Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020 – Happiness is A State of Mind - Joy and Despair in Japanese Cinema

Genkina Hito

AUKN Staff
This year's run of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme has a nice selection of films. I have see a few and have some recommendations, if anyone's interested... Apologies for the rambling...

There are two films that focus on hikikomori -

Her Sketchbook is a cute character-driven tale of a young woman who has been dominated by others searching for a skill to define herself and establish herself in the world. The thing that makes it compelling is Mugi Kadowaki's performance in the lead role. She's utterly charming. It features music by Kenji Kawai which works the emotions.

Lying to Mom sounds like a comedy from it's set up of a family trying to cover for the suicide of a child with an audacious lie but it's a really dark and bracing film about death and absence that doesn't have any easy answers about why people withdraw from life and then seek to end their own lives. The family dynamics and the emotional plights of each of the characters are really moving.

And Your Bird Can Sing is a drama that focuses on NEETs - a really delicate love triangle unfolds between two guys and one girl who spend their nights drinking and their days working off their hangovers. The party has to end at some point as the characters try to grab on to something substantial and you come to care about them after spending so much time in their presence. It's set in Hakodate and it's beautifully shot.

Two films about the media:

Ten Dark Women was directed by Kon (Fires on the Plain) Ichikawa and written by his wife Natto Wada and it features Eiji Funakoshi as a handsome guy stringing along ten women and the ladies getting fed up. It features some black comedy as the women turn on him and he fears for his life and a deliciously dark ending as well as offering a critique of gender roles and TV production in 1950s Japan.

The Actor is a melancomedy about a guy, the titular actor, feeling a heavy dose of existential angst and trying to become the lead in his own life as well as his career. He meets a woman who runs a bar and falls in love at this moment of existential crisis as he pushes himself to become a better performer. It's an ode to the craft of acting and filmmaking and will give an insight into how films are made in Japan as well as show off some of the best actors working in the industry.

I've heard Ride Your Wave is good. Maybe other forum members who have seen it, or other films listed, can add their views.

Rambling over...