Friday, January 29, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Japanese Film Festival, Sayonara Setsuko

The Japan Foundations' annual gift to movie-goers, the Japanese Film Festival, comes to SF World Cinema at CentralWorld during next month’s Valentine’s Day holiday, with a selection of nine romance films under the theme “Shapes of Love”.

Among the highlights is Love and Peace, the latest weird movie from Sion Sono, who tells the story of a struggling rock musician whose life is changed after he comes in contact with a tiny magical turtle that brings him good luck. Winner of the Audience Award at Montreal’s Fantasia fest, critics gave the oddball Love and Peace high marks. “It’s Babe by way of Godzilla, except that here, our human protagonist, Kyo (Hiroki Hasegawa), inhabits the pigsty, while the giant reptile in question has only benevolent intentions,” said Peter DeBrugge of Variety.

The hyper-prolific Sono also has Be Sure to Share, a 2009 drama in which a young man named Shiro is caring for his cancer-stricken father. Shiro reflects on his strained relationship with his strict dad while also keeping a secret about his own illness from his friends and family.

The Japanese film industry’s own “master of romance”, Takehinko Shinjo, returns with his fifth feature in Beyond the Memories, in which a heartbroken young woman learns to feel love. Based on a best-selling manga, the story centres on Kanna (Masami Nagasawa), who has been sad since her childhood best friend was killed in a car wreck as he was expressing his love for her. She’s been unable to have feelings for any men since, but then she meets Roku (Masaki Okada), the brooding employee of a manga-publishing house.

Another first love is featured in My Pretend Girlfriend, in which nerdy high-schooler Noburu is tasked by senior student Miyazaki with being the “fake boyfriend” of the new girl in school, Momose, in order to cover up a fling that Miyazaki and Momose are having.

Still another popular manga, “Kinkyori ren ai”, which is also a hit TV series, comes to the big screen as Close Range Love. It’s the story of age-challenged romance, with brainy high-school girl Yuni at the top of her class in all subjects except English. So she is ordered to attend one-on-one sessions with Haruka, the school’s new English teacher, a handsome young man.

Other titles are It All Began When I Met You, which has six love stories involving 10 people; Jinx!!!, about a South Korean exchange student playing matchmaker between an uptight classmate and a shy boy; Poison Berry In My Brain, in which the voices in a woman’s head debate whether she should reach out to a guy she met at a party, and Three Stories of Love (a.k.a. Lovers), which covers the loves and losses of three loosely connected people.

The Japanese Film Festival runs from February 11 to 14 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld in Bangkok, February 19 to 21 at SFX Maya Chiang Mai, February 26 to 28 at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Khon Kaen and March 4 to 6 at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Surat Thani. Tickets are Bt120 in Bangkok, Bt80 in Chiang Mai and free in Khon Kaen and Surat Thani. For more details, check or

In the run-up to the Japanese Film Festival, Filmvirus and the Japan Foundation have joined for Sayonara Setsuko: A Tribute to Setsuko Hara, which is set for February 7 at The Reading Room in Bangkok.

On of Japan’s most revered actresses, Hara died last September at age 95. Though she had quit acting in 1963 and had not appeared on screen for more than 50 years, she left behind an unforgettable legacy.

“We invite you to pay tribute to the restrained beauty and effortless talent of Setsuko Hara and remember an exquisite time in world cinema through three movies by three masters of Japanese cinema: Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse,” says Filmvirus, a group of fanatically dedicated Thai cinephiles.

Three films will showcase her legacy, starting with 1946’s No Regrets for Our Youth
by Kurosawa, followed by Ozu’s Late Spring from 1949. Mikio Naruse’s Repast from 1951, completes the triple feature. The show starts at 1pm. For more details, check the Facebook events page.

(Cross-published in The Nation)

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