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film review

Japanese Film Channel

I started a channel called Japanese Film Channel on Vimeo 11 months ago in order to introduce Japanese independent films to the world.

Vimeo is an interesting online platform where you can find true independent films from all over the world, but the reality is that there are not many Japanese films on Vimeo. I still found some Japanese films, but most of them are amateurish.

It was painful to watch many boring films, but I found some interesting films among them. Those films are different from what you can watch in film festivals or on Netflix, and the quality might be poor comparing to bigger budget films. However, I admire those no budget filmmakers, and I'd like to introduce my favorite Japanese films on Vimeo as follows:

 This is indeed a high quality film and not even a Japanese film, but a part of the film was shot in Japan with Japanese casts. I wondered if I should include this film in Japanese Film Channel or not, but I included it as I really loved this film. My estimated budget: USD 1 million

2. Dreamland
 This is a mockumentary style horror/thriller by French director Robin Entreinger and shot in Tokyo and Nara. I think this film is super low budget shot by only a few people, but it is scary and interesting. I would call this Japanese/French underground film, and I'm glad I discovered this film. Somehow, this film is not on Vimeo anymore, but I'd like to mention the link for Amazon. My estimated budget: USD 10K

3. Children of Water
 This is a love comedy by Swiss director Roger Walch based in Kyoto. I'm not sure if the director intended to make it funny or serious, but it was really funny for me in a way. This is another underground film directed by a foreign guy in Japan. I think this film is super entertaining for this budget level. My estimated budget: USD 10K

4. Tengu
 Another film by Swiss director Roger Walch shot in Japan. This is about the legend of Japanese creature Tengu. Frankly speaking, the film looks cheap, but in a good way. And I think he knows it. I love the way he directs the unknown actors and shows Japanese culture. My estimated budget: USD 20K

5. Yuwaku 3
 Another film by Roger Walch. He keeps entertaining me, and I would call him the best Swiss director based in Kyoto. From my experience, it is so difficult to keep watching low budget films online, but I enjoy all of his films somehow. He knows what the audience is expecting no matter what the budget is. My estimated budget: USD 5K

6. Oh Lucy!
 This is a short film version of Oh Lucy! which was screened at Canned this year. I'm not a big fan of this film honestly, but I list it here as many people like it. My estimated budget: USD 100K

7. American Hikikomori
 This is an American short film shot in the US, but it is about Japanese family moved to the US. It is quite interesting to see how a guy can be hikikomori in a foreign country. My estimated budget: USD 50K

8. Tiger
 A drama directed by James McFay and shot in Tokyo. This film won Special Jury Prize at Pia Film Festival. My estimated budget: USD 30K

9. Actobats
 A drama directed by Daniel Lavin and shot in Japan. I watched much more Japanese films on Vimeo, but this is the minimum level I could watch the whole movie. My estimated budget: USD 10K

Unfortunately, there is only one film directed by Japanese directors here as you can see. It is so disappointing for me as there are so many Japanese independent directors who are complaining that there is no place to show their films.

I think many of those Japanese directors are not interested in showing their films or are not confident about their films. For me, the most important thing about filmmaking is to show the film to people. Even if the film is crap, the director should show it. Not showing is worse than showing crappy films. I even sell my crappy films online and receive so many bad reviews, but I lean a lot from honest reviewers online.

Also, some directors say, "I don't want to show my film online. I want the audience see my film on a big screen only." However, those directors have chances to show their films on big screens only a few times at film festivals, and only a few people come to watch their films. Then they ask the local governments' financial support for making their next films complaining that there is not enough financial support for independent films in Japan. I asked one of them, "Who is your favorite director?" She said, "François Truffaut." I asked, "Where did you see his films? On a big screen?" She said, "On DVD."

Anyway, I hope that more Japanese filmmakers will put their films on Vimeo and that Japanese Film Channel will be the place where people around the world can find Japanese underground films in the near future!

Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue by Yuya Ishii

I'm not a big fan of young Japanese director Yuya Ishii, so I usually don't go to watch his movies. I have an image of Yuya Ishii as a commercial movie director, so actually, I haven't seen much of his movies. The only movie I had seen directed by him was Our Family (Bokutachi no kazoku), and it was not something memorable although I enjoyed it.

I went to see Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (Yozora wa itsudemo saiko mitsudo no aoiro da) directed by Ishii because the general manager of movie theatre Eurospace recommended me this film. Without his recommendation, I would have not gone to see it.

It turned out as one of the most memorable Japanese films I've seen in the past a few years.

The film goes on mostly with monologues of two main characters, and it sounds like novel or poem. I normally don't like monologue or narration in films as monologue or narration tends to explain the things too much. In fact, I've seen so many Japanese films with monologue or narration recently. Most of them disappoint me as it often destroys the cinematic world being created. It is also very strange to hear that the characters suddenly start talking by himself like novel or stage play in film. I'm sick of monologue or narration in Japanese films.

However, this time, I felt very comfortable listening the monologues in this film. First of all, the characters are very strange although the film sets in real modern Tokyo. I think the strange atmosphere makes the monologues natural while the film is describing real true things about Tokyo now. 


Another reason I like this film is that I really empathyze with the characters and with what the film wants to say. 

Old apartments the characters living are similar to where I live now. This is a story of people living in the shade of metropolis Tokyo, but they choose to be there.

I do empathyze with those people a lot as I was working for a big company and living in a fancy apartment until a few years ago. Now my income is almost nothing, and I live in a shitty apartment no one wants to live. However, which is better? Living in a shitty place is not bad at all. 

Since I started living in the shitty place, I've neen getting away from noise such as gothips, politics, human relationshops, etc. as I don't have TV and don't meet people everyday like before. Instead, I start noticing about something else. 

I still get noise from Facebook and Twitter, and I hope I can get away from those too.

TV is gone, but Facebook and Twitter are getting worse nowadays. People talk about Trump, the conspiracy bill in Japan, etc.. If we don't hear any news about those things at all, does that change my life?

This film is trying to describe the same feeling I have as long as I understand. There are something more important than Trump or the  conspiracy bill around me. I just don't realize about those things if there are too much noise around. 

After watching this film, I really felt relaxed and relieved.

And another Japanese film I watched recently was Radiance (Hikari) directed by Naomi Kawase. This film also uses a lot of monologues as the film is about a girl who is a writer of audio descriptions for the visually impaired. I also liked this film a lot as it was interesting to see how those writers approach the film, the director, and the audience when the film is basically made for visual experience...