Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Japan Cuts 2011: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema at Japan Society in NY, 7/7-7/22

2011年夏 第5回 『JAPAN CUTS ~ジャパン・カッツ!』 ~毎年恒例JS夏の映画祭にて最新日本映画の魅力を紹介~
New York, NY — Now in its fifth consecutive year, Japan Cuts 2011: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema includes 32 new titles—the most individual films in the festival’s history with all but one a premiere—screening from July 7-22, including 10 co-presentations with the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF).

The Japan Cuts 2011 line-up embraces a wide variety of genres, from uplifting family-friendly films such as Miike’s Ninja Kids!!! and Morishita’s adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s seminal graphic novel, Buddha (opening film); to bona fide blockbusters and eye-popping popcorn flicks like Fukagawa’s Into the White Night (closing film) and Shinsuke Sato’s Gantz; to subtle and sublime art house indies such as Kumakiri’s Sketches of Kaitan City and Zeze’s Heaven’s Story; as well as unholier-than-thou, darkly original entries like Takashi Ishii’s A Night in Nude: Salvationor and Naoki Hashimoto’s Birthright.

Masahiro Kobayashi’s profound Haru’s Journey (which features the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai), plays back-to-back with frivolous yet momentous gems of unyielding artistry and out-of-control eccentricity such as Natsuki Seta’s A Liar and a Broken Girl and Yoshimasa Ishibashi’s Milocrorze: A Love Story. Rounding out the fest are erotic and chic pinku such as Yazaki’s Love and Treachery and Yuichi Onuma’s The Knot, and outrageously quirky comedies, including Kentaro Moriya’s The Seaside Motel, Masashi Yamamoto’s Three☆Points (this year’s centerpiece presentation), Naoko Ogigami’s Toilet, and Masanori Tominaga’s Vengeance Can Wait.

One film, Haru’s Journey was entirely shot in Northern Japan in the area affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. Director Masahiro Kobayashi will appear at the July 20 screening to make a special statement paying homage to the victims of the disaster. The screening will be followed by a reception, including producer Naoko Kobayashi.

Other appearances at Japan Cuts 2011 include introduction and Q&As with The Seaside Motel director Kentaro Moriya (July 16); A Liar and a Broken Girl director Natsuki Seta (July 16); Milocrorze: A Love Story director Yoshimasa Ishibashi (July 10); and Three☆Points director Masashi Yamamoto and actress Sora Aoi (July 15). Yakuza Weapon director and star, Tak Sakaguchi, and co-director and writer, Yudai Yamaguchi, will attend the screening.

Audiences are invited to parties at Japan Society opening week following the screenings of Yakuza Weapon (July 9) and Three☆Points (July 15), and a closing night blowout after Into the White Night (July 22) at an offsite location (TBA).

Tickets can be purchased in person at Japan Society, by calling the box office at 212-715-1258, or by visiting Tickets are $12/$9 (members, students and seniors); and $16/$12 for screenings that include after parties (except Into the White Night closing party, which is regular price). Gantz double-feature special tickets price is $20/$14 for both films—available only in person or by calling the box office. Those purchasing more than 5 tickets for at least 5 different films receive $2 off of each ticket– available only in person or by calling the box office.

50% of the proceeds from the Haru’s Journey goes to Japan Society’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.

Battle Royale
Friday, July 8 at 9:15 pm
Celebratory Screening, Co-Presented with NYAFF
2000, 122 min. BR, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku. With Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Chiaki Kuriyama, Kou Shibasaki, and Takeshi Kitano.
Under a new distributor, Fukasaku’s last masterpiece has a rare screening in North America. A group of high school children are taken to a small, isolated island with a map, food and weapons of varying deadliness. Over three days, they are forced to fight one another to the death until only one remains. Winner of the 2001 Blue Ribbon Award for Best Film and Best New Actor.

Birthright (a.k.a. Umbilical Cord) [Saitai]
Wednesday, July 13 at 9 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 108 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Naoki Hashimoto. With Sayoko Oho, Miyu Yagyu, and Ryoko Takizawa.
First-time director Naoki Hashimoto, producer of Tony Takitani (2004), presents a stark, unnervingly stirring depiction of the tragic paths of a mother and daughter burdened by disastrous fate. Sayoko Oho, Takizawa Ryoko, and Miyu Yagyu star in this slickly-made, totally original twist on the classic stalker tale.Film Business Asia called it “an extreme example of the new breed of artful psycho-horror movies that rely on a carefully orchestrated sense of dread rather than splatter”. Winner of the SPECIAL Jury Award at The 14th Shanghai International Film Festival.

Control Tower [Kanseitou]
Tuesday, July 19 at 9:30 pm
International Premiere
2011, 68 min., HD Cam SR, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takahiro Miki. With Kento Yamazaki and Ai Hashimoto.
Featuring the hippest teenagers of this year’s line-up, and inspired by a song of the same name by the rock band Galileo Galilei, director Miki’s (Solanin) latest is the distilled, purest essence of Japanese teenage romance. Kento Yamazaki plays a bored (but handsome) 15-year-old boy named Kakeru who’s trying to figure out where he belongs against the backdrop of the spectacular winter frost in Wakkanai, Hokkaido. One day, he meets a transfer student named Mizuho (Ai Hashimoto, Confessions) and through their common love of music, they connect and find something that makes their young hearts beat faster.

Gantz: The Movie, Part 1 [Gantsu]
Saturday, July 9 at 12:30 pm
New York Premiere, Co-Presented with NYAFF
2011, 130 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shinsuke Sato. With Kazunari Ninomiya, Kenichi Matsuyama, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Kanata Hongo, Natsuna Watanabe, Tomorowo Taguchi, and Takayuki Yamada.
Presented back-to-back with its sequel, this is the uncut, subtitled, live action movie based on Japan’s top sci-fi action manga. After trying to rescue a man on the subway tracks, two teens (Kazunari Ninomiya and Kenichi Matsuyama) wake up in a room where a mysterious black sphere orders them to hunt down and kill aliens hiding on Earth. Imagine the Harry Potter and Twilight movies rolled into one two part flick, except with Japanese teenagers in tight black leather, advanced war gear, and buckets of blood. The Japan Times noted the film “stands the ‘murder-game’ formula on its head–or rather twists it in strange and provocative ways.”

Gantz, Part II: Perfect Answer [Gantsu 2]Saturday, July 9 at 3 pm
North American Premiere, Co-Presented with NYAFF
2011, 141 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shinsuke Sato. With Kazunari Ninomiya, Kenichi Matsuyama, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Kanata Hongo, Natsuna Watanabe, Tomorowo Taguchi, and Takayuki Yamada.
The Gantz alien war games continue in Part II. Kei (Kazunari Ninomiya) is still playing, but added to his list of charges is protecting manga artist/love interest Tae (Yuriko Yoshitaka) from mysterious black-clad and human-looking aliens. Grand, excessive, massively pop sci-fi entertainment.

Haru’s Journey [Haru to no tabi]
Wednesday, July 20 at 7 pm
New York Premiere, Introduction and Q&A with Director Masahiro Kobayashi. 50% of the proceedings will go to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.
2010, 134 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Masahiro Kobayashi. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Teruyuki Kagawa, and Eri Tokunaga.
If Ozu had directed the famed foreign language Academy Award® winner Departures, or remade his own Tokyo Story in our troubled times, it might very well have looked like Haru’s Journey. European film festivals’ favored director Masahiro Kobayashi (Man Walking on Snow, Bashing, The Rebirth, Where Are You?) follows the uneasy journey of an elderly fisherman Tadao (Tatsuya Nakadai) and his granddaughter Haru (Eri Tokunaga) as they hit the hard roads of Northern japan, providing uniquely penetrating insight into Japanese culture through universal themes of acceptance, resilience, and familial commitment. Called “Sublimely human” by Hot Splice and a “richly rewarding odd-couple road movie” by Film Business Asia.

Heaven’s Story [Hebunzu Sutori]
Sunday, July 10 at 2:45 pm
North American Premiere, Co-Presented with the New York Asian Film Festival
2010, 278 min., BR, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takahisa Zeze. With Kana Honda, Tomoharu Hasegawa, Shugo Oshinari, Moeki Tsuruoka, and Hako Yamasaki.
Monumental and strange, passionate and philosophical, this is an epic in every sense of the word. Former “King of Pink” Takahisa Zeze spent almost two years shooting this 4-hour revenge movie. Eight-year-old Sato, whose family was wiped out by a psychopath who then went on to kill himself, learns of a man who has sworn to take revenge on the murderer of his wife and daughter. For eight long years she waits in vain for him to keep his promise before taking the initiative herself and setting in motion a chain of tragic events. Winner of the FIPRESCI and Netpac prizes in the Forum section of the 2011 Berlin Film Festival. “Wearing its four-hours-and-38-minutes length like a badge of pride, Heaven’s Story is an epic, multi-character mixture of murder, obsessiveness and redemption that only the Japanese are able to pull off,” says Film Business Asia.

Into the White Night [Byakuyakou]
Friday, July 22 at 7 pm
International Premiere, Followed by an offsite Closing Night Party (TBA)
2010, 149 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa. With Maki Horikita and Kengo Kora.
A Dickensian murder mystery drama about the deadly, worldly ambition of a detached, ice-cold beauty, with a “Twin Peaks” edge and a Balzacian panorama of Japanese society from slums to salons that spans two decades, Into the White Night is the latest adaptation of top mystery novelist Keigo Higashino’s novel (a highly regarded 11-episode TBS TV drama from 2006, and a slick 2009 South Korean movie by Park Shin-woo, with Son Ye-jin, Go Su and Han Seok-gyu). A pawn shop owner in Osaka is murdered, but due to a lack of conclusive evidence the police lists the man’s death as a suicide. Detective Sasagaki, who investigated the case, suspects that behind the innocent eyes of the main suspect’s daughter, Yukiho (Maki Horikita), and the pawn shop owner’s son Ryouji, lies a very dark secret.

The Knot [Musubime]
Sunday, July 17 at 2 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 91 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yuichi Onuma. With Mukku Akazawa, Junichi Kawamoto, and So Hirosawa.
With The Knot, director Yuichi Onuma creates a hothouse chamber drama of sexual intrigue. Asako (Mukku Akazawa), frustrated and trapped in an uneventful and dull marriage, spends her days running errands for her husband and taking care of his father (Ueda Kouichi), who suffers from old-age dementia and general bad, bizarre behavior, which involves punching her in the face capriciously. Her past catches up with her when she is sent to drop off her husband’s laundry only to realize that the owner is her former teacher and lover. This unexpected meeting shatters her tranquil lifestyle as long suppressed emotions and memories come to the fore.

The Last Ronin [Saigo no Chuushingura]
Tuesday, July 12 at 9 pm
East Coast Premiere
2010, 133 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shigemichi Sugita. With Koji Yakusho, Koichi Sato, Nanami Sakuraba, Nizaemon Kataoka, Narumi Yasuda, Koji Yamamoto, Yoshi Oida, Jun Fubuki, Kunie Tanaka, Masato Ibu.
The latest update on the most popular samurai story of all time (that is, until Keanu Reeves’ Warner blockbuster in the works). Sixteen years after 47 ronin (masterless samurai) made history by avenging their lord’s death in a heroic raid and then committing ritual suicide, the sole survivor of the tragedy, Kichiemon Terasaka (Koichi Sato) travels the land on a mission to find the families of the fallen warriors. He unexpectedly comes across his close, long-time friend Magozaemon Senoo (Koji Yakusho) who ran away the day before the ronin uprising, betraying his comrades. Disguised as a merchant, he lives deep in a forest, protecting a secret so grave he even draws his sword against his old comrade, Terasaka Kichiemon.

A Liar and a Broken Girl[Usotsuki Mi-kun to Kowareta Ma-chan]
Saturday, July 16 at 7:15 pm
International Premiere, Introduction and Q&A with Director Natsuki Seta.
2011, 110 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Natsuki Seta. With Aya Omasa, Shota Sometani, and Masaki Miura.
A couple of children go missing while a serial killer with a thing for stabbing young women is on the loose. The kidnapper? An impossibly pretty and quirky highschooler named Ma-chan (Aya Omasa). The killer? Her childhood friend, compulsive liar Mi-kun (Shota Sometani). Or maybe not. Pop teen romance, child sequestration, and vicious torture ensue in Natsuki Seta’s twisted beyond-cute-and-evil love story, driven by rock-strong performances by the young (and rather good-looking) lads/leads. The Hollywood Reporter called it“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder made cute.”

Love Addiction[Fuyu no Kemono]
Saturday, July 16 at 2:30 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 92 min., DigiBeta, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Nobuteru Uchida. With Megumi Kato, Momoko Maeda, Hiroyuki Sato, and Kosuke Takagi.
With an onslaught of raw emotional realism, two couples who work in the same company and spend their time off sleeping with each other clash, crash and burn. As minimalist as a Donald Judd’s art and as surgical as Roland Barthes’ Fragments of a Lover’s Discourse, Uchida’s film explores the vagaries and urgency of desire and the fracturing of friendships that result from the wanderings of the amorous subjects. Winner Grand Prize, 2010 Tokyo FILMeX Competition.

Love and Treachery [Furin Junai]
Saturday, July 16 at 10:30 pm
International Premiere
2011, 95 min., DigiBeta, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hitoshi Yazaki. With Yoko Kamon, Kanji Tsuda, Yuko Nakamura, and Ryunosuke Kawai.
Kyosuke (Kanji Tsuda) has a fulfilling job and a beautiful wife—seemingly a perfect life. One day, he meets the sultry lover and muse of an up‐and‐coming novelist. Erotic chic redefined and his 15-year marriage is thrown to the wind, as clothes come off and the drama begins.

Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano [Namae no nai Onnatachi]
Friday, July 8 at 7 pm
North American Premiere, Co-Presented with NYAFF
2010, 105 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hisayasu Sato. With Norie Yasui, Mayu Sakuma, Hirofumi Arai, Makiko Watanabe, Minoru Torihada, Ryunosuke Kawai, Ini Kusano, Aya Kiguchi, and Natsumi Kamata.
A lonely, nerdy office worker moonlighting as a porn actress finds her two lives increasingly intertwined, verging towards a breakdown.

Milocrorze: A Love Story [Mirokuroze]
Sunday, July 10 at 8 pm
North American Premiere, Co-Presented with NYAFF, Introduction and Q&A with Yoshimasa Ishibashi
2011, 90 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshimasa Ishibashi. With Takayuki Yamada and Maiko.
A he-man woman-hater relationship therapist, a smitten one-eyed samurai, and a storybook man-child deal with masculine romantic angst. Thirteen Assassins’ Takayuki Yamada stars as all three guys in artist and designer Ishibashi’s solid slab of irreverent pop n’ punk psychedelia. Screen Daily says it’s “Almost impossible to define – it has samurai fights, oddball fantasies and retro musical dance scenes.”

A Night in Nude: Salvation [Nu-do no Yoru, Ai wo Oshiminaku Ubau]
Sunday, July 17 at 9 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 127 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with live English subtitles.Directed by Takashi Ishii. With Harumi Inoue, Machiko Kochi, Hiroko Sato, Jo Shishido, Naoto Takenaka, Shinobu Otake, Kanji Tsuda, and Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi.
Jiro, a man who can do anything for a price, doesn’t suspect that the discovery of a beautiful woman’s Rolex in a heap of rotten carnage will lead to a sordid case filled with serial sex, violence, and peril. The neo-noir film of the year–grand guignol, psychotronic, and existential to the point of hysteria—has been called “one of the best films of the year” (Toronto J-Film Pow Wow) and “a wild, if somewhat head-scratching ride” (EL Magazine).

Ninja Kids!!! [Nintama Rantarou]
Saturday, July 9 at 6 pm
World Premiere, Co-Presented with the NYAFF
2011, 100 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Takashi Miike. With Seishiro Kato, Shido Nakamura, Susumu Terajima and Hiroki Matsukata
Based on the popular newspaper comic Ninja Rantaro Flunks Again by Sobei Amako and the TV anime series of the same name comes a live action film directed by Takashi Miike, who has impressed critics with 13 Assassins and his 3D remake of Hara Kiri that just played Cannes. He pulls all the stops in this new kid’s flick about a feuding ninja school, returning to form with the vivid insanity he’s known for.

Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure [Akai sabakuyo utsukushiku]
Thursday, July 7 at 6:45 pm; Sunday, July 10 at 12:30 pm
North American Premiere, Co-Presented with NYAFF
2011, 111 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kozo Morishita. With the voices of Sayuri Yoshinaga, Masato Sakai, Kiyokazu Kanze, Hidetaka Yoshioka.
Japan Cuts 2011 opens with the much-anticipated animated epic based on Osamu Tezuka’s landmark bio of the Buddha. This spectacular, philosophical drama of life is told through the eyes of Siddhartha, who becomes the Buddha.

Rail Truck [Torokko]
Thursday, July 14 at 6:30 pm
U.S. Premiere
2010, 116 min., 35 mm., in Japanese, Mandarin, and Min Nan with English subtitles. Directed by Hirofumi Kawaguchi. With Machiko Ono, Kento Harada, Mei Fang, Liu Hong, and Kyoichi Omae.
Based on the Ryunosuke Akutagawa 1922 short story, Kawaguchi’s film moves the original early 20th century Izu Peninsula to present-day Taiwan. Yumiko (Machiko Ono), who married against her parents’ wishes, has struggled on in stubborn determination since her husband’s death, moving her family from their Tokyo home to the verdant, rural Taiwan village of her in-laws. Her son Atsushi, strongly conscious that in ethnocentric Japan he is ‘different’, rebels against both the society in which he has grown up and his mother. In their new home the family rediscovers the bonds that unite it. “The viewer will be drawn into the screen by Taiwan’s vibrancy and elegant beauty,” said Time Out Tokyo. Winner of the 2010 (7th) Hong Kong Film Festival New Talent Award.

Rinco’s Restaurant [Shokudo Katatsumuri]
Wednesday, July 13 at 6:30 pm
U.S. Premiere
2010, 118 min.35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Mai Tominaga. With Kou Shibasaki, Kimiko Yo, Kyoko Enami.
Like a Grimm’s fairytale on LSD, with magical morsels of mouth-watering food in the mix. Female director Mai Tominaga’s second feature tells the story of a young woman (Kou Shibasaki) who loses her voice after a bad break-up with her rakish Indian boyfriend. Her process of healing involves returning to her hometown, where she reacquaints herself with a free-spirited mother who cohabits with a cute, talking pig. Inspired and armed with her grandma’s secret recipe, she opens a very special restaurant. Twitch calls it “an excellent film, which deserves an appreciative and caring audience.”

Ringing in their Ears [Gekijouban Shinsei kamatte chan Rokkun roru wa nariyamanai]
Thursday, July 7 at 9 pm
International Premiere, Co-Presented with NYAFF
2011, 89 min., HD Cam, in English with Japanese subtitles.Directed by Yu Irie. With Fumi Nikaido, Kurumi Morishita, Shinsei Kamattechan.
Yu Irie (8000 MILES 1 & 2) returns with this ambitious film about the upcoming concert of a reclusive rock group and the managers, obsessed fans, shut-ins, single moms and kindergarten teachers who are affected by it. A true tribute to the healing power of rock.

The Seaside Motel [Shisaido Moteru]Saturday, July 16 at 4:30 pm
North American Premiere, Introduction and Q&A with Director Kentaro Moriya
2010, 103 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kentaro Moriya. With Toma Ikuta, Kumiko Aso, Takayuki Yamada, Tetsuji Tamayama, Riko Narumi, Arata Furuta.
This hyper-colorful ensemble comedy will bring back sweet memories of Katsuhito Ishii (Party 7, Taste of Tea) and Gen Sekiguchi (Survive Style 5+),
The titular seaside motel, incidentally surrounded by mountains with no water in sight, hosts an odd group of guests: a salesman who deals bogus cosmetics (Toma Ikuta) and a call girl (Kumiko Aso); a businessman with erectile dysfunction (Furuta Arata) and his bored wife; an indebted gambler (Takayuki Yamada), his girlfriend (Riko Narumi), and his debt collector (Tetsuji Tamayama). Strangers with their own bizarre problems staying in different rooms, their paths intertwine into an unsolvable knot on an eventful night.

Sketches of Kaitan City[Kaitanshi Jokei]
Tuesday, July 19 at 6:30 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 152 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri. With Kaho Minami, Kaoru Kobayashi, Masaki Miura, Mitsuki Tanimura, Pistol Takehara, Ryo Kase, and Takashi Yamanaka.
Bleak is beautiful in Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s humanist masterpiece. Set in the fictional shipbuilding town of Kaitan, modeled after Hakodate, the film is based on an unfinished posthumous book by Yasushi Sato, who once drew comparisons to Haruki Murakami. In five parables of working-class struggle and quiet, existential, economic despair, Kumakiri delineates unfeasibly realistic and dramatic sad-scapes that sometimes seem not so much photographed as cast in iron. Winner Grand Prize Lina Brocka Award at the 12th Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Strangers in the City [Yukizuri no Machi]
Sunday, July 17 at 6:15 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 123 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Junji Sakamoto. With Toru Nakamura, Manami Konishi, Nao Minamisawa, Shun Sugata, Yosuke Kubozuka.
Action film journeyman Junji Sakamoto’s noir/mystery thriller is a story of disgrace and redemption. Hatano (Toru Nakamura), a former high-school teacher, has been fired from his school because of his scandalous marriage and divorce with Masako (Manami Konishi), one of his students. He lands a job teaching in a cram school in his hometown, from which a female student disappears. He traces her steps back to Tokyo and discovers his former school is somehow involved with the girl’s disappearance. Reunited with the ex-child-bride-now-hostess-girl after 12 years, Hatano faces ruthless gangsters and his own demons while trying to rescue the runaway student from Tokyo’s decadence. “As complex as The Big Sleep and Chinatown rolled into one”—Variety.

Sword of Desperation [Hisshiken torisashi]Tuesday, July 12 at 6:30 pm
New York Premiere
2010, 114 min., 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hideyuki Hirayama. With Etsushi Toyokawa, Chizuru Ikewaki, Koji Kikkawa, Naho Toda, Jun Murakami, Megumi Seki, Fumiyo Kohinata, and Ittoku Kishibe.
A starkly sumptuous and brutal tale of bushido (the way of the warrior), samurai Sanzaemon abruptly kills his lord Ukyo’s favored concubine, wishing to end her destructive influence. Sentencing the samurai to a mere year of house arrest, Ukyo bides his time, waiting for revenge, and Sanzaemon must ultimately fight for his life and honor.SBS (Australia) called it an “exquisite, resonant drama.”

Three☆Points [Suri pointo]Friday, July 15 at 8:30 pm
International Premiere, Introduction and Q&A with Masashi Yamamoto and Sora Aoi + After Party
2011, 117 min., B.R., in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Masashi Yamamoto. With Jun Murakami, Sora Aoi, Daichi Watanabe, Shinji Aoyama.
Arch-icon of Japanese independent cinema Masashi Yamamoto (Robinson’s Garden, Carnival of the Night) returns with a film that stars Jun Murakami and superstar Aoi Sora. Three☆Points takes a cold, hard look at the rough edges of Japanese society in three locales: Kyoto, and its scene of rough-and-tumble semi-bohemian, down-and-out rappers; Okinawa, where crab-hunting and hanging out with American GIs give a glimpse of Okinawans just getting by; and Tokyo, where a girl named Saki falls into a strange and slightly terrifying relationship with a random Tokyo drifter (Murakami) who saves her from a street gang.

Toilet [Toiretto]
Friday, July 15 at 6:15 pm
U.S. Premiere
2010, 109 min., HD Cam, in English. Directed by Naoko Ogigami. With Masako Motai, Alex House, David Lendl, and Tatiana Mazurani.
When their beloved mother dies, the Courtneys (Ray, Maurie, Lisa) feud and fret over how to dispose of her legacy: a cat, the family house and Baa-chan (Grandma), who doesn’t speak a word of English, or anything else, and haunts the toilet every morning like a ghost with a grudge.

Torso [Toruso]Sunday, July 17 at 4 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 103 min. 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yutaka Yamazaki. With Makiko Watanabe, Sakura Ando, Sola Aoi, Arata, Renjo Ishibashi, Miyako Yamaguchi.
The latest pump-up of the blow-up doll subgenre (Lars and the Real Girl, Air Doll) comes as a bit of a discreet boom. The directing debut of Yutaka Yamazaki (Hirokazu Kore-eda’s director of photography), Torso, as the title suggests, features the anatomically correct male plastic trunk that provides a measure of comfort and pleasure, soothing the urban solitude of an otherwise normal Tokyo woman. Hot Splice called it “a taught and forgiving drama that makes loving an armless, headless, legless torso make sense.”

Vengeance Can Wait [Ranbou to Taiki]Thursday, July 21 at 7 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 97 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Masanori Tominaga. With Asano Tadanobu, Minami, Koike Eiko, and Yamada Takayuki.
Hidenori and Nanase pretend to be brother and sister and live together in a small room with a bunk bed. Nanase’s former classmate, Azusa, has long held a deep grudge against her. When Azusa moves into the neighborhood the strange relationship between “brother and sister” soon gets exposed in this delightfully weird tale of suppressed sexual desire.Film Business Asia noted, “beautifully cast — from indie megastar Asano Tadanobu down to actress/bikini model Minami”.

Wandering Home [Yoigasametara, Uchi ni Kaerou]Thursday, July 21 at 9 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 118 min., 35 mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoichi Higashi. With Tadanobu Asano, Hiromi Nagasaku, Yoshiko Kayama, Masako Takada, and Mikako Ichikawa.
A practical, uncomplaining meditation on the destructive nature of alcoholism and the despair that goes with it, resigned to the strange comedy of its plight and yet retaining grip and grace. Once a great wartime photographer, Yasuyuki now spends his days indulging in alcohol binges, exhausting himself with a cycle of drunken violence and illness. His latest binge lands him in the hospital once more, bringing about the return of his caring ex-wife, Yuki, who divorced him due to the abuse she received from his drunken spells. A film driven by powerful performances and the pulse of life, even in its proximity to death.

Yakuza Weapon [Gokudou Heiki]
Saturday, July 9 at 8:15pm
U.S. Premiere, Co-Presented with NYAFF; Introduction and Q&A with Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi + After Party
2011, 106 min., HD Cam, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi. With Tak Sakaguchi, Jun Murakami, Mei Kurokawa, Shingo Tsurumi, Akaji Maro, Takashi Nishina, Akihiko Sai, Arata Yamanaka, Ayano Washizu, Jhonmyon Pe, Cay Izumi.
After four years overseas, Shozo returns to Japan to avenge his yakuza boss who was assassinated by his own treacherous top man, Kurawaki. The resulting battle leaves both men severely injured, and Shozo awakens in a mysterious medical facility to find his arm replaced with an M61 Vulcan cannon and his leg replaced with a rocket launcher. Meanwhile, Kurawaki has been fitted with mechanical augmentations of his own, ready for round two.

Yuki and Nina
Thursday, July 14 at 9 pm
North American Premiere
2010, 92 min., 35 mm, in French and Japanese, with English subtitles. Directed by Nobuhiro Suwa and Hippolyte Girardot. With Noe Sampy, Arielle Moutel, Tsuyu, Hippolyte Giradot, Marilyne Canto.
When Yuki finds out that her parents are separating and she is moving to Japan with her mother, she and her best friend, Nina, devise ways to reunite the feuding adults. Charmingly melancholy, this semi-improvised family drama follows one nine-year-old’s struggle with growing up.
Sora Aoi (actress, Three☆Points) – With roots in the AV industry, Aoi is an international celebrity who has moved progressively from porn stardom, to pinku eiga, television dramas, and finally to the spotlight of mainstream entertainment. More recently she has accrued fans for a different talent as multitudes in China adore her for her pop songs. In 2010 she appeared as a zombie-slaying stripper in Big Tits Zombie. Her role in Three☆Points marks a move toward more dramatic films.

Yoshimasa Ishibashi (director, Milocrorze) – Director of the unconventional comedy series Oh Mickey!, Kyoto native Ishibashi’s Milocrorze is no exception to his avant-garde and eccentric vision.

Masahiro Kobayashi (director and writer, Haru’s Journey) – Kobayashi is an acclaimed figure in the film festival circuit and was nominated for a Palm d’Or at Cannes for his 2005 film Bashing. In his latest film Haru’s Journey, Kobayashi gives an “insider’s look at Japanese culture through its themes of acceptance, endurance and familial commitment.”

Naoko Kobayashi (producer of Haru’s Journey) – Naoko Kobayashi has a history of producing films that Masahiro Kobayashi, her husband, helms. Haru’s Journey is their fourth collaboration.

Kentaro Moriya (director, The Seaside Motel) – Beginning his career in music videos, Moriya brings all the style and flash of that fast-paced world to his films. The Seaside Motel is his sophomore effort full of his signature flair.

Tak Sakaguchi (director and star, Yakuza Weapon) – Actor, director, martial artist and stuntman, Sakaguchi was an underground street fighter renowned for his martial art skills before he was discovered by director Ryuhei Kitamura. Since then, Sakaguchi has appeared in a number of high action and gore films, including Tokyo Gore Police, and has started directing.

Natsuki Seta (director, A Liar and a Broken Girl) – Writer-director Seta makes her debut on the film scene with A Liar and a Broken Girl, an audacious combination of teen romance and serial killer horror.

Yudai Yamaguchi (co-director and writer, Yakuza Weapon) – Yamaguchi has made a name for himself directing and writing films that combine comedy, gory horror, and a splash of utter weirdness. He made his directorial debut with Battlefield Baseball, which starred Tak Sakaguchi.

Masashi Yamamoto (director, Three☆Points) – Yamamoto first debuted Carnival in the Night (1983) at the Berlin Film Festival and later gained attention for his Robinson’s Garden (1987). His Junk Food (1999), which was screened in the United States during his research fellowship New York City, has since broadened his Japanese and Western audiences.

Since its launch in 2007, Japan Society’s Japan Cuts festival has attracted over 20,000 filmgoers and presented over 80 feature films, many never-before seen in the U.S., not including 2011. The first annual JAPAN CUTS was one of the most successful single events in the Society’s 2007-08 centennial celebration. Noted for its “rich and varied selection of recent Japanese films” (David Kehr, The New York Times), JAPAN CUTS has premiered several films that have gone on to garner international acclaim, including: About Her Brother, Confessions, Death Note, Fish Story, Kamome Diner, Love Exposure, The Mourning Forest, Sawako Decides, Sukiyaki Western Django, Sway, United Red Army, Vacation, and Yasukuni. Every year JAPAN CUTS features a number of panels, post-screening parties, and exclusive Q&As with filmmakers and actors. Past festivals have included appearances by Tatsuya Fujiwara, Shusuke Kaneko, Naomi Kawase, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Miwa Nishikawa, Naoko Ogigami, Sion Sono, Tomorowo Taguchi, Gen Takahashi, Toshiaki Toyoda, Koji Wakamatsu, Hitoshi Yazaki, and Isao Yukisada.

Subway Cinema presents the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), North America’s leading festival of popular Asian cinema. Running from July 1-14 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater and Japan Society, and presenting over 40 films in total, NYAFF unleashes the latest and greatest pop masterpieces of Asian cinema. More at

The Japan Society Film Program offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society’s arts & culture programs. The Film Program has included retrospectives of great directors, thematic series and many U.S. premieres. Some original film series curated by the Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. For more, visit

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a world-class, multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and V subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit

From July 7 to July 10, JAPAN CUTS is co-presented with the New York Asian Film Festival. This series is funded by a grant from The Japan Foundation. Additional support is provided by UNIQLO USA and Sapporo USA, Inc. Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines. Media sponsorship is provided by WNYC. Japan Society’s 2011-12 Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by The Globus Family, David S. Howe, Omar Al-Farisi, Jeffrey Catanzaro, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Randall I. Stempler, and the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State’s 62 counties. Japan Society’s new projection screen was made possible by The Globus Family and Kenneth A. Cowin.

Thursday, July 7
6:45 – Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure
9:00 – Ringing in their Ears

Friday, July 8
7:00 – Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano
9:15 – Battle Royale

Saturday, July 9
12:30 – Gantz: The Movie, Part 1
3:00 – Gantz, Part II: Perfect Answer
6:00 – Ninja Kids!!!
8:15 – Yakuza Weapon + Q&A + After Party!

Sunday, July 10
12:30 – Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure
2:45 – Heaven’s Story
8:00 – Milocrorze: A Love Story + Q&A with dir. Yoshimasa Ishibashi

Tuesday, July 12
6:30 – Sword of Desperation
9:00 – The Last Ronin

Wednesday, July 13
6:30 – Rinco’s Restaurant
9:00 – Birthright (a.k.a. Umbilical Cord)

Thursday, July 14
6:30 – Rail Truck
9:00 – Yuki and Nina

Friday, July 15
6:15 – Toilet
8:30 – Three☆Points + Q&A with dir. Masashi Yamamoto and actress Sora Aoi + After Party!

Saturday, July 16
2:30 – Love Addiction
4:30 – The Seaside Motel + Q&A with dir. Kentaro Moriya
7:15 – A Liar and a Broken Girl + Q&A with dir. Natsuki Seta
10:30 – Love and Treachery

Sunday, July 17
2:00 – The Knot
4:00 – Torso
6:15 – Strangers in the City
9:00 – A Night in Nude: Salvation

Tuesday, July 19
6:30 – Sketches of Kaitan City
9:30 – Control Tower

Wednesday, July 20
7:00 – Haru’s Journey + Q&A with dir. Masahiro Kobayashi + Reception

Thursday, July 21
7:00 – Vengeance Can Wait
9:00 – Wandering Home

Friday, July 22
7:00 – Into the White Night + Closing Party

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Philip Glass, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto in Japan Society’s Concert for Japan on 4/9 in NYC
Japan Society’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund
Japan Society Features 24 Titles for 4th Annual Summer Fest of New Films from Japan, 7/1-16, 2010
2009 JAPAN CUTS Festival of New Japanese Film
Photos:Alexander McQueen:Savage Beauty Extends at Met through 8/7, Met Mondays w/ McQueen begin 6/6
Photos: Christmas in June w/ Samrat Chakrabarti and Sanjiv Jhaveri’s “Bakwas Bumbug” at The Wild Project in NY-6/26
Photos: André De Shields leads the cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, 8/2-8/4
Photos: “How To Succeed” stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rose Hemingway & John Larroquette at Lord & Taylor Fifth Ave
My portrait of “New York actor Thom Sesma’s Makeup Transformation into Scar in The Lion King” on view in HHC’s New York City: IN FOCUS, Vol. 2- 7/14
Photos: Phylicia Rashad, Michael McElroy, Marva Hicks in Broadway Inspirational Voices “Wondrous Grace” Concert in NY
Photos: Playwright David Henry Hwang in rehearsal at the Goodman Theatre for World Premiere of Chinglish
Photos: David Duchovny, John Earl Jelks, Amanda Peet, Tracee Chimo
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden. Lia currently plays Nurse Lia on “One Life to Live”. She has appeared in Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and “New York Undercover”.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are now in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2011 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at


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