Currently browsing the "Japanese" category.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Looking for a strange but entertaining little flick? This is the ticket! It made the rounds at festivals last year to great acclaim, and it is currently streaming on all your favorite sites. And now the filmmakers are hoping for a bit of love during this year’s awards season. It is just odd enough to get some attention, too. There isn’t anything remotely like it. Based on an urban legend, it tells the story of a Japanese woman who believes the film Fargo is a documentary and sets out to find the briefcase full of money that Steve Buscemi’s character buried in the snow.

The Hidden Fortress 隠し砦の三悪人

The Hidden Fortress may not be one of the most well known of Kurasawa’s films, but it is a wonderfully entertaining mix of adventure, comedy and drama. It opens with two bedraggled peasants wandering the countryside bemoaning their fate. This is Japan during its feudal period, and these two thought they would go into a clan war to make a fortune, but got there too late and were taken prisoner and forced to dig graves for the war dead. Now they are headed home penniless. But in a stroke of luck, they discover that there is a big reward for locating the defeated Akizuki clan’s Princess Yuki and the gold she took with her, and they set out to find her only to stumble upon a stick with a piece of gold inside. When they start looking for the rest of it they run into another man (Toshiro Mifune) who tricks them into joining forces. But he is not who they think he is. He is in fact the great General Rokurota Makabe who is guarding Princess Yuki and her gold.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an ode to the greatest sushi chef in the world, Jiro Ono. This 85-year old sushi master has been at his craft for 75 years and still loves what he is doing and thinks he can do even better. His restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro located in a subway in the Ginza district of Tokyo is one of the few sushi restaurants to earn 3 Michelin stars, and serves just 10 people at a time for 30000 Yen a pop (approx. $350). He does not serve appetizers or drinks or anything except sushi. You get what he serves you, with each taste planned to complement the next. One piece at a time, so they are as fresh as can be. I would imagine that people who aren’t sushi lovers might not be as enthralled with this documentary as those of us who are. The beautifully shot close-ups of Jiro’s little masterpieces of fishy goodness really did make me ache for a decent sushi restaurant, which my town is sorely lacking. And I’m sure that since this film came out, you can’t get a seat for many months, but if I could afford the fare, I’d fly over for a meal in a heartbeat.

Battle Royale

I am sure that most of you have heard of or read or watched The Hunger Games by now, but when it came out on the screen, I read a lot of posts that questioned its originality and referred to the Japanese movie Battle Royale, which came out in 2000, as the first of the kids battling kids to the death flicks. So I put it in my Netflix queue and pretty much forgot about it, but then it appeared in my mailbox and I had to watch and see if the comparisons were in fact fair.

Ikiru 生きる & Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑

I rented two films this week that coincidentally both center on older men and fractured relationships with their grown sons. Why do so many men and their fathers have such stormy relationships? Is it a testosterone thing? Of course it makes for good drama, though I am not sure men go out of their way to see films that remind them that their machismo gets in the way of a close bond. (We’ll leave the mother-daughter thing for a later time.) Ikiru 生きる, “To Live” (1952), a classic from Kurosawa, deals with a career bureaucrat finding out that he has only 6 months to live, who when he realizes that his own son is not there for him, goes out to find meaning elsewhere. Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑 (2005) by Zhang Yimou is about a Japanese fisherman finding out that his son who is dying of cancer doesn’t want to see him, so he goes to China to shoot a folk opera his son had planned on filming and ends up getting involved in another father’s and son’s relationship.