Life in Overtime

Owatta_Hito-posterSosuke Tashiro has a successful career in a large bank until he is transferred – or rather relegated – to a subsidiary until retirement. After decades of dedication to his work, he is lost and idle. He then decides to resume a professional activity, but realizes that the challenge is daunting. Over the course of two meetings, at the gym and at the adult education center, his life is on the move again. (FFM)

This is exactly the type of Japanese movie that I like the most: some sort of family drama that touches us (and often makes us cry) but which, in the end, makes us feel good and laugh. It is so perfectly enjoyable! And the seamless storytelling, the bright, well-framed and beautiful photography, as well as the nice soundtrack (particularly the beautiful song 「あなたはあなたのままでいい」 [Anatawa Anatano Mamadeii / “You can stay as you are”] by Miki Imai) really show the mark of an experienced filmmaker. Strangely, Hideo Nakata is mostly known for his horror movies (Ring, Chaos, Dark Water, Kaidan, etc.) so it is really surprising to see him direct for the first time a more traditional Japanese comedy! This is probably his way to tell us that he is not finished yet and that he can be a polyvalent creator. He does that brilliantly. Unfortunately, he didn’t arrive in time to present the movie and do the Q&A for the first screening at 11:30, and that was a great disappointment for me (I knew I should have gone to the 21:30 screening!). The quality of the production as well as Nakata’s fame makes of Life in Overtime a great contender for the competition. It is surely the best Japanese film I’ve seen at the festival so far this year.

Sosuke studied at the top university in Tokyo and finds himself on the path for an executive position at a large bank, but gets beaten by a rival and ends up finishing his career at a subsidiary branch. He already feels he’s a failure but, when he retires, he finds himself with no hobbies, no dreams, no job and no sympathy at home! What to do? He feels “Retirement is like a premature funeral (…) I don’t want my life to end like this!” It’s like the game is over but you continue to play in overtime in hope to finish on top (I like this idea)!

He tries to find a new purpose in order to make up for his failures. He looks for a new job but his impressive resume torpedoes his efforts. He considers going to graduate school to study literature, makes an attempt at a new romance or, after a chance meeting with the CEO of an IT company, try to start a new career but without any success. However, does it really matter as long as you have a life to enjoy?

Nakata succeeds in giving a realistic depiction of life struggles and relationships while tackling one of the hot topic of the decade: with its aging population, Japanese society has to deal with an ever increasing number of retirees. To keep them mentally and physically fit, it is important to make sure they feel their life is not finished yet and that they can make their experience or expertise valuable and useful to the society. It’s also a challenge on the domestic level as many couples, who never spent lots of time together because they were too busy working, find out that they don’t know much about what to do with each other! Retirement can surely be a shocking change but it is certainly not the end of your life (personally, I know very well that I’ll probably be even busier once I retired — in about 3192 days!). However, for some people, not knowing what to do or not feeling useful anymore can be an horrific experience and, in that aspect, maybe this is an horror movie after all…

Life in overtime, with its sadness and joy as well as its beautiful scenery, gives us plenty to ponder and an excellent movie experience. It is certainly a must see.

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Life in Overtime (終わった人 / Owatta Hito / lit. “A finished man”): Japan, 2018, 125 mins; Dir.: Hideo Nakata; Scr.: Nonji Remoto (Based on the novel by Makiko Uchidate); Phot.: Koichi Saito; Prod.: Masatake Kondo; Cast: Hiroshi Tachi (Sosuke), Hitomi Kuroki (Chigusa), Ryoko Hirosue (Kuri), Asami Usuda (Michiko), Tomorowo Taguchi (Toshihiko), Tsubasa Imai. 

Screened at the Cinema Imperial (Sun. 08/26 at 11:30) as part of the “World Competition” program of the 42nd Montreal World Film Festivalstars-4-0

[ AsianWiki / IMDb / Official / Toei / Youtube ]

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Zone Out

Zone OutKindergarten teacher, Chinatsu is always in a state of stress. And it is at this moment that a pupil of her class is murdered. Totally distraught, Chinatsu begins to sink into a world of illusion that she can not control. (FFM)

I don’t know what they have put in the water of that city but all the characters in this movie offer a whole catalog of mental illness: Chinatsu, a kindergarten teacher, cracks under the pressure brought by all those helicopter parents and develops schizophrenia; her acupuncture doctor, Yuichi, suffers from Capgras syndrome; Naoto, a salesman bullied by his seniors, has nomophobia; Akamatsu, the convenience store clerk, suffers from Asperger; Mitsuki, Haruka’s mother, suffer from Munchausen syndrome, etc. I guess it was the purpose of the director to show with this docudrama-style movie what it is to have such illness and how difficult it can be for the families.

It is a very dark movie and the end result is, unfortunately, barely average. The storytelling is awkward and not particularly skillful, the photography feels amateurish and the acting is so-so — although, the main actress is very charming and switching the actors who plays the two Yuichi toward the end of the movie in order to unexpectedly show the schizophrenia of Chinatsu is, I must say, quite brilliant. Also, the movie is really not well served by the poor translation (in the subtitles). When I noticed two typos in the very first sentence of the movie, I knew that this would spell trouble! (unless they made it on purpose to make us feel crazy!) If it was not already obvious with the production quality, the horrible translation really smelled of tiny budget…

Finally, to really give a last pathetic impression, the absence of a translator for the Q&A at the end of the presentation (due to the minimalistic ressources of the festival this year — what? they couldn’t even find a volunteer to take up the task?) left the poor director and main actress at the mercy of their basic English language skills and made for such a laughable exchange that you could only feel sorry for them. 

However, undertaking such a difficult and serious subject requires some strength. I understand what the director was trying to achieve and I greatly appreciate his efforts (for that I give him extra points!). In a society that was repressed for so long, where you find a real epidemic of bullying (both at school and at the work place, including sexual harassment) and where an aging population is plagued by various forms of dementia, it is really not surprising to find that mental illness has become a great challenge in Japan today. Kudos to the director for trying to bring attention to this problem.

Zone Out / Regarder dans le vide (アウトゾーン / Out Zone): Japan, 2017, 115 mins; Dir.: Hiroshi Kanno; Scr.: Mari Takanashi; Phot.: Makoto Hayashi; Ed.: Aya Mitsuaka; Light.: Sousuke Yoshikado; Sound: Kazuyuki Tutiya; Mus.: Magumi Masui; Cast: Minami Matsunaka (Chinatsu), Masato Oki (Yuichi Akino), Kyoko Toyama (Kyoko), Gen Kuwayama (Naoto), Yusuke Ueda (Akamatsu), Yusuke Sugiyama (Yuichi Kagawa), Ben Hori (Hisashi Aoyama).

Screened at the Cinema Imperial (Sat. 8/25 at 16:30) as part of the “World Great” program (out of competition) of the 42nd Montreal World Film Festival. stars-2-0

[ IMDb ]

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FFM 2018 Day 1

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Red carpet and Opening ceremony

This year the Festival des Films du Monde (FFM or MWFF, Montreal World Film Festival) strangely seems slightly more organized (at least for the accreditation) than the previous couples of years. They are probably getting used to extreme austerity and benefits from plenty of movie aficionado volunteers. Also, there’s more Japanese movies than last year (but still less than the usual dozen). Unfortunately, since there are only four screens (Cinéma Impérial and Quartier Latin 10, 12 & 13) to show ALL movies, they are shown only once (twice for the titles in competition) and mostly in the afternoon — which is not compatible with my own schedule, so I’ll probably end up viewing only half of the Japanese movies. Too bad, but that’s better than nothing!

However, I was happy that the title selected as opening film was one of the Japanese movies: Samurai’s Promise. No one from the cast or crew was present for the opening ceremony, although there was plenty of actors & actresses from other Japanese and Chinese movies (as well as local dignitaries) parading on the red carpet.

Red carpet photo gallery

 

The only speech was given by the president of the festival, Serge Losique. He seemed tired, but still defiant (although slightly apologetic):

“The festival is a great cathedral open to all. Our role was not to imitate whoever but to be ourselves, to be authentic. (…) Our role was also to helped small unknown countries, like Cape Verde or Sri Lanka [to promote their films]. All we want is for the public, and the journalists, to appreciate the films.”

He continues saying he doesn’t want the glamour of the other festivals but only to showcase the diversity of the world cinema. That’s why it is the “Festival des Films du Monde” [also a word-play in French meaning the festival of the people]. People are asking for stars, he says, but the stars here are the films. He also argues that the directors and actors who come to Montreal are stars in their own countries, and many more have been discovered here, at the festival, and are now stars! [I might add that I’ve seen plenty of great stars at the FFM over the years: Catherine Deneuve, Sofia Loren, Jackie Chan, Robert de Niro, Tony Curtis, Mamoru Oshii, etc.]

He also announces the new policy for the festival to chose as president of the jury a director that has previously won the Grand Prix of the Americas. Also the jury members will not necessarily be present at the festival but will screen the titles in competition via video link (although the president of the jury will always be present in Montreal). He introduces the members of this year’s jury (critic Élie Castiel, Pierre-Henri Deleau, an executive from China Film Group Corporation and another jury whose name will be revealed at the end of the festival) as well as its president, Silvio Caiozzi [Chilean director, winner of last year’s Grand Prix des Amériques], who also said a few words:

“From the beginning this festival always chose nothing but films of cinematographic excellence. Nowadays, I can feel that around the world somehow (…) [in the movie industry] the true quality of films is not looked upon, really. What they look upon is (…) what film has the big budget (…) or the politics (…) but not really the quality of the films. So, really, honestly, (…) in my opinion this is perhaps the only festival that still remains absolutely independant.”

Opening ceremony video

(I understand what Serge Losique is saying here. He is trying to explain and justify his position. The festival is his life-work, his baby, and he doesn’t want to relinquish its control. Indeed, if you accept public money you have to show transparency and do things the way the government wants them to be done… Unfortunately, if he doesn’t step down, pass the mantle to someone else soon (while maybe remaining on board as advisor), the festival will die with him…)

The theatre was not full, like we’ve seen for previous years, but considering the situation, it was full enough (maybe half?). Surprisingly, there was not that many people from the local Japanese community.

It was a short ceremony, a good movie (see my separate comment), the weather was nice, Radio-Canada / CBC was there to report on the event so, all in all, it was a good day for the festival.

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Japanese movies at the FFM 2018

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FFM2018-posterThe 42nd Montreal World Film Festival will be held from August 23rd to September 3rd 2018. So far there is only seven eight Japanese films listed in the line-up. We will add more details as they are available.

Of course, the festival has had financial troubles for sometime and run on a very minimal staff, so we shouldn’t expect a smooth operation. It will certainly not be better than last year. But the most important part of the festival is that there is movies to watch. This year it will be the nineteenth year that we are covering this movie festival and we hope that it will recover from this difficult period and prosper for many years to come.

The schedule for the Cinema Imperial (CI) is now available (2018/08/22). And the schedule for the Cinéma Quartier Latin (QL) is now also available (2018/08/23). As for previous years, the closing film will be a mystery title to be screened for free at the Cinema Imperial Monday September 3rd at 18:30. 

The FFM just announced the awards for the 42nd Montreal’s World Film Festival and for the 49th Student Film Festival (2018/09/03).

Two Japanese movies won an award: Samurai’s Promise by Daisaku Kimura won for the Special Grand Prix of the Jury (Ex-aequo) and Hiroshi Tachi won the Best Actor award for his role in Life in overtime by Hideo Nakata.

Please, read our comments on the festival:

 

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Here is the Japanese movies line-up (after the jump) :

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Fantasia 2018

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The 22nd edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival will be held in Montreal from July 12th to August 2nd 2018. It specializes in animated and live-action genre cinema (fantasy, horror, action, science-fiction, etc.), but mostly horror and asian action movies. It will open with Daniel Roby’s “Dans la brume” (a Canada-France co-production). As usual, the festival will be offering “over 125 features and 220 shorts, featuring the premieres of more than 100 cutting-edge visions from across the world.”

The asian movies line-up (our main interest here) includes eight movies from China (six from Hong Kong), twenty-four from South-Korea, one from Vietnam and, of course, twenty-eight from Japan (including six anime). Here’s the list of Japanese movies:

Anime

Live-Action

It is interesting to note that a large majority of those movies are manga or novel adaptations. I am particularly interested in seeing The Travelling Cat Chronicles and Tremble All You Want — unfortunately I don’t have time to attend the festival… Check the festival website for more details (description, cast & crew info, schedule, location, etc).

Update: You can read a comment (in French) by Claude R. Blouin on some of those movies, “Sept fantaisies japonaises au festival Fantasia 2018” (Shomingeki)

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34e Festival du Film japonais de Montréal

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Comme a chaque année la « Japan Foundation » de Toronto et le Consulat Général du Japon à Montréal ont le plaisir d’offrir gratuitement des projections de films japonais. Veuillez noter que la bande originale japonaise est sous-titrée en anglais. Les places sont limitées et seront attribuées selon le principe « premier-arrivé, premier-servi », sans réservation préalable.

L’événement aura lieu les vendredi 20 octobre et samedi 21 octobre à la Cinémathèque québécoise (335, boul. de Maisonneuve Est, près du métro Berri-UQAM).

[ Translate ]

Plus de détails après le saut de page >>

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FFM 2017 wrap-up

FFM_banner-2017The 41st Montreal World Film Festival (FFM) is now over. This year was a slim pick for the Japanese cinema aficionado since there was only two Japanese movies (two others were co-productions with non-Japanese directors). Besides that, the festival went smoothly for me. However, the only question remaining above our heads is: will there be a festival next year? Of course Serge Losique wants to be reassuring and said that the FFM was here to stay. He even announced the dates for the next two years: August 23rd to September 3rd 2018 and August 22nd to September 2nd 2019 !!

One of the event that I would have liked to attend (but couldn’t by lack of time) was the press conference and Master Class held at L’Astral by Chinese Martial Art Filmmaker Xu Haofeng (The Hidden Sword) on Monday August 28th. It seems that it was one of the rares (if not the only one) press conference held at the FFM this year. I really miss those… (and the film market and the press room!)

The closing film of the festival was a surprise to be announced after the awards, just a few hours before its free screening. It was meant as a gift for the movie fans.

A press release announced the awards for the 48th Student Film Festival: for the Canadian competition it went to Land by Samiramis Kia (York University, Toronto) and for the International competition it went to Elene by Seven Kayhan (Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey).

Another press release announced the awards for the festival itself: the Grand Prix of the Americas (Best Film) went to And Suddenly the Dawn by Silvio Caiozzi (Chile) and the Special Grand Prix of the Jury went to Dear Etranger by Yukiko Mishima (Japan). Check the press release for the other awards.

To summarize, I’ve seen and commented on two Japanese movies:

I also wrote a few informational posts about the festival:

Finally, here are the latest comments about the FFM in the media:

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Dear Etranger

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FFM17-dear_etrangerBased on the novel from Kiyoshi Shigematsu, this is the story of Makoto Tanaka, a 40-years-old who has remarried. His wife is Nanae and they care for 2 daughters from Nanae’s prior marriage. Makoto tries to have an ordinary family but Nanae becomes pregnant and things are bound to change.

 

 

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

Dear Étranger is an average Japanese family drama: it’s both funny and sad, offers excellent acting but is rather slow moving. It’s a touching story about Makoto, a man in his forties, who has remarried and must deal with the difficulties of a blended family. He has one pre-teen girl (Saori) from a previous marriage (with Yuka). His new wife, Sanae, has two daughters (Kaoru, a tweenager, and Eriko, a preschooler) from her own previous marriage (with Sawada, who used to beat her and the children). When she gets pregnant, the delicate balance of their couple is challenged. Of course, in such situation, the children are suffering the most (with emotional or psychological stress). Can they really call themselves a “family”? Can he call himself a “dad”? Can he succeeds to keep a good relationship with BOTH his tweenage daughters? Or is he just a “dear stranger” to them?

The movie tackle quite realistically many aspects of the modern Japanese society: divorce, one of its causes (domestic violence) and one of its increasingly frequent consequences, the stepfamily. Divorce in Japan is relatively similar to what it is in the West (although there is no joint custody). Still not as frequent as in the West, the Japanese divorce rate has been steadily increasing (up to one in three marriages, quadrupling the rate of the post-WW2 era — mostly among retiring-age couples) but it has recently started to decrease due to a corresponding diminution in marriages (men are too busy at work and don’t feel economically confident enough to seek marriage and have children). The Japanese society is evolving and it is not surprising that we also see an increase in the number of female movie directors, who are more likely to want to use sociological theme in their storytelling.

I cannot pass over in silence the superb inclined elevator that regularly appears in the film. The Nashion inclined elevator (ナシオン斜行エレベーター / Nashion shakō erebētā) is located in Higashiyamadai, Nishinomiya (Hyōgo prefecture) near Kobe and Osaka. Many scenes were shot in that area. It offers a beautiful scenery but might also symbolise the hardship of the main protagonist as he must step up to resolve his delicate situation.

Anyway, when you put together two interesting writer and script-writer, a skilled director (who already came to the FFM in 2014 with A Drop of the Grapevine) and a great cast of actors, you can only get a good movie. And, apparently, the Jury of the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival agreed with this, since they awarded Dear Étranger with the Special Grand Prix of the Jury (a kind of “second best” award).

Dear Etranger (幼な子われらに生まれ / Osanago Warera ni umare / lit. “Children born to us” or We’re having a Baby): Japan, 2017, 127 mins; Dir.: Yukiko Mishima; Scr.: Haruhiko Arai (based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu); Cast: Tadanobu Asano (Makoto Tanaka), Rena Tanaka (Nanae), Shinobu Terajima (Yuka), Raiju Kamata (Saori), Sara Minami (Kaoru), Miu Arai (Eriko), Kankurô Kudô (Sawada), Shingo Mizusawa, Narushi Ikeda.

FFM17-ShinjiSakoda_DSC_0042Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on Friday September 1st 2017 (Cinema Imperial, 19:00 — the attendance was about an hundred people) as part of the “World Competition” segment. Shinji Sakoda, the international sales representative from Pony Canyon, was there to introduce the movie. stars-3-0

For more information you can visit the following websites:

[ AsianWiki — IMDbOfficial webVimeo —  Youtube ]

Dear Etranger © 2016「幼な子われらに生まれ」製作委員会.

See also the comments of Mark Schilling (Japan Times) and Claude R. Blouin (Shomingeki).

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Noise

Eight years have passed since the Akihabara massacre. A pop star whose mother was killed in the incident, a teenager who left her home of Akihabara, a delivery boy who turns his anger to the city. This is a story about the characters striving to grasp the string of hope within the darkness surrounding the city, the incident, and the people.

 

 

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

In this movie we see Japan like we rarely see it in movies: people being poor, homeless, destitute, at their wits’ end. Japan is interiorizing everything, hiding the pain, the ugliness and sometimes the boil needs to burst. The Akihabara massacre wasn’t the cause of anything, it was a symptom. It also shows the ugly underside of Akihabara, the low level idols that are struggling, the delivery guys who deliver goods by feet because they lost their driving licenses in accidents, the almost-sex industry exploiting young girls, etc.

This docudrama is interesting because this director is willing to show us what others wouldn’t dare: the price Japan is paying for past economic crises and for a rigid society that must always preserve the appearance. Unfortunately, this young director is lacking the skills to express all this in a beautiful, well-organized manner. The result is a loud (it’s called noise isn’t it?), disjointed, awkward, disorganized movie. There are too many characters, scenes transition that comes without warning or coherence which makes the story quite difficult to follow. However, it is  compelling and the actors’ play is excellent.

It is a hard movie that requires patience like most unpolished gems. In the end, it gets easier to understand as we get to know each character better. Noise has potential with such an interesting subject and its great acting, but it unfortunately doesn’t succeed to be artistically good enough. However, it is entertaining and well worth watching.

Noise : Japan, 2017, 124 mins; Dir.: Yusaku MATSUMOTO; Cast: Kokoro Shinozaki, Urara Anjo, Kosuke Suzuki, Kentaro Kishi, Takashi Nishina, Kenji Kohashi, Hiroshi Fuse.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 25th, 2017 (Cinema du Parc 1, 20:15 — the attendance was around fifteen people out of a capacity of about two-hundred seats) as part of the “First Feature Competition” segment. There was no production team member to introduce the movie or do a Q&A.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

[ IMDbOfficial WebVimeoYoutube ]

Noise © ?Noise?????? 2017. All rights reserved.

See also the comment on this movie by Claude R. Blouin (in french).

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