The unofficial rule of the thread is to write about your thoughts on the movie you are posting. It can only be a sentence or two mentioning whether you liked it or not. The point is to write something. The moderation team doesn’t want list threads.
You won’t be seeing me post in this thread for a few weeks because I have now managed to watch all the films I set out to check a few months ago. I’ll be working on my list of the best Japanese films of the new millennium for a week or two. Once it is done I’ll make sure to post it here as well. It is going to be an interesting list for anyone who has even the slightest interest in Japanese cinema.
Eiji Okuda’s A Long Walk: Inspired by Eiji Okuda’s Case of Kyoko Case of Shuichi, I wanted to see more films from the actor-turned director. A Long Walk had also been fairly liked by critics, even winning film festival awards outside Japan. In it, an old man escaping his family problems moves to a new apartment. Soon he notices that the woman next door mistreats her 5 year-old daughter and that the household is full of domestic violence. Reminded me of his own trauma, he soon befriends the abused girl and takes her away for a “walk”. Even though the film portrays the neighbour’s lousiness in an over-the-top way from the beginning I was confident Okuda could turn the film into a good drama given how well his other film fared. However, what I got was an immature clusterfuck. The downfall begins with the depiction of the family with the biggest offender being a scene in which the mother tries to choke the girl to death after she catches the attention of the mother’s boyfriend for a moment. It is not just the handling of the abusive parents that is poor: it also stumbles in its portrayal of the child and the supposed sweetness and righteouness of the old man are also questionable. Midway through the film Okuda also introduces new elements both thematically and plotwise - and none of them quite fit together quite well. In the end A Long Walk is a ham-fisted drama that is riddled by shallow moralizing and odd mood swings.
Kaneto Shindo’s Postcard: The final film of a New Wave veteran looks back on the Second World War. The film is interested in the direct consequences of the war on Japanese families as the tragedy that befalls on the family portrayed in the film forces a woman to restart her life. Tomoko loses his husband in the war. She then marries her late husband’s brother in order to take care of the husband’s family, but he is soon drafted and killed in war. Her father-in-law dies to a heart attack and the mother-in-law commits suicide to ease Tomoko’s burden. Tomoko is left alone with no money. What follows is the actual focus of the film: Tomoko’s husband’s friend comes to deliver Tomoko a postcard her husband had treasured before his death. Both the friend and Tomoko are at a crossroads in their lives and their meeting ends up being the real crux of the film. Surprisingly, Shindo avoids the criticism of Japan unlike his contemporaries - although his criticism isn’t on the surface. Instead he is more interested in the lives and sacrifices of the people who survived. However, Shindo is not satisfied with mere drama, instead he mixes in odd splashes of theatricality and playfulness that sometimes works well with the otherwise archaic form. The result is almost schizophrenic. Especially the acting is all over the place. Even though the story is very personal for its director (since the survivor’s guilt haunts him) he isn’t able to load it with passion that would reach the audience too.
Yoji Yamada’s Tokyo Family: It is always a questionable move to remake old masterpieces, even if it comes from an established film director. I was even more skeptical when I heard that Tokyo Family is a remake of Yasujiro Ozu’s timeless masterpiece Tokyo Story. Its portrayal of generational gap and family doesn’t need a modernized remake and it is hard to escape the looming presence of a master like Ozu whose style was so sophisticated and refined. However, Yamada’s shift of the story from the 50’s to modern day is very clever. It captures the realities and details of modern life exceptionally well. Instead of visiting a remote hot spring, the children of the elderly couple have the two sleep at a luxurious hotel. A guided city tour drives it further home that Japan has changed since the original as it goes through Akihabara while the grandparents look around in awe. Yamada plays around with the viewer’s expectations of the original story in good ways. The modern Noriko is the girlfriend of the youngest son who is a good-willed slacker that didn’t live up to the expectations of his father and avoids his parents as a result. Yamada’s remake has shifted the focus from her to the final act that is significantly longer and more detailed, which makes it seem at first that Noriko is not going to be as central as in the original, but in the end she becomes relevant. Despite the fitting changes that justify remaking the original Tokyo Family does not entirely escape the shadow of the original.