Monday, March 14, 2016

Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival at Row House Cinema, March 18 - 24.

The Row House Cinema will present its first Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival from March 18 through 24. The four films scheduled are 1949's Late Spring (晩春); the 1991 Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday (おもひでぽろぽろ) making its US premiere; the 1985 Kurosawa film Ran (乱); and the 2015 "demented rap musical" Tokyo Tribe (トウキョウ トライブ トゥー). Showtimes and ticket information are available on the theater's website.

A 2015 review summarzies Late Spring:
Shukichi is a professor, a widower, absorbed in his work. His unmarried daughter, Noriko, runs his household for him. Both are perfectly content with this arrangement until the old man’s sister declares that her niece should get married. Noriko is, after all, in her mid-20s; in Japan in 1949, a single woman that old is approaching the end of her shelf life. His sister warns the professor that after his death Noriko will be left alone in the world; it is his duty to push her out of the nest and find a husband who can support her. The professor reluctantly agrees. When his daughter opposes any idea of marriage, he tells her he is also going to remarry. That is a lie, but he will sacrifice his own comfort for his daughter’s future. She marries.

And that, essentially, is what happens on the surface in Yasujiro Ozu’s “Late Spring” (1949). What happens at deeper levels is angry, passionate and -- wrong, we feel, because the father and the daughter are forced to do something neither one of them wants to do, and the result will be resentment and unhappiness. Only the aunt will emerge satisfied, and Noriko’s husband, perhaps, although we never see him.
The March 20 screening of Late Spring screening will be followed by a discussion led by Dr. Charles Exley, Assistant Professor of modern Japanese literature and film at the University of Pittsburgh.

A February Rolling Stone review on Only Yesterday:
What we have here is an animation miracle so subtle that it doesn't fully hit you till you take it home and into your dreams. Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday, from Studio Ghibli — the company founded by Takahata's partner in virtuosity Hayao Miyazaki — created a box-office sensation in Japan on its release there in 1991. Americas have had to wait 25 years to see it. No sense in complaining. Just sit back and behold.

The lead character, Taeko, is voiced by new Star Wars sensation Daisy Ridley. (And if that heats up the box office, hallelujah.) Only Yesterday represents the kind of artistry that crosses borders of language and culture. But like many foreign imports with reduced funds for promotion, it can fall between the cracks. Don't let it.
The Washington Post summarized Ran in 2010:
Based on Shakespeare's "King Lear" and set in 16th-century feudal Japan, Akira Kurosawa's 1985 antiwar epic is almost over the top with betrayal, battle and blood. At times, the red stuff flows like paint from the brush of Jackson Pollock. It's an angry and expressive spurt of pigment, emblematic of the director's rage -- the title is the Japanese character for "chaos" or "fury" -- and not a realistic body fluid.
And an A.V. Club review of the "demented rap musical" concludes of Tokyo Tribe:
With its over-the-top violence, cast of bizarre bit characters (a beat-boxing henchwoman, a DJ granny, etc.), and a compulsion to interject phallic imagery that borders on coprographia, Tokyo Tribe throws so much at the viewer that it’s easy to get swept up in its deranged energy and overlook the fact that the movie doesn’t have a flicker of a brain cell, being not much more than a celebration of aggressive stupidity. Sometimes, that’s fine.
The single-screen theater is located at 4115 Butler Street (map).