Midnight Eye’s Best of the Decade

29 March 2010

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The Midnight Eye crew and some of our regular contributors get together to bring you their choices for the best Japanese films from the first decade of the 21st century. But instead of merely looking back, we also look forward and give you our personal tip-offs and thoughts on the future of Japanese cinema.

(The votes for the Best of the Decade Poll are in! And the winner is...)

Tom Mes

Rather than looking at films that were influential or widely seen, I have compiled a list on the basis of my personal taste and came up with a purely subjective selection. But there is no being a film critic without being subjective. In fact I believe subjectivity is prerequisite in this line of work - even though most people active in the field today seem to confuse subjectivity with a star rating and a consumer recommendation, or abandon the concept altogether in favour of being a willing cog in the publicity machine.
So here we go, my ten favourite Japanese films of this first decade of the millennium.

1. Dead or Alive 2 (Deddo oa Araibu 2 Tobosha, dir: Takashi Miike)

Even after all the viewing, re-viewing, analysing, and writing I did on this film, I still cannot get over how amazingly intricate, yet incredibly clear and to the point, and at the same time deeply touching this film is.

2. Tokyo Sonata (Tokyo Sonata, dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is one of the greatest filmmakers active in the world today and Tokyo Sonata is his masterpiece. So far, that is, because I am convinced he can and will do even better.

3/4. It's Only Talk / Vibrator (Yawarakai Seikatsu / Vaibureta, dir: Ryuichi Hiroki)

In their sharing the same director, actress and subject - a young woman trying to find purpose in a life from which all certainties have vanished - these two films represent twin sisters in my eyes: one rebellious, the other more timid. But their differences are only skin deep: they suffer the same inner turmoil. Not the only films on this list that go straight to the heart of Japan's social condition.

5. Moon and Cherry (Tsuki to Cherri, dir: Yuki Tanada)

Fresh and nimble, this witty, sexy gender reversal piece is thematically not only incredibly of its time (or should that be ahead of its time?), it also revealed two major talents in director Tanada and leading actress Noriko Eguchi. Furthermore, Moon and Cherry served as the herald of a new generation of great female Japanese filmmakers. Much as I dislike the futile practice of grouping artists together on the basis of their gender, there is no denying that their large number represents a sea-change in Japanese film history and that their presence will likely provoke some major changes in the film industry in the decade to come. And not a moment too soon...

6. Strawberry Shortcakes (Sutoroberri Shotokeikusu, dir: Hitoshi Yazaki)

Treading similar territory to the two Hiroki films mentioned above, this ensemble piece came out equally fascinating and superbly executed. In an industry monopolised by manga adaptations, this film based on the comic books by Kiriko Nananan (who also plays one of the four lead roles) is a shining example of how to get it right.

7. Air Doll (Kuki Ningyo, dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

I am not a fan of Hirokazu Koreeda. Aside from After Life his films have left me indifferent at best and hostile at worst. But Air Doll, in spite of, but probably more precisely because of its commercial origins, is a truly great film to me. There is a lot to be said for filmmakers who refuse to compromise to get their visions as artists onto the screen, but to me that shows a misunderstanding of the nature of cinema as a very imperfect means of self-expression, what with all the collaborators, technology and money involved. So if the medium is imperfect from the start, then perhaps striving for perfection is missing the point. With Air Doll, Koreeda has made great commercial art the way Hitchcock, Siegel, Fuller and a good number of his own countrymen (Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa to name two contemporaries) have done.

8. Doing Time (Keimusho no naka, dir: Yoichi Sai)

For all the comparisons between him and a lot of the more obviously arthouse-oriented Japanese directors, if Ozu were alive today, Doing Time is mostly likely the film he would be making.

9. A Snake of June (Rokugatsu no Hebi, dir: Shinya Tsukamoto)

The more time passes, the more at awe I am of this film. It's a film that blends genres - relationship drama, film noir, sex film, cyberpunk - and is a study of perversion of almost scientific accuracy, meaning it is intensely human: sad but life-affirming at the same time. At some point in the future, this film will be seen as the starting point of something. Of what, I don't know yet, time will tell, but some day people are going to refer back to this the way, say, Romero's Night of the Living Dead or Hawks's Scarface are seen as the start of something.

10. Blue Spring (Aoi Haru, dir: Toshiaki Toyoda)

I was staying at a friend's place a while ago and around 2 in the morning after many hours of conversation and many glasses of shochu, my host put on the DVD of Blue Spring, just to check out the cool opening scene. We ended up watching it all the way 'til the very end, and as the first hesitant rays of morning sunlight began to cross the heavens, we turned up the volume as Thee Michelle Gun Elephant's song Drop blasted out of the speakers while the end credits rolled.

Tip-off for the future:

There are a great many things awry with Japanese cinema today: weak producers, inexperienced crews, the increasing chasm between the haves and the have-nots, the dominance of television networks and talent agencies, the Toho distribution monopoly, the purely commercial interpretation and application of copyright, and the virtual impossibility to get films made based on original ideas, to name but a handful of ills. These are reasons to despair and despair I did. But what makes me absolutely determined to see Midnight Eye through another ten years are the young amateur and indie filmmakers that are out there doing their own thing, shooting films with the means at their disposal and with vast amounts of talent. Tsuki Inoue and Kota Yoshida are perfect exemplars of this and I've been very fortunate to have been in a position to follow both their developments closely, ever since being blown away by Tsuki's magnificent short The Woman Who Is Beating the Earth (Daichi o Tataku Onna) and Yoshida's delightfully twisted Coming With My Brother (Onechan Ototo to Iku) at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in early 2008. Their debut features Autumn Adagio and Yuriko's Aroma fulfilled the promise, and there is plenty of talent hot on their heels.

Jasper Sharp

Wow, has it really been ten years since I first met Tom at Rotterdam and we hatched the plan to start this website? A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and we've all seen a whole lot of movies from Japan in the interim, more than I ever imagined. Some were outstanding; some, it must be said, were bloody awful. Its nigh on impossible to nail down ten which for me really encapsulated all that was great about Japanese cinema from the noughties, especially as I've not seen many of the films that made my top tens of their respective years since they came out. My selection therefore might not necessarily reflect the "best" films of the decade, but the ones that really stand out in my memory as making a big impression at the time I saw them or as representing some sort of landmark, whether in overseas appreciation or historical significance - and again, I emphasize, ten is really not enough. I list them in chronological order, rather than order of preference.

1. Audition (Odishon, dir: Takashi Miike)

Okay, so it was released in Japan before 2000, but I only had a chance to see it when it debuted in Rotterdam that year, and I vividly remember the hordes of audience members scrambling for the exits during the last reel. I've not watched the film in ages, but as a viewing experience it was unforgettable, and for me nothing Miike has made subsequently has ever reached the same dizzy heights of excellence.

2. Battle Royale (Batoru Rowaiaru, dir: Kinji Fukasaku)

Again, another title I've not seen in a long time, and I'm not even sure if one can qualitatively describe it as a "good" film - it certainly has its weaker moments. But again, the sheer exuberance of the exercise and the difference from Western cinema in terms of both its subject matter and approach at the time made a strong impression. It was like nothing else I'd ever seen before, and the influence it had on bringing in a whole wave of overseas viewers to Japanese cinema is undeniable.

3. Avalon / Innocence (Avalon / Inosensu, dir: Mamoru Oshii)

You can say what you want about Oshii's films, but one can't deny the intellectual rigour and ambition behind them, nor the stunning visuals and moments of transcendental beauty that make up for any dramatic lacunae. Hard to say which is my favourite of these two, as there are moments in both which have haunted me long after seeing them - the ending of Avalon, the elephant parade of Innocence, and of course the soundtracks of both. Amazing.

4. Mind Game (Maindo Geimu, dir: Masaaki Yuasa)

A mind-blowing, groundbreaking piece of animation, and it is frankly bizarre that this film never got a decent release in the English-speaking world.

5. Moon and Cherry (Tsuki to Cherri, Yuki Tanada)

A low-budget video piece that was only modestly distributed in Japan, Tanada's film for me was the first really distinctive work from a woman director this decade, one that really looked at gender relations from the opposite direction. Sassy, witty and highly entertaining.

6. Canary (Kanaria, dir: Akihiko Shiota)

Another film that never went beyond the festival circuit, but though uneven in places, I thought it had as much, if not more, intelligent things to say about the socialisation of children than Koreeda's Nobody Knows, released around the same time.

7. Strawberry Shortcakes (Sutoroberri Shotokeikusu, dir: Hitoshi Yazaki)

There were a whole host of subtle but quite brilliant female-centred dramas over the last decade, and it was really hard to single out one from the likes of Ryuichi Hiroki's Vibrator and It's Only Talk, or Akira Ogata's The Milkwoman, so Strawberry Shortcakes will have to stand in for all of them.

8. Still Walking (Aruite mo Aruite mo, dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

Nothing Koreeda made this last decade was as good as After Life in my opinion, but his films are always interesting and he is always willing to experiment and push his art in new directors. Still Walking is my pick of his recent films, but Air Doll comes a very close second.

9. United Red Army (Jitsuroku Rengo Sekigun, dir: Koji Wakamatsu, 2008)

This film was counted as one of the most significant of the past decade in a recent Sight and Sound critics poll, so why the hell has it not had a proper English-language release yet?

10. Love Exposure (Ai no Mukidashi, Sion Sono, 2009)

I saw this three times last year - not bad for a 4 hour film, and I'm pretty sure I'll be watching it again many times in the future. Again, one of those films that could only come from Japan. Highly entertaining.

You'll notice that there are no films by Takeshi Kitano or Hayao Miyazaki included in this list. Despite their international statuses, for me, the films of both directors released this past decade didn't really break much in the way of new ground and traded on the merits of earlier works, with Kitano's style looking particularly stale by the end of the decade.

Thoughts for the future:

As for the future, well, I for one can't wait to see Sono's Lords of Chaos film, whenever it gets made, but I have to say, there's a general air of exasperation within the Japanese film world at the moment due to the dominance of television tie-ins and idol movies at the local box office. I am sure some exciting new voices are going to emerge from the jishu eiga scene, ones with a rather more international perspective than the major studio workhorses; these are the type of films you are likely to be seeing more of at overseas festivals, especially as from recent evidence they're getting a lot better technically, as Yosuke Okuda's Hot as Hell win from the recent Yubari festival testifies. Such films are unlikely to break through internationally in the way that, say, Battle Royale did, but it's clear there's a whole new generation of damn fine filmmaking talent bubbling away beneath the surface who are bound to shape the playing field of Japanese cinema in the future.

Nicholas Rucka

(In no specific order)

Mind Game (dir: Masaaki Yuasa)

One of the most inspiring films I've ever seen about how to live one's life on one's own terms. Animation geniuses Studio 4°C have yet to reach this high-point again but it doesn't matter; every single person I've introduced to this film has fallen completely and totally in love with it and has gone on to spread the good word.

Audition (dir: Takashi Miike)

For my money, the best horror film of the last decade. Be careful who you say 'I love you' to. Kiri kiri kiri...

United Red Army (dir: Koji Wakamatsu)

A masterwork by master filmmaker Koji Wakamatsu, this is one of the best dramatizations of the dissolution of idealism. Told with economy, power and verve it's a shame that more people haven't had a chance to see it.

Love Exposure (dir: Sion Sono)

A flawed masterpiece about love (but a masterpiece nonetheless), Sion Sono's Love Exposure is one of those films that will become a significant part of Japanese film history -- that's assuming, of course, that it's not already regarded as such.

The Taste of Tea (Cha no Aji, dir: Katsuhito Ishii)

Katsuhito Ishii's Taste of Tea and Funky Forest should be paired together but because I have a title limit, I went with Taste of Tea. Without a doubt one of the most creative and bizarre film-going experiences I've had this entire decade: it manages the significant feat of not feeling forced or artificial in its weirdness although it could've gone off the rails at any moment. Director Ishii is a brilliantly 'strange ranger' but it'd be a disservice (and inaccurate) to call him the Terry Gilliam of Japan because he's so successfully carved out his own aesthetic and style.

A Snake of June (dir: Shinya Tsukamoto)

Shinya Tsukamoto is one of my favorite Japanese filmmakers of all time, but to tell the truth, I've had mixed feelings about his more recent films. That said, I love A Snake of June for the sum of its parts: the story, the performances and the visuals. A cool industrial film about the labyrinthine warmth of a woman's heart in the icy confines of a society ruled by the dominant patriarchy, this film shows Shinya Tsukamoto at his auteur best.

Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari, dir: Tetsuya Nakashima)

Tetsuya Nakashima is arguably one of the finest directors working in Japan, a man infamously anal and overly technical about the look and feel of his movies. Kamikaze Girls (although his third feature film) perfectly set his trademark dark tone and manga-like visual style. What makes him unusual is that he's got so much more under his hood, with him typically telling dark stories about women trapped in society. Kamikaze Girls is hilarious and touching and visually it influenced the rest of the decade in innumerable ways: from commercials to films to fashion and (naturally) TV dramas.

Late Bloomer (Osoi Hito, dir: Go Shibata)

A full embrace of video and its technological limitations, Late Bloomer is a favourite for its raw honesty and experimental roots. When director Go Shibata decided to tell the story of a handicapped man becoming a murderer, it reeked of exploitation. When he cast severely handicapped non-actor Masakiyo Sumida for the title role he ran the risk of it becoming stunt casting and in fact for the first several months of work, Shibata was unhappy with the results. But when Shibata recognized that Sumida, although handicapped, had all of the same urges, fears and desires of a non-handicapped person, he discovered the raw heart of the film. Late Bloomer has rough edges, but those aberrations and imperfections are just as important to the milieu of the story as Sumida's handicap is.

Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei, dir: Yoji Yamada)

For all intents and purpose, the samurai film had wandered off to the back-forty, curled up and died. But then veteran filmmaker Yoji Yamada came along and released the jidai-geki that he'd had brewing inside of him for years. The film has the worn leather creases and mustiness of a film like Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and, like that film, it has as much coiled power in it that keeps you on edge until its explosive finale. What I remember loving the most about it was that the film had little glamour to it; just a strong heart and a clear sense of right and wrong.

Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts (dir: Sogo Ishii)

What can I say? This is probably the last good film that Sogo Ishii made but it rules on so many levels. I'd debated between this and Guitar Wolf's b-movie masterpiece Wild Zero and decided on this one - which is undoubtedly due to it being such a consistently visually striking movie charged with (electric!) bolts of kinetic energy. I've known people who have scratched their heads and wondered what the hell this film is about but that's already a lost cause because, it's like, how do you explain punk music to someone who doesn't instinctually get it? Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts should be thought of as an amazing punk album: it's loud, feels good and just destroys your speakers and your ears in a really good way.

A final comment about my list: So much of my writing at Midnight Eye is somehow connected to Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale. In fact, before I ever started writing for Midnight Eye, I had an e-mail debate with Tom Mes about Fukasaku's hit film and while I agree that the film is significant to the rest of the decade, especially when viewed in hindsight, I've never been able to make peace with it for reasons that are really too long (and, likely, too superficial) to go into here. But suffice to say, I believe that without Battle Royale becoming the break-out international cult hit that it was, there wouldn't be as much interest in Japanese film abroad as there is now. Most certainly not in the wave of cult films that have flooded into the West, which are diametrically opposed to the films of 'regarded' masters like Mizoguchi, Kurosawa and Ozu.

Thoughts for the future:

Looking to the future, I believe that as the box office in Japan continues to be dominated by the major studios like Toho and becomes the realm of the TV drama gone large-screen, there will be more diversification in the independent scene that will lead to an increase in international co-productions. I'm not talking about the DIY scene with films like Now I..., but more about established indie-filmmakers like Noboru Iguchi and Naoyuki Tomomatsu and Yoshihiro Nishimura who did Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl respectively. Look to the arrival of the upcoming Nikkatsu genre-palooza Sushi Typhoon as well as the Eleven Arts US/Japan/Norway co-production of Lords of Chaos for a possible sign of things to come. This will carry over outside of exploitation films as collaborations with Japanese filmmakers and foreign screenwriters, like we saw with Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Max Mannix on Tokyo Sonata, will become more of the norm. This all being said, I think that there will be more niche filmmaking being done as production costs drop and there will be more international exposure for these young DIY filmmakers. Whether this will be through online torrent-style film festival/film sites or through specialist film festivals focused on Japanese indies like the Toronto Shinsedai showcase or Frankfurt's Nippon Connection, remains to be seen. However, the question that all non-Japanese filmmakers will ask is: will Japan have a film festival or a screening place for non-Japanese DIY filmmakers?

Martin Mes

  1. Nobody Knows (Dare mo Shiranai, dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)
  2. It's Only Talk (Yawarakai Seikatsu, dir: Ryuichi Hiroki)
  3. Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts (Electric Dragon 80,000 V, dir: Sogo Ishii)
  4. Graveyard of Honour (Shin Jingi no Hakaba, dir: Takashi Miike)
  5. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, dir: Hayao Miyazaki)
  6. Tokyo Sonata (Tokyo Sonata, dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  7. Hanging Garden (Kuchu Teien, dir: Toshiaki Toyoda)
  8. Bright Future (Akarui Mirai, dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  9. United Red Army (Jitsuroku Rengo Sekigun, dir: Koji Wakamatsu)
  10. Tony Takitani (Toni Takitani, dir: Jun Ichikawa)

Tip-off for the future: Camera Japan Festival, Rotterdam, Holland

Over forty years, the International Film Festival Rotterdam has grown from its humble origins in the city's Venster arthouse cinema to a massive event that plays an important role on the global stage. Camera Japan, now in its fifth year, started out modestly too, and on the very same spot. Now, with spin-off editions taking place in other major Dutch cities, it's anyone's guess how far this festival will grow and expand.

Eija Niskanen

As there were so many films I wanted to list, I ended up taking in films that I found somehow influential, and which I have ended up seeing several times - those cinematic treats of mine. I want to mention also the following films as the jewels of the decade, which could have been on my 10-best list as well: Who's Camus Anyway? / Kamyu nante Shiranai, dir: Mitsuo Yanagimachi; Strawberry Shortcakes, dir: Hitoshi Yazaki; All Around Us / Gururi no Koto, dir: Ryosuke Hashiguchi; Fourteen / Juyonsai, dir: Hiromasa Hirosue, and any film by the Hirosue-Takahashi duo; Mind Game, dir: Masaaki Yuasa; and Now, I... / Ima, Boku wa, dir. Yasutomo Chikuma.

1. Battle Royale (dir. Kinji Fukasaku)

A fantasy, but it truthfully reflects the discourses on teenage violence - and Fukasaku takes the young people's side. Many young soon-to-be-stars show up in this, including Quentin Tarantino's favorite Chiaki Kuriyama, and the film offers a great performance from Beat Takeshi as well.

2. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

Inventive, colourful bath of Miyazaki's flowing images.

3. Kafka's A Country Doctor (Kafuka Inaka Isha, dir: Koji Yamamura)

When we step outside of the realm of anime and Ghibli, Koji Yamamura is a wonderful master of short art animation, and this wildly expressionistic re-interpretation of a Kafka novel is a truly intense viewing experience.

4. Zatoichi (dir. Takeshi Kitano)

Kitano made his own, twisty re-interpretation of the classic Zatoichi. This is exciting, humorous, and offers a great song and tap dance finale for us musical lovers.

5. Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters (Tachigui Retsuden, dir: Mamoru Oshii)

Oshii, in his heart, is anti-anime, which is proved best by this documentary/animation/stop-motion photography history of post-war Japanese through the fast-food eateries and the strange characters who frequent them. A great follow-up to Avalon, also one of the best films of the decade, anime or non-anime.

6. Love Exposure (dir: Sion Sono)

This I commented already for my best of 2009 list. Sion Sono is able to surprise us with every movie he makes.

7. The Hanging Garden (Kuchu Teien, dir. Toshiaki Toyoda)

One of the best films on sick family relations and a visually striking one too. Toyoda has always been a visually interesting filmmaker and he never makes the same film concept twice.

8. It's Only Talk (dir: Ryuichi Hiroki)

Shinobu Terajima was awarded the best actress prize at this year's Berlinale, and for a reason: she has constantly made great work, the best of which is in co-operation with Hiroki. Here she throws her soul into the depiction of a depressed person.

9. Still Walking (dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

Somehow a very Ozu-like movie, but with a modern sensibility. Kore-eda creates the same ironic and at the same time natsukashii feeling, without falling into the false nostalgia so prevalent in current Japanese films. Great ensemble acting, and the airy camera work completes the enjoyment.

10. Waterboys (dir: Shinobu Yaguchi)

There is a load of films on high school kids who learn to play jazz or dance hula or whatever. But Yaguchi started this sub-genre with his fun tale of high school boys who form a synchronized swimming team.

Tip-off for the future:

Follow what the indie scene brings out. The competition winners and side events at Yubari Fantastic Film Festival, Pia Film Festival competition, things happening in SKIP City, Uplink... the cinematic future is here!

Jason Gray

  1. Battle Royale (dir: Kinji Fukasaku)
  2. Still Walking (dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)
  3. Love Exposure (dir: Sion Sono)
  4. All Around Us (dir: Ryosuke Hashiguchi)
  5. Spirited Away (dir: Hayao Miyazaki)
  6. United Red Army (dir: Koji Wakamatsu)
  7. Tokyo Sonata (dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  8. Canary (dir: Akihiko Shiota)
  9. Adrift in Tokyo (Ten-ten, dir: Satoshi Miki)
  10. This World of Ours (Oretachi no Sekai, dir: Ryo Nakajima)

Thoughts for the future:

Rather than single out a director or company to watch for, I hope Japan's steady conversion to digital projection (to meet the demand for 3D) has the side effect of alleviating P&A costs hampering and killing off small-medium distributors. In turn, perhaps more original, riskier work will gain wider exposure. In the brightest of futures I predict a movement that recalls the heyday of the Art Theatre Guild, with young (and old) radical voices in filmmaking coming together and injecting some much needed adrenaline into the Japanese cinema scene.

Roger Macy

It seems obvious to me that many votes at awards lists are votes against something as much as votes for. Would The Cove really have won the documentary Oscar based on its filmic accomplishments? I suppose it would be too much for Hollywood to come out with Capitalism: A Love Story but there have been other excellent documentaries, including The Last Season: Shawaks / Demsla Shawi Sewaxan, which had a fine observation on animal slaughter and much, much more. I just wish Departures hadn't won last year. And that's the last you'll hear of that film in this piece. Others will have to judge what else I'm voting against.

So, here goes: (and bear in mind that I have seen nearly all my Japanese films in the West, so it's a selection from a restricted list, filtered through the pre-digestion of but a handful of individuals)

United Red Army (dir: Koji Wakamatsu)

A superb portrayal of the intersection of mass psychology, marxism and bullying. Akie Namiki portrays the scariest non-fictional character I know in film. One glance to the horizon and you would be beaten to pulp in a week. I couldn't decide whether it was the acting that was so effective or the editing, a la Naruse. I'd like to see more of her to decide. And it's a scenic action film for bonus.

I Just Didn't Do It (Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai, dir: Masayuki Suo)

Not so pretty to watch, but this had a late Sunday full-house at the LFF completely rapt, so I can't see why it mainly inhabits references in learned text-books on jurisprudence. I think it's the only case in the history of cinema where someone has made a truthful and gripping film about the administration of justice and rules of evidence.

Still Walking (dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

Still rates for me as Koreeda's most comprehensive success to date.

Nobody Knows (dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

Still visually and emotionally clear to me after many hundreds of other films.

Hana (dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

A light and funny Koreeda with plenty of nods at early Ozu gags. Now whose father was a fertiliser dealer in Tokyo?

Air Doll (dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

Koreeda's other period film, set circa 2003 when a film could still be called 'a long piece of celluloid', as it was treated for most of the story. An affectionate farewell to celluloid?

The Book of the Dead (dir: Kihachiro Kawamoto)

Memorable in appearance and approach. This is the nearest I get to animation. No doubt you could do it with cel animation or 3D CGI, but the tangible nature of the artwork augments it immeasurably for me.

Love Exposure (dir: Sion Sono)

It made me remember what it felt like to be a teenager. Most of its competitors just make me feel old.

Tony Takitani (dir: Jun Ichikawa)

Just makes me wish I could see more of this late director.

Now, I... (dir: Yasutomo Chikuma)

Shows just what you can do with next to nothing if you have the skill to direct an actor, even a completely inexperienced one.


  • Japanese bankers in London will come home at 5 o'clock, help with the dinner, and invite their family out to the movies.
  • Toho will voluntarily decide that they have too much of the home market and split into four companies.
  • Koreeda will finally make his biopic on Yoshiko Yamaguchi with mainland Chinese money.
  • North Korea will cap it with a blockbuster on Choe Seung-hui, with the inside story of post-1945 espionage and the Great Leader's sexual preferences.
  • An executive in Toho will notice that most people who watch foreign films are over fourteen.
  • Film companies will start crediting the second-most influential member of the production crew with as much care as bootleggers credit translators.