THE JAPAN FOUNDATION TOURING FILM PROGRAMME 2018 arrives in London at the Institute For Contemporary Arts (02 to 11 FEB 2018). Here’s our handy SCREEN GUIDE.
THE JAPAN FOUNDATION TOURING PROGRAMME 2018: (Un)true Colours – Secrets and Lies in Japanese Cinema.
UPDATED 🎟: 02.02.18 based on ticket availability – please click quickly!
The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme returns this year with 16 fantastic Japanese films, offering an all-encompassing introduction to Japanese cinema through the theme of ‘secrets and lies’.
One of a handful of London festivals that tour outside of the capital, if you can’t catch the films on The Mall, you might have another chance further afield.
We love ICA for offering discounted tickets for festivals and seasons. Standalone ticket price (plus travel) often prevents us from taking deeper dives into moving pictures we know little about – one of our top ten gripes of 2017 – so gather bounty while ye may.
Multi-Buy Offer: Get 4 tickets for the price of 3 (£33 for 4 full price tickets, £24 for 4 concession tickets, £21 for 4 members tickets). If you would like to buy 4 tickets for the same screening (or pairs of tickets) you can still receive the offer by calling the Box Office on 0207 930 3647. Open Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–9pm.
The film programme is proving to be very popular with Q&A sessions already selling out – please click quickly! Sold out screenings at time of posting (02 FEB 12:00) include:
- GUKOROKU: TRACES OF SIN + Q&A (02 FEB)
- THE LONG EXCUSE + Q&A (03 FEB)
- MUMON: THE LAND OF STEALTH (04 FEB)
There are plenty of other gems available – including many UK premieres.
NOW BOOKING (by date/time)
ROOM FOR LET (03 FEB 13:20) – UK premiere
Celebrating the centenary of Yuzo Kawashima, a master of satire little-known outside of Japan, this rare portrait of Osaka lowlife is commemoratively shown as part of this year’s programme.
When Yumiko Tsuyama, a potter by profession, enters an old mansion overlooking Osaka enquiring about a room to rent, she discovers a bizarre collection of characters dwelling in the humble abode. There’s a low-level gangster and panty thief, an old army sergeant and cabbage roll specialist, and a female illegal liquor vendor – to name a few. The leader of the menagerie is Yoda Goro, an eccentric jack of all trades; his simplicity and naivety, however, leave him susceptible to unscrupulous manipulators.
INITIATION LOVE (03 FEB 15:40) – UK premiere
Imaginative and playful in its narrative, this craftily-made film by Yukihiko Tsutsumi (the 20TH CENTURY BOYS trilogy) boasts a storyline that keeps you guessing right until the end – guaranteed to make you want to re-watch it and catch what you missed the first time. Full of 80s nostalgia, this film gives a glimpse into what life was like during this frivolous time.
Portrayed in the classic music format of a cassette tape, INITIATION LOVE is a deceptive and entertaining love story with dark undertones set in late 1980s Japan. The story follows university student Suzuki (Shota Matsuda) and his life-changing meeting with Mayu (Atsuko Maeda), but the theme soon alters as it is flipped to side B. Suddenly Suzuki is transferred to Tokyo and the two are forced into a long distance relationship with many complications.
SING MY LIFE (04 FEB 13:30 & 08 FEB 18:00) – UK premiere
A heart-warming tale with plenty of laughs and toe-tapping tunes, this cross-generational comedy is based on the blockbuster Korean movie MISS GRANNY, an Asia-wide hit which has inspired numerous remakes.
Katsu (Mitsuko Baisho) is an eccentric and sharp-tongued grandmother who has worked hard throughout her life in order to make ends meet. Now 73, Katsu regrets being unable to live life to the fullest and not being able to pursue her dreams. One day, while taking a short walk seeking respite from her hectic family life, Katsu stumbles upon a mysterious photography studio – one which magically transforms her back into her 20-year-old self (Mikako Tabe).
BIRDS WITHOUT NAMES (04 FEB 18:30) – UK premiere
A gripping adaptation of Mahokaru Numata’s award-winning mystery novel and featuring sublime performances by leads Yu Aoi and Sadawo Abe, Kazuya Shiraishi masterfully directs this visceral tale of lust and redemption following the twisted and loveless relationships.
Towako lives with Jinji, 15 years her senior, an uncouth man she doesn’t love. Despite Jinji’s selfless devotion, Towako never gives anything in return. Instead, Towako cannot forget her ex-boyfriend Kurosakai (Yutaka Takenouchi) and even sleeps with other men who evoke memories of him. One day a policeman arrives at her door, revealing that Kurosaki has been missing for five years.
JOY OF MAN’S DESIRING (06 FEB 18:20) – UK premiere
Director Masakazu Sugita, himself a survivor of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, crafts a tender and humane story focusing on orphans affected by natural disasters – a topic he decided to tackle following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Sugita’s poetic and tranquilly shot debut film received Special Mention at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, as well as being nominated for the Best First Feature Award in 2014.
After a huge earthquake strikes Japan, young siblings Haruna (Ayane Omori) and Shota (Riku Ohishi) are left orphaned and homeless. Haruna is left traumatised by witnessing her parents’ death, while younger Shota is oblivious to the fact that they are no longer coming back. Soon Haruna and Shota are taken in by a relative, but even with a new house and new family, little can fill the void left by the parents and no one, including Haruna, can tell Shota the awful truth.
GUKOROKU: TRACES OF SIN (06 FEB 20:10)
Director Kei Ishikawa’s first feature film originally premiered at Venice Film Festival, and this crime mystery effectively explores the dark sides of social cliques and the ruthlessness of human nature.
Tanaka, an investigative reporter who grew up in a troubled family, is going through a tough time trying to support his younger sister Mitsuko (Hikari Mitsushima), recently arrested and held in prison. Meanwhile, he immerses himself into a story about a shocking murder of the ‘perfect’ family—a successful businessman, a beautiful wife and an adorable child—who were brutally massacred the year before, with the case going cold and remaining unsolved.
OH LUCY! (07 FEB 20:45)
This East-meets-West comedy by director Atsuko Hirayanagi, which premiered at Cannes Critic Week, features a star-studded cast including Shinobu Terajima and American actor Josh Hartnett.
Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is a 55-year-old office drone, depressed, lovelorn and chain-smoking her way to an early grave. One day, Setsuko finds salvation in the form of John, a teacher in a run-down Tokyo English school who has a rather unorthodox approach to education which includes giving Setsuko the English name ‘Lucy’. Knowing that John has abruptly left Tokyo to return home, Setsuko sets off to the United States on a journey of discovery.
THE MOLE SONG: UNDERCOVER AGENT REIJI (08 FEB 20:30 & 10 FEB 18:15)
Coinciding with the celebration of the release of his hundredth film, this hilarious and energetic manga adaption by cult classic director Takashi Miike is not to be missed.
Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) is an inept rookie cop with a strong sense of justice. Fired for trying to arrest a city councillor caught molesting a teenage girl, he is secretly re-hired as an undercover agent and sent on a mission to infiltrate Sukiya-kai, Japan’s most notorious Yakuza clan.
WHERE I BELONG (09 FEB 18:30)
A drama based on a novel by bestselling crime fiction writer Asa Nonami, WHERE I BELONG is a beautifully meditative story set in a picturesque remote village in south Japan, exploring themes of human sin and redemption.
Izumi (Kento Hayashi), a lowlife thief cowardly targeting women and the elderly, goes on the run and finds himself stranded in the mountains of Miyazaki in southern Japan. Along one of the remote roads Izumi encounters an injured elderly woman, Suma (Etsuko Ichihara), and reluctantly comes to her aid. Indebted to Izumi for saving her life, Izumi takes in the homeless ‘good Samaritan’ and treats him like her own grandson, uninterested in his true identity. Can Izumi settle into a new life in the village, or will his secret wrongdoings in the past catch up with him?
MEMOIRS OF A MURDERER (09 FEB 20:40) – UK premiere
Yu Irie adapts Jung Byoung-Gil’s gripping thriller Confession of Murder in this murder mystery, featuring more twisted turns than the original. A huge domestic box office hit, this thriller packs a punch and features an all-star cast.
When a legal loophole allows a string of unsolved brutal murders to pass the statute of limitations, a fame-hungry killer known as the Tokyo Strangler (Tatsuya Fujiwara) suddenly emerges in the public spotlight, announcing the release of his tell-all book confessing to the unsolved brutal murders committed decades ago.
AFTER SCHOOL (10 FEB 14:00)
Known for his powerful plot twists, this early work by director Kenji Uchida is a hidden gem filled with puzzles and surprises.
Jinno (Yo Oizumi) is a middle school teacher whose friend Kimura (Masato Sakai) and his wife are expecting a baby. On the day of the baby’s birth, however, Kimura suddenly goes missing. Meanwhile a seedy private detective (Kuranosuke Sasaki) hired by a black company seeks the whereabouts of Kimura. Before long, previously unknown and shocking facts about Kimura are revealed and the situation turns to a course nobody could have predicted.
JAPANESE GIRLS NEVER DIE (10 FEB 16:10) – UK premiere
Director Daigo Matsui masterfully interweaves a series of stories and subplots through a nonlinear narrative, bringing the viewer back and forth in time. Based on a novel by Mariko Yamauchi, JAPANESE GIRLS NEVER DIE is an anarchic, vibrant and completely experimental critique of modern Japanese culture.
A multi-stranded drama surrounding the disappearance of Haruko Azumi (Yu Aoi), a 27-year-old unmarried woman stuck in a dead-end job who goes missing without a trace. When Haruko’s missing persons poster attracts the attention of two wannabe graffiti artists, her image soon becomes the unwitting face behind a pop phenomenon. Meanwhile, a mysterious group of high school girls begin attacking men at random around town. Are these events all connected to Haruko’s disappearance?
THE DARK MAIDENS (11 FEB 14:15)
Adapted by prolific anime screenwriter Mari Okada (THE ANTHEM OF THE HEART and ANOHANA), this unusual ‘of school’ film is filled with betrayal and deception.
Set in an academy for daughters of the rich and powerful, this murder mystery involves six girls with a dark secret. Literature club chairman Itsumi Shiraishi (Marie Iitoyo) has fallen to her death from the school roof. Rumours soon circulate that one of the members of the literature club is the culprit. New chairman and friend of the victim, Sayuri Sumikawa (Fumika Shimizu), holds a meeting and asks each member to recount their whereabouts at the time of Itsumi’s death. Who is telling a lie and what really happened to Itsumi?
SWORD OF THE STRANGER (11 FEB 16:30)
A classic animation which celebrates its tenth anniversary, this breathtaking and thrilling action anime features stunningly animated fight scenes and is produced by Studio Bones, the legendary animators behind FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST and COWBOY BEBOP.
In feudal Japan, young Kotaro is pursued by the royal army of China’s Ming Dynasty. When his loyal dog Tobimaru is injured in an ambush, Kotaru reluctantly recruits a mysterious, nameless samurai as his bodyguard. ‘No-name’ has a guilty past however, and his own inner demons to battle.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- Visit the official programme site at the Japan Foundation.
- Visit the London programme and buy tickets at ICA.
Join the hunt for adventurous moving pictures.
*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any mistakes. Updates & corrections to the online version. All readers & subscribers should be 18+. We only include events you can get tickets for at the time of posting. Please click quickly!
Featured image: MEMOIRS OF A MURDERER (2017).