Category Archives: 15th Japanese Film Festival 2011 Sydney

[JFF] Suite Dreams / THE 有頂天ホテル (2006) – Japan

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Suite Dreams plays like one of those Michael Hui’s style of 70s and 80s style of comedy. Everything takes place in one location. Known as Japan’s “King of Comedy”, director Koki Mitani certainly displays a good sense of humour. In Suite Dreams, he is able to create a light-hearted, mindless, carefree comedy that is both outright funny and somewhat refreshing. Mitani’s style of comedy is simple; a bit like stage comedy, what you see is what you get, which translate to obvious comedy. In that, you laugh at what you see, you hear and how the characters react to situations thrown at them. While a lesser comedy director like Wong Jing will go overboard, Mitani never drags out his sets or jokes, which results in his ability to achieve direct humour rather than over the top annoyance. Running at over 2 hours long, Suite Dreams feel like a quick car-ride and breezes by before you realise. Movies made for laughs are a rarity nowadays and Suite Dreams delivers exactly that. All in all, Suite Dreams is unlikely to set any house on fire, but as a comedy it simply works. It is a kind of movie that requires the audience to check-in and enjoy your stay till your next check out point…

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Neo rates it 7/10

JFF Watchlist

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After a slow start, with me missing the first 3 days of the JFF due to sickness. I have knocked down 4 films so far. I now have another 8 films to look forward to for the next 5 days.

With 5 days to go…
My JFF watchlist ahead:
Wed: Suite Dreams – 8:40pm
Thurs: Peak: The Rescuers – 6:30pm
Fri: Space Battleship Yamato – 6:30pm, Milocrorze: a Love Story – 9:20pm
Sat: A Boy and His Samurai – 1:30pm, Arrietty 3:50pm, Hankyu Railways:A 15 Minute Miracle – 6pm
Sun: Life Back Then – 6pm

Bring it On!!!

[JFF] The Last Ronin 最後の忠臣蔵 (2010) – Japan

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This is a rare cinematic gem. Very few films will be like The Last Ronin. It is a kind of film where the director gives the audience plenty of time and space to allow us to get a feel for what is happening and the message that he wanted to express. It is essentially at its very core a film about the true spirit of the samurai, the emphasis of one’s honor, the essence of duty and the importance of keeping a promise. In a true warrior spirit, the film does not try to be melodramatic to affect or connect to the audience, but rather allowing us to absorb the situation, the atmosphere and embrace the unwritten code of the warrior’s way. It is certainly not a film for everyone, with its ultra slow pacing and with not much really happening, the film may well frustrate even the most patience of viewers. However, those who wait will be able to reap the rewards afterwards. Almost forgotten to mention, Nanami Sakuraba is truly stunning and beautiful in her role and is most certainly an actress for the future. Ultimately, The Last Ronin is a perfect example of executing the “show-not-tell” principle to maximum effect. All in all, The Last Ronin rewards those who sit and watch with patience and endurance and slowly by the end of the film, the audience is gained with extra knowledge knowing the puzzle is solved and most likely will finish off with a smile on their face. The Last Ronin takes us on a rare cinematic journey that allows the viewer to observe, understand and finally embrace the true meaning of being a samurai. A truly unique cinematic experience…

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Neo rates it 8/10.

[JFF] In His Chart 神様のカルテ (2011) – Japan

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In His Chart starts off slowly and almost fall off its own rails, before smashing all the right buttons to engage the audience and finishes extremely strongly. Such is the pacing of the film, but once it grips you, it is likely to stay with you. The film talks about a relevant dilemma that all young medical professionals will eventually face – a decision about which direction to take. In a way it is relevant to everyone, as working life is universal and every career choices we make will ultimately question ourselves about whether to follow your passion and heart or the wiser and more successful choice. Director Yoshihiro Fukagawa deals with the notion of loss, life and hope in the most simplistic fashion and while Aoi Miyazak is competent in her role as the young doctor’s wife, one would have thought that a little more insight or development into her character would certainly enhances the film. Still, there is a lot of smile about this film, as it does eventually engages you, affect you and touches you. It is a kind of film that grows onto you and before you realise it, you have already bury yourself into it. If you can ignore the at times uneven and slow pacing, In His Chart is extremely well-meaning and warms to the audience by finishing strongly. It is by no means a perfect endeavour, but as film that provides an insight into the stress, the difficulty of constantly dealing with loss in the medical profession, In His Chart does well and could have been a lot worse…

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Neo rates it 7.5/10

[JFF] Shinsan: A Serenade in a Coalmine Town 信さん・炭坑町のセレナーデ (2011) – Japan

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This is a fine piece of work in a lot of level – human lives, childhood, growing up, dealing with losses, friendships, love and human emotions and time. Perhaps the only flaw is that it tries to deal with too many issues. However, let’s not get carry away, as this is a certainly a film to watch. Director Hideyuki Hirayama (who briefly gave us a few words prior to the screening) does extremely well in focusing on characters, developing emotions, bonds and friendships. In particular, he lingers longer during the 1960s period, which to the benefit of the film is also the most interesting part. Life is never easy and never for a moment did Hirayama tries to sway from it, but for he provides hope in the midst of the beautiful blue sky and sea in every other scene to juxtapose with the situation. What I like about this film is that the director lingers the camera with minimal editing, allowing the actors to talk, enjoy themselves and when they are playing baseball, you feel like you are part of their game. It is filled with such strong emotions. Shinsan: A Serenade in a Coalmine Town is easily one that touches the core of the audience’s soul and the issues that it explores are pretty much universal and timeless. Although some parts of the films tend to be underdeveloped, but Hirayama uses the show not tell principle extremely well. His cutting of death sequences is also one that takes you straight to what happened without the corny and slow-motion process. Instead of showing the struggle of death, Hirayama prefers to show the aftermath of a tragedy and focus on how people react, emote and embrace the situation in their own ways. This is a powerful piece of work and has the ability to move and emote with the audience. All in all, Shinsan: A Serenade in a Coalmine Town succeeds because it goes back to the root of human baseness and strike a chord with the audience’s own childhood experiences. It is film that is hard to dislike, because it is truly a good film…

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Neo rates it 8/10