore, Haruki holds a dreadful secret which was the cause for the couple’s separation. To make matters worse, a major event takes place on that particular day, and the situation takes an unexpected turn. Would Ayame be able to solve the case, and what is Haruki’s secret?
Director - Keralino Sandorovich Profile
Born in 1963 in Tokyo. In 1982 he formed a new wave band, Uchoten. In 1985 with Inuko Inuyama and Minosuke he also established a theatre company, Gekidan Kenko, where he commenced theatrical works. After the company’s dissolution in 1992, the following year, he formed Nylon 100. He won the 43rd Kishida Kunio Drama Award for his “Frozen Beach” in 1999. In the theatre, in addition to productions by his theatre company, he headed up and participated in other troupes as well as participating in many external productions. His recent works include an award winning Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by SIS Company Inc.(Directed), “Okasankana” by CubeWritten and Directed, and “The Lower Depths” by Theatre Cocoon on Repertoire 2008 (Directed). In films, he directed “1980” (2003), “A Delicious Way to Kill” (2006) and “Gumi Chocolate Pine” (2007) as well as this film. As for TV dramas, he wrote the script and produced “Jikokeisatsu” (TV Asahi, eighth episode) and “Kaettekita Jiko Keisatsu” (fourth episode).
Written & Directed by Keralino Sandorovich
Riko Narumi, Kento Nagayama
Yasunori Danta, Inuko Inuyama, Hajime Yamazaki, Megumi Okina, Koji Okura, Sakura Ando
Yui Ichikawa, Yu Tokui, Eriko Sato, Seiji Rokkaku, Minosuke, Yasuto Hida, Hitomi Takahashi ,
Akira Otaka, Kumiko Aso, Takuya Ishii, Masato Irie ★ Kazuyoshi Kushida
Producers: Joohoon Lee Mato Obata Hiroyuki Kitamaki Chikako Nakabayashi
Planning: Norio Enomoto
Cinematography: Shinji Kugimiya Lighting: Hiroshi Tanabe
Recording: Satoshi Ozaki
Production Design: Kei Itutsuji
Props: Tetsuji Tatsuta
Editing: Koichi Takahashi
Costume: Atsuyuki Okada Make-up: Mariko Honda
Scripter: Kaoru Yamauchi
VFX: Norio Ishii
Production Manager: Ryuta Hashimoto
Music: Fumio Yasuda
Production Companies: Shipyard Company, Booster Project
Ending Theme: (DefSTAR RECORDS) Song by Sowelu Produced by Taku Takahashi
© “Crime or Punishment !?” Production Committee

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Mitsuko Delivers: a review

There is a place in Tokyo which escaped unscathed the intense American bombing during the Second World War. Yet, the urban myth is that an unexploded bomb lies underneath the floor boards, after all those years. Will it explode? Or, rather, when?

This place, a narrow working class tenement residential alley, remained locked in a time capsule whilst the rest of the city was re-developed, has become the last refuge of those fleeing the exploding time bomb of the economic crisis affecting Japan for the past couple of decades, or so.

This place is where 9 month pregnant Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) drifts into after following the cloud which has guided her since she was a child, in a taxi she could not pay, leaving an astonished driver behind, who never knew that such a place could exist in Tokyo after 20 years driving a taxi. A dejected Mitsuko who just says “Okay” and takes a nap until the wind goes her way. A rejected Mitsuko, not even her new neighbour in her last home wants to talk to her, abandoned in California by her American GI boyfriend, who finds her way back to Japan with his still unborn child.

A Mitsuko who refuses to surrender to the bad winds.

A Mitsuko who goes back to the woman she calls Granny, the elderly lady who owns and leads this alley tenement with an iron fist that masks a compassionate soul, whom she knew as a child when her parents fled their imploded parlour business to this very place. A place which is now even more run down as it was fifteen years ago, as most of the tenants have already left, with Granny the land lady now confined to her bed. Here she also meets a grown up Yoichi (Aoi Nakamura), whom, as a child, promised he would marry her when Mitsuko and her parents left the tenement back to “civilization”. Now, the restaurant his uncle and now him runs is also reflecting the bad times, the takings are poor, customers are scarce. All being so “uncool”.

What does Mitsuko do? She just says “Okay”, takes a nap, then fills the tenement with life as old and new tenants comes in, fills the restaurant with new and returning customers, gets Yoichi's uncle Jiro (Ryo Ishibashi) to declare his love for the woman who runs the café, establishing a second love axis to the film over her own with Yoichi. “Okay” and “cool” are her two favourite words. Perhaps a reflection of not only her own relationship with that American soldier who eventually abandoned her, but also the legacy left by the American occupation of Japan after the end of the war?

Meanwhile, whilst organizing the trip of the café woman to, of all places, Fukushima, to see her infirm mother, she comes face to face with her parents, who still believe she was in California. However, Mitsuko refuses to explain herself to them, as to do that is “uncool”, is not “okay”. Finally, they all manage to go in the trip to Fukushima, with Mitsuko driving, although, so close to the birth of her child, she can hardly walk, even less drive. Yet she does it because she wants to, because she does not want to stay still, because to do so is “uncool”.

When in Fukushima, her baby finally arrives, the birth being as normal as it could be in the midst of a field and the cacophony of voices, gestures, movements of her parents and friends, including Granny, who has recovered the use of her legs, as no one knew what to do; in spite of the warning by her doctor that it would be a difficult birth.

Mitsuko Delivers, a Japanese style comedy with a sting, a metaphor of contemporary life for all of us, and which I truly enjoyed. Yûya Ishii's camera caresses as much as the faces of heart throbs Riisa Naka and Aoi Nakamura as it does with the details of life in this alley, the back pack of Mitsuko as a child, the flower that Jiro brings not only to the café woman, but also to Granny, whom he and Yoichi takes turn to care for until Mitsuko appeared in the scene.

Did the unexploded bomb under the floor boards go off?

Come and see the film, and you will know.

Mitsuko Delivers will be shown on selected British cinemas from Friday 11 of May, 2012, courtesy of Third Window Films.

Mitsuko is in her ninth month of pregnancy. Her parents (serial failed entrepreneurs) think that she's in California with the baby's GI father, and she's happy to leave them in ignorance. But she's actually back in Tokyo, broke and friendless. So she has her flat cleared, gets into a taxi she can't pay for, and follows a cloud back to the little working-class alley where she grew up. The place is pretty run-down and depressed these days, but Mitsuko's can-do, bull-in-a-china-shop attitude soon shakes everyone up. There's much to be done. The little diner needs more customers, the alley's elderly woman owner needs carers, the tongue-tied man who could never propose to the widow in the coffee-shop needs a push... So much to do, so little time before Mitsuko goes into labour. Yuya Ishii follows Sawako Decides with another breathless comic drama about a girl asserting herself when all around her are floundering.


The acclaimed filmmaker x the new muse of Japanese film

Director Yuya Ishii x Riisa Naka – two young talents join forces!

The 28-year-old film director, Yuya Ishii, has now burst on the world scene with his brilliant filmmaking. Ishii’s film ‘Mitsuko Delivers’ was featured in the 37 th Rotterdam International Film Festival and the 32 nd Hong Kong International Film Festival – an exceptional honour for a fledgling director. At the Hong Kong Asia Film Awards, Ishii was again recognized and awarded the inaugural “Edward Yang New Talent Award.”

Back home in Japan, Ishii won the Pia Film Festival Grand Prix in 2007 for “Mukidashi Nippon” (Bare-Assed Japan) and followed up with the mega-hit “Sawako Decides” (2010) for which he won the Best Director at the Blue Ribbon Awards and the Best New Director Award at the Yokohama Film Festival. His next film “A Man with Style” was again, highly acclaimed. The entire world has been enthralled with the originality of Ishii’s world that eludes categorization in any single genre.

The actress chosen to star in director Ishii’s newest venture is Riisa Naka, winner of this year’s Japan Academy Award for Best New Actress. Her film credits include “Toki wo Kakeru Shojo” (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and “Zebraman ~ Zebra City no Gyakushuu” (Zebraman: Vengeful Zebra City) as well as a number of TV commercials. Naka meets director Ishii’s world view head on, with a boldness that belies her sweet image. Evolving as the newest muse of Japanese film, “Hara Ga Kore Nande(Mitsuko Delivers) is destined to be one of Naka’s showcase films.


Riisa Naka / Aoi Nakamura / Ryo Ishibashi

Miyoko Inagawa / Shiro Namiki / Miyako Takeuchi / Momoka Ohno / Yoshimasa Kondo / Yukijiro Hotaru / Risho Takigawa / Shigeyuki Totsugi / Ryu Morioka / Keiko Saito


Written and directed by: Yuya Ishii

Theme Song: “Ai Nante” – GOING UNDER GROUND (Pony Canyon)
Produced by: Pony Canyon Inc., PARCO Co., SHOWGATE Inc., dub Co., Toei Channel, PIA Co., Yahoo Japan Co., TOKYO FM Broadcasting Co., smoke Co., Nippon Planning Center Inc.

Planning: PARCO Co., Pony Canyon Inc.

Production: smoke Co., dub Co.

Distribution: SHOWGATE Inc.

Ⓒ2011 “MITSUKO DELIVERS” Film Partners

War of the Arrows reviewed

A Korean re-interpretation of the superhero who sacrifices his life to save that of a loved one, his sister in this case, fighting against all odds a superior force of Manchurian 17th century equivalent of special forces.

The theme has been treated in a number of films, particularly in Hollywood studios productions. However, director Kim Han min has set this saga in 17th century Korea, or Joseon as it was called then, when the Munchurian invaded from the North, taking a number of prisoners with them. Only a few of those managed to get back to the land of their birth.

In the War of the Arrows, Nam Yi (Hae-il Park), the son of a so-called traitor, has become an accomplished hunter, whilst his sister, Ja-in (Chae-won Moon) is set to marry the son of their protector, a military officer in a garrison in the North. Yet, when the Manchu invaders raided their compound, taking his sister to slavery together with the surviving population, Nam Yi sets to rescue her.

Some spectacular archery feasts follow to his attempt.

Entertaining story, although somewhat jaded.

War of the Arrows is already on sale in Britain on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD formats, courtesy of Cine Asia.

Orphaned as a child, Nam Yi overcame tragic loss to become the most accomplished hunter and archer of his generation. When his beloved Korea comes under attack from Chinese imperial forces, he returns from the forest to discover that his sister, and only living relative, has been taken into slavery by Manchu invaders. Now faced with the most daunting challenge of his life, he must fight to re-unite his family and prove his courage against the greatest archers history has ever known.