Before the screening of the first movie, A Tale of Samurai Cooking, the attendees were treated with a few canapé and a degustation of sake. There was a presentation by the a staff member of the Japanese consulate in Montreal, followed by allocutions of the Cinémathèque general director, Marcel Jean, and the Consul General in Montreal, Hideaki KURAMITSU.
“Haru has an excellent sense of taste and unsurpassed skill in the kitchen, but her impetuous character leads to her husband asking for a divorce after only a year of marriage. One day, she is approached by Dennai Funaki, a samurai chef from Kaga, to marry his son and heir, Yasunobu.”
“Serving the Lord of Kaga not with the sword, but with the kitchen knife, the Funaki family has been known as “Kitchen Samurai” for generations. However, Yasunobu’s lack of culinary skills has placed the Funaki name in peril. To save her new family and its status as “Kitchen Samurai”, Haru decides to teach her new husband the refined art of Kaga cuisine from her point of view. Inspired by a true story.”
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.
Haru is a maid for Lady Otei. She is now orphaned but she grew up in her parents’ restaurant and is an excellent cook. The Lady Otei arranged her marriage but her spirited and rebellious character displeased the husband and she was sent back. During a banquet she succeeds to identify all the ingredients in a mystery dish, thus impressing the Maeda family head’s Master chef, Funaki Den’nai. So much that he asked her to marry his second son, Yasunobu. His first son was supposed to take over his position of Master samurai chef but he died of a disease and now the responsibility fall on Yasunobu who would rather practice fencing than cuisine in order to be a “real” samurai. The father hopes that Haru could helps Yasunobu become more passionate toward his new job and improve his skills. She refuses at first, but with the Master Chef insistance she finally accepts the challenge and eventually finds her way into the samurai heart.
It is primarily a romantic story and the dramatic tone is provided by a backdrop of political power plays inside the Kaga clan. It’s a little complex to detail but, in a nutshell, a high-ranking (and powerful) Kaga samurai, Denzo Otsuki (the lover of Lady Otei), wanted to do fiscal reforms, but is opposed by a faction in the clan who put him under arrest. In revenge, his supporters (including Sadanoshin Imai, Yasunobu’s fencing instructor and friend) attempt to kill the Lord. There was also a power play between the Maeda family (head of the Kaga clan, in Kanazawa, Ishiwaka prefecture) and the Tokugawa clan (both being the top two richest clans). Those events (the so-called “Kaga Disturbance“) and characters are historical — even the Master chef, Funaki Den’nai, who wrote books about Kaga’s cuisine. Strangely, the Japanese political situation was not dissimilar to Louis XIV court, where the king was trying to keep the nobility busy at court with banquets and inner struggles in order to prevent them plotting against him.
Japanese drama often have a strong comedic undertone (which can annoy western audience who is not used to such a mix). In this case, the comedic aspect is more subdued. The whole set up of banquets and qualifying cooking competitions for a prominent position on the domain’s kitchen reminded me of the Japanese TV cooking show Iron Chef. And, surprise!, the family head, Naomi Maeda — who is never seen before the end, is played by none other than the Iron Chef‘s show host Takeshi Kaga! Coincidence? I don’t think so.
A funny anecdote: a friend of my wife, who’s not used to Japanese movies and culture, found the samurai’s hairdo rather ugly. It made me realized that I was so used to it that I never wondered why samurai wore such a strange hairdo. This traditional topknot style was called Chonmage and was not only the symbol of the samurai status (hence cutting the hair in defeat or disgrace) but was also used “to hold a samurai helmet steady atop the head in battle”. Fascinating!
A Tale of Samurai Cooking is an interesting jidai-geki movie that is somewhat similar to Abacus & Sword, where the protagonist is a samurai accountant. It teaches us about Japanese history (Edo period) and shows us plenty of beautiful landscapes and local dishes while entertaining us with a very good love story. It’s worth watching but, unfortunately, it is not available in DVD here (although there’s a R2 Dvd with english subtitles).
A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story (武士の献立 / Bushi no kondate / lit. “Warrior’s Menu”). Japan, 2013, 121 min.; Dir.: Yûzô Asahara; Ass. Dir.: Masanori Inoue; Scr.: Michio Kashiwada, Yukiko Yamamuro, Yuzo Asahara (based on the novel by Naoki Oishi); Phot.: Yukihiro Okimura; Music: Tarô Iwashiro; Prod.: Yoshio Ishizuka, Hideaki Miyoshi; Cast: Aya UETO, Kengo KÔRA, Kimiko YO, Toshiyuki NISHIDA, Riko Narumi, Tasuku Emoto, Kenta Hamano, Hana Ebise, Ayane Ômori, Toshiki Ayata.
“A heartwarming drama based on Miri Masuda’s comic strip series, Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship offers a warm and tender depiction of the lives of three women, former colleagues whose friendship has endured over the course of 10 years. Now in their thirties, the three friends each harbor anxieties about their future, their professional paths, their love lives, and their family ties.”
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.
This movie is based on a joseiyonkoma (4-panel comic strip aimed at an adult female readership) by Miri Masuda. This style of comic is very popular in Japan. Sū-chan “follows the daily lives of women who deal with their anxieties regarding love and work”. It is published by Gentosha and “has sold over 280,000 copies” (up to March 2013). Four volumes have been released between April 2006 and November 2012 (the first volume came out in paperback in August 2009; a preview of the first six pages is available online — opposite: pp. 4-5). (Sources: ANN, Wikipedia Ja)
The movie adaptation, titled Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship, is a typical Japanese feel-good movie. However, despite the light tone, it seriously tackles the anxieties of Japanese single women. It tells the story of three women in their thirties who find themselves questioning their life situation and how they more or less succeed to find happiness.
Yoshiko Morimoto, nicknamed Sue-chan, is 34-year-old and works in a coffee shop where she can put to use her talent for cooking. She has feeling for the manager, but her hesitation prompts a younger, more aggressive colleague to secure his love before she can do anything. However, the owner ends up offering her the manager position. She’s insecure at first and makes mistake, but she slowly grows into the responsibility. She has good wisdom and is a great help to confort and give advise to her friends.
Maiko Okamura, nicknamed Mai-chan, is a 34-year-old office lady working in the sales department of an OA manufacturing company. She is stressed by the pressure at work and frustrated with the fact that her affair with a married man is going nowhere. When her dermatologist suggests that she should give up on some of her life’s problems, she decides to dump her boyfriend and registers with a marriage agency. One year later, she is married and pregnant. However, she worries that motherhood would change her, but finally learns to say goodbye to the woman she was and accepts whom she has become.
Sawako Hayashi, nicknamed Sawa-san, is a 39-year-old web designer. She helps her mother take care of the grandmother who’s bedridden and suffers from dementia. She worries that if she ever marry she would leave her mother to do the care-giving by herself. She meet by chance a former classmate and starts going out with him, but when he appears more concerned with having a descendance and requests a “fertility certificate”, she gets angry and dumps him. She comes to term with having to take care of her grandmother.
The movie feels a little like a sketch comedy in the beginning, but it quickly gets structured into a more uniform storytelling. It might have been intentional, in order to allude to the original 4-panel format which is, by definition, a series of short stories ending with a punch. Food is also a recurring theme in the movie (and a theme shared by all three movies screened at the festival this year) as the friends always gathered around a meal to discuss their problems. But since Ozu it seems that food and meals has been a frequent theme in Japanese movies.
All in all, Sue, Mai & Sawa is an interesting movie that provide some reflection about life and a good entertainment.
Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship (すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん / Sû chan Mai chan Sawako san). Japan, 2013, 106 min.; Dir.: Osamu Minorikawa; Scr.: Sachiko Tanaka (based on the 4-koma by Miri Masuda); Phot.: Gen Kobayashi; Prod.: Yoshitaka Takeda; Cast: Yôko Maki, Shinobu Terajima, Kou Shibasaki, Shota Sometani, Arata Iura, Hana Kino, Gin Pun Chou, Akiko Kazami, Megumi Sato, Mio Uema, Aoi Yoshikura, Ai Takabe.
Each fall, the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan are pleased to offer free screenings of Japanese films. The films are in Japanese with English subtitles. Limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis, with no reservations. This is the 33rd edition.
A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story (武士の献立 / Bushi no kondate). Japan, 2013, 121 min., drama, dir.: Yûzô Asahara, with Aya UETO, Kengo KÔRA, Kimiko YO, Toshiyuki NISHIDA. Read our comments on this movie.
Haru has an excellent sense of taste and unsurpassed skill in the kitchen, but her impetuous character leads to her husband asking for a divorce after only a year of marriage. One day, she is approached by Dennai Funaki, a samurai chef from Kaga, to marry his son and heir, Yasunobu.
Serving the Lord of Kaga not with the sword, but with the kitchen knife, the Funaki family has been known as “Kitchen Samurai” for generations. However, Yasunobu’s lack of culinary skills has placed the Funaki name in peril. To save her new family and its status as “Kitchen Samurai”, Haru decides to teach her new husband the refined art of Kaga cuisine from her point of view. Inspired by a true story. (Text from the Cinémathèque website)
Drops of Heaven (天のしずく / Ten no shizuku Tatsumi: Yoshiko inochi no sûpu). Japan, 2012, 113 min., documentary, dir.: Atsunori Kawamura, with Yoshiko Tatsumi.
A cooking guru serves wisdom, one soup at a time. In this heartwarming documentary, discover 88-year-old culinary artist Yoshiko Tatsumi and her “Soup of Life”, a soothing dish she ingeniously created for her bed-ridden father. As seasonal crops grow in the beautiful and delicate landscapes of Japan, Yoshiko Tatsumi brings out the best of ingredients, cooking with care to nurture love and joy. (Text from the Cinémathèque website)
Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship (すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん / Sû chan Mai chan Sawako san). Japan, 2013, 106 min., drama, dir.: Osamu Minorikawa, with Yôko Maki, Shinobu Terajima, Ko Shibasaki. Read our comments on this movie.
A heartwarming drama based on Miri Masuda’s comic strip series, Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship offers a warm and tender depiction of the lives of three women, former colleagues whose friendship has endured over the course of 10 years. Now in their thirties, the three friends each harbor anxieties about their future, their professional paths, their love lives, and their family ties. (Text from the Cinémathèque website)
The 45th Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC) will be held from 5 to 16 October and will offer 340 films (including 138 feature films and 170 short films) from 62 countries, including 43 world premieres. That will include nine Japanese movies. For more information: nouveaucinema.ca.
After the Storm (海よりもまだ深く / Umi Yorimo Mada Fukaku). Japan, 2016, 117 min.; Dir./Scr.: Hirokazu KOREEDA; Phot.: Yutaka Yamasaki; Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, Yoko Maki, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Sosuke Ikematsu, Lily Franky, Satomi Kobayashi, Isao Hashizume.
A typhoon is the catalyst for reuniting a family shattered by divorce. Hirokazu works with a huge palette of emotions. Continuing his unflinching dissection of Japanese family neuroses, Kore-Eda Hirokazu returns with a powerful ode to forgotten dreams. Supported by a rich, surprising cast of secondary characters, After the Storm is driven by a masterful performance by Hiroshi Abe, playing a jaded father, inveterate gambler and failed writer seeking redemption. Hirokazu’s tender, melancholy new film is a tribute to families torn asunder by divorce but who are still trying, against all odds, to stay afloat. (Text from the FNC website)
Schedule: Sun Oct. 9 13:00 at Cinema Imperial, Sun Oct. 16 17:00 at Cinéma du Parc 1.
This first French production by Kyoshi Kurosawa stars Tahar Rahim, Olivier Gourmet and Constance Rousseau. Stéphane is a widowed former fashion photographer with an obsession for Daguerreotypes. He lives in the suburbs with his daughter, Marie. Now she is his model, and their photo sessions keep getting longer and more challenging. Then a new assistant, Jean, arrives. This is the first film Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Kaïro, Tokyo Sonata) has made outside Japan. It is a toxic tale of love and death intertwined, shot in cinemascope. Starring Tahar Rahim, Olivier Gourmet and Constance Rousseau. (Text from the FNC website)
Schedule: Sat. Oct. 8 13:00 at Cinema Impérial, Wed. Oct. 12 13:00 at Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin 10.
The Sion Sono (園子温という生きもの / Jônetsu tairiku Presents Sono Shion to iu ikimono). Japan, 2016, 107 min.; Documentary, dir.: Arata OSHIMA; Phot.: Hidenori Takahashi; Ed.: Yoshihiro Ohkawa; Cast: Ellie, Megumi Kagurazaka, Fumi Nikaidou.
An amazing journey into the mind of the fiercest, most topical of the great directors. A privilege full of revelations. The universally admired Sion Sono (Whispering Star, Love Exposure, Guilty of Romance) is a cult-cinema auteur who remains something of a mystery. Here, he reveals himself at last. Painting, film, poetry, music, whether with his wife or his sister, The Sion Sono is an essential, long overdue guide to understanding the artist’s singular approach. Naturally, the film restores Sono to his rightful place at the heart of the fascinating history of modern Japanese cinema. Directed be the son of Nagisa Oshima. (Text from the FNC website).
Schedule: Sun. Oct. 9 15:00 at UQAM Pavillon Judith-Jasmin annexe (Salle Jean-Claude Lauzon), Sat. Oct. 15 19:00 at Cinéma du Parc 1
The Japanese director revisits family melodrama in this third feature. Toshio lives quietly in the suburbs with his wife and little girl. Yasaka, an old friend who’s just been released from prison, shows up at the man’s house and begs for work. As well as offering Yasaka a place to stay, Toshio welcomes his old friend into his small workshop, unaware that the ex-con is nursing an old, deep grudge. Kôji Fukada’s surprising and touching melodrama astonishes not only with its unpredictable, circuitous plot, but also with its powerful realism. (Text from the FNC website).
Schedule: Tue. Oct. 11 20:30 at Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin 10, Sat. Oct. 15 15:00 at Cinéma du Parc 1
Yamato (California). Japan/USA/Taiwan/Netherland, 2016, 119 min.; Dir./Scr.: Daisuke MIYAZAKI; Phot.: Akiko Ashizawa; Ed.: Ryoma Hirata; Cast: Nina Endo, Hanae Kan, Reiko Kataoka, Haruka Uchimura. World premiere. The director will be present to introduce his movie.
In Yamato, rap is a border, a bridge that connects two young women, while at the same time addressing the “American problem” in Japan. (Text from the FNC website).
We also recommend the following animated feature, even if it’s not Japanese:
La tortue rouge. France/Belgium, 2016, 80 min.; Dir. Michael Dudok de Wit. International competition.
Nearly ten years in the making, La tortue rouge is a touching animated tale, sublime in its naturalism. A shipwrecked man struggles to survive on a deserted tropical island teeming with turtles, crabs and birds. His attempts to build a raft are thwarted by a red tortoise. An award winner at Un Certain Regard, La tortue rouge is the first collaboration between Ghibli Studios and an outside artist, Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit. The break with tradition pays off: this is a uniquely beautiful and moving film. (Text from the FNC website).
Schedule: Sun. Oct. 9 13:00 at Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin 17, Mon. Oct. 10 19:00 at Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin 17
To complete our coverage of the festival, here is the video for the Red carpet arrival of director Yoshinari Nishikori, actors Naoki Kobayashi and Sho Aoyagi for the Japanese movie Tatara Samurai screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 29th, 2016:
Unfortunately, only two Japanese movies won an award this year: Tatara Samurai by Yoshinari Nishikori won “Best Artistic Contribution” and Ken-san by Yuichi Hibi won “Best Documentary” (ex-aequo with a Canadian film). Although, there’s almost always a Japanese film in the list of the winners, even if it’s often just a token price. That’s probably why Japanese producers keep presenting their films here and generally come with a big delegation. You can find on the festival website the complete list for the laureates of the 47th Student Film Festival and of the 40th Montreal World Film Festival competition.
If I look back I can say that this year’s festival really had a hard time. Almost everything was against it: stingy governmental agencies, ungrateful chain of theatres, sceptical employees, hostile media, and, to top it all, even a member of the jury dying in his hotel room just the day before the closing ceremony! It’s a miracle that it happened at all. However, despite all this and the chaos that ensued (which affected mostly the scheduling), they managed to keep showing movies (as long as there’s movies, there’s hope) and, all in all, it was a pretty good festival. The public was there. The movies were there . They met at the Cinéma Impérial (mostly, but also at a few other venues). A beautiful love story. The end? Beside this, why bother with all the media doomsday fuss?
After all, it was not that much more chaotic than the previous years (ok, I admit this time there was no press room, no film market with its screening booths, no “5 to 7” to bond & meet with people of the industry, no outdoor screenings, screenings were spread all over town and the schedule kept changing so I could see only FOUR of the twelve announced Japanese movies — but, I mean, beside that (which was an annoyance mostly for the press), it wasn’t that bad, isn’t it?). The good thing with this year situation is that, with only one screen, there wasn’t any schedule conflict anymore! Also, I might I’ve seen only four movies, but at least I saw something and I am happy with it.
However, I would reserved very harsh words (that I would rather not repeat here) for the various levels of government who let down the movie-loving public and, particularly, for the Cineplex Forum (hey! If you were to start showing movies in the end — presumably because you’ve reached an agreement with the festival or felt too ashamed that the Outremont and Park theatres were picking up screenings — why not have accepted from the start and save us all the trouble of the flip-flopping screening schedule! That behaviour is down-right insulting and you will not catch me anytime soon in a Cineplex theatre).
Through all this the press has been pretty harsh on Losique and his festival. All he wanted was to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his baby and they all pooped on his party. In the end, seeing it was rather a success, many rallied in the festival support but it might have been too little, too late. Nathalie Petrowski, of La Presse, was one of the few who covered the festival with a positive attitude from the start.
Amongst her comments, she offered an interesting speculation on the future of the festival: maybe the Chinese firm that donated the prize money for the awards would be interested in investing more in the festival or even buy it from Losique in order to keep promoting Chinese cinema in North America?
In another article, she quotes Pierre-Henri Deleau, who was in charge of programmation at the Cannes festival’s Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. He was happy to be in Montreal, watching so many good films: “What is amazing is that despite the disorganization, chaos, pips and all the disparaging about the festival, look at that line! People are coming despite everything. Nowhere in the world you will see that. And to think that the City of Montreal continues to pretend it does not exist.”
We are hopeful for the future since Serge Losique has announced at the Closing Ceremony that there WILL be a festival next year (from August 24 to September 4, 2017) and hinted that he was planning his succession. Let’s hope that the various levels of government will, this time, agree to support this iconic event just in time for the 375th anniversary of the city! But with or without subsidies, the public and the young movie-makers deserve a festival. All we need is the cinema aficionados to be there, a few screens, some beautiful movies and it will be love all over again!
Thanks to the organizers (those who stayed), volunteers, the selected film-makers who came to present their movies (and to Serge Losique) who all made this festival another interesting cinematic experience. See you next year, hopefully.
I couldn’t be there yesterday but I heard that the queue for the Japanese movie (A loving husband) was pretty long and that Willem Dafoe came back after his movie (My Hindu Friend, Brazil, dir.: Héctor Babenco) despite the late hour (midnight) for a thirty-minute Q&A. That guy has a lot of respect for his audience and fans!
Even if my wife is still hospitalized (don’t worry she’s doing better, they just kept her to perform some tests), I couldn’t miss the last Japanese movie to be shown at the festival (this year, hopefully). I didn’t regret it. It was a great comedy. I’ll tell you more about it later.
Good Morning show: The crew arriving in a horse carriage! Dir./Scr. Ryoichi Kimizuka, actress Mirai Shida, actor Kiichi Nakai and actress Masami Nagasawa
I lingered a little after the show to catch a glimpse of Isabelle Adjani that was coming to present her movie Carole Matthieu (France, Dir.: Louis-Julien Petit).
More pictures on my “FFM 2016” album on Flickr
Tomorrow (Monday) is the last day of the festival. As soon as I have the list of the lucky awards’ winners I’ll post my wrap up comments.
With all the schedule changes I wasted days off on days that had the screening I wanted to see cancelled so I couldn’t take more days off to watch the couple of movies that were shown at the Outremont Wednesday (Frozen Fireworks, Hold my Hand) and Friday (Tsukiji Wonderland, Ken-san). And my wife was hospitalized due to a sudden illness today so I couldn’t watch A loving husband… At least I managed to see three Japanese movies. Maybe one more tomorrow…
Sunday September 4, 17h30 (CI.04.5) COMP
Good Morning Show (グッドモーニングショー / Guddo Moningu Sho): Japan, 2016, 103 min.; Dir./Scr.: Ryoichi Kimizuka; Cast: Kiichi Nakai, Masami Nagasawa, Mirai Shida, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Kento Hayashi, Zen Kajiwara, Haruka Kinami, Shunsuke Daitô, Gaku Hamada, Yô Yoshida, Yutaka Matsushige, Saburô Tokitô. The morning variety show, a staple of television around the world, offers news and entertainment but TV host Shingo didn’t expect to be himself the source of the news and entertainment.
Two more theatres are showing FFM movies, so now all the movies selected and previously announced will be screened at least once: the Cineplex Forum (2313 St. Catherine St. West Suite 101 – Metro Atwater // Oh, you choose now to join the party, you moron) and the Cinema Dollar (6900 Décarie Square — Métro Namur). Unfortunately, the Cineplex Forum has shown Her love boils bathwater Saturday at 10h00 and I missed it.