Japanese Film Festival

Well, another year, another Japanese Film Festival has passed.  Here’s what I saw this year.

Robo-G

Prior to a big robotics show, three bumbling robotics engineers accidentally destroy their robot and instead fake their entry for the show with an actor inside a robot suit.  The twist: the successful applicant for the role is a grandfather,  who has kept himself at an angry distance from his grandchildren and his local seniors community.   The fake robot becomes  a huge hit, and the bumbling engineers have to keep their masquerade going. Meanwhile, a robotic engineering student starts off being a great fan of the robot, and then ultimately becomes suspicious of it.  This was a sort of slapstick comedy; I thought it was okay, but it didn’t grab me.   Still, the script worked and all the plotlines were resolved.  And no one believed it was a man in a suit! Incredible.  And cosplayers saved the day.  Really.

Until the Break of Dawn

No, not vampires, but rather mediums.  A high school student must decide whether he’s going to accept his family role as the ‘connector’, a person who can bring the living and the dead together one final time.  I really enjoyed this film, although it dips into melodrama towards the end.  The three loosely connected plotlines all link into the ‘connector’ story arc, although it feels a big fragmented to start with.  I really enjoyed the mechanism for the living/dead visits – the connector has to get both the ghost and the living person to agree to the meeting.  Then, the living person has to go a mysterious hotel room, where their dead person is waiting for them, and they can talk, but only until the break of dawn.  The connector has to wait in the hotel  foyer while this is going on; and he can’t take payment.  It’s one of those volunteer jobs that will be murder on the work-life balance.

Phone Call from the Bar

After an extremely disjointed, tacked-on opening, this film eventually resolves into a hard-boiled noir tale that ticks all of the noir trope boxes.  The detective, “PI” can only be reached in a bar, where he hangs out, most evenings.  His sidekick/driver is a martial arts instructor/vet student always falling asleep and with a car that has to be begged and spoken to nicely before it starts.  (If this was an RPG, his player would be certainly be piling on this disadvantages to offset his combat skills).  There’s a mysterious phone call from a mysterious woman, and PI takes the case, blundering into a web of intrigue between gangsters and a mysterious femme fatale with lots of fist-fights and action.  It all fitted together, but I wasn’t sure why PI kept going, given all of the beatings and lack of encouragement he had with the case; I didn’t think his motivations were fully addressed by the narrative.   I’ve read more noir books than I have seen noir movies, so I missed that first person, personal focus you get from a book where the narrator will tell you why he’s in the thick of things and why he can’t back out.

Goosebumps

The blurb sounded intriguing – six short horror films with no jump scares, no scary music and no supernatural phenomena.  Unfortunately, this meant lots of creepy sexual predators running around.  The linking story didn’t need to be there; it sort of ended in the same place a lot of other J-Horror films do.  Best of the shorts was the one where a man is eavesdropping – actually, what do you call visual eavesdropping? – stickybeaking on some sinister text messages while riding a bus.  And the other one, my favourite, had a business woman finding little bits of paper in her jacket with numbers on them.  It starts at 30, and then 29… it’s a countdown!  The tension was great, especially at number 10 and 1, but unfortunately, the pay-off wasn’t quite there.

The Wings of the Kirin

Another crime film; this one was involved why a man who was stabbed walked eight blocks to die under a kirin statue, rather than getting help.  The two main detectives were a good contrast – the local detective who knew his beat and the young man from headoffice.  Helpful music played whenever the detectives found a Significant Clue, and there was lots of re-capping and even diagrams, which made it easier for the audience to put things together.  The mystery ended in a small downpour of melodrama, but overall, it was good.

Rurouni Kenshi

I’ve only seen the first few parts of the anime, so was hoping for something relatively self-contained.  And it worked, although Kenshin’s actor looked like a boyband member than a twenty-nine year old war veteran.  The film  was campy but kept its story together, which involved a crimelord developing a new strain of opium and lots of one-on-one combats between the gangsters, Kenshin and his buddy.  Quite enjoyable, although it was hard to get a ticket as both sessions sold out quickly.

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