Isabella Bird: Femme Exploratrice, vol. 3

IsabellaBird-v3-cov“Le Japon du XIXe siècle hors des sentiers battus !”

“Pour rejoindre Niigata, première étape de son périple, Isabella Bird a choisi une voie secondaire, rarement empruntée par les voyageurs étrangers. Au fur et à mesure que l’intrépide exploratrice s’enfonce dans la campagne japonaise, l’agitation des grandes villes et la splendeur des sites historiques s’effacent devant la misère du monde rural… Aux divers chocs culturels s’ajoutent des conditions de voyage de plus en plus difficiles, si bien qu’Ito lui-même a du mal à faire face à cet aspect de son pays qu’il ignorait. Mais l’aventurière refuse de se laisser abattre, et c’est sans fléchir qu’elle s’engage sur le dernier tronçon de la route d’Aizu !”

“Lancez-vous à la découverte d’un Japon traditionnel désormais disparu à travers les yeux de l’intrépide Isabella Bird ! Basé sur les écrits réels de l’aventurière, Isabella Bird, femme exploratrice est un récit passionnant sur la rencontre d deux monde; dessiné avec un rare souci du détail par Taiga Sassa, un nouveau talent prometteur !”

[ Texte de la couverture arrière ]

Je continue la lecture de cette série dont j’ai déjà commenté le deux premiers volumes.

IsabellaBird-v3p010Juin 1878. L’exploratrice britannique Isabella Bird et son guide japonais Tsurukichi Ito continuent leur chemin sur la route d’Aizu en direction de l’île d’Ezo (Hokkaido). La route est difficile et les villages qu’ils rencontrent sont plongés dans une pauvreté si grande qu’elle surprend même Ito. Pourtant les villageois semblent travaillants et déterminés. Le palefrenier engagé pour prendre soin des chevaux leur explique que la région a été dévastée par la guerre de Boshin. L’armée de l’ouest, menée par les clans de Satsuma et de Chōshū, y a écrasé l’armée de l’est. Les paysans ont été enrôlés de force dans l’armée, beaucoup sont morts, les villages ont été pillés et brûlés. Dix ans plus tard la région n’a toujours pas récupéré. 

IsabellaBird-v3p020À Tsugawa (Aga), l’expédition fait des emplettes, Ito se bourre de friandises et prépare un repas gastronomique pour Isabella. Elle en profite pour commenter (à sa soeur, à qui elle écrit) que la gastronomie japonaise, par la propreté des ses instruments, “la parcimonie et la précision de chaque geste, la délicatesse de la présentation, l’incroyable variété des mets, absolument tout, est imprégné d’une beauté particulière”. Le lendemain, ils prennent une barque pour un voyage mouvementé sur le fleuve Agano jusqu’à Niigata, où Isabella passe quelques temps chez les Fyson. 

Pendant ce temps à Tokyo, un botaniste nommé Charles Maries rencontre le consul général Harry Parkes et James Hepburn car il désir poursuivre en justice Isabella parce qu’elle lui aurait volé son guide, Ito, qui était toujours sous contrat avec lui. Maries considère que son travail pour découvrir de nouvelles plantes est beaucoup plus important que les pérégrinations sans conséquences d’une simple voyageuse. Parkes objecte qu’au contraire l’intelligence sur la géographie et les moeurs des habitants de régions reculées fournit par les aventuriers est indispensable au développement de la diplomatie et des échanges commerciaux de l’Empire Britannique! Il lui refuse donc son support.

Isabella Bird est un autre manga historique au récit passionnant et instructif, mais aussi plein d’humour. La fluidité de l’action est assez bonne. Et, si le dessin est loin d’être parfait (parfois les proportions ou les expressions des personnages sont bizarres), il demeure très agréable à l’oeil et surtout bien détaillé pour donner une très bonne expérience de lecture. À travers le récit divertissant des aventures d’Isabella Bird, nous découvrons deux cultures assez opposées: celles de l’Angleterre Victorienne et celle du Japon de la restauration Meiji. C’est un sujet très intéressant et je recommande donc chaudement ce manga.

Isabella Bird, femme exploratrice T03 par Taiga SASSA. Paris: Ki-oon (Coll. Kizuna), avril 2018. 208 pg, , 13 x 18 cm, 7,90 € / $14.95 Can., ISBN 979-10-327-0248-2. Pour lectorat jeune (7+). stars-3-5

Vous trouverez plus d’information sur les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat — Youtube ]

© 2016 Taiga Sassa. All Rights reserved.

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Japanese Film Festival

The 35th edition of the Montreal Japanese Film Festival will be held on Friday November 30th and Saturday December 1st at the Cinémathèque québécoise (web). There will be three Japanese films screened for free. The event is presented by the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan in Montreal. The films are in Japanese with English subtitles. Seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations is required but you’ll need to take a ticket at the box-office.

Karera_ga_Honki_de_Amu_Toki_wa-tpClose-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは、/ Karera ga honki de amu toki wa / lit. “When they seriously knit”): Japan, drama, 2017, 127 mins; Dir.: Naoko Ogigami.

After being abandoned by her mother, 11-year-old Tomo is taken in by her uncle and his transgender girlfriend. Close-knit offers a heart-warming reflection on discrimination and ignorance and, more importantly, on the true meaning of family.

Screening on November 30 at 18:30.

[ AsianWiki / IMDb / JMDB / Official / Wikipedia / Youtube ]

Chihayafuru_Part_3-p001Chihayafuru: Musubi (ちはやふるー結びー / Chihayafuru – knot) : Japan, Youth drama, 2018, 127 min.; Dir.: Norihiro Koizumi.

The young members of a competitive karuta (classic Japanese playing cards) team stand together against the odds and the emotional turmoil they face, seeking to capture and hold on to a treasured moment forever. Can they overcome their opponents?

Screening on December 1 at 13:00.

[ AsianWiki / IMDb / Official / Wikipedia / Youtube ]

La_La_La_At_Rock_Bottom-p02La La La at Rock Bottom (味園ユニバース / Misono Yunibasu) : Japan, Drama, 2015, 103 min.; Dir.: Nobuhiro Yamashita.

Redemption is key in this humorous story about an amnesiac thug turned singer. A powerful and moving tale that reveals human complexity, baring charms and faults alike, and will make anyone want to believe in second chances. Added bonus: great musical moments!

Screening on December 1 at 15:15.

[ AsianWiki / IMDb / Official / Wikipedia / Youtube ]

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Festival du Nouveau Cinema 2018

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The 47th edition of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema (FNC) will be held in various Montreal theatres (Cinema Impérial, du Musée, du Parc, Quartier Latin, Theatre Maisonneuve, Cinémathèque Québecoise, etc.) from October 3 to 14, 2018. In their own words, this festival is a gathering to “celebrate our shared passion for film, (…) for cinema of all types, from offbeat, one-of-a-kind niche works to crowd-pleasers to daringly innovative big events”.  It is “resolutely forward-looking, has long been the unfailing advocate of new technologies“ making it “the best place around to preview the cinema of tomorrow”!

This year, it will offers over three-hundred movies including ten from Japan (click on the links for details & schedule):

Press review:

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The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan

Nakimushi_Shottan_no_Kiseki-PosterBased on the true story of Shoji “Crybaby” Segawa, a talented player of shogi, a Japanese variant of chess. After rising quickly in a shore-kai, an organization that supervises professional shogi status, Shoji fails to fulfill the ironclad requirement of reaching the 4th rank by age 26. With the encouragement of his friends, he sets out to achieve the impossible: to be the first amateur to become a shogi professional. (FFM)

WARNING: May contain traces 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.

This is a great feel-good movie based on the autobiographical book about the incredible career of Shoji Segawa, a Shōgi player. Shōgi  (将棋 / “The game of generals”) is a Japanese strategy board game very similar to chess (as you have a king, surrounded by his gold generals, his silver generals, rook and bishop, knights, lances and finally pawns pieces). We often see this type of “sport competition” story (where sport is often replaced by any possible type of occupation) in manga or anime (the best similar example is Hikaru no Go manga by Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata, which is about Go, but there are plenty of manga about shōgi like March Comes in Like a Lion) but it is rare to see this type of story in a live-action movie.

The movie has a strong cast of stars, so it is not surprising that the acting is quite good (although I’ve notice poor performances in the case of some minor characters). The photography is good enough (it’s not always optimum, but I guess it’s due to the attempt to give the picture a look of the 70s or 80s). The storytelling is, however, excellent considering that it is not easy to make such a subject interesting and to keep the attention of the audience while showing two guys sweating over a board game! The upbeat music and some comedic devices are very helpful for that.

Shoji Segawa (nicknamed Shottan) is a shy, introverted boy who has been interested in playing shōgi since elementary school. Encouraged by his school teacher and his father (Jun Kunimura), he improves his skill playing against his neighbour Yuya. They both go to a shōgi dojo where they are tutored by the local master (Issey Ogata). He is known for sometime crying after a game (hence the other nickname of “crybaby”). Learning that you can become a paid professional player of shōgi, Shottan (Ryuhei Matsuda) decide to apply to the shore-kai (the Japan shōgi Association’s apprentice school) but he doesn’t give his all and fails to reach the 4-dan level by age 26. A good part of the movie is dedicated to showing him agonizing over his chance of success (despite being a little overconfident) and over his failures. He finds himself in his late 20s, with no high school diploma, no job and becomes depressed. He eventually finds a salaryman job, but keeps playing shōgi for pleasure. He becomes quite skilled as an amateur player and, eventually in his 30s, gets some fame as the amateur who keep beating professionals (a miracle record of 17 wins and 5 losses!). He then starts fighting for the JSA to give him a second chance at becoming professional…

Strangely, nowhere in the movie they talk about the rules or strategy of the shōgi game. I guess, if the movie is solely aimed at a domestic Japanese audience, they assume that everyone know them. Anyway, the knowledge of the game is totally irrelevant to the story. The movie is more about fighting for your dream, learning the discipline (not being too distracted) and to play for the right reasons (not to win but just for the pleasure of it). It is interesting to note that the director, Toshiaki Toyoda, attempted himself to become a professional player when he was younger.

All in all, The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan is an upbeat biopic that provide a very good entertainment. Well worth watching.

The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan (泣き虫しょったんの奇跡 / Nakimushi Shottan no Kiseki): Japan, 2018, 127 mins; Dir./Scr.: Toshiaki Toyoda (based on the autobiographical novel of Shoji Segawa); Phot.: Norimichi Kasamatsu, Kôji Naoi; Ed.: Masaki Murakami; Prod.: Ryo Otaki, Kyôichi Mori; Cast: Ryûhei Matsuda (Shoji), Yôjirô Noda (Yuya), Shota Sometani, Kento Nagayama, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Ryusuke Komakine, Hirofumi Arai, Takako Matsu, Issey Ogata, Kaoru Kobayashi, Jun Miho, Jun Kunimura.

Screened at the Cineplex Quartier Latin 13 (Thu. 8/30 at 21:30) as part of the “Focus on World Cinema” program of the 42nd Montreal World Film Festival. There was a little more than half-a-dozen people in the theatre. stars-3-5

[ AsianWiki / IMDb /  Official  / Youtube ]

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Think Again, Junpei

JunpeiThinkAgain-posterJunpei, 21, is a lower-ranking yakuza. One day, his boss assigns him the mission to kill a high-ranking yakuza of a rival group. Junpei, who wants to be recognized by his clan, agrees. Junpei meets OL Kana and they spend the night together. He evokes with her the task that awaits her, and she is both worried and excited. She stays with him for three days until he carries out his mission. (FFM)

WARNING: May contain traces 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.

This is a good movie for the younger crowd. It’s a yakuza movie with an existentialist tone. I don’t have anything bad to say on this movie: the photography is nice and clean, the acting is good, the storytelling fluid, the music is catchy and support well the story. However, I feel that there is something missing. It has all the looks of a feel-good movie and yet it ends badly for the main character (not surprising in a yakuza movie after all).

Junpei is a young wanna-be yakuza. He worships his aniki (“big brother”) and would do anything for him. However, he has a good nature, too good for him, as he likes to help people and has strong principles. In order to help a friend who has been wronged by a real-estate agency, he pays them a visit and play the tough yakuza. Unfortunately, the place is ran by a rival group. This initiative probably displeased his big boss because, not long after, he is asked to make a hit against a rival boss with little chance of survival. He is given money and told to enjoy himself for the three days before the scheduled hit.

A young woman working at the real-estate agency, Kana, noticed him and is impressed by his guts and looks. They hook up, make love — and fall in love. He goes back to his hometown to see his mother, they help a homeless man, etc. During all that time, Kana is tweeting (or using some equivalent app) their every moves, they every mood, and the tweetosphere is reacting, pondering weather killing people is bad (who still order hits on their competition, anyway?), how romantic they are, that they should forget the hit and elope, will Junpei survives the hit, etc. They plan to leave for a tropical island after it. Junpei goes ahead with the plan, because he is too loyal to avoid his responsibilities, even if he was told that his boss was using him to get promoted…

However, the boy Junpei is now a man. A good man who does the right thing (for a yakuza). He loves a woman. He takes his own decision. He has nothing to regret. In three days he has lived a whole life, more than many could boast for their entire existence. What is to live, but to live fully? And yet it feels sad. What a waste, some could say. But a yakuza’s story has an inescapable end. Is there a point to all of this?

I really enjoyed this philosophical yakuza movie. It’s both entertaining and food for thoughts, particularly for the younger generation who still have a life to live! It is well worth watching.

Think Again, Junpei (純平、考え直せ / Junpei, Kangae Naose): Japan, 2018, 95 mins; Dir.: Toshiyuki  Morioka; Scr.: Rumi Kakuta, Teru Kimura, Nami Kikkawa (based on a novel by Hideo Okuda); Phot: Shinji Kugimiya; Ed.: Naoki Watanabe; Prod.: Yukihiko Yamaguchi, Haruo Umekawa; Cast: Kisetsu Fujiwara, Shuhei Nomura, Yurina Yanagi, Reiko Kataoka, Manaka Kinoshita, Katsuya Maiguma, Suzuka Morita.

Screened at the Cinema Imperial (Thu. 8/30 at 16:30) as part of the “World Great” (Out of Competition) program of the 42nd Montreal World Film Festival. There was a little more than a dozen people in the theatre (but I was told that there was about fifty people in the previous day’s screening). stars-3-0

[ AsianWiki / IMDb /  Official  / Youtube ]

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Samurai’s Promise

Chiri_Tsubaki-posterShinbei is exiled from his clan for investigating its activities too closely. Eight years later, when Shinbei’s dying wife pleads with him to go to help his former best friend, Umeme, he returns to the clan. Infighting has produced turmoil within the clan, allowing Shinbei to discover the truth behind incidents involving his wife and his friend. Confronting Umeme, he understands the reason for his wife’s last wish. (FFM)

This is a very good movie. Its most noticeable aspect is that it offers an excellent photography (which is not surprising since director Kimura acted as his own photography director, a job he has hold many times for other directors like Kinji Fukasaku, Yasuo Furuhata, or Shin’ichirô Sawai). He made great use of the superb location in the Toyama Prefecture (anciently the Etchû province) showing as backdrop the fantastic landscape of the Hida mountains in the Northern Japanese Alps. 

Another aspect that I quickly noticed was that the music was unfortunately very annoying. They used a soundtrack of classical music (which first accords sounded like The Godfather’s music by Nino Rota), playing it again and again recurrently. I think that, for a jidaigeki (samurai movie), a soundtrack of traditional Japanese music would have been better…

Shinbei (Jun’ichi Okada) is exiled from the clan after denouncing as corrupt a high-ranking officer of the clan — who is later mysteriously murdered leaving all the suspicion of culpability on Shinbei. Both Shinbei and his friend Uneme (Hidetoshi Nishijima) were courting Shino (Kumido Aso), but when Uneme’s family denies him the permission to wed Shino, she goes with Shinbei instead. The harsh condition of their exile put a toll on Shino’s health who eventually dies. She makes Shinbei promise to continue living, to go back to their village to observe the camellia falling in spring and to reconcile and help Uneme. When he tries to clear his name and find out the real assassin, he gets entangled in the complex politics of the clan…

Samurai’s Promise is a beautiful and interesting samurai movie. It has a smooth storytelling, although it is sometimes difficult (at the beginning) to understand who’s who and figure out all the plots and politics at play. The acting is good, and particularly the nice realistic combat scenes. It must not have been easy considering the fact that there was many fights in the rain or snow and that the dialogues were using an old form of Japanese. 

Of course, we should expect nothing less from such a veteran director. During his sixty-year career, Daisaku Kimura worked on over fifty films and won many awards. He started his career as camera assistant on Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress (1958). He worked five years with him (on movies like Yojimbo and Sanjuro) and he learned a lot during this time. Eventually, he cames to direct his own movies (Mt. Tsurugidake in 2009 and Climbing to Spring in 2014), mostly about mountain climbing. Samurai’s promise is his first jidaigeki and he made it as a tribute to Kurosawa. It is a beautiful and authentic movie, well worth watching. These days we don’t see much movies like this…

Samurai’s Promise (散り椿 / Chiri Tsubaki / lit. “Falling Camellia”): Japan, 2018, 111 mins; Dir./Phot.: Daisaku Kimura; Scr.: Takashi Koizumi (based on the novel by Rin Hamuro); Ed.: Tomoni Kikuchi; Mus.: Takashi Kako; Prod.: Yoshihiro Sato. Cast: Jun’ichi Okada, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Haru Kuroki, Hirofumi Arai, Kyôko Yoshine, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kumido Aso, Naoto Ogata.

Screened as opening movie (in the “World Competition” program) of the 42nd Montreal World Film Festival (at the Cinema Imperial on Thursday August 23, 2018 at 19:00). stars-3-5

[ AsianWiki / IMDb /  Official  / Youtube ]

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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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