There is a focus on hard hitting dramas with a conscience at this significant 10th year anniversary edition of JAPAN CUTS. Here are four that stand out.
KAKO: MY SULLEN PAST
A work brimming with mystery and engrossing verbal sparring. Fumi Nikaido and Kyoko Koizumi sharing the screen together is pure electricity with the constant promise of fireworks. The story centered around an unsophisticated family slyly introduces a backdrop of political anxiety as adolescent Kako scorns the world around her while making sense of it at the same time, as suddenly she is faced with an aunt who has suddenly returned home under strange circumstances. Embraces ambiguities like the best of Japanese cinema.
THREE STORIES OF LOVE
A Harrowing unfolding of three of individuals stuck in the margins, and at the whim of a society that is often insensitive to those who have fallen on hard times or are different. A victim of discrimination against homosexuals, a widow whose wife was senselessly murdered, and a woman stuck in a dull and seemingly loveless relationship. The subtle storytelling leaves some question over who we are following at first. But While the stories are quietly told they bring about a slow release of emotion that is each gripping. They also reveal that the best triumphs of the human will are evident simply in the hanging on and weathering the storm.
KEN AND KAZU
An amazingly accomplished and at times extremely suspenseful low budget production focusing on two drug dealers. One is hot headed, impulsive, tethered to a maternal figure he harbors resentment for. The other is calm, loyal, and looking for a way out so he can make a peaceful life for his wife and soon to be born child. There is raw violence, heated exchanges, and a brooding intensity in the two leads, both with surprisingly small on screen acting resumes. While the tale is a classic one, this feels nothing like the typical yakuza prototype. There are no tacky suits or rolling r’s. And while the scope of the action ends up being relatively small scale, ambitions are huge, to make this more than an exercise in style. The characters here are faced with challenging decisions and the question of what you do when they are placed before you. An essential look at an exciting new voice in Japanese filmmaking.
An unflinching look at several aspects of how adults navigate the lives of children they raise. Another triptych looks at a novice fourth grade teacher struggling to keep order in his class, a mother of a preschooler with tendencies to strike her child welling up within her, and an autistic child’s encounter with an elderly lady suffering bouts of dementia. Scenes feel extremely real. They are left to unfold calmly yet are extremely compelling. The drama is often nerve wracking. While even handed for a while, as it reaches its conclusion things become a bit more manipulative. But characters are also moved to action as the film decided to not only catalogue problems faced by our youth but show how individuals can take a stand.
For more information and tickets visit the Japan Society website.