January 4th, 2011
David Grainger spotlights three Japanese movies premiered recently in ther UK. Plus, here comes a national tour of great Japanese films.
There's quite a dearth of Japanese films in the U.K., even living in London, so I was pleased to see three UK premieres of Japanese films this winter.
First up was "Jun Ai" (True Love). Set at the end of the Second World War with many Japanese civilians stranded in China unable to get back to Japan and hunted down as enemies by the Chinese people. This story is about a married Japanese couple who are firstly captured and then looked after by the inhabitants of a small Chinese village, many of whom have suffered terribly in the war.
Jun Ai is not a new film. It was released in Japan in 2007, won a prize at the Monaco Film festival in 2009, and was first shown in London in November 2010. It will hopefully continue to gather momentum as it's a beautiful moving film that had me weeping bucket loads towards the end.
© 2009 “The Chef of the South Pole” Film Partners
In complete contrast "Chef of the South Pole" (aka Nankyoku ryôrinin) is based on an essay by a chef who cooks for an eight man team at a Japanese research establishment in Antartica for a year. Yep, not really my idea of a great film idea either! But it was, frankly, one of the most delightful and funny films I've seen all year. Masato Sakai is great as the chef who has to cook up fantastic meals several times a day from frozen blocks and there's a great display of Japanese cuisine at its most challenging.
Finally "Rail Truck" (aka Torocco) has a recently bereaved Japanese mother and her two young sons delivering the ashes of her Taiwanese husband to his family home in a small village in southern Taiwan. It's a film that explores the close bond between Taiwan and Japan as the Taiwanese grandfather continues to struggle for a Japanese pension and the elder son wonders whether his identity is Japanese or Taiwanese. Interesting also to learn that the wood for many Japanese shrines come from these beautiful wooded hills. The grandfather in his youth used to think that the railway taking the trees away led straight to Japan. It's a film of great interest and optimism.
Do look out for these films if they come your way. And if you live in the UK do also look out for a national tour of great Japanese films over the last fifteen years in 2011.
Details available from the Japan Foundation - www.jpf.co.uk
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