March, Book 1: Civil Rights history in comics

“Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.” (…)

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.”

(Text from the publisher’s website; see also the back cover)

Congressman John Lewis wanted to be a preacher. He grew up on his parents’ farm in rural Alabama taking care of the family chickens (to whom he was practising preaching!). The story starts in his congressional office as he is preparing to go assist at Obama’s inauguration. A black lady comes into the office with her children to show them up a place where history was made. Instead they meet with the Congressman himself who takes this opportunity to tell them a little about himself and the history of the civil rights movement. With the help of his uncle Otis and Martin Luther King, Jr., to whom he wrote a letter, he succeed to go to college in Nashville. There, he contributed to the Student Movement and, inspired by Gandhi’s nonviolent protest, took many actions to fight against segregation.

The storytelling is excellent and the art is pretty good. It is a superb idea to bring back to life Congressman Lewis‘ memories, such as his actions of civil disobedience, for a new generation to understand what the civil rights movement was all about. It is very educational and it is probably even more relevant today than when it was first published (considering the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the fact that I discovered this book through a CNN report about President Trump insulting Congressman Lewis, saying he was “all talk and no action” !).

All in all, it’s a nice way to teach the history of an important moment of our Western Civilization, but also an excellent occasion to talk about good moral values. The life of great role models like Congressman Lewis need to be recorded for the posterity, but not only in history books or museums but also as part of our popular culture. It’s a good reading for the Black History Month and I cannot recommend it more strongly.

March: Book One, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Marietta GA: Top Shelf Productions, August 2013. 128 pg., Softcover, 6.5″ x 9.5″, 14.95 US / $19.99 Can. ISBN: 978-1-60309-300-2.

For more information you can check the following websites:


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S’enfuir – Récit d’un otage

“En 1997, alors qu’il est responsable d’une ONG médicale dans le Caucase, Christophe André a vu sa vie basculer du jour au lendemain après avoir été enlevé en pleine nuit et emmené, cagoule sur la tête, vers une destination inconnue. Guy Delisle l’a rencontré des années plus tard et a recueilli le récit de sa captivité – un enfer qui a duré 111 jours. Que peut-il se passer dans la tête d’un otage lorsque tout espoir de libération semble évanoui ? Un ouvrage déchirant, par l’auteur de Pyongyang, de Shenzhen, de Chroniques birmanes et de Chroniques de Jérusalem.” [ Texte du site de l’éditeur ]

“Être otage, c’est pire qu’être en prison. En prison, tu sais pourquoi tu es là et à quelle date tu vas sortir. Quand t’es otage, tu n’as même pas ce genre de repères. Tu n’as rien.” [ Texte de la couverture arrière ]

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A Tale of Samurai Cooking

“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)


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.

Film screened at the 33rd Japanese Film Festival of Montreal on October 27th, 2016 (Cinémathèque Québécoise, 19h00 – the small theatre was filled to the last seat). This free event is organized each year by the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

A Tale of Samurai Cooking © 2016 「A Tale of Samurai Cooking」movie. All Rights Reserved.

The trailer is avaialble on Youtube:


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Sue, Mai and Sawa

“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)


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 josei yonkoma (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.

Film screened at the 33rd Japanese Film Festival of Montreal on October 29th, 2016 (Cinémathèque Québécoise, 15h00 – the small theatre was full). This free event is organized each year by the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

Sue, Mai & Sawa © 2012 「Sue, Mai & Sawa」Production Committee.

The trailer is avaialble on Youtube:


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FFM 2016 wrap-up


Here we are concluding our coverage of the Festival des Films du Monde (FFM)

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.

Press reviews:

[ Traduire lamentablement ]

The Seal of the Sun

“On March 11, 2011, the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake struck.”

“On that day, Japan faced the dangers of a catastrophic event that threatened a large segment of the population. The Earthquake knocked out the electricity at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear plant located in Northeastern Japan. The emergency cooling system failed and the temperature inside the nuclear reactor kept climbing. A crisis equal to the Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster was looming.”

“The power plant metamorphosed into a gigantic and menacing monster. Scientists, surprised and shocked by the crisis which quickly expanded well beyond what they had predicted, made several erroneous judgements and decisions. The Prime Minister’s office was thrown into chaos with very little accurate information available to them.”

“Meanwhile, residents were hastily evacuated, forced to say good-bye to their homes. However, a time bomb was ticking without any credible solution to the crisis. Then, the catastrophe began with the explosion of the Unit 1 building. It then cascaded into explosions inside of the Unit 2 and 3 buildings. The countdown to the complete meltdown and total destruction continued and never stopped.”

(Text from production flyer)


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 is a docudrama about a very interesting subject: it recount, almost hour by hour, the Fukushima nuclear reactor incident that took place after the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake of March 2011. Unfortunately, what should have been an action movie had a pace way too slow to feel real. And the acting was more often than not exaggerated to the limit of parody. It was rather annoying and distracted from the story. A lot of emphasis was put on the emotion of the characters, probably in an attempt to make the viewers empathize more with their situation.

It’s a political movie set to tell the truth about the events in Fukushima, particularly the inaptitude of the government to handle the crisis and its failure to properly communicate with the company managing the damaged power plant in order to get the timely information that could have help them maker better decision. We see the events unfold from the point of view of a journalist, an assistant to the Prime Minister as well as his wife and child in Tokyo, a family of evacuees from Fukushima and their son working at the power plant.

In the presentation, the producer said (in a gibberish English) that they were proud to have used the real name of the politicians involved in the crisis (the Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his cabinet : mostly Chief Secretary Yukio Edano, his deputy Tetsuro Fukuyama, and Manabu Terata), apparently a premiere in Japan, and yet they have changed the name (at least in the subtitles) of TEPCO, the electrical company managing the power plant — possibly to avoid a lawsuit.

It’s a clearly (but quite clumsy) anti-nuclear advocacy that justly make the point that the Japanese have been made to believe by the corporate and political powers that Japan absolutely need nuclear power while there are plenty of alternatives. If TEPCO is the main culprit for having lied about the severity of the situation, and the government share this guilt for having failed to see through it and act accordingly, ultimately it is the Japanese people themselves who really are to blame for having allowed this policy to take place in the first place. Building nuclear power stations (over fifty of them!) in a country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis was shear madness. It was an accident waiting to happened. It should never have.

The photography is great but the script and editing are a little lacking. Action movies are like jokes: all is in the timing — or, in this case, the pacing. If it is quite an average movie, it is still an interesting subject and nevertheless an enjoyable entertainment.

The Seal of the Sun (太陽 の 蓋 / Taiyō no futa) : Japan, 2016, 130 min.; Dir.: Futoshi Sato; Scr.: Takashi Hasegawa; Phot.: Yukio Komiya; Ed.: Yukiko Kobayashi; Mus.: Micky Yoshino; Sound: Sinichi Yoshii; Prod. Des.: Hajime Oikawa; Prod.: Kaoru Ohtsuka; Exec. Prod.: Tamiyoshi Tachibana; Cast: Yukiya Kitamura, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Shima Ohnishi, Yuri Nakamura, Tomohiro Kaku, Kunihiko Mitamura, Daikichi Sugawara, Yu Kamio, Sota Aoyama, Kenji Anan.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 26th, 2016 (Cinema Imperial, 19h00 – the attendance was around 75 to 90 people) as part of the “Focus on the World Cinema” segment. The production team was present to introduce the screening.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

The Seal of the Sun © 2016 「Taiyō no futa」Project / Tachibana Tamiyoshi.

Video of the crew’s introduction of the screening on Vimeo

(Sorry I had camera problems so it’s not very good and incomplete)
[ Traduire ]

MWFF update Day 1

We are continuing our coverage of the festival

What a crazy world! But as long as there’s movies being shown, there’s hope!

Yesterday, we went to the festival office to pick up our press passes. It was chaos and lots of people were running around like headless chicken. We were told that due to a “computer problem” all the accreditation submissions had been lost (bug? crash? lock out of their system? ex-staff sabotage? who knows). I understood that we had to resubmit the request in paper (losiqual if the computer are down), so (taking time off from my day job) I went back this afternoon with a print out of the forms and pictures. It was quieter today at the FFM HQ, but apparently, they simply wanted us to email the pictures again. So I ended up taking a picture of the pictures with my phone and emailing them so they could print them on the press cards.

Now we have our press cards, but they look terrible !

REMINDER: The movies are shown ONLY at the Imperial Cinema, but the schedule has changed (several times) and it KEEPS CHANGING so please check it day by day !

Also note that if you purchased a ticket for a screening that has been re-scheduled, I’ve been told that they would exchange it without problem for a ticket of the screening at the new schedule.

For us, aficionados of Japanese cinema, the festival starts tonight! The first movie shown is:

Friday August 26, 19h00 (CI.26.6) REG

The Seal of the Sun (太陽 の 蓋 / Taiyō no futa) : Japan, 2016, 130 min., japanese with english subtitles; Dir.: Futoshi Sato; Scr.: Takashi Hasegawa; Phot.: Yukio Komiya; Prod.: Kaoru Ohtsuka; Cast: Yukiya Kitamura, Kenji Anan, Sota Aoyama. At 2:46 PM on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant experiences a black out due to the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

So far, there are no movies announced for Saturday and Sunday. Barring any further schedule change, the next Japanese movies will be:

Monday August 29, 18h40 (CI.29.6) COMP

Tatara Samurai (たたら侍): Japan, 2016, 135 min.; Dir.: Yoshinari Nishikori; Phot.: Akira Sako; Mus.: Seikou Nagaoka; Cast: Shun Sugata, Denden, Masahiko Tsugawa. When the Amago samurai withdraw their protection of the village of Tatara, famous for their manufacture of the legendary swords, the younger generation — erroneously — believe that guns will suffice.

Tuesday August 30, 19h40 (CI.30.6) HC

Black Widow Business (後妻業 の 女 / Gosaigyō no onna / lit. “Woman of the second wife industry”) : Japan, 2016, 128 min.; Dir./Scr.: Yasuo Tsuruhashi (based on the novel by Hiroyuki Kurokawa); Cast: Masatoshi Nagase, Masatô Ibu, Machiko Ono. With 4000 matchmaking agencies across Japan serving some 600,000 clients, especially men and women over 65, the pickings are ripe for “black widows”. But the daughter of one victim decides to investigate.

Enjoy the festival while you can because, who knows, it might be the last one. Ultima forsan…

Press reviews:

[ Traduire ]

Dear Deer

“A woman stares at a deserted exhibition in the local museum, a place said to be haunted by the phantom of a deer, “Ryomo-Shika”… Twenty-five years earlier three siblings reported seeing the deer, becoming first famous, then infamous when their claim was debunked. The fallout was devastating. The second son, Yoshio, is now living in a psychiatric institution; Akiko, the unsociable youngest daughter, lives in the country with an older man; and the eldest son, Fujio, who has remained in town, is burdened with debt from the family’s failing business. Now, with their father dying, the three siblings along with their respective partners and friends, have returned home, their first reunion in many years. But time hasn’t dulled their rivalries and or their rancour. They find themselves once again at a crossroads in life.”

(Text from the Festival’s program)


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.

I admit that I misunderstood the movie description in the program, so I thought it would be some sort of ghost story. Not at all.

When they were kids, siblings Fujio, Yoshio and Akiko saw a rare deer that was supposed to be extinct and took a blurry picture. But people thought it was an hoax and that they lied to attract attention or just misidentified a common deer. They were quite hurt no to be believed. On top of that, after their mother’s death, their father became quite abusive, so the younger brother and sister left their hometown and the older brother stayed to take care of the family business. He has to work hard to keep it (and the town) together despite serious economic problems as a big development company tries to buy off the land. The younger brother seem to have a mild case of obsessive-compulsive disorder as he seems to have internalize all his guilt and frustrations from the childhood. The younger sister is good looking and has always had her ways with men, but unfortunately she eloped with a loser. She is very selfish but she eventually soften. She has a very unhappy life in Tokyo.

Twenty-five years later, they come back to their hometown when their father become gravely ill. They all have been greatly affected by their childhood have serious psychological problems. The death of the father brings back to the surface all their issues and what stayed unsaid for a long time is being expressed making their return trip a cathartic experience that is finally freeing them from the weight that had kept them miserable for all those years.

This is a very beautiful and interesting movie. Japanese movies are always good at showing us the beauty of the countryside. The director said that he was inspired by the fact that people from the countryside and people from the city seem to have very different mentality and way of life.

Dear Deer (ディアーディアー): Japan, 2015, 107 mins; Dir.: Takeo Kikuchi; Scr.: Noriaki Sugihara; Ed.: Azusa Yamazaki; Music: Takuro Okada; Cast: Yuri Nakamura (Akiko), Yoichiro Saito (Yoshio), Shota Sometani (Fujio), Kôji Kiryû, Rinko Kikuchi, Yûrei Yanagi, Takeshi Yamamoto, Wakana Matsumoto, Yasushi Masaoka.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on September 3rd, 2015 (Cinema Quartier Latin 9, 11h00 – the theatre was filled only at 10% of its capacity) as part of the “First Film World Competition” segment. The director was present to introduce the movie and for a Q&A afterward.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

Dear Deer © 2015 Office Kiryu.

[ Traduire ]

Haman

“A tragic story of a girl who becomes a monster. Deeply in love, Haruka decides to have sex with her boyfriend. But the results are catastrophic: she accidentally kills him. Traumatized, she flees the scene. Her cursed life has begun. Does she have any hope of escaping the malediction? A dark fantasy about life, sex and love. ”

(Text from the Festival’s program)


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.

I was not expecting much from this movie. I thought it would be a Fantasia-style gory and sexual horror movie. I was surprised to discover I was a more subtler and meaningful fantastical tale.

Haruka is cursed. She goes to a love hotel to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend. What should have been a pleasant occasion turns into a nightmare when her boyfriend unexpectedly and painfully dies during intercourse. She has no idea what happened: she was enjoying herself on top of him when there’s suddenly a gush of blood as she appears to have ripped off her boyfriend’s penis. She flees the scene in horror. The next day, in the news, the police talks of a gruesome murder as the sex of the victim appears to have been bitten off in a very inhuman way.

She skips school and wanders around in a dazed state. Has she dreamed or hallucinated the whole ordeal? Is that a fantasy induced by teenage angst and sexual anxiety? Or is she really some sort of monster and it happened for real? Is that even possible to have teeth “down there”? As she wanders on the road, she is kidnapped and raped by a pervert, but she kills him too, by “biting” off his penis with her vagina. The curse is confirmed.

Eventually, she meets Yosuke — who is nice to her and helps her overcome the trauma. She also meets his sister (so she said but she ends up being a jealous impersonator stalking Yosuke). They starts dating but Haruka fears that if they go further she will kill him. However, she accepts to date him only if they have a sexless relationship. Of course, with time, Yosuke cannot endure such a sexless love and wants to have her even if he knows that it will probably kill him. A love to die for.

The director said he was inspired by the true story of Sada Abe — who killed her lover and kept his penis as a souvenir. Even if the story had already been adapted in several movies — the most famous being Ai no Korida / In the realm of the senses by Nagissa Oshima — it seemed to him to be a good starting point to talk about sex and love.

The movie was very low budget and was shot within twelve days with a crew of seven (all volunteers) but most of the work was done by Tetsuya Okabe (directing, script, editing, etc., even paying for the lunch of the crew!). The film looks pretty good for such a low budget production and the director succeeded to turn a subject of comedic horror into a thoughtful allegory.

The title, Haman (歯まん), is a slang blend (or portemanteau) expression made from 歯 [Ha, tooth] and おまんこ [Omanko, vagina] meaning “toothed vagina”. I am not sure if the director was aware of this when he wrote the script (most probably), but the idea of the “vagina dentata” (in Latin) can be found in the folklore of many ancient cultures.

All in all, it was a good movie and I enjoyed it. It is amusing to see that the story ends up much more interesting by being treated through a more mainstream movie (with minimum gore and nudity–we see Haruka’s breast in only one scene) rather than as a comedic horror film.

Haman (歯まん / lit. “toothed vagina”): Japan, 2015, 95 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Tetsuya Okabe; Phot.: Yumi Hasegawa; Music: HIR, Shintaro Mieda; Cast: Nonka Baba, Yusuke Kojima, Maki Mizui, Mukau Nakamura, Shoei Uno.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on September 2nd, 2015 (Cinema Quartier Latin 16, 20h30 – the theatre was filled only at 18% of its capacity) as part of the “World Great” segment. The director was present to introduce the movie and for a Q&A afterward.

For more information you can visit the following websites:
Haman © 2015「歯まん」.

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The Next Generation Patlabor — Tokyo War

“Over the years since 1988, the “Mobile Police PATLABOR” franchise in Japan has become a pioneer in multimedia, combining anime comics, videograms, films and novels. Until now the films have been animated. The story has now gone live-action… Labor is a robot specifically designed for heavy industry work. The rise of Labors has sparked a revolution in industry, but also an increase in crime. To combat these new Labor crime wave, the police have created a special unit: The Patrol Labor known as the Special Vehicles Section 2 (SV2). This is the birth of “Patlabor”. We are now in the 21st century and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s SV2 so-called Patlabor still looks out for misbehaving Labors, but Patlabor is no longer considered necessary because of its cost and care. When Tokyo is attacked by an organization of terrorists using stealth helicopters, SV2 is called in to neutralize the threat.”

(Text from the Festival’s program)


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 is a beautiful movie. The CGI seems so perfect that the only thing that looks out of place is the Labor themselves — they look so preposterous, like some old giant toys from another era; that was probably done on purpose.

Not surprisingly (considering it’s a movie directed by Mamoru Oshii), this is a Patlabor movie where we see actual labor action only a few minutes in the end. And, of course, the movie have the usual slow moments of politico-philosophical introspection also typical of Oshii’s movies. The director himself seems to make a cameo appearance in the movie, with his typical hat and his beloved basset hound dog.

However, I am not sure that anyone who is not already familiar with the Patlabor story could easily understand what’s happening in this movie, which seems to come closely after the second anime movie, and which is also the final segment of a 7-part series of live-action films! Even myself, who is well acquainted with the Patlabor universe, had trouble following sometimes (was the pilot of the helicopter the previous SV2 commander? Was she acting to seek some sort of social justice? I am not really sure…). Of course, if you take it strickly as an action movie (and disregards the political stuff) there is not much that you really need to understand to enjoy the movie.

In his introduction of the movie, before the screening, Oshii-San didn’t say much. However, he mentioned that he shot his previous film in Montreal (Garm Wars: The Last Druid — for more details on this movie you can check ANN, IMdB, Youtube or Wikipedia).

All in all, this movie offers a great photography, beautiful CGI, a nice near-future sci-fi setting and, as a bonus, it shows us parts of Tokyo that we are not used to see. But it has much more meaning if you are a Patlabor fan, of course.

The Next Generation Patlabor — Tokyo War (The Next Generation パトレイバ ー 首都決戦 / Patoreiba: Shuto Kessen / Lit. “Patlabor: Decisive battle over the capital”): Japan, 2015, 93 min.; Dir./Scr.: Mamoru Oshii; Phot.: Hiroshi Machida, Tetsuya Kudo; Art Dir.: Anri Jojo; Ed.: Yoshinori Ohta; Music: Kenji Kawai; Labor Design: Hideki Hashimoto, Katsuya Terada; Cast: Toshio Kakei (Keiji Gotoda), Erina Mano (Akira Izumino), Seiji Fukushi (Yuma Shiobara), Rina Ohta (Kasya), Shigeru Chiba (Shigeo Shiba), Kanna Mori (Rei Haihara), Kotaro Yoshida (Onodera), Reiko Takashima (Kei Takahata), Yoshinori Horimoto (Isamu Otawara), Shigekazu Tajiri (Hiromichi Yamazaki), Kohei Shiotsuka (Shinji Mikiya), Yoshikazu Fujiki (Yoshikatsu Buchiyama).

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 30th, 2015 (Cinema Quartier Latin 9, 21h30 – the theatre was filled only at 14% of its capacity) as part of the “World Great” segment. The director was present to introduce the movie but there was no Q&A due to the late hour of the screening.

For more information you can visit the following websites:
The Next Generation Patlabor — Tokyo War © 2015 HEADGEAR / ”THE NEXT GENERATION -PATLABOR-” PARTNERS.

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