Tag Archives: Japan

Banba no Chûtarô / Chutaro of Banba (1955) Nobuo Nakagawa, Tomisaburô Wakayama, Isuzu Yamada, Sanae Mitsuoka, Drama

Chutaro of Banba (1955)
Based on the play ”Mabuta no Haha” by famed author Hasegawa Shin, this is the first major starring role for Wakayama Tomisaburo. This heartfelt story concerns a wandering gambler from Banba by the name of Chutaro. Set during the Tenpo Period, Chutaro runs afoul of Boss Sukegoro of Iioka, prior to the great showdown that formed the centerpiece of the first Zato Ichi film. Pursued by vengeance seeking swordsmen, Chutaro displays his phenomenal martial art skills, much as a preview of his internationally famous Baby Cart series. Abandoned as a child, he seeks to find his long lost mother, while at the same time fighting off numerous attacks by Iioka’s men.

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Kobe Kokusai Gang / International Gangs of Kobe (1975) Noboru Tanaka, Ken Takakura, Bunta Sugawara, Isao Natsuyagi, Action

Kobe Kokusai Gang AKA International Gangs of Kobe (1975)
In International Gangs of Kobe the opposite occurs; it’s Sugawara’s presence that brings out Takakura’s ruthless side. Although the two start off as allied gang members, Kobe proves too small a town for the giants of yakuza cinema. The gang splits into rival factions and Takakura and Sugawara settle their differences with violence. Tons of action and a notable cast make the unexceptional International Gangs of Kobe a load of silly yakuza fun.

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Yuki Yukite shingun / The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987) Kazuo Hara, Kenzo Okuzaki, Riichi Aikawa, Masaichi Hamaguchi, Documentary, War

Yuki Yukite shingun AKA The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987)
The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On is a brilliant exploration of memory and war guilt, a subject often ignored in modern Japan. In this controversial documentary, Kazuo Hara follows Kenzo Okuzaki in his real-life struggle against Emperor Hirohito. He proudly declares that he shot BBs at the Royal Palace, distributed pornographic images of the Emperor, and once killed a man for the sake of his strange crusade. As the film progresses, Okuzaki reveals a gruesome mystery: why were some Japanese officers killing their own soldiers during WWII? What happened to their bodies? Okuzaki begs, cajoles, and occasionally beats the story out of elderly veterans. When these old men do break down and talk, their testimonies are some of the most chilling, riveting descriptions of wartime desperation ever committed to film. In his desire to unearth these horrors, Okuzaki’s behavior grows increasingly extreme and bizarre. By the film’s end, Hara seems to ask whether the terrible nature of this buried incident is worth the violence of Okuzaki’s methods.

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Kinkakuji / Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1976) Yoichi Takabayashi, Drama

Kinkakuji AKA Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1976)
The story takes place during the end of the Pacific War and the aftermath period and it focuses on Mizoguchi, who is the son of a Buddhist Priest. When his father dies, he’s sent to the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. Mizoguchi is physically unattractive and becomes, in some way, jealous of the beautiful Temple that he loves so much.

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Onna shinnyû-shain: 5-ji kara 9-ji made / Horny Working Girl: From 5 to 9 (1982) Katsuhiko Fujii, Junko Asahina, Nami Misaki, Yuki Yoshizawa, Comedy, Erotic

Horny Working Girl From 5 to 9 (1982)
Beautiful young Chieko is hired as assistant manager at the office of a large corporation. Her boss is an oversexed married man whose advances and behavior make her uncomfortable. When she finds out from the other girls in the office that they have had the same problem with him, they get together and come up with a special plan to get their revenge.

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Kairyu daikessen / Battle Of The Dragons (1966) Tetsuya Yamanouchi, Hiroki Matsukata, Tomoko Ogawa, Ryûtarô Ôtomo, Fantasy

Kairyu daikessen AKA Battle Of The Dragons (1966)
In ancient Japan, a good lord is killed and his throne is taken by the trecherous Yuki Daijo and his wizard friend Oroki-maru. The young prince Ikazuki-maru is rescued from the jaws of death by a magic bird sent by a wizard. Ten years later, Ikazuki-maru embarks on an adventure to avenge his parents and the wizard’s death with his magic powers he learned from the wizard. He kills Yuki Daijo but then must battle Oroki-maru in a battle to the death.

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Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) Jim Jarmusch, Bill Murray, Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni, Comedy, Drama, Music

Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
Eleven separate vignettes are presented. In each, celebrities, playing semi-fictionalized versions of themselves (with the exception of the characters of various wait staff, and one actor playing a lookalike cousin of herself), meet in a food service establishment with coffee/tea and cigarettes involved. Beyond the topic of discussion that brought them together, they often talk directly about coffee and cigarettes, more often that coffee and cigarettes, and by association caffeine and nicotine, are not healthy, especially if they are the only things constituting lunch. Other recurring themes include the Lee family, cousinhood, celebrity worship, the connection between the medical and musical careers, and Nikola Tesla’s belief that the Earth is a conductor of acoustic resonance. In all cases, the coming together for coffee/tea and smokes acts as a bridge to overcome disagreements, and/or makes uncomfortable situations less uncomfortable.

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A Cheerful Gang Turns the Earth / Yôki na gyangu ga chikyû o mawasu (2006) Tetsu Maeda, Takao Ohsawa, Kyôka Suzuki, Shôta Matsuda, Comedy, Crime

A Cheerful Gang Turns the Earth (2006)
Four strangers (a verbose romantic, a human lie detector, an expert pickpocket, and a woman with a preternaturally precise sense of time) are brought together by chance when they inadvertently team up to thwart a bank robbery. Recognizing the potential of their combined talents, they decide to form a bank-robbing gang themselves, just for the fun and romance of it. Their heists are played out swiftly and coolly, less like robberies than performance art. Eventually, the foursome’s good-natured crime streak is interrupted when a man from one of their pasts creates a whirlwind of extortion and double crossing.

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