Midnight Eye’s Best (and Worst) of 2010
- 20 January 2011
- Tom Mes
- Jasper Sharp
- Nicholas Rucka
- Alex Zahlten
- Catherine Munroe Hotes
- Bryan Hartzheim
- Julian Ross
- Eija Niskanen
- Roger Macy
- Chris MaGee
- Rowena Santos Aquino
- Marc Saint-Cyr
(The votes of the Best of 2010 Readers Poll are in! And the winner is...)
The year 2010 was notable for two things from my point of view. Firstly, the seemingly sudden emergence of a rather large number of very diverse independent filmmakers, such as Daishi Matsunaga, Tsuki Inoue (whose Autumn Adagio was on my list last year), Kota Yoshida, and Kasumi Hiraoka (and to these we should add the breakthrough of Tetsuaki Matsue with Live Tape). I was very lucky to spend a fair bit of time in their presence (and that of some of their colleagues, like Yasunobu Takahashi, director of last year's promising Locked Out) at festivals and in Japan during 2010, and found myself greatly inspired by their talent, creativity, determination and generous nature. To me, it's these people - who are for the most part complete outsiders to what is considered the entertainment industry in Japan - that are the main reason for doing Midnight Eye. My list of best films inevitably reflects this.
The year's other joyous development was the confirmation (as if such a thing were still needed) of the everlasting genius of Takashi Miike, in the shape of Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City and 13 Assassins, as well as repeated viewing of a number of his earlier works, which showed to have taken on entirely new dimensions. This too proved to be enormously inspiring - so much so that I sat down during the summer to pen a second book on Miike, scheduled for publication through FAB Press in 2012.
My ten best Japanese films of 2010:
1. Yuriko's Aroma (Yuriko no Aroma, dir: Kota Yoshida)
I was on the Yubari jury that awarded Kota Yoshida's 40-minute Coming With My Brother (Onechan Ototo to Iku) the Special Jury Prize in 2008. The director was absent from the festival because he was in the hospital after being felled by a stroke - a tragedy for anyone, even more so for someone so young. This made the joy of watching his return to form and filmmaking, Yuriko's Aroma - his first feature film and an even better one than its predecessor - all the greater. And there is plenty of joy to be had even for the neutral viewer.
When asked to supply a blurb to help promote the Japanese release of this film, I wrote: "The films of Kota Yoshida show us the dark beauty of human sexuality. With the erotic power of Noriko Eguchi in front of his camera, director Yoshida is emerging as the heir to Yasuzo Masumura." Which should contain more than enough incentives for anyone to go and check it out.
2. Symbol (dir: Hitoshi Matsumoto)
Ah, the human condition.
3. Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City (Zeburaman Zebura Shiti no Gyakushu, dir: Takashi Miike)
This superior sequel is not only marvelously entertaining, it also delivers a razor-sharp critique of showbiz politics and other disturbing media trends. Termite art indeed.
4. The Blood of Rebirth (Yomigaeri no Chi, dir: Toshiaki Toyoda)
A devastating return to feature filmmaking from Toyoda, who emerges from his exile transformed into a kind of Rock-n-Roll Tarkovsky.
5. Pyuupiru 2001-2008 (dir: Daishi Matsunaga)
A meditation on, and celebration of, art, love, friendship, cinema and being yourself. Deeply touching and brilliantly made.
6. Miyoko (Miyoko Asagaya Kibun, dir: Yoshifumi Tsubota)
Infused with retro style yet with a timeless feel, this period tale of a social misfit manga artist and his long-suffering wife / muse fully embraces its subject on every level: it exhudes darkness, passion, anger, eroticism and imagination. The similarly-themed Villon's Wife, whose only virtue is Tadanobu Asano, confirmed exactly how good Miyoko is. Special kudos to actress Mari Machida, also seen in Tetsuya Mariko's Yellow Kid.
7. Love Exposure (Ai no Mukidashi, dir: Sion Sono)
Everyone was so busy loving this film last year that nobody seemed to notice it's an upgraded remake of Noriko's Dinner Table.
8. Dear Doctor (dir: Miwa Nishikawa)
We've had a few too many movies about small-town countryside eccentrics these past few years. This one makes most of them redundant.
9. The Primitchibu World (Purimichibu na Sekai, dir: Kasumi Hiraoka)
Delightfully strange debut feature by a filmmaker who channels Shuji Terayama, Teruo Ishii, and Osaka street spirit to create a world that is uniquely hers.
10. 13 Assassins (Jusannin no Shikaku, dir: Takashi Miike)
A riveting study of violence in all its real-life and fictional facets and implications - from echoes of the concentration camps to mischievous games with fake blood and CGI. In this sense it's a close cousin to Ichi the Killer (a film that, incidentally, gets better and better with age), even though it is comparably more compromised by a need for audience appeal.
- Yellow Kid (dir: Tetsuya Mariko)
- Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (dir: Shinya Tsukamoto)
- Sweet Little Lies (dir: Hitoshi Yazaki)
- Man-Eater Mountain (Hitokuiyama, dir: Naoyuki Niiya)
Hana no Ato (dir: who cares?)
Deliver us from TV productions masquerading as feature films. Hana no Ato is entirely devoid of nuance, grey areas, question marks - of anything remotely interesting, in fact. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
There was a lot I missed this year, for various reasons, so please consider this as merely a brief list of recommendations.
- La vie au ranch (dir: Sophie Letourneur)
- Woman on Fire Looks for Water (dir: Woo Ming-jin)
- The Road (dir: John Hillcoat)
- The Housemaid (dir: Im Sang-soo)
- The American (dir: Anton Corbijn)
2010 was quite a year for me: I completed a book, The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema, which will be published by Scarecrow Press next year; launched a new film festival in London, Zipangu Fest; and witnessed the birth of my son, Thorin. In retrospect however, I don't think it was such a good year for Japanese cinema, nor indeed, cinema in general.
Possibly it was these other commitments that made me miss out on some of the hidden gems from this year's releases, although because of my festival involvements (not only Zipangu, but Toronto's Shinsedai as well), I certainly saw my fair share of screeners from Japan. There were glimmers of interest here and there, but compared with previous years it was all a bit lame - look at 2009, for example, the year that gave us the likes of Love Exposure, Air Doll and Kakera, or 2008, with United Red Army, Tokyo Sonata and Fine, Totally Fine. I was actually left cold by many of the bigger Japanese releases of this year, and critically regarded titles like Koji Wakamatsu's Caterpillar or Kichitaro Negishi's Villon's Wife proved bitter disappointments. Looking at these major releases was all enough to make you wonder if Japanese cinema had lost its mojo.
Still, if there's one thing I have learnt over the ten years of Midnight Eye, it is that there are always surprises around the corner, always some director who has hitherto been lurking in the background largely unnoticed who suddenly springs up to deliver an unexpected masterpiece. I personally thought the most interesting titles I caught this year came from the micro-budget end of the spectrum, far away from the more ruthlessly commercial heart of the industry; films that would have slipped by most people, most of which will probably never make it onto an English-subtitled DVD. It is titles such as these listed below that give one hope that this year's apparent slump was a temporary one.
Best Ten Japanese Films
1. Confessions of a Dog (Pochi no Kokuhaku, dir: Gen Takahashi)
It is always a bit fiddly taking release dates into account when compiling these lists of the best Japanese films of the year, due to the tendency for the various films surfacing in different parts of the globe at different points in time, but I'll justify my inclusion of this epic police drama in my 2010 selection, despite it being produced as far back as 2005, in that, although it played a handful festivals a few years back, I'd not really registered this film until it was disinterred once more by Chris MaGee for Shinsedai this year. It is only out on DVD next year too, courtesy of Third Window Films; if you haven't seen it yet, I can't recommend it strongly enough.
2. Yuriko's Aroma (Yuriko no Aroma, dir. Kota Yoshida)
A really strong, entertaining, well-made and witty indie film that anyone can enjoy. It's the fact that Japan still manages to produce this sort of film that keeps me coming back. If you liked Yuki Tanada's Moon & Cherry, chances are you'll like this.
3. Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano (Namae no Nae no Onnatachi, dir: Hisayasu Sato)
I'll say it now, I don't like the English-language title of this at all. The Japanese "Women without Names" encapsulates the central premise perfectly, with its focus on the peripheral nameless "bodies" in the pornographic AV industry, and how this potentially lucrative domain offers both salvation and damnation for those women that enter it. Great to see Sato back in the director's chair - this is more conventional entertainment than his previous work, but his imprimatur isn't hard to detect. Powerful stuff.
4. Mirai Mizue Works 2003-2010
Not a film, but a DVD compilation of an animator I'd not heard of until this year, whose gorgeous, colourful abstractions of geometrical volumes and pulsating organic shapes celebrating movement for the sake of movement are the sort of thing I could watch again and again, and indeed already have done.
5. Man-Eater Mountain (Hitokuiyama, dir: Naoyuki Niiya)
Basically a one-man, zero-budget job this (with support from a handful of others, notably sound designer Takuro Kochi), Niiya's 30-minute kamishibai (paper theatre) "animation" homage to the likes of HP Lovecraft and Edogawa Rampo is not an animation as such - its gloriously grotesque hand-drawn images don't actually move. What it is however, is a wonderful celebration of a unique imagination that demonstrates the enthusiastic can-do attitude one seems to find so readily in Japan.
6. Live Tape (dir: Tetsuaki Matsue)
Another example of someone creating a masterpiece out of next to nothing, Matsue's one-take account of Kenta Maeno's live street performance impresses through its spontaneity as much as its inventiveness, all the way to its show-stopping finale.
7. Sweet Little Lies (dir: Hitoshi Yazaki)
Some wonderful performances by Miki Nakatani and Nao Omori in this portrait of a marriage that has gone stale, though the lack of a satisfactory conclusion robs this of the full power of Yazaki's earlier film Strawberry Shortcakes.
8. Pyuupiru 2001-2008 (dir: Daishi Matsunaga)
Compelling documentary portrait of a fascinating character - can't wait till the next instalment.
9. Rock Tanjo: The Movement 70s (dir: Akihiro Murakane)
The music by the likes of the Flower Travellin' Band, Brain Police and Creation speaks for itself in this great documentary about the birth of 'New Rock' in 1970s Japan.
10. Sawako Decides (Kawa no Soko kara Konnichiwa, dir: Yuya Ishii)
Ishii is one of the more exciting young talents to have emerged in recent years, though his prolific output of quirky comedies has so far failed to produce a perfectly realised work - that said, this is his most satisfactory and polished to date.
The Best of the Rest of the World:
Unlike previous years, I didn't make it to any non-Japanese film festivals this year, nor did I have time to catch up on many of the year's releases into UK cinemas, which might account for the rather piecemeal nature of this list. Anyway, here are my highpoints, in no particular order:
- Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé)
- The Social Network (David Fincher)
- Step Up 3D (Jon Chu)
- Four Lions (Chris Morris)
- The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)
- Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
- Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
- Samson & Delilah (Warwick Thornton)
I also want to give a special mention to two documentaries that screened theatrically at festivals this year before airing on UK television shortly after: Mandelson: The Real PM? (Hannah Rothschild) and The Battle for Barking (Laura Fairrie) - both of these are sure to stand as vital historical documents for future historians trying to work out how British politics found itself in such a sorry state this year.
Without doubt, Sex and the City 2 was the most vacuous, overlong and downright unpleasant waste of screen time I've seen in a long long time. The Clash of the Titans remake would also be a contender for this dubious accolade, if it weren't so darn forgettable.
Best DVD Release of the Year:
Eureka's Blu-ray release of Shohei Imamura's Profound Desires of the Gods (1968) - thanks guys!
Best Event of the Year:
The Nippon Year Zero programme of films by Donald Richie, Motoharu Jonouchi and Masanori Oe which I organised with Julian Ross for Zipangu Fest in conjunction with Close-Up in the Bethnal Green Working Man's Club: this was magical, as was the Live Tape night at the Cafe 1001, with Kenta Maeno taking stage with niko player Yuki Yoshida after the screening. I'm so proud we pulled this off!
Your iPhone now has an HD camera and the editing software to cut it. Looks like independent DIY cinema has been democratized. This is a good thing, in theory, but not necessarily in practice - especially if you have to sit through the films. Film in its simplest form, is light and shadow and montage. But so many of the DIY films that I've seen coming out of Japan (and elsewhere) are missing these key elements. The power of cinematography is junked for 'natural lighting' and fixed lenses; staging of actors is boring and editing is limited to little more than getting us into and out of a scene.
Let's not forget the point of movies: the power of a good story. We seek out films that touch us in a way that's unexpected and helps us somehow contextualize and understand our lives or to entertain us and help us escape for a moment from it. Therefore there's nothing worse than watching a film that feels like a missed opportunity - except, of course, for a film that you feel like you've seen a million times before.
I saw a lot of films this year that I feel like either a) I've seen before, b) were a repeat of what the filmmakers have done before or c) weren't about anything of any real consequence. There's something admirable about getting out there and making a movie, to be sure, but there should be a reason why I'm dedicating my time to watching it. Sure, the tools can now fit in your pocket, but the craft and discipline needed still require the intelligence and skill to say something in an interesting way. That will always remain the case.
Here's my list:
Doman Seman (Horikawa Nakatachiuri, dir: Go Shibata)
Go Shibata's Doman Seman feels like a lost Boredoms album that was transmogrified into a film. A hodgepodge of spiritualism, mystery, horror, comedy and slacker film, and owing a large debt to Alejandro Jodorowsky, ultimately it's a film that you either vibe with or not. The fact that it was made in the Kansai region, which is where the Boredoms come from, isn't coincidental. Don't take this film so damn literally; instead enjoy it on its own terms like a Boredoms album - you'll be amazed by what you discover.
13 Assassins (Jusannin no Shikaku, dir: Takashi Miike)
This is, to my mind, the best-directed film that I saw out of Japan this year. Eiichi Kudo's original still reigns supreme, but Takashi Miike directed the shit out of this film. The action is top-notch, the set pieces are outstanding, and the performance nuances are exhilarating to watch. My only issues with the film were with the Miike touches - shades of Imprint and Sukiyaki Western Django, in particular - that felt like they didn't belong in this movie. But from start to finish, this is one of the best chanbara films to have come out of Japan in years and I couldn't have been happier about it. One helluva good time.
Cold Fish (dir: Sion Sono)
Sion Sono is an immensely talented artist who lets the vagaries of his poetic side knock his narratives in any direction that he feels like. At times, it's a revelation, giving us masterpieces like Love Exposure, which constantly surprises, while at other times it can give us messes like Hazard or Suicide Club. This time out, Sono makes a film that runs 2 hours and 20 minutes and for a good 2 hours of it, it's a masterwork. From the rocket-blast opening with its razor sharp editing and hand-written titles, through the incredible performance by Denden as probably one of the most chilling serial killers ever to be put on screen - the movie sets itself up to be one of the best films Sono has ever made. That is, until the final 20 minutes. I'm sure that some will disagree, but for all of the carefully structured tension that Sono creates, it's squandered by a diversion to the land of Tokyo Gore. And for what reason? This felt like Sono following a creative whim, rather than where the narrative wanted to go. (Perhaps because it would be too conventional?) Love Exposure states that 'love is pain', while Cold Fish says that 'life is pain'. Both films appear to be expressions of Sono's emotional state while he was making the films. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't - but at least he's constantly trying something. And that is absolutely, 100% worth the price of admission.
Golden Slumber (dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura)
Yoshihiro Nakamura's film, much like last year's Fish Story, shouldn't work - but it does. Their narratives are crazily complex and the films most definitely run on the long side, but both films have feel-good endings that really grab you in a totally unassuming way. Golden Slumber requires that you buy the conceit that a JFK-style assassination conspiracy can happen in Japan. If you buy the basic set up and don't mind hanging out with this nebbishy everyman Aoyagi, then you're in for a fun chase film. At times, the movie feels a little too schematic for its own good, like a celluloid Rube Goldberg contraption, but with a feel-good ending and a Beatles song hook (the title is taken from the song of the same name on Abbey Road), the movie is hard not to like. At any rate, I've taken to thinking about Golden Slumber like a Sabu movie - just with dialogue: once it starts running, it's next to impossible to turn off.
Midori-ko (dir: Keita Kurosaka)
Like a forgotten Eastern European art film that was ground through a shadow-world Studio Ghibli. In fact, there are some contemporary parallels to Ukranian artist Kseniya Simonova's sand animation, with its monochromatic, constantly shifting imagery. Kurosaka pays his bills working as a mainstream animator, but for over 10 years he hand-drew and animated this lysergic joshikosei vegetarian nightmare. Literally, the film is about a girl, Midori ('green,' get it?) who loves animals - or things with faces - too much to eat them. As such, she dedicates her life to farming the last twisted bits of vegetables in her post-apocalyptic town. But fate is a cruel bitch and sends Midori a delicious root vegetable - with a Cupie Baby's face. Midori then has to resist both hers and her neighbor's urges to eat the poor thing and raise it, while in the process dealing with an onslaught of Kurokawa's id, much of which should probably not be shown publicly. Which, of course, is why I loved it. A twisted bit of outsider art, Midori-ko is unlike any animation to have come out of Japan in recent memory. Very highly recommended.
Caterpillar (dir: Koji Wakamatsu)
Caterpillar's good reputation is warranted. One helluva follow-up to 2008's United Red Army (URA) and a blistering critique of Japan's imperialist past, propaganda, and present tense re-writing of history, Koji Wakamatsu has created another towering film. As an adaptation of Edogawa Rampo's short story of the same name, it is at once literally faithful to the Caterpillar title, while also finding its own powerful thematic use of the metaphor. Shinobu Terajima is amazing as the "caterpillar's" wife, but perhaps what makes me most excited about this and URA (taken together), is that Wakamatsu is back to his political rabble-rousing ways, which harkens back to the best of the Wakamatsu Pro days. This is exemplified in Caterpillar by using the old screenwriting nom-de-plume Deru Deguchi (a.k.a. Izuru Deru), which is typically associated with Masao Adachi but also includes other collaborators, such as Kazuo "Gaira" Komizu. The end result is 85 minutes of powerful political screed that reminds us of what was once produced in Japan (and throughout the world, for that matter), and seems to be in low-supply lately.
2010 seemed like a very much scaled-down year for film in Japan - no atrocious monster-hits like Rookies, no cinematic force of nature like Love Exposure, few laudable failures like Ultra Miracle Love Story (= Bare Essence of Life in the terrible international release title). The rough quartering of Japanese film production between (a) big budget dorama-to-film projects (b) the ever-shrinking field of mid-level budget mainstream film (c) very low-budget niche-audience film made for a one-week run in the cinemas and meager profits on DVD and (d) jishu (= self-produced, usually by the director) film seemed to discretely and tiredly settle itself further into its well-worn fate. The hidden (e), fink film, is experiencing a strange phase at the moment: With pink film specialty theaters giving up and production nosediving, there seems to be a reinvigoration of even the more conventionally-minded production companies such as Okura and Excess, and the Pink Film awards in May had an interesting lineup. However I didn't see enough pink in 2010 to give a decent outline of what exactly is happening there.
Animation's presence is being felt more strongly in the cinemas, a production surge that is partially due to some strong box-office performances in the previous years. But here too, "well-made" was the norm, and while some were very well made (The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi being one of them), the films obviously are designed to adhere to the overall media-mix strategy that properties such as Naruto, Keroro, One Piece and so on demand. On a side note, and somewhat perplexingly to me, tokusatsu films were unusually strong. Especially the Kamen Rider series - sporting several releases this year - had some of the most far-out storylines and viscerally affecting (if generically hermetic) aesthetics of anything out there. With these films I'm mostly lagging about a year behind and can't include anything in 2010's list, but someone seriously needs to write about this stuff, it's crackling - and surprisingly relevant.
Enough of surveying, here is a short list; since I have spent the last year in Japan, I'll restrict this to the films actually released in Japan in 2010. For some films I'm not sure about the English release title, so it is missing in some cases:
The Best (in no particular order):
Man-Eater Mountain (Hitokuiyama, dir: Naoyuki Niiya)
What a great film: a manic burst of the joy of animation from Niiya (and sound designer Takuro Kochi), with a wonderfully twisted sense of humor. The amount of work and dedication put into this unique film is mind-boggling, and it shows.
Sweet Little Lies (dir: Hitoshi Yazaki)
I thought his previous feature Strawberry Shortcakes was cute if light on calories, but Yazaki's newest film is such a carefully composed story of emotional complication that its near feel-good ending is both surprising and deceptively believable.
Boys on the Run (dir: Daisuke Miura)
Actually a film I wanted to program for Nippon Connection, but the Udine Far East Film Festival beat me to it. Playwright Daisuke Miura has a merciless feel for the pitifulness / pettiness of the modern human condition, yet always lets you feel for his protagonists, and his first larger film production follows that vein. His jishu film Hatsukoi - Love, A First (2004, screened at Nippon Connection) set the mood. I do hope he continues shooting films, as his stage work is becoming very successful in Tokyo.
Confessions (Kokuhaku; dir: Tetsuya Nakashima)
The first 10 minutes of the film are entrancing, and while it becomes increasingly conventional, that beginning alone is worth it. At least Haruki Kadokawa let scriptwriters/directors do as they wanted with the books they had to base their films on. Current producers not only rarely venture into feature film production without a gensaku (= a book, manga, or game the film is based on), but they seem to increasingly insist on adhering to the "original." Not only this film's latter half, but also Makoto Shinozaki's Tokyo Jima fell victim to this approach.
Ahiru no Ko (dir: Sayaka Ono)
Actually shot in 2005, this is a documentary about the director coming to terms with emotional turmoil surrounding her childhood. A true student of Kazuo Hara (at the Japan Academy of Moving Images) she stages her own despair with a sometimes shaky, occasionally annoying, but ultimately engrossing style.
Bachi Atari Boryoku Ningen (dir: Koji Shiraishi)
This fake documentary about a fake documentary on occult occurrences gone bad (or rather: hijacked by obnoxious and slightly dangerous actors) is by far Shiraishi's best work to date. Nobuhiro Yamashita regular Takeshi Yamamoto (not to be confused with Hiroshi Yamamoto, also from the Yamashita-clan) is one of the most under-acknowledged acting geniuses working in Japan, and he goes full-throttle here. Resigned to straight-to-video fate, the producer wasn't interested in paying for subtitles to show the film abroad. Somebody save this from obscurity!
Redline (dir: Takeshi Koike)
Koike's feature-length debut, this animated film about a cross-planetary race at insanity-inducing speed will be called incoherent, full of poses, and empty by many. In a way, it's Ozu on meth, formalism taken to the extreme. Watch it in a theater with decent speakers.
Yellow Kid (dir: Tetsuya Mariko)
Tetsuya Mariko is without a doubt one of the greatest talents to come out of moving images in Japan. I was part of the jury that awarded him the off-theater competition prize at Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in 2005, a prize he (historically) won two times in a row. The question has always been if he can find his place in more conventional modes of filmmaking. Yellow Kid is proof that he can, and while it isn't perfect there is little question in my mind that that is just a question of time.
Heaven's Story (dir: Takahisa Zeze)
Takahisa Zeze has once again zig-zagged across the film world, where he switches between genres and budget levels at whim, it seems. After his pan-Asian hit Pandemic he made a three-part documentary on legendary punk band Zuno Keisatsu, and now a 4 1/2 hour film, shot over several years. The sheer scale of this very independent (and partially self-funded) film is overwhelming. It's dark, probing, and while it's not completely successful in tying up 4 hours' worth of parallel plots, it's certainly one of the most impressive films of the year.
Doman Seman (Horikawa Nakatachiuri; dir: Go Shibata)
While I didn't care so much for Late Bloomer (which played widely in festivals), Shibata has returned to his true strengths here. An electric, near-incoherent burst of energy when it played at Tokyo Filmex in 2009, the 2010 theatrical release has been much toned down. I preferred the incoherence, held together by raw cinematic recklessness, but it is certainly more digestible now.
- Live Tape (dir: Tetsuaki Matsue)
- The Blood of Rebirth (dir: Toshiaki Toyoda)
- Dump Truck Woman (dir: Show Fujiwara)
- All to the Sea (dir: Akane Yamada)
- The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi (dir: Yasuhiro Takemoto)
- Locked Out (dir: Yasunobu Takahashi)
- Yuriko's Aroma (dir: Kota Yoshida)
- Tokyo Jima (dir: Makoto Shinozaki)
- Love and Loathing and Lulu and Ayano (dir: Hisayasu Sato)
- Our Brief Eternity (dir: Takuya Fukushima)
- Raio (dir: Ryuichi Hiroki)
- Vengeance Can Wait (dir: Masanori Tominaga)
I won't comment too much on the worst films of the year. Maybe just this: the middling out of quality this year affected my selection of the worst films as well. Aside from Nodame Cantabile these were actually decently crafted films, probably fulfilling their goal for the intended audience.
- Toilet (dir: Naoko Ogigami)
- Nodame Cantabile (both films) (Nodame kantabire: Saishu Gakusho - Zenpen, dir: Hideki Takeuchi / Nodame Kantabire: Saishu Gakusho - Kohen, dir: Hideki Takeuchi & Yasuhiro Kawamura)
- Bandage (dir: Takeshi Kobayashi)
- Kakera - A Piece of Our Life (Kakera, dir: Momoko Ando)
- My Darling is a Foreigner (Darin wa Gaikokujin, dir: Kazuaki Ue)
- About Her Brother (Ototo, dir: Yoji Yamada)
And finally, just a few words on 2011. Watch out for at least two films: the awe-inspiring Midori-ko, an animation made by the legendary Keita Kurosaka (in many years of what must have been an exhausting and obsessive work schedule). And the film everyone is already talking about, Underwater Love / Onna no Kappa by director Shinji Imaoka. Even on paper this is one of the most interesting projects of recent years: a pink film musical, a Japanese-German co-production, with music by French-German band Stereo Total, camera by Chris Doyle, and a kappa (a mythical creature living in ponds, with a half-human, half-turtle look) as the main character.
Catherine Munroe Hotes
The Best Animated Shorts of 2010
As it takes a year or two for alternative animation to wend its way around the globe, a number of the films on this list were actually made in 2009 or even 2008. Most of them had their European debuts at festivals sometime during 2010. I saw a lot of interesting work this year from students - the most impressive being the Dome Animation omnibus presenting the work of students of Image Forum in Tokyo. The most exciting development of the year was that animation critic Nobuaki Doi joined forces with Kei Oyama, Atsushi Wada, and Mirai Mizue, to form an independent animation collective called CALF. Together with the interactive animation artists TOCHKA, they have presented their work collectively at festivals around the world and have pooled together their resources to release bilingual DVDs of their work. They plan to release the collected works of more independent animators in the future in order to make alternative animation more widely available than it has been in the past.
Hand Soap (dir: Kei Oyama, 2008)
I went out of my way to get to Japan Week in Mainz this year specifically to see Oyama's latest film, Hand Soap, which at the time had won an award at Oberhausen. More recently it picked up the best narrative short award at the Holland Animation Film Festival. A riveting film that examines the horrors of the teenage years in graphic detail from schoolyard bullying to the popping of pimples. Oyama achieves the unusual textures of his surreal animations by scanning his own flesh.
In a Pig's Eye (Wakaranai Buta, dir: Atsushi Wada, 2010)
Wada has achieved a new artistic high with this beautifully illustrated masterpiece of absurdity. In a Pig's Eye, which won Best Film at Fantoche in Switzerland, uses visual metaphors, repetition and variation of movement, and absurd humour to paint a portrait of an unusual family.
A Labyrinth of Residence (Kyoju Meikyu, dir: Nasuka Saito, 2008)
This short was a part of the Dome Animation omnibus of films by students of Image Forum in Tokyo which toured festivals this past year. Saito's animation of 5000 photographs taken over the period of a month demonstrates the clear influence of her mentor Takashi Ito. She transforms a dull concrete "mansion" (the Japanese term for apartment building) into a dynamic exploration of form, texture, and pattern. Definitely an artist to keep an eye on in the future.
Crouching Dreams (Yume ga Shagandeiru, dir: Tomoyasu Murata, 2008)
If there is an overarching theme to the films of Murata it is that they are located in a place where dreams and reality commingle. Crouching Dreams is a surreal visual journey in which Murata mixes a wide variety of animation styles both drawn and stop motion.
Jam (dir: Mirai Mizue, 2009) and Playground (dir: Mirai Mizue, 2010)
I couldn't decide which of Mizue's films I liked the best - they are all hypnotizing to watch - so I chose two. Jam takes Mizue's experimentation with movement and music to extremes, literally jamming (hence the title) the screen with his insect and amoeba-like creatures as the music increases in complexity and tempo. In Playground, Mizue tries out some new shapes and textures which reminded me at times of Native American art.
Angel (Enzeru, dir: Naoyuki Tsuji, 2008)
Another beautiful charcoal animation from Tsuji, who this time tackles the theme of fertility. In terms of structure, this may be one of Tsuji's most accessible films so far, and his drawing style continues to remind me of Jean Cocteau.
Animal Dance (dir: Ryo Ookawara, 2009)
The beauty of this film is in its simplicity and its blend of movement and music. An exciting experimental work reminiscent of early pioneers like Norman McLaren (esp. Hen Hop, 1942), Len Lye, and Oskar Fischinger. Ookawara's Orchestra (2008), which he made with Masaki Okuda and Yutaro Ogawa, is also a real gem.
Swimming (dir: Shiho Hirayama, 2008)
The awkwardness of a school swimming lesson is rendered in this beautifully drawn animation. The chubby main protagonist jumps clumsily into the pool and his imagination turns this potentially embarrassing situation into a visual delight. For a young animator, Hirayama already has an expert hand at varying perspective and camera distances, making this little film a real treat to watch.
Cornelis (dir: Ayaka Nakata, 2008)
Norman McLaren once said that "every film is a kind of dance," and that being an animator is like "being a dancer second-hand." Ayaka Nakata takes the tradition of modern dance to a new level. Free from the limitations of the human body, the male dancer in Cornelis contorts himself into all kinds of unusual shapes. The use of dance and the multiplying of the human form reminded me of McLaren's Pas de deux (1968).
The Last Train (Saishu Ressha, dir: Mana Fujii, 2009)
Mana Fujii was another student artist whose work was featured in the Dome Animation omnibus which I saw at Nippon Connection in the spring. The concept of the film is quite simple but realized beautifully: a person falling asleep on the last train home in the evening and dreaming of angels drawn in light against a dark sky.
Abacus and Sword (Bushi no Kakeibo, dir: Yoshimitsu Morita)
An ostensible dry taiga drama that, like the best Hollywood westerns, is really about the here and now. A humorous, well-acted, and relevant take on the samurai mythos, where the top-knotted hero is an accountant.
About Her Brother (Ototo, dir: Yoji Yamada)
Yamada's best film in years, and one that finally casts Sayuri Yoshinaga in a role that is appropriate to her age. Ototo is a film that is truly sad but also bawdily funny. Does anyone do scenes of public embarrassment better than Yoji Yamada?
The Borrowers (Karigurashi no Arrietti, dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi)
Another best in years, this time for Studio Ghibli, which frankly hasn't had a real artistic success since Spirited Away. This doesn't qualify as a masterpiece, but it's still terrific and goes back to the basics: telling a story, well.
Caterpillar (dir: Koji Wakamatsu)
The film of the year, as well as the most mature and accomplished feature of Wakamatsu's life. Shinobu Terajima deserves every single plaudit she's received for her riveting turn as a crippled soldier's wife.
Confessions (Kokuhaku, dir: Tetsuya Nakashima)
Nakashima's most audacious film, and one that has split audiences. I'm in its pro camp.
Golden Slumber (dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura)
One of the most entertaining and riveting chase films of the last several years, a film that, like Nakamura's Fish Story, wears its cinematic influences proudly on its sleeve. There are nods to the Bourne trilogy, but there's a heart here that is reminiscent of The Big Sleep and a tenderness that would make John Hughes proud. Masato Sakai (also in Abacus and Sword) is possibly the most consistently excellent film actor in Japan today.
Lost Crime: Senkou (dir: Shunya Ito)
Shunya Ito's comeback. A buddy cop crime thriller that is perfectly paced, but the real star is Eiji Okuda, who turns in an extraordinary, painfully real performance as an obsessed detective.
Parade (dir: Isao Yukisada)
Yukisada's dark and chilling take on youth and urban life in Tokyo. Japanese films typically don't deal with sitcom setups, but Parade deftly skewers the genre.
13 Assassins (Jusannin no shikaku, dir: Takashi Miike)
Miike. Jidaigeki remake. Awesome and amazing.
Your Home (Anta no Ie, dir: Kohei Yamakawa)
Winner of this year's Pia Film Fest Grand Prix award and it wasn't even close. Yamakawa tackles a serious issue - the financial and medical poverty of an elderly couple in the sticks - without the requisite reassurance that has become a staple of nostalgic mainstream fare catering towards aging boomers (see RAILWAYS). Despite his consistent bleakness, however, Yamakawa isn't a complete misanthrope. He's a realist and a humanist, but thankfully not a sentimentalist.
Shikasha (dir: Isamu Hirabayashi)
The short films of Hirabayashi are a revelation. You should see them all, but you could do worse than to start with Shikasha, his newest. This is what real indie filmmaking can be when in the hands of a genius. Like all his beautiful and thought-provoking films, it will make your brain work while your eyes get nourished.
Redline (dir: Takeshi Koike)
Technically released last year, too wonderful not to tell everyone about. This is the most stylish sci-fi anime flick since Mind Game, and a glorious throwback to when feature anime was made for adults. The bold lines and hard features of early-90s anime such as Gunnm paired with a hyper-racing world that seems straight out of F-Zero. 2010 saw the tragic and premature loss of a major figure in anime with Satoshi Kon, but REDLINE is so good that it was able to provide some small measure of consolation.
In no order…
- Good Morning to the World! (dir: Satoru Hirohara)
- Pyuupiru 2001-2008 (dir: Daishi Matsunaga)
- Rail Truck (Torocco, dir: Hirofumi Kawaguchi)
- Yuriko's Aroma (Yuriko no Aroma, dir:Kota Yoshida)
- Sona, the Other Myself (Sona, Mo Hitori no Watashi, dir: Yonghi Yang)
- Deep in the Valley (dir: Atsushi Funahashi)
- The Adventures of the Giant Ant Eater (dir: Hiroyuki Mizumoto) (short)
- Still Walking (Aruitemo Aruitemo, dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda)
- Coming To This Theatre (dir: Ryusuke Ito) (short)
- The Remainder Images (dir: Junichi Okuyama) (short)
During 2010 I got to see a diverse range of Japanese cinema and I hope my list reflects the variety of films that are available. There are some documentaries, indie features, experimental films, animation, short films, transnational productions and some that bridge between. Many of them might not make it to the U.K. (where I live) where Japanese cinema still seems to equal anime or horror to most, but festivals such as Zipangu Fest, Premiere Japan, as well as Nippon Connection in Frankfurt made it possible for me to seek out alternative titles and genres. I also attended the Image Forum Film Festival (3 shorts from the festival are included in my list), the Pia Film Festival and a number of indie film screenings in Japan. Most of my 4-month stay in Tokyo was spent watching films made forty years ago, however this year I saw more contemporary Japanese films than ever before. Ending on a sad note: none of my favourite Japanese films from this year made it onto my list of top world cinema titles from 2010.
Best Japanese-film related events:
- Masao Adachi retrospective and Q&A with Go Hirasawa at Cinema Vuera in Shibuya.
- Takahiko Iimura U.K. Tour and his White Calligraphy Re-Read performance on Charing Cross Road in Central London.
- Nippon Year Zero: Japanese Experimental Films from the 1960s-1970s at Zipangu Fest with Close-Up Film Centre
Best DVD releases of Japanese films:
- Takashi Ito Film Anthology (Image Forum)
- White Calligraphy (Self-Release)
- Profound Desires of the Gods (Blu-ray) (Masters of Cinema)
- Oshima's Outlaw Sixties Box (Criterion)
- Shinjuku Boys / Gaea Girls (Second Run)
Best Non-Japanese (in no order):
- Dogtooth (Lanthimos)
- The Illusionist (Chomet)
- Winter's Bone (Granik)
- Vortex (Luksas)
- RUHR (Benning)
- Blue Valentine (Cianfrance)
- Surviving Life (Svankmajer)
- Coming Attractions (Tscherkassky)
- Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Weerasethakul)
- White Material (Denis)
Below are my choices for the bright moments of 2010 Japanese cinema, in no particular ranking order.
Hot as Hell (Seishun Hakaba Ashita to Issho ni Aruku no da, dir: Yosuke Okada)
Winning the Grand Prix at Yubari and being shut out of award considerations at PFF - 2010 was quite a year for Okada. This yakuza / angry young man film has all the energy and craziness that a good young director's competition film should have.
In a Pig's Eye (Wakaranai Buta, dir: Atsushi Wada)
My best animation choice for this year is definitely not anime, but a short film from Tokyo Arts University. A family shares their garden with a mysterious giant pig. What does this all mean? I don't know, but something in this hypnotic animation makes you want to see it over and over again.
13 Assassins (Jusannin no Shikaku, dir: Takashi Miike)
After years of making so-so films, Miike delivers a masterpiece: a jidaigeki with scenes that bring to mind many classics starting from Seven Samurai, but always with a Miike twist.
Villain (Akunin, dir: Lee Sang-il)
Online dating leads to a girl's murder, but here we are siding up with the killer and the woman who decides to follow him. A realistic setting, great acting, and a story that revolves around our everyday notions of goodness and badness.
Golden Slumber (dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura)
A Japanese entertainment film as good as they get. Falsely framed for killing the prime minister, our protagonist sets up for a run, during which he finds out who is his true friend and who isn't.
The Wife of Gegege (Gegege no Nyobo, dir: Takuji Suzuki)
Kankuro Kudo as a non-polished version of postwar manga artist Shigeru Mizuki (the creator of Gegege no Kitaro) does a much more believable job than what they did in the NHK morning drama of the same title. Furthermore, the Fukaya setting allows for a more realistic environment than the NHK studio sets, but with a fantastic time leap set-up added by director Suzuki.
8000 Miles 2 (SR Saitama no Rappa 2: Joshi Rappa Kizudarake no Raimu, dir: Yu Irie)
As charming as the first part, with now the Gunma swoosh swoosh girl group challenging the Saitama hood boys. And the second film on my list shot in Fukaya.
Heaven's Story (dir: Takahisa Zeze)
Not great throughout, but this 278-minute ensemble piece still contains more wonderful moments than many a 2-hour film.
About Her Brother (Ototo, dir: Yoji Yamada)
TV comedian Shokufutei Tsurube has proved to be a strong actor, at least when the character suits him, like the family's black sheep brother role in this film. You have to be pretty cold-hearted not to cry in the end.
Postcard (Ichimai no Hakagi, dir: Kaneto Shindo)
This veteran director beat a lot of younger colleagues with this strong film about war's effect on the home front and on the women who wait for the return - or non-return - of their men.
Most memorable acting performance:
Takako Matsu's fearless avenging teacher in Tetsuya Nakashima's Confessions (Kokuhaku).
I thought I had cracked movie-spotting in 2009 - It seemed I'd got the measure of how much each promoter at the London Film Festival inflated their domain, and had to adjust accordingly. Last year was a string of treasures, often from filmmakers I had not heard of. This year I didn't find quite the same crop of miracles from around the globe, but, on the other hand, Japanese films I encountered in 2010 often showed better form, and the best of them retaining a strong impression in a year that had many calls for my attention, including a complete Ozu retrospective and a wonderful season of Shochiku films at Pordenone.
1= Although there were fine films from new names, I feel justified in starting with a much older name. Joint first in my list for new films for 2010 is Mizoguchi's Water Magician. Earlier this year I had the fortune to see a presentation by Ayako Saito on the various renditions of Taki no Shiraito, which included a restored ending, from Mizoguchi's camera, that transforms the film from that known on DVD.
1= Sharing honours with this restoration is - Mizoguchi's Water Magician, as seen and heard at the Barbican recently. Even though, on this occasion, the Barbican had to screen the unrestored version, it was still magically transformed, not just by a musical accompaniment on koto, but also wonderfully by a live, English-language raconteur, or benshi. We knew, of course, that Japanese silent films would always have been presented by an explainer, sometimes called a katsuben. And even in the West, we have had the benefit of Digital Meme's ground-breaking DVDs with examples of this art, as has been reviewed on this site. But these have always been in Japanese so, even subtitled, are doubly distant. At the Barbican we had an English narration by Tomoko Komura, fully in the Japanese cultural tradition - and with neither dubbing nor subtitles. This was an innovative, enlightening and enjoyable performance from which much should grow.
3. Not everyone will see the light in eighty-year old faded images, and my next choice was digitally shot. That doesn't prevent Rail Truck (Torocco) from looking back intensely at the last century. Alexander Jacoby pointed out at the recent embassy screenings that, as an Akutagawa adaptation, it already stands on the shoulders of Rashomon and, more than that, looks into personal histories in Taiwan that reach back into the colonial period. The director, Hirofumi Kawaguchi, had a seemingly old-school grooming as assistant director before this debut, for which he has used Hou Hsiao-hsien's long-time photographer, Lee Pin-bing. There is much here that seems to acknowledge the great Taiwanese director, including some very rapid switches of language. For an embassy screening, the one-dimensional subtitles were adequate, as most of the audience would understand when Japanese was being spoken, and when not. But for a wider audience to appreciate its major quality, I suggest that it will need some way of colouring the switches, without being over-didactic. Not many exports from the major Japanese studios have seemed like art-film material recently, and this film looks well capable of broadening the horizons of the west. The Chinese and Japanese diaspora is itself a market comparable in size and scope to that of Western Europe and I hope this film can bridge the gap. I understand that Rail Truck is opening in Taiwan as I write.
4. A touching film from a maker with much past form is Yoji Yamada's My Mother's Brother. Its Japanese title, Ototo, harks back to Kon Ichikawa's masterpiece, although Yamada' story is entirely different and contemporary, and only shares one tribute scene, which those who know their Ichikawa will need no help to recognise. I confess I saw it on a screen much smaller than anything you're likely to be reading this on - on a KLM flight to Tokyo, but it looked like Yamada on fine form. The English title was actually 'About Her Brother' but there's still time to change that.
In contrast, when I flew from Tokyo to Honolulu, JAL's films were on continuous loop, with no way of knowing when they started. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my films to start at the beginning, go on to the end and then stop. So those remained unseen.
5. Another rewarding film from the embassy screenings was Villon's Wife (Buiyon no Tsuma) by Kichitaro Negishi, a film which I see many readers voted for in 2009. The story starts during World War II and continues in the occupation period. It is a particularly fine example of a rich vein in the history of Japanese cinema - how a woman with greater emotional strength tries to cope with a man more famous and more shallow. The film also brings to mind a surprising remark by Mamoun Hassan at the BFI this year that the Japanese didn't ever represent their own occupation on film. Villon's Wife is a deserving addition to an illustrious list of films depicting occupation that my colleagues and I can provide for a fascinating film season, when that call comes.
6. Next on my list is Dear Doctor by Miwa Nishikawa. Having figured on this site last year, as well as on the Kinema Junpo lists, I was grateful that the LFF found some way of bending the rules, so that we could catch up.
7. The post-war occupation, and its personal impact, was also to be seen at Udine this year, which showed Isshin Inudo's remake of Zero Focus (Zero no Shoten). I'm enough of an old fogey to have preferred the original 1961 adaptation by Yoshitaro Nomura, and to be somewhat irritated by the digital manipulation. But I notice that Inudo's colour imagery has overlaid my original memories, as the year has gone on. But, in any case it was a richly entertaining thriller.
8. Kanzeon was none of these things. Its subject - Japanese attitudes to nature and religion - set itself a problem in trying to find form and structure, which I think it overcame. Its filmmakers are English - Neil Cantwell and Tim Grabham - but it was shot in Japan on Japanese money, so I'm nominating it here.
9. The Udine Far East Film Festival is a very sympathetic place for the European launch of a Japanese film - they even cheered at the beginning to see the 'Nikkatsu' credit. Besides interesting retrospectives - of which more elsewhere - it's a good place to see mainstream entertainment films that otherwise don't often appear in Europe. I found myself liking Bandage, by Takeshi Kobayashi, which had convincing personal stories of the young women at the centre of the story but not the group. Improved spotting on the subtitles would further help its reception abroad.
10. And finally, Sion Sono slips to number ten this year with Cold Fish.
- I believe I'm allowed to highlight one. Honours from me go to a 2009 documentary: Harlan: Im Schatten von Jud Süss, by Felix Moeller. It shows just what can be achieved in skilled hands - in this case with just talking heads and film clips. It helps when your subject ends his own film with 'kinder und kinders kinder', and you have just that in front of the camera, but it's a remarkable film.
- Chongqing Blues
- Three Seasons in Hell
- Io sono l'amore
- The Social Network
- Silent Souls
- Enemies of the People
The worst? Is Veit Harlan's Jud Süss a bad film? Is Morihei Magatani's Bloody Sword of the 99th Virgin (seen at Udine this year) a bad film? Unlike the highly accomplished Jud Süss, ShinToho's 99th Virgin was presented as an exploitation/genre film. It couldn't be evil, it was argued, because it was trashy. Or because it was a "fine anthropological film" as another member of the press pack argued. So is badness only in the beholder, as Harlan argued successfully in court? I don't think so. But it's time I brought my wanderings in 2010 around Iwate and Burakumondai literature to a close and turned in a review.
Trends? Alas, it seems we're seeing the collapse of film projection as an art. The sorry tale, in London in 2010, of failed film screenings, and of those that ought to have been stopped and restarted, is far too long to recount to readers. But even those who should set the standard are falling in. BAFTA had inadequate digital transfer rates and, even though they specifically asked people to stay in their seats for the credits, snuffed the final credit. BFI's LFF screenings had all this and missing subtitles on a Romanian film - which made an appearance a few days later on an Argentinean film. Elsewhere this year I've seen the bottom two-thirds of Tokyo Story and Children of the Beehive, and numerous distorted aspect ratios. The worst of it is that, with only one exception, cinema operators sit in their offices and leave viewers guessing as to whether to leave, or wait for someone to sort it out. On overwhelming form in 2010, my advice would be to leave immediately and get a refund.
It was troubling to hear (and see) how the Japanese film industry was just keeping its head above water throughout 2010. The economic crisis has kept studios, production committees and in some cases directors themselves making safe, bland and just plain bad creative decisions in order to ensure return on their investments. Still 2010 saw some great films come out of Japan, many of them from the indie sector. I apologize now if some of these titles are carry overs from 2009, but they're included here as I caught them in this calendar year at festivals and in general release.
- ANPO (dir: Linda Hoaglund)
- Night in Nude: Salvation (Nudo no Yoru: Ai wa Oshiminaku Ubau, dir: Takashi Ishii)
- Sona, the Other Myself (Sona, Mo Hitori no Watashi, dir: Yonghi Yang)
- Golden Slumber (dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura)
- Caterpillar (dir: Koji Wakamatsu)
- Midori-ko (dir: Keita Kurosaka)
- Annyong Yumika (dir: Tetsuaki Matsue)
- Autumn Adagio (Fuwaku no Adagio, dir: Tsuki Inoue)
- In a Pig's Eye (dir: Atsushi Wada)
- Oh My Buddha! (Shikisoku Zenereishon, dir: Tomorowo Taguchi)
- Kaiji (dir: Toya Sato)
The Best Non-Japanese Films
- Crazy Heart
- Herb and Dorothy
- Animal Kingdom
- Get Low
Rowena Santos Aquino
Best Japanese films, in no particular order:
- 13 Assassins (Jusannin no Shikaku, dir: Takashi Miike)
- Air Doll (Kuki Ningyo, dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda)
- Confessions (Kokuhaku, dir: Tetsuya Nakashima)
- Outrage (dir: Takeshi Kitano)
- Parade (dir: Isao Yukisada)
Best non-Japanese, in no particular order:
- Certified Copy (dir: Abbas Kiarostami)
- Hahaha (dir: Hong Sang-soo)
- Last Train Home (dir: Lixin Fan)
- The Actresses (dir: E J-yong)
- Lebanon (dir: Samuel Moaz)
- Confessions of a Dog (Pochi no Kokuhaku, dir: Gen Takahashi)
- Live Tape (dir: Tetsuaki Matsue)
- Oh, My Buddha (Shikisoku Zenereishon, dir: Tomorowo Taguchi)
- Autumn Adagio (Fuwaku no Adagio, dir.: Tsuki Inoue)
- Our Brief Eternity (dir: Takuya Fukushima)
- Crime or Punishment?!? (Tsumi toka Batsu toka, dir: Keralino Sandorovich)
- The Red Spot (Der rote Punkt, dir: Marie Miyayama)
- Kakera - A Piece of Our Life (Kakera, dir: Momoko Ando)
- Locked Out (Rokkuauto, dir: Yasunobu Takahashi)
- A Normal Life, Please! (Futsu no Shigoto ga Shitai, dir: Tokachi Tsuchiya)
- Scott Pilgrim VS the World (dir: Edgar Wright)
- Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Loong Boonmee raleuk chat, dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
- Shutter Island (dir: Martin Scorsese)
- Wild Grass (Les Herbes Folles, dir: Alain Resnais)
- Inception (dir: Christopher Nolan)
- Film Socialism (Film socialisme, dir: Jean-Luc Godard)
- I Saw The Devil (Akmareul boattda, dir: Kim Ji-woon)
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor, dir: Niels Arden Oplev)
- Kick-Ass (dir: Matthew Vaughn)
- Splice (dir: Vincenzo Natali)