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What Lies Beneath: #JFTFP22 (part 2 of 2)

Given all the psychological torment that's depicted in First Love, I've chosen to go for a still from it in which a couple appreciate some sausages.It's fun looking back at my writeup of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme from two years ago: a set of films I saw shortly before the entire planet went tits up, but written about after that. My main issue at the time was that the cost of tickets - particularly at the ICA - ruled out the sort of full-season binges we used to do in the old days. After the anomaly of 2021's free online fest, we're back in meatspace for 2022's programme What Lies Beneath, and sadly the ticket prices are still as bad as ever.

The bottom line is this: if you came here wanting reviews of Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots, Will I Be Single Forever?, Kiba: The Fangs Of Fiction, Tomorrow's Dinner Table, Blue, The Lone Ume Tree, The Confidence Man JP: The Movie, Life: Untitled, Aristocrats, The House Of The Lost On The Cape or The Sound Of Grass, then you'll have to look somewhere else. As for the other nine films in this year's programme, I reviewed four of them in part one. Here are the other five, all watched in London over the space of a single weekend.

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What Lies Beneath: #JFTFP22 (part 1 of 2)

Oi! Down in front!It shouldn't be such a big deal coming back to the cinema for the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme - after all, I spent a fair chunk of the tenties experiencing it largely at home, thanks to all the press screener discs arranged for me by MostlyFilm. But it has to be said, one year on from the 2021 programme which was held entirely online, there's something comforting about returning to the ICA for 2022. Junko Takekawa is still giving the introductions, and making us fill in surveys afterwards asking what we've learned about Japanese life: the films are still prefaced by a unique mix of adverts for Japanese tourism and Yakult: and the ICA's cafe is still run by staff so slow-moving that you feel it must be a performance art piece of some sort.

The official title of this year's programme is What Lies Beneath: The Intricate Representations Of A 'Dark Mind' In Japanese Cinema. Which is a long-winded way of saying that the 20 films on show across the country are largely about people trying to conceal things. It's a similar theme to that of 2018's programme (Un)true Colours, and as a result The Belated Birthday Girl can be currently heard going around the house while doing her best Timothy Spall/Mike Leigh impersonation: "Secrets! And lies!"

None of this will, of course, stop us from watching and reviewing a reasonable number of those 20 films. They're going to be all over the UK from now until March 31st, but from the run at the ICA I'm going to report on four now, and five more soon.

Continue reading "What Lies Beneath: #JFTFP22 (part 1 of 2)" »

Simian Substitute Site for February 2022: Monkey Love Experiments


Books: After seeing Jeanette Winterson being interviewed during our one live Edinburgh International Book Festival event of 2021, anyone normal would have queued up to buy a copy of her new book from the signing tent. Instead, we went online and bought the audiobook version of 12 Bytes while sitting in a cafe a few hundred yards down the road. It's a collection of twelve essays on the overall theme of where technology is taking us, specifically in the transition from AI to AGI - artificial general intelligence, what you might like to think of as the equivalent of Skynet becoming self-aware. From a pair of neatly-linked starting points - Ada Lovelace's early work in computation, and Mary Shelley's fable of the creation of life through electricity - Winterson pulls together all manner of ideas into clusters that are always entertaining, even if sometimes they're a bit of a stretch. (Occasionally I'm reminded of Blindboy's hot takes in his podcast, and think that she should consider starting some of the essays with "I may be talking out of me hole here, lads, but...") Of the dozen or so audiobook readers we encountered in 2021, she's easily my favourite: she's got a delightful reading style that gets deliberately conversational when she's trying to get across footnotes and quotes. And considering this isn't even her field, her enthusiasm for the subject is palpable, while never getting in the way of clarity. If Russell T Davies is prepared to accept that maybe the Fourteenth Doctor doesn't have to be a major departure from the Thirteenth, I might have a casting suggestion for him.

Music (1 of 2): We had a bit of drama in the latest Pick Of The Year CD competition, thanks to an unexpected entry from regular correspondent The Cineaste. You'll remember that the task was to identify which was the first POTY to feature The Belated Birthday Girl on the cover, given that 2021 was the second. Writing in on December 27th (two days after the competition went online), The Cineaste admitted that he was just stabbing in the dark, "but based on the tenuous (if plausible) rationale that you were big on Japan in 2014, I'll go for that year. NB I'm not expecting to win, cos after all my name's not Dave." He's being a bit harsh on himself there: don't forget, if I hadn't received a correct entry by the closing date of January 31st, he would have won. Which I guess makes it all the more galling that Dave entered at 6.24pm ON CHRISTMAS DAY and nailed it. Moreover, he showed his working: "Difficult one. 2001 is the start year. One of the faces in that year's? fairly sure not. [No, see mouseover text on the cover image on that page.] 2002? I'm really hoping not. [And she thanks you for saying that.] 2003? Possibly an early pic. [No idea who it is, it's just a random picture that I found, hence the redaction.] 2004 - very possibly the person in the foreground. 2006 - also possible that's her holding the Beano. Never seen Spank in a hat, could be the one. [Um, let me introduce you to the most carefully concealed catchphrase on this site.] 2010 - is she in that pic? Can't see her. [Neither of us have ever been to Gordano Services.] 2013 - in a BrewDog? Certainly a possibility. but can't see her for sure. [She took the photo.] Torn between 2004 and 2006. I'm going for 2004." And 2004 is indeed the right answer, as noted within the actual competition question for that year (and before you ask, Dave didn't enter that one).

Music (2 of 2): So, congratulations to Dave, commiserations to The Cineaste. As for the rest of you, now that we've got all the admin for POTY 2021 out of the way, it's time to start looking at potential entries for POTY 2022. No time this month for a full track-by-track breakdown, I'm afraid, other than to tell you to expect tunes from Elvis Costello, Simon Love, The Art Of Noise, Kojey Radical, Wet Leg, Telefis, David Bowie, Yard Act and Black Country, New Road (with an implied nod of sympathy to the last band in general and Isaac Wood in particular). The usual slot number ten in the Spotify playlist has been left blank for you to go out, buy a Neil Young CD and listen to that. Harvest Moon's a nice one.

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