Tomoko Matsunashi is one more of the numerous female Japanese directors, who in the last two or three years (see 1, 2, 3) have brought some needed originality and talent to contemporary Japanese cinema. Her first work as a director, OSHIMINAKU AI WA UBAU (To Be or Not to Be) a 30 minutes short film, was awarded with the Special Jury Prize at the Yubari Fantastic Film festival in 1996. Two years later she was nominated for the New Director's Award of the Japan Directors' Guild for DOKUFU MATILDA (Bitch Matilda). International recognition for her work came with EIGA KANTOKU NI NARA HOHO (The Way of the Director), which has received very positive reviews from critics and has been shown at several international film festivals.
On 15 November, Tomoko Matsunashi announced in her blog the shooting of her new project, HAPPY DARTS. There she encouraged darts fans all over Japan to collaborate with her in the making of the film, which she has been planning for two years. HAPPY DARTS follows a woman working part-time and living a pretty average life. During a darts meeting, she becomes fascinate with this sport which will help her to find herself. The actors appearing in HAPPY DARTS are Emiri Henmi, Izumi Mori, Hitomi Sato, Kazuki Kato, Eri Nitta, Koji Moritsugu and Mitae Nagata among others.
SUPER CUB is the provisional title for the new film by Atsushi Muroga, which shooting finished at the end of last month. A director of unremarkable B movies, Muroga has achieved an inexplicable following abroad for films such as SCORE, JUNK or the GUN CRAZY series.
SUPER CUB tells the story of Takashi (Keita Saito), who prides himself on being the fastest hashiriya (street racer) even when doing his job delivering soba in his Honda Super Cub. Takeshi will have to fight a gang of bikers to help his friend. SUPER CUB has been produced by Tornado Films and its cast features the typical collection of TV actors, singers, models, gravure idols and so on among them Kana Kurashina, Motoki Ochiai, Nao Nagasawa, Tomoya Nagai and Airu Shiozaki. Other actors are Toru Kazama and Shigemitsu Ogi.
Keitai shosetsu or mobile phone novel is a recent cultural phenomenon that shows once again Japanese youth's search for alternative kinds of entertainment. Its first successful example was DEEP LOVE by author Yoshi, which appeared in May 2000, was published as a book in 2002 and adapted for the big screen by Yoshi himself in April 2003.
Then in December 2005 the mobile phone novel KOIZORA (Sky of Love) by Mika was published and has so far registered more than 11 million hits on its website. In October 2006 a 2-volume book version was published, which has sold so far more a million and half copies. The release of its film version by first time director Natsuki Imai took place on the 3rd of this month. Thanks to the hordes of chugakusei (junior high school student) and kokosei (high school student) that filled the cinemas on that weekend, KOIZORA achieved the 3rd place at the Japanese box office.
Another film version of a keitai shosetsu is due for release very soon. This time is CLEARNESS by writer Towa, winner of the first Nihon Keitai Shosetsu Taisho (Mobile Phone Novel Awards). CLEARNESS' website has received more than 2 million and half hits and the book version published in February this year has sold more than 200,000 copies.
The story of CLEARNESS taken from NIHONGOTYRO goes as follows:
Sakura is a 20-year-old college student who has sex for money to fund her shopping addiction. After her customers leave her apartment, she spends her time spying on Leo, a young, beautiful and (dyed) blond-haired boy, who works at a male escort service across the street. One day, Leo pays her a visit, and so starts an unlikely friendship. But Leo has a troubled past. He is the son of a prostitute who worked for his current pimp and died before she could repay money that she owed. He himself entered the business when he graduated from junior high school. Though Leo refuses to make love to Sakura (he has a policy of not having sex outside of work), the two fall in love and become inseparable until Leo gets into a fight with Sakura's boyfriend and gets him into a car accident. Leo turns himself in, and Sakura moves to Okinawa to wait for him at their dream destination.
The film is directed by Tetsuo Shinohara (FEMALE) and starred by Kiki Sugino (Sakura), Yoshihiko Hosoda (Leo), Yu Koyanagi, Sho Aikawa y Junji Takada.
As I have already reported in my article Sumario del Cine Japonés 2006, we have recently witnessed to a new breed of young female directors whose works have been praised by the critics. To the names of the female directors that I cited in this article, we will have to add the one of Yuki Tanada, whose talent first emerged in her 2004 film TSUKI TO CHERRY (Moon and Cherry) as part of the Love Collection series. Tanada has also written the script based on the manga by Moyoco Anno for the film SAKURAN, directed by the also female filmmaker, Mika Ninagawa, and Tanada herself has made the adolescent social drama AKAI BUNKA JUTAKU NO HATSUKO starred by Ayu Higashi.
This summer Tanada got once again behind the camera to direct HYAKUMAN-EN NIGAMUSHI ONNA, starred by Yu Aoi and Mirai Moriyama, and to be released next year. Without even taking a break, the filmmaker has already got a new project, which shooting will begin at the end of this month. ORETACHI NI ASHITA WA NAI SSU (There is No Tomorrow for Us) is based on the manga of erotic short stories created by Akira Saso and published in two volumes between 1994 and 1996 by Big Comic Special. Another of his mangas, Shindo, awarded with the Osamu Tezuka Award for Excellence in 1999, was made into a film directed by Koji Hagiuda. ORETACHI NI ASHITA WA NAI SSU's script was written by Kosuke Mukai (LINDA LINDA LINDA) and the film is starred by Tokio Emoto, Miwako Wagatsuma and Yuya Endo.
More film adaptations of the adult manga genre, this time is YARUKI MAN-MAN, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary since its first appearance in the Nikkan Gendai evening newspaper, and was serialized until 2003. Drawn by Masamichi Yokoyama and written by Jiro Gyu its main theme is, of course, sex, but being published in a national newspaper the stories made use of certain visual innuendos such as representing the penis as a seal and the vagina as a shell.
YARUKI MAN-MAN is directed by actor, talento, musician, writer and creator of air sex J Taro Sugisaku, an unconditional fan of Toei's ninkyo-eiga, especially Kinji Fukasaku's works, Nikkatsu's pinku violence and erotic manga. YARUKI MAN-MAN follows the rivalry between the Yodogimi group, unbroken since its foundation in the Edo period, and the Chain Pinky group. The cast features Hideo Nakano, Atsuko Okamoto, Kazuhiko Kanayamaa, the music band Roman Porsche and Kojiro Shimizu. YARUKI MAN-MAN will be released on a late show in December this year.
Hideo Aiba (Atsuji Ninomiya) is a reserved and obedient high school student, who has never had any girlfriend. He spends all his energy on masturbating, his true reason for living. His life and his solitary activities will take a radical change when a new transfer student, the sexy Kurumi Sahana (Akane Suzuki), joins his class.
This is the story of the erotic comedy manga SUNDOME, created by Kazuto Okata and published by Akita Shoten since May this year. SUNDOME has been adapted for the big screen by director Daigo Udagawa (director of SUKEPAN DEKA: VIRGIN NAME = MOROMIE SAKI, an erotic parody of Kenta Fukasaku's SUKEBAN DEKA: CODE NAME= ASAMIYA SAKI, also known as YO-YO GIRL COP). SUNDOME will be shown in the cinema Uplink Factory of Tokyo on 20th November. The rest of the cast includes Hana Tsugihara, Kenichi Takada, Takatsugu Iwama, Kenji Yoshikawa, Takuma Sueno and Yoichi Nukumizu.
Between the release of SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO on the 15 of September and waiting for the release of CROWS ZERO on the 27 of October, Takashi Miike invites us with another new feature, TANTEI MONOGATARI (Detective Story), which will be released on the 29 of this month on a late show at Roppongi's Cinemart in Tokyo.
TANTEI MONOGATARI mixes violence, horror and comedy to tells the story of detective Raita Kazama (Kazuya Nakayama, protagonist in IZO). Raita Kazama has a new neighbour, a very suspicious guy with whom he shares his first name, Raita Takashima (Kurodo Maki). One evening, a woman visiting his neighbour's flat appears dead and with her liver removed. This murder will start a series of murders of women in similar circumstances from whom other organs have been removed, first a kidney and then a lung. The two Raita decide to investigate these cases.
The rest of the cast is completed with Tomoharu Hasegawa, Akiko Sakura, Harumi Inoue, Kai Ato, Hiroyuki Watanabe and Asae Onishi among others.
This year is the 40th anniversary of one the most important episodes in Japanese modern theatre. In August 1967, in the premises of Hanazono shrine in Shinjuku, Tokyo, the first of the Jokyo Gejiko's (Situation Theatre, founded in 1963) Aka Tent (red tents) opened to the public with the play Koshimaki Osen: Giri Ninjo Irohanihoteto Hen. Playwright Juro Kara, founder and leader of Jokyo Gejiko, took an anti-Shingeki view of theatre and used as source of inspiration pre-modern Kabuki plays of the Edo period. His works displayed a great sense of anarchy and eroticism, which got him into trouble with the Japanese police in numerous occasions. Juro Kara was part of the Shogekijo Undo or Little Theatre Movement, also known as Angura Engeki (Underground Theatre) or simply angora. Other members of this movement were Shuji Terayama, Tadashi Suzuki, Yukio Ninagawa and Makoto Sato, whose avant-garde works put Japanese theatre on the world map.
Shin Oshima, Nagisa Oshima's second son, directs the documentary THEATRICAL: JURO KARA TO GEKIDAN KARA-GUMI NO KIROKU, which pays hommage to this influential playwright. THEATRICAL: JURO KARA TO GEKIDAN KARA-GUMI NO KIROKU has been produced by Image Forum and will be released in December.
Continuing with more news indirectly connected with TOMIE, Tomijiro Mitsuishi, director of the third part of the series (TOMIE:REPLAY, 2000), will be responsible for adapting the manga OSAKA HAMLET by Hiromi Morishita for the big screen. OSAKA HAMLET was published by Manga Action between 2005 and 2006 and has been awarded with several prizes among them the Bunkacho Media Geijitsu Sai (Agency for Cultural Affairs Media Arts Festival) Excellent Prize and the Osamu Tezuka Short Work Award .
From this collection of stories about various Osaka dwellers and the problems they face, the makers of the film have chosen the story of the Kubo family for the writing of the script. The clumsy Takanori (Kishibe Ittoku) turns up unexpectedly to his brother's shijukunichi (Forty-ninth Day Memorial Service). Every member of the Kubo family (the widow Fusako played by Keiko Matsuzaka, her younger brother Asanori, played by Kampei Hazama, and her two sons Hisano Masahiro and Naoyuki Morita and one daughter Tomoya Otsuka) is shocked. This addition to the family will create a few frictions that Yukio (Naoyuki Morita), second son, will describe to his school tutor as resembling Shakespeare's HAMLET.
Yoshihiko Matsui, one of the legends of the Japanese underground cinema of the 1980's is back behind the camera after a 20 years hiatus. The shooting of his new project, DOKO NI IKU NO? (Where are we going?), started at the beginning of June and lasted less than 2 weeks. Coinciding with this news, on the first of September a digitally remastered version of his previous film, TSUITO NO ZAWAMEKO (Noisy Requiem, 1988) was also presented to the public. Matsui worked as assistant director in several Sogo Ishii's films during the 1970s. In 1979 Matsui made his debut as director with SABITA AKIKAN (Rusty Empty Can, in which Sogo Ishii himself was its cinematographer. TONKEI SHINJU (Pig-Chicken Suicide (1981), was his next work, presented at Shuji Terayama's Tenjo Sajiki-kan. Kazuo Hara (YUKI YUKITE SHINGUN, MATA NO HI NO CHIKA) this time was in charged of the cinematography. Even though, the production of his next film, TSUITO NO ZAWAMEKO, started in 1983, its release didn't take place until May 1988.
In DOKO NI IKU NO?, Matsui tells the story of young man (Shuji Kashiwabara), still traumatized by his father-in-law sexual abuses when he was a child, and his encounter with a transsexual (Anzu). Together they will try to find happiness. The rest of the cast features Shu Gejitsu, Kyoko Muramatsu, Masaki Miura, Nao Nagasawa and Kazuhiro Sano, main protagonist in TSUITO NO ZAWAMEKO. Its released is expected to happen between February and March of the next year.
Tomohiro Kubo, who had already worked as assistant director to Shun Nakahara in TOMIE: SAISHU-SHO-KINDAN NO KAJITSU, known in English as Tomie: Final Chapter, has turned into first time director of the new, I hope the last, instalment of this series based on the manga of the great Junji Ito. This new chapter will be simply titled TOMIE vs TOMIE, and as its title clearly indicates, it would confront two identical Tomies played by Yu Abiru and Emiko Matsuoka. Its release will take place 11 November at Cine La Sept in Shibuya, Tokyo.
After Hideyuki Hirayama's SHABEREDOMO, SHABEREDOMO, in which he tells the adventures of a group of wannabe rakugoka, director Shun Nakahara chooses for his new film, RAKUGO MUSUME (The daughter of rakugo), another story of aspiring masters of this traditional Japanese comedy. Shooting of his film started at the beginning of July. The script is based on a novel of the same title by Toshiya Nagata. This tells the story of Kazumi Nakamura, fascinated by the art of rakugo since her uncle took her to see a performance when she was a junior high school student. After graduating from university, Kazumi joins the school of the master she had seen with her uncle. There she spends five long years as a zenza (curtain raiser), continuosly looked down by her male classmates and any without real chances of becoming a master. Having failed her final exam she accepts the invitation of another master, impressed by her performance during her exam, to join his school. This could represent her long-awaited opportunity to show her true talent. RAKUGO MUSUME features the actress Miura in the main role. Other actors appearing in the film are Bengal and Junji Takahashi.
Daisuke Tengan (AIKI), son of Shohei Imamura, has a new film with the title of SEKAI DE ICHIBAN UTSUKUSHI YORU (The most beautiful night in the world). So far there isn't an official website or even information about the script, which is written by the director. However, a source has confirmed the beginning of the shooting, which started in November last year and official sites of several actors confirm their participation in the film that could be about yakuzas. SEKAI DE ICHIBAN UTSUKUSHI YORU will be starred by Tomoworo Taguchi, Ryo Ishibashi, Shun Sugata, Kanbe Hiroshi, Takeshi Wakamatsu, Asako Kobayashi and Ayumu Saito.
Several Japanese film directors have recently done some extra work probably to get some cash to pay the bills for their more personal projects. One of them is Shinya Tsukamato (AKUMU TANTEI). In the last year Tsukamoto has appeared in two TV series. First in BIO PLANET WOO (SEIBUTSU SUISEI WOO). A tokusatsu series of the Kyodai Heroes sub-genre broadcast by NHK from 9 April 2006 lasting 13 episodes and starred by Mitsuki Tanimura (KANARIA). Tsukamoto played the role of Taiso Nagakura, a biological researcher working for the SWORD organization. The other series in which Tsukamoto stars is SEXY VOICE AND ROBO, based on a popular manga by Iou Kuroda, and broadcast every Tuesday from 10 April by Nippon Television Network. In this series Tsukamoto plays the role of Hayashi Takeo, the protagonist's father Niko Hayashi (Ohgo Suzuka).
On the other hand, director Isshin Inudo (MAISON DE HIMIKO has presented his last project: a TV advertisement for the new Subaru Impreza. Actor Satoshi Tsumabuki stars the advert and Porno Graffiti provides the soundtrack. In the 90s Isshin started his artistic career as director of award-winning TV commercials. However, this new "CM" offers nothing new and just follows the current trend of shooting Japanese car company ads in a European location, really one those theme parks that you can find in every single Japanese prefecture, with gaijin included, in this case a little girl, a caucasian one. Innovation or artistry is not really the point but the names that have collaborated in it. After three pretty average films (TOUCH, KIIROI NAMIDA and BIZAN) it is hoped that Inudo could come up with something more competent. Some believe that could be his next film GUGU DATTE NEKO DE ARU.
Toshiki Sato (TANDEM) seems to be moving away once and for all from the pinku-eiga genre. His new project, UMI KAZE NI FUKARETE (Blown away by sea wind) from an idea by Hideaki Sato, who also produces (Hideaki Sato also produced Toshiki Sato's previous film CHANKO), tells the story of man (Ken Ishiguro) of 36 years, who after living for almost 20 years in Tokyo, decides to return to his hometown of Esashi in the island of Hokkaido, even though his dream had always been to sail around the island in a yatch. UMI KAZE NI FUKARETE looks like one those typical and nostalgic U-turn (returning to your hometown after leaving for the big city) eiga. Subsidized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, I have got the impression that UMI KAZE NI FUKARETE will not be more than a travel brochure for Esashi, one of the oldest cities in Hokkaido. Shooting will start in August and will last for one month.
Toshio Harada and Jo Odagiri will play a father and his son respectively in the film SOSHITE NATSU GA KITA (And summer has come). The son, in the process of getting married, is unwilling to leave home and live by himself and, on the other hand, the father is still not able to let his son become independent. The actor Ryo Iwamatsu writes and directs SOSHITE NATSU GA KITA, his first film in 14 years. Shooting of the film will start in June and his release will take place next year. The film will be also starred by Aso Kumiko, Shinobu Otake, Kaoru Kobayashi, Manami Fuji, Noriko Eguchi, Eri Ishida, Tetsuji Tanaka and Ken Mitsuishi.
On the 22 of this month Kaneto Shindo celebrated his 95th birthday and 3 days later, to show that he's still got plenty of energy left, attended a preview of OKA NI AGATTA GUNKAN (Yasuhiro Yamamoto) for which he had written the script based on his experience during the War in the Pacific.
That very same day, at the Tokyo Film School or Eiga Bigakko, Shindo also talked about his new film, his number 48 (even though the Japanese Movie Database only lists 43 films directed by him so far) with the provisional title of HANA WA CHIRODOMO (Flowers Fall But...). The story has an elementary school teacher as its main protagonist and the shooting will probably start this Autumn in Hiroshima prefecture. Actress Shinobu Otaku will star in this film. She was also at the preview of OKA NI AGATTA GUNKAN and can be seen on the photo of the right next to the director.
As the state of the new Japanese cinema shows a complete lack of films based on original scripts, Shindo Kaneto has written the scripts for of all his films of a total work of more than 200 scripts that he has written during his film career. Recently the public broadcaster NHK paid homage to the director in a series of interviews with him (see news).
Even though, Shunichi Nagasaki is considered by many as one the most interesting independent filmmakers in Japanese cinema, in the last few years he has also directed more mainstream films such as SHIKOKU or the re-make 8-GATSU NO CHRISTMAS. A few months ago I reported as well the end of the shooting of his latest work KURO OBI, a film about three karatekas set at the beginning of the Show period.
For his next project Nagasaki has chosen the children's bestseller NISHI NO MAJO GA SHINDA (The Witch of the West Is Dead), by popular writer Kaho Nashiki. Published in 1994, NISHI NO MAJO GA SHINDA tells the story of Mai, a 13 years old girl suffering from asthma who refuses to go to school. Her parents then decide to send her to the countryside where her British-born grandmother, the witch of the title, lives. Mai asks her grandmother to teach her how to solve her problems. Her grandmother starts giving her witch lessons in self-discipline and tells her that the first thing she has to do is to make decisions by herself.
NISHI NO MAJO GA SHINDA is produced by Asmik Ace Entertainment but there isn't any kind of information about casting or release date yet.
The death of the so-called J-Horror has been a matter of discussion for many fans of Japanese cinema for the last two years. The mediocrity of the first two offerings of the awaited J-Horror Theater project, KANSEN and YOGEN, was the first important sign of the decadence of the genre. I am among those who believe that this boom of Japanese horror was quite misleading relying on its popularity abroad, spurred by Internet forums, rather on its quality. The reality is that the great majority of Japanese horror films showed pretty distressing production values as well as no qualms in ripping off ideas and titles from the classics of the genre. The latest I have seen being TOKYO OF THE DEAD: MIKKA (Masashi Yamamoto), which, even though with a duration of no more than 45 minutes, became so unbearable in its first five minutes that I had to fast-forward the rest of the movie. However, RINNE (third film of the J-Horror Theater) has been a satisfying experience, considering that his director seems to be making a career around his hit JU-ON.
Even though, the death of J-Horror is a fact which not many people deny, this doesn't necessarily mean that the production of horror films has decreased. In the last few months I have seen a comeback of the urban legend of KUCHISAKE as an inspiration for many recent films mainly released on direct DVD. Another feature of the current Japanese horror cinema is its employment of voluptuous young girls, so-called gurabia idorus, in a kind of subgenre that I would describe as, not J-Horror, but G-Horror or Gurabia Idoru Horror. Two recent examples of this tendency have been LOST: NOROWARETA SHIMA by Kiyoshi Yamamoto and NIGHTINGALO by Ken Suenaga.
Thus, KOWAI DOUYOU: URA NO SHO, the latest horror film by Osamu Fukutani, also has a nice selection of gurabia idorus. Rising above all of them we have Megumi Yasu, who plays Kyoka, a sound analyst. Kyoko works for a TV programme investigating claims from neighbours who have heard voices singing children coming from an abandoned high school for girls where twelve members of the chorus club were found murdered. Also starring in this film produced by Banno Satoru are Mikako Tabe, Chinami Ishizaka (who also appeared in NIGHTINGALO), Narumi Konno, Yuki Saya, Reika Kirishima, Toshinobu Matsuo, Tsuda Kanji and Ryo Shihono. KOWAI DOUYOU: URA NO SHO combines three of the basic elements of J-Horror: urban legends, female high school students and technology. It will be released on 28 July.
Another film that shares these characteristics is DENSEN UTA, which tells the story of a song which kills its listeners, above all high school girls. DENSEN UTA was written by Yasushi Akimoto (CHAKUSHIN ARI), directed by Masato Harada and starred by members of the group AKB48 and Ryuhei Matsuda (AKUMU TANTEI). It will be released in August.
Nami Iguchi belongs to a generation of young female directors (see article) that have made quite an impact at home and abroad. Thus, her first film INU NEKO (The Cat Leaves Home, a remake of an 8mm work shot in 2001) won the Fipresci prize at the 2004 Torino Film Festival. Furthermore, Iguchi was chosen the best new director by the Directors Guild of Japan, the first time a female director has been awarded this prize.
For her second work, Nami Iguchi has adapted the debut novel (HITO NO SEX NO WARAU NA, which title has been translated as Don't Laugh at My Romance) by the young writer Naocola Yamazaki, for which she was awarded the Bungeisho in 2004. HITO NO SEX NO WARAU NA tells the amorous relationship bewteen Yuri (Hiromi Nagasaku in her first starring role), a 39 years old supply teacher at an art college and her 19 years old student Mirume (Kenichi Matsuyama). Joining them are Yu Aoi, in the role of Mirume's girlfriend, and Shugo Oshinari. The shooting of the film finished on 12 February and its release is expected by the beginning of next year.
The new project by director Isao Yukisada is a romantic film titled CLOSED NOTE based on a novel by writer Shusuke Shizukui. CLOSED NOTE tells the story of a university student (Erika Sawajiri) not entirely satisfied with her current life, who one day, searching through her wardrobe, finds a notebook belonging to the previous tenant (Yuko Takeuchi). Actor Yusuke Iseya completes the casting of this film that will be released on 29 September this year.
Still hot from his torrid performance in AI NO RUKEICHI alongside Shinobu Terajima, Etsushi Toyokawa stars in a new erotic film titled SEPPUN (Kiss). There is not much information about this work but its official website describes it as the AI NO CORRIDA of the 21st century. This time Toyokawa would have as his partner Eiko Koike, who little by little is moving away from his image of gurabia idoru co-hosting serious TV programmes such as Cambrian Palace with writer Ryu Murakami. SEPPUN is written and directed by Kunitoshi Manda. As with his first film (UNLOVED), SEPPUN has been produced by Takenori Sento and the director's wife, Tamami Manda, has also participated in the writing of the script.
After trying his hand at the horror genre with YOKAI KIDAN, director Toru Kamei (QUESTION and SHINJU ELEGY) returns to the world of erotic films with an adaptation of the manga TEREBI BAKARI MITERUTO BAKA NI NARU (Watching TV all the time makes you stupid) by popular mangaka Naoki Yamamoto. Kamei again presents us with an unusual relationship between a female hikikomori and a counsellor in a story that blends elements of pinku eiga with the social and comedy drama in a similar vein to his previous work SHINJU ELEGY. TEREBI BAKARI MITERUTO BAKA NI NARU will be presented to the public in early June at the Pole Pole cinema in Tokio. It stars Hokona, Akifumi Miura, Tetsuji Ohashi, Nobuyuki Matsuda, Chie Nakatani and Yasujiro Tamura.
Lily Franky has to be one the most popular Japanese novelists at the moment. His autobiographical novel Tokyo Tower- Okan to Boku to Tokidoki Oton (Tokyo Tower: Mom, me and sometimes dad) has sold so far more than 2 million copies and has been adapted for TV and cinema (see news). Franky is also the creator of children's character Oden-kun. His picture book has sold more than 300,000 copies and since April 2005 the public channel NHK has broadcast a TV version.
To this tremendously successful career we should now add his work as an actor as he will be the protagonist in a film for the first time (Franky had already appeared in the final film by the late director Teruo Ishii MOJU TAI ISSUNBOSHI). The shooting of this film titled KURURI NO KOTO will start on 3 April and will last for two months. It will be directed by Ryosuke Hashiguchi (HUSH!, NAGISA NO SHINBADDO or Like Grains of Sand). Lily Franky will play the role of Kanao, a courtroom artist, and his wife Shoko will be interpreted by Tae Kimura.
GURURI NO KOTO is a project that had been in Ryosuke Hashiguchi's mind for five years. After reading the novel Tokyo Tower Hashiguchi was convinced that the character of Kanao was identical to the boku (Lily Franky) in the book. Hashiguchi contacted with the novelist and proposed him to star in the film. After one month of thinking about the proposal Franky realized that he was in fact Kanao.
CROWS, the furyoshonen (juvenile delinquent) manga written by Hiroshi Takahashi will be Takashi Miike's next project after his blend of jidaki-geki and spaghetti western SUKIYAKI WESTERN: JANGO. CROWS is the nickname given to a high school where the band of juvenile delinquents led Harumichi Bouya study. This manga appeared published for the first time in February 1991 and its 26 volumes have so far sold 32 million copies. The film stars Shun Oguri in the role of Harumichi Bouya and he will be joined by Susumu Terajima, Goro Kishitani and Kenichi Endo.
After KIRAWARE MATSUKO NO ISSHO (Memories of Matsuko, film for which she received the best actress award at the Japan Academy Award and Asian Film Awards) Miki Nakatani takes another role of more clear masochist overtones in the film JIGYAKU NO UTA (A Poem of Masoquism), which shooting started five days ago. JIGYAKU NO UTA is based on a manga of the same title created by Gouda Yoshie. First published in 1996 the manga has so far sold more than 300,000 copies. The film version is directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi and starred by the already mentioned Miki Nakatani and Hiroshi Abe in the roles of Yukie and Isao respectively. Isao is a good-for-nothing yakuza prone to violent outbursts, overturn chabudai (low dining table, see film official website) and trample on Yukie. On the other hand, Yukie is the very picture of misfortune as a child she had already been abused by her alcoholic and gambler father. The release of JIGYAKU NO UTA is expected for autumn this year.
As it had previously been reported in this website the shooting of the remake of SANJURO (Tsubaki Sanjuro in its Japanese title) began in September last year. Two months later, a press conference was held to officially present the film. This remake, directed by Yoshimitsu Morita and starred by Yuji Oda, was produced by Kadokawa Haruki Office and Toho will take care of its distribution. SANJURO will be released during the oshogatsu celebration of 2008. In an interview given to the Jidai-Geki Magazine in its July 2006 issue Kadokawa revealed how the director behind the camera for the remake of YOJIMBO will be Yoichi Sai (CHI TO HONE) and that he hopes to release it for the 2009's oshogatsu. Kadokawa also said that if these two films perform well at the box office he will produce up to five sequels for which he has already paid the rights. If we are to believed him, Kadokawa himself will direct one of these sequels.
94 years old director Kaneto Shindo has written the script for the war film OKA NI AGATTA GUNKAN. This script is based on his experience during the Pacific War after being called-up by the Imperial Japanese Navy on 28 April 1944 when he was working as a scenario writer for Shochiku.
Thus, OKA NI AGATTA GUNKAN joins a string of war films set in the last year of the Pacific War (see Sumario 2005 and Sumario 2006) with the difference that this time it has been produced independently without the backing of a major studio or TV company. Also, the script tries to highlight the brutalization of members of the Imperial Japanese Navy rather than their heroism as depicted in films such as LORELEI or OTOKOTACHI NO YAMATO, which means that will not see a free massive advertising on TV programmes or a wide national release. In its official website there is an appeal call to help economically with the distribution of the film around the country, which be released at the Eurospace cinema in Tokyo this summer.
OKA NI AGATTA GUNKAN is directed by Yasuhiro Yamamoto, who worked with Kaneto Shindo as an assistant director in the films GOGO NO YUIGON-JO, IKITAI and FUKURO. The role of the young Kaneto Shindo will be played by Kanie Ippei and Kenichi Takitou will be his friend Morioka. The rest of the cast includes Miura Kategora, Yuichiro Suzuki and Takeho Tomomatsu among others.
Director Satoshi Miki (IN THE POOL) will release two new films this year. The first one is titled ZUKAN NI NOTTE NAI MUSHI (The Insects Unlisted in the Encyclopedia as shown in its official site) and it will be released in June. Yusuke Iseya stars the film in the role of a reporter who, with the help of Rinko Kikuchi and Suzuki Matsuo, tries to unravel the mystery of an insect called shinimodeki. On the other hand, Oscar nominated Rinko Kikuchi will appear in a twisted role grating wasabi with the scars on her wrists.
The other film which shooting will finish next month is called TEN TEN (Here and There). It is based on a novel by Yoshinaga Fujita (winner of the Aoki prize in 2001 for Ai No Ryobun). TEN TEN is starred by Jo Odagiri and Tomokazu Miura who are running away from loan sharks. Its release is expected for the New Year's holiday.
Eiji Okuda, director of the interesting NAGAI SANPO (A Long Walk), best film at the last Montreal World Film Festival, presented on 6 February his latest production KAZE NO SOTOGAWA. This world premiere took place in the city of Shimonoseki (Fukuoka), where the film was shot. Its theatrical release will be in Autumn this year.
The script, written by Okuda, tells the story of Mariko Iwata (Sakura Ando, the director's second daughter), a high school student who dreams to become an opera singer. Cho Sonmun (Tadao Sakaki), a zainichi, loses an important music score for Mariko. In return she asks him to become her bodyguard on her way back home from school. A relation will emerge between them not without difficulties and disappointments.
The rest of the cast features Takuya Ishida, Kyoko Kubo, Masahiro Shimada, Kazu Ando, Rino Katase, Hiroyuki Ehara, Chie Ayado, Kazuki Kitamura, Mari Natsuki and Eiji Okuda himself among others.
YAGIKITA DOCHU TERESUKO is the new film by Hideyuki Hirayama (LADY JOKER, LAUGHING FROG, OUT, TURN). It is based on the novel Tokaidochu Hizakurige by Ikku Jippensha (1765-1831), which had recently been adapted by Kankuro Kudo (MAYONAKA NO YAJI-SAN KITA-SAN).
The starting point of this road movie comedy takes places in a brothel in Kanagawa from which Yaji-san (Kanzaburô Nakamura) and Kita-san (Akira Emoto) rescue the oiran Yoshino (Kyoko Koizumi) and escape taken the Tokaido road. In this incident-filled journey they would meet a mysterious monster called Teresuko.
The film will be released in Autumn this year.
Rinko Kikuchi, recently nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress (BABEL), will be one of the three protagonists in the film KOI SURU MADORI. The other two are Yui Aragaki, in the main role of Yui, and Ryuhei Matsuda (AKUMU TANTEI). KOI SURU MADORI was written and directed by first time director Akiko Oku.
Yui (Yui Aragaki) is an arts student at university who falls in love for the first time with Takashi (Ryuhei Matsuda), her neighbour in the flat above her. Takashi had already had a relationship with Atsuko (Rinko Kikuchi), Yui's flat previous tenant, whom Yui sincerely admires.
Its release will take place this summer.