Unforgettable: #JFTFP24

Of course, if a Japanese person was reading this poster, they'd think the season was called Te Tl Reb Noga Uf.It's that time of year again: the time when I start a review of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme with a snarky dig at whatever ridiculously generic theme they've chosen for this one. The 2024 collection of Japanese films being sent around the UK during February and March has the full title of Unforgettable: Memories, Times and Reflections in Japanese Cinema, and...

...dammit, that actually works this time. I've only seen eight of the twenty-four films doing the rounds this year, but themes of nostalgia and memory are to the forefront, accompanied by time jumps both forward and backward, plus a circular one for good measure. It's nice that, for once, they haven't chosen a framework so broad that you could fit any film into it. (Having said that, the first film we saw after this week-long binge was All Of Us Strangers, which would fit this season's brief perfectly, and has the bonus of being a loose adaptation of a Japanese novel that was already filmed back in 1988 [possible spoilers for both films in that last link].)

The season's been running in various locations since February 2nd, and tours the country until March 31st. Here are some dispatches from its week-long residency at London's ICA.

Continue reading "Unforgettable: #JFTFP24" »


Always Evolving: #JFTFP23

They could have at least made the last woman on the filmstrip a robot or something.I've been covering the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme both here (2008, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022) and over there (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) for so long now, it probably deserves its own blog category. This is actually the 20th year of the programme, and its brief is still the same: to create a showcase of current and classic Japanese films, take them out on tour across the arthouse cinemas of the UK, and come up with the most ridiculously contrived theme to tie them together into a single season.

I've had a giggle at some of the excuses the Japan Foundation has used in the past to say a particular collection of films belongs together, but the full title of the 2023 season - Always Evolving: Japanese Cinema Then, Now And For The Future - is really clutching at straws. Here, basically, are some old films and some new ones. Still, as ever it's an interesting collection, so let's look at seven of the twenty that are travelling the country until March 31st.

Continue reading "Always Evolving: #JFTFP23" »


Winter Is Coming

Alex And Paul's Quite Reasonable AdventureIt was a very Prince Charles thing to do, and I don’t mean having your wife bumped off once she’s furnished you with a couple of heirs. I'm talking of course about the Prince Charles Cinema, described by people in the know as "the most depraved and beautiful movie theatre in London." They have a reputation for supporting cult cinema, and for putting on extraordinary events, and this counted as both - at the beginning of April 2022, they staged an entire weekend of films featuring Alex Winter, a man best known for playing William S. Preston Esq. in the Bill and Ted series. And they had him fly over to give talks before or after every single one.

The Belated Birthday Girl and I aren't particularly rabid fans of the actor, but we know a good film binge when we see one. So we picked one film from each day of the weekend to see - one was my choice, one was hers, and the third we hadn't seen before. It wasn't until a day or so before the event that we realised that we'd effectively committed ourselves to spending the weekend in the company of one guy, and, well...

...what if he turned out to be a dick?

Continue reading "Winter Is Coming" »


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.

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


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)" »


#PreCodeApril

Warner Archive DVDs are a bit basic, aren't they? Remember those days when DVDs used to claim interactive menus were a Special Feature? Warner Archive do.This isn’t our first encounter with the Hays Code. This was the document which came into force in 1934, and delineated precisely what sort of behaviour was unacceptable in Hollywood movies for the next three decades. It was also, by implication, the marker for the end of Hollywood’s Pre-Code era – that glorious four-year stretch between 1930 and 1934 when mild immorality ran wild on the big screen. It’s an era of filmmaking that’s been frequently celebrated by the British Film Institute, most notably in BFI Southbank's excellent 2014 season, Breaking The Code.

Shortly after that season took place, The Belated Birthday Girl bought me a four-pack of Pre-Code DVDs as a birthday present. Forbidden Hollywood Volume 7 was one of a small-run series of collections by the Warner Archive label. It contained one film from the BFI season, and three others that were unfamiliar to me. A lovely present, of course, but like most of the discs in our joint collection it was a question of when we would find the time to watch them.

That time turned out to be April 2021. My MostlyFilm colleague and Porn Valley High alumnus, FilmFan, set up the hashtag #PreCodeApril on Twitter, and invited everyone he knew to watch some Pre-Code films and write about them. If you follow the hashtag, you can see it’s been a roaring success: half the images in my timeline this month have been in black and white, as Film Twitter has rushed to post countless stills and GIFs from these films to accompany their reviews.

I don’t really do film reviews on Twitter. So here they are.

Continue reading "#PreCodeApril" »


This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 3 of 3)

Little Miss PeriodWell, you've missed it all, I'm afraid. The 2021 edition of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme was only online between February 19th and March 10th, and now it's all gone apart from a few of the accompanying webchats (specifically the season introduction, a discussion on realism in Japanese cinema, and a chat about Bizen pottery that ties in with one of the films I didn't see). Yes, the final part of this writeup of what I saw in the season is a bit late, but at least it's not three months late like last year's.

So, assuming we can skip the basics because you've already read part one and part two, here comes part three of my review of this year's programme, which of necessity has to start by explaining why the photo at the top of this page is meant to represent a menstruating woman.

Continue reading "This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 3 of 3)" »


Glasgow Film Festival 2021

In other years, this design would probably have made for a pretty sweet t-shirt.It's been an interesting twelve months for online film festivals, as long as you don't think too hard about all of the stuff happening outside which has forced us to have online film festivals in the first place. On this site, I've reviewed a few of my favourite real-world fests that have successfully pivoted to video (LFF, Sheffield Doc/Fest, JFTFP): and I've also covered a new one that was set up entirely from scratch (We Are One).

But here's a category I've steered clear of until now: real-world festivals that I've never got around to attending before, which are now open to me because they've moved online. Glasgow Film Festival has a perfectly fine reputation, but I'd never considered taking time out of my schedule to travel up there to be part of it. But if you put it all online and charge people a tenner a go to see a programme with some surprisingly hot movies in it, then you have my attention.

So, for one year only - hopefully, and I say that without any malice towards it - welcome to the only Scottish film festival worth a damn. (I believe the young people call this 'subtweeting'.)

Continue reading "Glasgow Film Festival 2021" »


This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 2 of 3)

ExtroAs is traditionally the case with the annual Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, we need to spend a little time poking fun at the utterly generic season title and theme. To quote from their website: "Everybody wants to be part of something, no matter what you do or who you are... But what is it that people mean when they say ‘my place’; when they refer to their sense of existence and belonging?"

So, it's a season of films about people in places. Got it. To be fair, there are a couple of movies in this programme that explore a common theme in Japanese cinema, where someone fails to fit in to what's generally thought of as a very conformist society. But there's not so much of the opposite of that, where people find themselves part of something that outsiders simply can't understand. When the theme of this year's programme was announced, I hoped that they might have found room for Tonde Saitama, which we saw unsubtitled during our 2018 holiday: sure, many of the local references may not travel, but the idea of a small community revelling in how much it's hated by the big city next door is universal, and the end title song sums that up perfectly.

Sadly, we didn't get that one in this season, mainly because it was ridiculously popular and award-winning, which probably put it out of the Japan Foundation's budget. So instead, following on from the first part, here are four more films that they could afford.

Continue reading "This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 2 of 3) " »


This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 1 of 3)

It's not a particularly exciting poster this year, but at least it's not the eyeball-inside-a-mouth horror that 2020's was.It's a difficult time to be thinking too hard about what'll happen in the future. But I suspect that whatever happens, in years to come we won't be hitting the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme as heavily as we have been in the past.

I said that back in June last year, when I was writing about the 2020 iteration of the film festival (which I'll be calling JFTFP from now on, because life's too short). After more than a decade - we'd been going there since 2008 - of indulging in their annual collections of recent and classic Japanese cinema, finally the sheer cost of seeing these things at the ICA had just become prohibitive, with every single discount we used to get being whittled away. There were times in the past when the number of films we saw at JFTFP went into double figures, and that's not even counting the years when I was getting freebie screeners from the Japan Foundation so that I could preview them for MostlyFilm. But not any more, it would seem.

Unless, of course, there was some sort of catastrophic chain of events that resulted in the 2021 JFTFP shifting online and becoming free. So here we are.

Continue reading "This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 1 of 3)" »