By Sean Boelman
Every year in New York City, the Japan Society comes together to put on Japan Cuts, a festival celebrating the best in Japanese film. Considered to be the largest festival in North America devoted exclusively to cinema from Japan, there is something here for everyone, from big-budget Asian blockbusters to prestige dramas, and everything in-between. At disappointment media, we got the opportunity to screen some of the films that will be playing the festival, and here are some of our recommendations of what you should check out!
Perhaps the most high-profile film screening in the lineup is The Great Yokai War: Guardians, a sequel to Takashi Miike’s 2005 fantasy epic. Any cinephile knows that Miike is one of the most prolific filmmakers working in genre cinema right now, so his newest film is sure to be highly anticipated. The film follows a young boy who discovers that he is the descendant of a legendary warrior and must team up with the yokai, a group of spirits, to save the world. It’s a very fun blend of CGI effects and practical work, with plenty of supernatural action sequences and a cute Spielbergian quality to it. This film is sure to be in-demand, so there are two in-person screenings: one on August 28 at 7pm and the other on September 1 at 4pm.
Another major film playing at the festival is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Wife of a Spy. The first historical drama from the legendary director, the film is co-written by his former students Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (whose Drive My Car is making waves on the festival circuit right now) and Tadashi Nohara, and it’s by no means a traditional espionage thriller. The film follows a Japanese merchant who discovers a dark secret about his country’s past and speaks out about it, causing him to be accused of being a spy. It’s a riveting and unexpectedly emotional drama anchored by two great performances and exquisite direction. Although the online screening is already sold out, there is still an in-person showing on August 27 at 7pm.
For those looking for something on the weirder side, it may be worth checking out Masashi Yamamoto’s Wonderful Paradise. The film is set during a family’s last day before moving out of their luxurious mansion as eccentric guests show up, resulting in a bizarre and wild farewell party. The first act is quirky, but when the film really shines is when it leans into its dark comedy elements in the final thirty minutes. It’s not going to be for everyone, but make sure to check out this virtual screening if you are in the mood for something wacky and fun.
And those are only a few of the films that are screening in-person and virtually at this year’s event. Even if you aren’t in New York City, you will be able to watch many of the selections online from the comfort of your own home. And with such a diverse selection of films from Japan, there’s no excuse to not find a movie you want to see!
The 2021 edition of Japan Cuts runs August 20 through September 2. More information, including how to purchase tickets, can be found here.
The Snake Hole
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