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Japanese Cinema

It is no coincidence that Japanese cinema is strongly represented here: Japanese film production is not only extensive, but epochal filmmakers who have influenced and inspired cinema all over the world have also worked here. It's not for nothing that for years now, several Japanese names and titles have been continuously appearing on the best films lists. The triumvirate of Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa cannot be missed, and we offer the opportunity to see or rediscover some of their most beautiful films. Besides the old masters, there are also younger ones like Nagisa Oshima, Sohei Imamura and Keisuke Kinoshita. Among the younger ones, who have also reached a mature age, are Naomi Kawase, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Hirokazu Kore-eda, from whom we have brought together almost all the films on filmingo.

Hana (2006)
Hirokazu KORE-EDA
Japan
128′
The time is 1702. A young samurai, Aoki Sozaemon (Okada Junichi) has left his countryside hometown, and is now living in Edo (now Tokyo), in search of Kanazawa Jubei (Asano Tadanobu), the man who killed his father. He is living in a dilapidated tenement house, in the poor quarters of the city of Edo. His neighbors in the so-called "row houses" are all good, solid folk who can never even hope to rise out of the squalor of their surroundings. Sozaemon, the provincial samurai, becomes friends with a variety of characters including a habitual drunk, an unsuccessful would-be petty official, a ragman, a perky girl, a doctor, and a scrivener. As the relationships between the characters unfold we are led deeper in the blossoming love story of Sozaemon and the beautiful widow, Osae (Miyazawa Rie). Although he has never forgot his task to find his father's enemy and to succeed in his vengeance, being around Osae and her son, Sozaemon feels a warm feeling inside, which leads to doubts about the entire act of revenge. However, to walk away from the "revenge-act (ADAUCHI)", could actually bring his entire family down, not only without the reward from the Shogun, but also, as a samurai, to be unsuccessful on revenge would be an act of cowardice, and a disgrace to the entire family name. Sozaemon, still not being able to decide on if he should take the act of revenge, goes on with his everyday life, teaching the neighborhood children mathematics, reading and writing. He wonders whether he can ever enjoy life without the specter of revenge and swordplay. With the discovery of the rich meaningful life rather than the meaningless death of a warrior, Sozaemon, together with his strange friends at the tenement row house, decides to plot an act of the lifetime...
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Yojimbo (1961)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
110′
The unemployed samurai Sanjuro (stunning as usual: Toshiro Mifune) travels through 19th century Japan to a remote mountain village, where two hostile family clans fight for supremacy by all means. Sanjuro skillfully takes advantage of the rivalries, takes sides here and there and plays both groups against each other in his daring intrigue game.
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Still the Water (2014)
Naomi Kawase
Japan
120′
On the subtropical Japanese island of Amami, traditions about nature remain eternal. During the full-moon night of traditional dances in August, 16-year-old Kaito discovers a dead body floating in the sea. His girlfriend Kyoko will attempt to help him understand this mysterious discovery. Together, Kaito and Kyoko will learn to become adults by experiencing the interwoven cycles of life, death and love.
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Tokyo Family (2013)
Yoji Yamada
Japan
146′
In this film director Yoji Yamada bows down before his teacher and role model. Yamada was assistant director on Yazujiro Ozu’s «Tokyo monogatari», a moving family portrait set after the Second World War. In his remake, Yamada has made very few departures from Ozu’s masterpiece in order to update the story of ageing couple Shukichi and Tomiko to present day Japan. Once again, the pair decides to leave their quiet lives in the country to pay a visit to their children and grandchildren in Tokyo. Once there, they discover that neither their oldest son, a doctor named Koichi, nor their eldest daughter Shigeko - who runs a beauty parlour - has time for them: both are too busy attending to their everyday concerns. Even the youngest son went his own way. The old couple feel lonely and bewildered in the fast-paced metropolis. Adopting Ozu’s quiet observations of the family, Yamada’s version loses nothing of its topicality and, even sixty years after the original was filmed, the generation gap is still palpable. In fact, today’s young people are struggling to assert themselves in a far more confusing world, and this in a country where the scars of the 2011 tsunami still inform everyday life.
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Tokyo Story (1953)
Yasujiro OZU
Japan
137′
The Hirayamas travel from their hometown of Onomichi to Tokyo to visit their adult children. But the younger generation make them feel more in the way than welcome. It also emerges that their son’s career as a doctor and their daughter’s as a hairdresser are nowhere near as successful as the couple were led to believe from afar. The only one who really makes an effort to spend time with them is their daughter-in-law, Noriko, the widow of the Hirayama’s son who went missing in the war. On the journey home, mother Hirayama is taken seriously ill and the couple have to make an unscheduled stop in Osaka, where another of their adult children lives. In a succinct, objective and non-judgemental manner, Yasujirō Ozu uses images which are as simple as they are magnificent to tell the story of family estrangement and the isolation inherent in modern society. Ozu himself considered Tōky ō Monogatari his "masterpiece" and the 1963 Retrospective of the Berlin International Film Festival, the "film-historical screenings", was dedicated to him. This is the international premiere of the digitally restored version made by Japanese production company Shochiku.
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Sansho Dayu - Sanshi the Bailiff (1954)
Kenji Mizoguchi
Japan
124′
Sansho Dayu is a film about a couple of children from a rich house at the end of the 12th century who fall into the hands of the bailiff. He owes his reputation as an exemplary feudal lord to the merciless exploitation of his slave army. Mizoguchi fluently tells this old legend of need and revenge in beautiful pictures.
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Akasen Chitai - Street of Shame (1956)
Kenji Mizoguchi
Japan
86′
Five fates of women from Tokyo's brothel district in the 1950s are the focus of Kenji Mizoguchi's last film, who devoted the majority of his works to the historical and social situation of Japanese women. The theme is shaped by socio-critical commitment, human sympathy and unspeculative openness.
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Stray Dog (1949)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
122′
He is still young, the actor who should become known around the world with masterpieces like "Rashomon" or "The Seven Samurai". Here, Akira Kurosawa has created a thriller against the background of the recent and completely unprocessed Japanese war past, of which many of the characters, whether woman or man, talk. "Stray Dog" plays during the sultry hot summer in Tokyo in 1949. The young and completely inexperienced inspector Murakami (Toshiro Mifune) gets his loaded service weapon stolen from his jacket pocket in an overcrowded bus. Murakami is beside himself. He fears the worst consequences for his still young career. Together with his older colleague Sato from the theft department, he sets out on a search for traces of the thief. While we roam about the Japanese post-war setting with him, he gains experiences and learns to keep calm from the old and experienced colleague Sato. Women who are involved in what is going on are also snarling at him as a greenhorn. An impressive milieu study by Akira Kurosawa, in which the master proves himself in the genre film and shows us what he is capable of in narrative, atmospheric and visual terms. Walter Ruggle
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The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
151′
A young executive hunts down his father's killer in director Akira Kurosawa's scathing The Bad Sleep Well. Continuing his legendary collaboration with actor Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa combines elements of Hamlet and American film noir to chilling effect in exposing the corrupt boardrooms of postwar corporate Japan.
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Banshun - Late Spring (1949)
Yasujiro OZU
Japan
108′
Twenty-seven-year-old Noriko lives with her widowed father, a university professor, in a small house in the tranquil surroundings of northern Kamakura. He is completing a scientific manuscript, aided by his assistant, Hattori. Professor Sonomiya is concerned for his daughter s welfare, and one day suggests she marry Hattori. Noriko only laughs at his suggestion because she is quite happy with her life and knows that Hattori is already engaged. Her aunt Masa, the professor s sister, is the next person to try out her matchmaking skills, and she talks Noriko into meeting Mr Satake. Although Noriko quite likes him, she rejects all thoughts of marriage because she doesn t want to leave her father all alone. When she meets Professor Onodera, an old friend of her father s, in a museum one day and he tells her that he has just remarried, Noriko can hardly disguise her dismay. One of Ozu's favorite themes is the opposing desires of and friction between members of a family even though they feel deep affection and loyalty to each other. Inevitably, these interactions within a family, and particularly the problems which arise between parents and children, will result in some sort of separation. For Noriko it is the separation of marriage, in other Ozu stories it may mean being employed away from home or death. While Ozu is saddened by these events, he also recognizes that they are unavoidable. This awareness of the inherent transience and sadness of human existence is what the Japanese call mono no aware." Beverley Bare Buehrer
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Love And Honor (2007)
Yoji Yamada
Japan
122′
Shortly after assuming his post as food taster, Shinnojo loses his eyesight. The fish that was given to the head of the clan was poisoned. Prior to this, Shinnojo had held an inferior position in the ruler’s entourage. Realising that not only will he remain blind until the end of his days, but he must now relinquish his position and will need assistance for rest of his life, Shinnojo becomes dejected and melancholy. His wife, Kayo, is the only one able to prevent him from committing suicide: "I can’t imagine life without you. But, go ahead and kill yourself. If you do so, I will follow you immediately", is her response. Touched by her loyalty, Shinnojo gives up his plan to take his own life. Shortly afterwards, Shinnojo’s uncle advises him that, since he is no longer able to work, Shinnojo should ask Kayo to go to Shimada, the influential steward of the estate, and ask for his help. As time goes by, Shinnojo begins to get used to being blind. But then one day his aunt Ine tells him of a rumour she has heard about Kayo’s infidelity. Madly jealous, Shinnojo, who loves his wife and had always trusted her, orders his old servant, Tokuhei, to follow Kayo. Tokuhei discovers that the rumour is true. Having noticed that she was being watched, Kayo admits to having committed adultery with Shimada, explaining that the steward demanded her body in return for supporting Shinnojo. Throwing his wife out of the house, Shinnojo prepares himself for one last battle.
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Dersu Uzala (1975)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
136′
A military explorer meets and befriends a Goldi man in Russia’s unmapped forests. A deep and abiding bond evolves between the two men, one civilized in the usual sense, the other at home in the glacial Siberian woods. The film won the 1976 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, the Golden Prize and the Prix FIPRESCI at the 9th Moscow International Film Festival and a number of other awards.
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Drunken Angel (1948)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
98′
In this powerful early noir from the great Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune bursts onto the screen as a volatile, tubercular criminal who strikes up an unlikely relationship with Takashi Shimura’s jaded physician. Set in and around the muddy swamps and back alleys of postwar Tokyo, Drunken Angel is an evocative, moody snapshot of a treacherous time and place, featuring one of the director’s most memorably violent climaxes.
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Fukushima - No Man's Zone (2012)
Toshi Fujiwara
Japan
105′
A man wanders through the 20-kilometre exclusion zone around the stricken nuclear reactors at Fukushima. The cherry trees are in bloom and the natural surroundings make an idyllic impression. Radiation is invisible, yet a gaping emptiness looms where the tsunami engulfed streets and houses. The man is wearing normal clothing, just like the people still toughing it out here, for the time being at least. He occa- sionally encounters white "ghosts" in protective clothing, performing strange tasks. As in Tarkovsky’s STALKER, the zone in Fujiwara Toshi’s NO MAN’S ZONE is both a place and a mental state. A gradual disintegration began long before the destruction and devastation, a process defied for the most part by the old people our "Stalker" encounters. A voice accom- panies the filmmaker’s wanderings, that of Armenian-Canadian actress Arsinée Khanjian, a voice from a place of exile, unfamiliar and sympathetic. NO MAN’S ZONE is a complex reflection on the relationship between images and fears, on being addicted to the apocalypse, on the ravaged relationship between man and nature. For the zone to be decontam- inated and returned to the people, nature itself will have to undergo an amputation.
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