Facebook seems to do it all the time, so why shouldn’t I? Yes, you’ve probably noticed, my website has just been given a makeover by its wonderful designers at Go Logic, and should now be even better. Well, I can’t speak for content of course, but you’ll notice that as well as the new improved cleaner layout, there’s also a little heart-shaped button at the bottom right hand side of each entry which, like Facebook, allows you to ‘like’ my posts, if you have read and found them interesting yet don’t have the time or inclination to pass comment on them. Basically it’s a way of me knowing if anyone is actually reading all this stuff, or whether I am just pissing in the wind trying to get my opinions out there. There’s also a pretty nifty animated tag-cloud which I’m rather fond of, which spins around to give a better idea of the sort of subjects I’ve been covering rather than having to root around in my archives.
Life has been even crazier than usual these past few weeks, which is why there have not been any posts recently and there my not be that many more in the immediate future either. For those that don’t know, my beautiful partner Michelle gave birth to our son, Thorin, at 2.30am on 8th July, so the past week has been something of a mixture of euphoria, blind panic, disbelief and head-mashed exhaustion. Wonderful news, being a dad, but I won’t bore you all with the details at this juncture. No, I’ve got a few other announcements to make first….
You're forgiven if you missed it, but Gen Takahashi's Confessions of a Dog was the best Japanese film of 2006!
First up is a reminder that next weekend in Toronto it is the 2nd Shinsedai Cinema Festival, a four-day showcase of the best recent Japanese films taking place in the Japan Canadian Cultural Centre between 22-25 July. There’s a link to this on the right hand of this page, just beneath Graham Humphrey’s masterful portrait of me, or you can click on the ‘events’ tab up above and you’ll get a whole load more info about this, including a map showing you how to get you to there, should you be in Toronto or anywhere near at the time – you’ve no excuse for not going! I do have an excuse for not going, of course, namely the baby, as well as the Atlantic ocean between me and the JCCC, but I did go last year and would have done again this year if I didn’t have another hungry mouth in the house to feed. It’s going to be amazing, I promise you.
There are some brilliant films playing, including some of the best-regarded titles of the past year, such as Tetsuaki Matsue’s Live Tape, Koya Yoshida’s Yuriko’s Aroma, Momoko Ando’s Kakera: A Piece of Our Life and Tokachi Tsuchiya’s A Normal Life Please, plus a few revivals/rediscoveries, notably Go Shibata’s stunning 1999 debut NN-891102 and Gen Takahashi’s epic The Wire-styled expose of police corruption Confessions of a Dog, a film I am frankly amazed so few people know about given that it was made back in 2006, although one which I am pretty sure will be picking up a lot more interest as the year progresses.
And another scene from Confessions of a Dog, as I love this film so much!
Another thing I am particularly excited about this year is a screening of Kenji Mizoguchi’s hauntingly beautiful silent classic The Water Magician, with a new soundtrack by the Toronto-based experimental outfit Vowls (their website is here, and you can also have a listen on myspace. Japanese silent films are rarely screened outside of Japan, but along with Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Page of Madness, this is one of the best of the limited handful of titles that survive, and it’s from one of the world’s greatest ever directors too. It looks absolutely gorgeous, with Mizoguchi’s atmospheric tracking shots and Kyoko Izumi’s vaguely ero-guro style carnival milieu making this a must-see, and the live accompaniment is only going to work in its favour. I’m actually gutted I am not going to be there!
Kenji Mizoguchi's haunting Water Magician, playing at Shinsedai with a live score by Vowls
There’s a whole host of filmmaker guests going to be attending too, including Akino Kondoh, Gen Takahashi, Momoko Ando, Yasunobu Takahashi and Tokachi Tsuchiya. Anyway, there’s a lot more info about the festival on the Shinsedai website, but if you are a Japanese film fan or scholar and are based in Toronto or its immediate environs, you will not get a better selection of films laid out for you than this.
Right, my next bit of news comes courtesy of Matteo Boscarol, who has his own impressive looking Italian-language blog on all things Japan-related. It is about the Italian DVD release of Masao Adachi’s Gushing Prayer, or rather Gushing Prayer: A 15-Year-Old Prostitute as it was originally known: when I got a new print struck up from the original negative as one of the films to go out on the various screening to promote Behind the Pink Curtain (its played at the British Film Institute, Austin Fantastic Fest, Montreal Fantasia, Thessaloniki and Nippon Connection so far), I decided it was wise to suppress any insinuations of underage sex in its title to facilitate its passage through customs. Those that have seen it will know it is not some lurid jailbait fantasy, but a rather haunting avant-garde work that takes a metaphorical look at the student protests in Japan in the 1960s. Or something like that. I’m still not entirely sure what it means. This was a film that got a rather polarised response during its festival screenings, with some viewers scratching their heads non-plused before moving on and dismissing it as pretentious, and others bowled over by its rather melancholy tone and fascinating snap shots of Tokyo back in the day. Personally I love it, but whatever your take, you can’t deny its uniqueness. Now it is finally available for viewing on DVD, and I have it on good authority that the release by Raro Video actually has English as well as Italian subs, which I take to mean that they haven’t blocked out the English language subs that were burnt into the actual print as we prepared it. So this is great news for all Adachi fans, and if you’re interested, then please allow me to direct you to one of the several online retailers offering it up for order here.
Italian DVD release by Raro Video of Masao Adachi's Gushing Prayer, with English subtitles!
I also don’t know if I’m giving too much away here, as I think it is something of an open secret, but there will be a Masao Adachi retrospective in France later in the year, which should result in some of his other films being released on DVD. If there are any readers who don’t have a clue who Adachi is, then I’ll point you to an interview I did with him for Midnight Eye a few years back.
So that just leaves one other brief topic before I sign off for today, which is the publication of issue two of the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema. Articles include Olga V Solovieva’s Kurosawa Akira’s The Idiot: Where the East meets the West, Isolde Standish’s Night and Fog in Japan: Fifty Years On and Steven Rawle’s From The Black Society to The Isle: Miike Takashi and Kim Ki-Duk at the intersection of Asia Extreme.
There’s also a rather nice review of Behind the Pink Curtain by Stephen Prince, who writes “Jasper Sharp gives us a detailed history of the pink film, copiously illustrated and written in an accessible and engaging manner… [he is] an able guide to this inchoate genre that fused social subversion and crass exploitation… Behind the Pink Curtain will not soon be equaled in its portrait of a cinematic demi-monde whose film-makers have flaunted their status as outlaws and outsiders.” Nice!