Friday, August 31, 2012

Press Review (August)

Not much change this month as I was still too busy and tired to do much. But I always have enough energy to gather scraplinks and share them with you after the jump:

Humour pas éthique en [six] huit catas strophes

AVERTISSEMENT: Peut contenir des traces de mauvais humour! Toutes personnes allergiques à l'humour salace, grivois, sexiste, anticlérical ou raciste, voir: au calambour obscure, sont fortement conseillé(e) de prendre les précautions nécessaires pour leur sécurité et devraient s'abstenir de lire plus loin! (On vous aura averti!)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yamamoto Isoroku

“Japan, summer 1939. Pressure is building for Japan to sign a pact with Germany and Italy, but admiral Yamamoto is reluctant to go to war with the US, whom he considers too powerful.” (2012 Montreal World Film Festival schedule book)
WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

The full Japanese title of the movie is 聯合艦隊司令長官 山本五十六 (Rengô kantai shirei chôkan: Yamamoto Isoroku / Isoroku Yamamoto, the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet).

Yamamoto Isoroku (山本 五十六) was a great thinker and strategist (he's often depicted in the movie playing shogi, a chess-like military strategy game). He told his superiors (and I am paraphrasing here) “Don't make a tripartite alliance with Germany and Italy. If you do, the Americans will cut us from the essential supplies we need.” But eventually, they did make an alliance with Hitler. He also told them “Don't attack the U.S., because they're stronger than us. If we do, we'll lose and Japan will be utterly destroyed.” But eventually, they did attack the Americans and, having no choice, Yamamoto planned the attack himself. However, he warned his superiors to “make sure to declare war before attacking the Americans, because if not it will certainly make things worse.” Of course, the Japanese embassy screwed up and the declaration of war was given one hour after the attack, angering the Americans. There is no mention in the movie of his famous quote: “we have awaken a sleeping giant,” probably because it is now considered apocryphal. Finally, he insisted that, if they had to go to war with the Americans, it would be better to hit them hard and fast in the hope to crush their morale and be able to quickly sue for peace, because he considered that if Japan had to engage in a long war of attrition with them they would definitely lose since the Americans were far superior in force and resources.

Unfortunately, his superiors took no heed of his warnings and the Pacific war quickly became a messy affair as the Japanese kept making wrong decisions after another, leading toward an ugly end. The culprit was an enormous national pride that made people believe they could win despite the odds. Even if Pearl Harbor was a strategic failure (they gambled they could destroy the American Pacific Fleet, but its most important elements, the carriers, were nowhere to be seen), it was portrayed at home as a great victory. The “success” of Midway was a failure as well (Yamamoto's subordinates did not follow his instruction to “load half the airplanes with torpedoes in order to strike and sink the carriers that our attack will definitely draw”), but the huge lost sustained by the Navy ultimately sealed the fate of Japan. In Guadalcanal, a retreat became a “transfer of troops” in the national newspapers! Fortunately, Yamamoto died in an enemy attack in the Solomon Islands (he wanted to inspect the troops and boost their morale by his presence, but someone had stupidly broadcast his traveling plans), and therefore never witnessed the miserable end of the war.

Yamamoto Isoroku is a “biographical” drama that focuses solely on Yamamoto's role in the Pacific War and his conviction that war against the Americans was a mistake and that, if it was indeed inevitable, the best chances of success for Japan was to aim at a quick peace after hitting them hard and fast. Not much is said on his personal life: once in a while we glimpse of his family just to remind the viewers that he is human and has a wife and children. The movie is essentially an history lesson but, thanks to an excellent storytelling, it never feels like a lecture. The director achieves this by introducing the viewers to two groups of people -- a couple of newspaper reporters and the customers of a small izakaya bar -- which he cleverly use to communicate to the viewers the essential historical and chronological information about the progress of the war, its historical context, what's the public opinion at the time and who thinks what about the current strategy or geo-political situation.

Strangely, it doesn't feel at all like an anti-war movie and is not even apologetic of Japan's role in the war. It simply tells the viewers that, if Yamamoto's vision would have prevailed, the Pacific War might have been avoided or at least delayed and, in case of war, an early peace would have been pursued, avoiding all the horrors that ultimately deprived Japan of its honor. It tells us (and I totally agree with that assessment) that the war was essentially caused by the stupidity of the “hawks,” the warmonger amongst the media and the political bureaucracy. Unfortunately, in order to pass his message, the director is raising Yamamoto to a status of demi-god and the movie is endlessly chanting is coolness and greatness to the point of being annoying.

I am not sure exactly what this movie is telling us about the ideology of today's Japan. We've certainly seen an increase in war movies being produced lately and it seems to coincide with an hardening of the right wing parties seeking more aggressive politics. Many want to re-arm Japan or defend more aggressively Japanese territory against the claim of other countries in order to secure future resources. However, I don't think that this movie is part of this trend. In contrary, it seems to warn us against repeating the pitfall of history (but this time the sleeping giant would probably be China).

All in all, despite its ideological aspects, it is quite an interesting movie that offers a beautiful photography where, surprisingly, the special effects are minimally obtrusive (I cannot say they are barely noticeable, but at least they are negligibly obvious). A movie well worth watching.

Yamamoto Isoroku (Admiral Yamamoto): Japan, 2011, 140 min.; Dir.: Izuru Narushima; Scr.: Yasuo Hasegawa, Kenzaburo Iida; Phot.: Takahide Shibanushi, Hiroshi Futsuta; Ed.: Hirohide Abe; Mus.: Tarô Iwashiro; Prod.: Shohei Kotaki; Cast: Koji Yakusho, Hiroshi Tamaki, Akira Emoto, Toshiro Yanagiba, Hiroshi Abe, Eisaku Yoshida, Kippei Shiina, Takeo Nakahara, Ikuji Nakamura, Mitsugoro Bando, Mieko Harada, Asaka Seto, Rena Tanaka, Toru Masuoka, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Shunji Igarashi, Asaka Seto, Rena Tanaka, Toru Masuoka, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Shunji Igarashi. Screened, in presence of one of the producers, as part of the “World Great” segment (Out of competition) at the Montreal World Film Festival 2012, on August 26th, 18:40 in Cinéma Quartier Latin 9 (a theatre with a 350-seat capacity which was a little less than 3/4 full).
Other comments or reviews:

One last point, not related to the movie itself: The primary duty of a film festival and of a movie theatre is to preserve the integrity of the artistic works it is presenting. I didn't appreciate at all that the sound was cut off for almost the entire end credits of the movie. A soundtrack is an integral part of a movie. It's bad enough that the movie started late (because of the Q&A of the previous movie, I think) but it is not the first year that I witness unforgivable technical screw ups at the festival and particularly at the Quartier Latin. Of course, the people of the festival say it's the mistake of the projectionist who cannot see or ear what's happening inside the theatre, and the acting theatre manager I spoke to said all complaints should be directed to the festival staff since they are the one in charge during the festival (even of the projectionist). This lack of respect for the movie industry craftsmen who created this film and for the viewers is quite annoying. It is a small detail, I admit, but it should never happen. The frustration I feel when this happens distract me from the enjoyment of the movie.

Update: Here's a video of the very quick presentation made by one of the producers before the screening of "Yamamoto Isoroku" at the 2012 Montreal World Film Festival.

[ Traduire ]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Autotune & other songs

I am sure you remember this amazing song someone made using Autotune and some clips from Carl Sagan's tv series “Cosmos” and this other video it led me to.

Well, I discovered more autotune marvels. A funny Jeanne Moos' report on CNN brought to my attention a tribute autotune video clip that PBS made for the 100th anniversary of Julia Child. Quite funny. When I as looking for it, another article made me discover more autotune tributes by PBS, one for Mr. Rogers amongst others! Here they are:

On another note (not related to Autotune), someone made a parody / tribute video about NASA and the Curiosity Mars landing that has been quite popular lately:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fantasia 2012

Malheureusement les circonstances de la vie m'ont empêché encore une fois de bloguer sur les films de Fantasia de cette année. Mais voici quelques liens forts utiles pour compenser cette lacune.

La 16e édition de Fantasia nous offrait cette année plus de 160 films dont près d'une quarantaine en provenance du Japon. Je veux tout particulièrement attirer votre attention sur deux catégories parmis ces films Japonais.

En premier lieu, on y retrouve huit films d'animation qui offrent tous, d'une façon ou d'une autre, un grand intérêt:

Aussi, pour marquer le centenaire du plus ancien studio de cinéma Japonais, Fantasia organise -- en collaboration avec le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma -- une rétrospective de la Nikkatsu en présentant cinq œuvres clés:

Cette 16e édition de Fantasia s'est révélé un retentissant succès, entre autre grâce à un record d’affluence (Le Devoir). Le festival a également récompensé plusieurs des films Japonais:

Finalement, en attendant que je trouve le temps de commenter quelques un de ces films, vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Scène attendrissante

Avant hier matin j'ai été le témoin d'une scène des plus attendrissantes. Une chatte avait établie domicile dans la cour de mes voisins avec ses quatre chatons. La mère étant partie chasser, les chatons, laissé à eux-même, jouaient ensemble. La cour étant envahie par les Gloires du matin, c'était vraiment merveilleux de voir les chatons se poursuivrent dans ce lit de fleurs mauves.

Cependant quand je suis revenu de travailler hier soir, les voisins avaient fait le ménage et disparu étaient les Gloires du matin et les petits chatons courant dans la cour. C'est bien dommage. L'idée de petits chatons perdus dans la ruelle me rend très triste...

Malheureusement j'en ai déjà plein les bras avec mes deux chats et avec mes précédentes mauvaises expériences à essayer sans succès de trouver preneurs pour des chatons abandonnés, je dois me rendre à l'évidence que je ne peux rien y faire.

Toutefois, n'ayez crainte, on a entendu et entr'appercu la chatte et ses chatons chez un autre voisin dont la cour est, elle, encore en friche.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Montreal World Film Festival 2012

In a press conference today, the Montreal World Film Festival announced the programming of its 36th edition, which will be held from August 23 to September 3. During the twelve days of its duration, the festival will present 432 films from 80 countries, including 212 feature-length movies, 16 medium-length and 204 short films. 212 of those features will be the first film of its director and 216 of those productions will be world or international premieres! You can read more details in the press release announcing this impressive line-up.

This year the festival is offering us eleven Japanese movies (more than last year): three in competition (including one Canadian co-production and one in the first film competition), three in the World Great category and five in the Focus on World Cinema (including one short).

The World Competition
  • Karakara: Japan/Canada, 2012, 103 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Claude Gagnon; Phot.: Michel St-Martin; Light.: Motoshi Kinjo; Sound: Masahiro Yokozawa & Louis Collin; Cost.: Yuko Arai; Ass. Dir.: Masato Tanno; Mus.: Yukito Ara; Theme Song: Sakishima Meeting (Yukito Ara & Isamu Shimoji); Prod.: Takako Miyahira, Samuel Gagnon, Claude Gagnon; Exec. Prod.: Yuri Yoshimura Gagnon; Cast: Gabriel Arcand, Youki Kudoh, Megumi Tomita, Yuichi Atta, Toshi Moromi, Tenyu Okuda, John Potter, Takayuki Ichise, Mieko Taira and a special appearance by Toshiko Taira. Was screened at Cannes in May 2012 as part of “Perspective Canada.”
    Looking to embark on a spiritual journey, Pierre Masson, a 61-year-old retired Quebec university professor, ends up making a short, unsettling trip around Okinawa with Junko, a 40-year-old runaway wife. The unprepared intellectual would rather not get involved with this unlikely and passionate lover, especially in an unfamiliar and disorienting cultural context. The confused, unwilling sexagenarian decides nevertheless to follow his destiny, unsure of where it (she?…) will take him.
    Schedule: Tue 8/28 19:00 TM.28.1; Tue 8/28 CI.28.1.
  • Anata e (Dearest): Japan, 2012, 111 min.; Dir.: Yasuo Furuhata; Scr.: Takeshi Aoshima, Yasuo Furuhata (based on a story by Seichi Ichiko); Phot.: Junichiro Hayashi; Ed.: Jun'ichi Kikuchi; Mus.: Yusuke Hayashi; Cast: Ken Takakura, Yuko Tanaka, Koichi Sato, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Kimiko Yo, Haruka Ayase, Takahiro Miura, Tadanobu Asano, Takeshi Kitano, Mieko Harada, Hideji Otaki, Kyozo Nagatsuka, Takashi Okamura.
    Eiji's wife leaves a posthumous request for her ashes to returned to the sea off the coast of her hometown. She also informs Eiji that there is a letter awaiting him there in the post office.
    Schedule: Sun 9/2 19:00 TM.02.1; Sun 9/2 19:00 CI.02.1; Mon 9/3 14:00 CI.03.2.

First Films World Competition
  • Sono Yoru no Samurai (The Samurai That Night): Japan, 2012, 119 min.; Dir./Scr.: Masaaki Akahori (based on a play by himself); Cast: Sakura Andô, Gô Ayano, Tomorowo Taguchi, Mitsuki Tanimura, Hirofumi Arai, Maki Sakai.
    Nakamura is released from prison after serving five years for killing a woman in a hit-and-run accident. The woman's husband has vowed revenge.
    Schedule: Sat 9/1 18:40 L9.01.4; Sat 9/1 9:30 L14.01.1; Sun 9/2 16:10 L14.02.4; 9/3 14:20 L14.03.2.

World Great (Out of Competition)
  • Yamamoto Isoroku (Admiral Yamamoto): Japan, 2011, 140 min.; Dir.: Izuru Narushima; Scr.: Yasuo Hasegawa, Kenzaburo Iida; Phot.: Takahide Shibanushi, Hiroshi Futsuta; Ed.: Hirohide Abe; Mus.: Tarô Iwashiro; Prod.: Shohei Kotaki; Cast: Koji Yakusho, Hiroshi Tamaki, Akira Emoto, Toshiro Yanagiba, Hiroshi Abe, Eisaku Yoshida, Kippei Shiina, Takeo Nakahara, Ikuji Nakamura, Mitsugoro Bando, Mieko Harada, Asaka Seto, Rena Tanaka, Toru Masuoka, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Shunji Igarashi, Asaka Seto, Rena Tanaka, Toru Masuoka, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Shunji Igarashi. See description on AsianWiki.
    Japan, summer 1939. Pressure is building for Japan to sign a pact with Germany and Italy, but admiral Yamamoto is reluctant to go to war with the US, whom he considers too powerful.
    Schedule: Sat 8/25 11:00 L9.25.1; Sun 8/26 18:40 L9.26.5.
    Read our commentary on this movie.
  • Nobou no Shiro (The Floating Castle): Japan, 2012, 146 min.; Dir.: Isshin Inudo & Shinji Higushi; Scr.: Ryo Wada (based on his 2007 novel); Mus.: Koji Ueno; Prod: Osamu Kubota; Cast: Mansai Nomura, Koichi Sato, Hiroki Narimiya, Tomomitsu Yamaguchi, Nana Eikura, Honami Suzuki, Masachika Ichimura, Yusuke Kamiji, Takayuki Yamada, Takehiro Hira, Machiko Ono, Mana Ashida, Gin Maeda, Tokyo Dageki Dan, Sohkoh Wada.
    In the year 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi is on the verge of conquering all of Japan. One obstacle remains: a floating fortress known as Oshi Castle, defended by only 500 men.
    Schedule: Tue 8/28 18:40 L9.28.4; Wed 8/29 16:30 L15.29.4; Thu 8/30 11:40 L15.30.2.
    Read our commentary on this movie.
  • Itai (Reunion): Japan, 2012, 100 min.; Dir.: Ryoichi Kimizuka (based on a non-fiction book by Ishii Kota); Cast: Nishida Toshiyuki, Ogata Naoto, Katsuji Ryo, Kunimura Jun, Sakai Wakana, Sato Koichi, Sano Shiro, Sawamura Ikki, Shida Mirai, Tsutsui Michitaka, and Yanagiba Toshiro. The story is set in a morgue of Kamaishi, Iwate, in the aftermath of the great March 11th 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. More details on Tokyo Hive or AsianWiki.
    In March 2011, following the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami, a small town on northeastern Japan is faced with the problem of collecting and disposing of the victims' bodies.
    Schedule: Sat 9/1 21:20 L9.01.5; Sun 9/2 14:00 L14.02.3; Mon 9/3 12:00 L14.03.1.
Focus on World Cinema
  • Kazoku no Kuni (Our Homeland): Japan, 2012, 100 min.; Dir./Scr.: Yong-hi Yang; Phot.: Yoshihisa Toda; Ed.: Takashige Kikui; Mus.: Tarô Iwashiro. Cast: Sakura Andô, Arata, Ik-Joon YangYang, Kotomi Kyôno, Masane Tsukayama, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Tarô Suwa. More details on The Japan Times.
    A Japanese family of Korean origin are torn apart by ideology as they welcome one of their own after 25 years in a “repatriation program.”
    Schedule: Fri 8/31 14:30 L15.31.3; Fri 8/31 21:40 L15.31.6; Sat 9/1 16:30 L15.01.4; Sun 9/2 12:40 L15.02.2.
  • Kon-shin: Japan, 2012, 134 min.; Dir.: Yoshinari Nishikori (based on Kenichi Kawakami novel); Cast: Sho Aoyagi, Ayumi Ito, and Naomi Zaizen. The story revolves around a Sumo wrestler preparing for a big classical Sumo Wrestling tournament held at Mizuwaka Temple on Oki island, Shimane Prefecture.
    Originally, Sumo was not a sport but a sacred ceremony. The classic Sumo culture and practice is still alive on the Oki islands.
    Schedule: Thu 8/30 13:50 L16.30.3; Fri 8/31 16:30 L16.31.4; Sat 9/1 21:00 L16.01.5.
  • Boku no Naka no Otoko no ko (The Little Girl in Me): Japan, 2012, 100 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Shoji Kubota; Cast: Ryoma Baba, Bengaru, Ryûnosuke Kawai, Naoki Kawano, Hôka Kinoshita, Kouta Kusano, Yuri Nakamura, Kiriko Shimizu, Asahi Uchida, Kinuwo Yamada, Yûrei Yanagi.
    Devastated after being fired from his job, Kensuke locks himself up in his room, with only the Internet as his window to the outside. Then he discovers the world of cross-dressing.
    Schedule: Fri 8/31 12:00 L15.31.2; Fri 8/31 19:10 L15.31.5; Sat 9/1 11:50 L15.01.2; Sun 9/2 21:20 L15.02.6.
  • Tsui no Shintaku (The Terminal Trust): Japan, 2012, 144 min.; Dir./Scr.: Masayuki Suo (based on a short story by Saku Tatsuki); Cast: Tamiyo Kusakari, Kôji Yakusho, Takao Osawa, Tadanobu Asano. A movie about euthanasia.
    Shinzo Egi suffers from severe asthma but he does not want to be placed on life support.
    Schedule: Sat 9/1 14:30 L14.01.3; Sun 9/2 9:30 L14.02.1; Sun 9/2 18:40 L14.02.5.
  • B/W Foxes and the Cave of Light: Japan, 2012, 15 min.; dir.: Kiyoshi Endo; Cast: Takuma Wada. Short Film opening for Boku no Naka no Otoko no ko.
    “In a world of black and white, ore dug from the cave is shedding colored light. Mikuro, the “Black Fox” bandit, appears before the white-haired boy Kohaku, who is captured by a gang of thieves.“ (Festival's program)
    Read our commentary on this movie.

You can read a little more on some of those movies on the Coco Montreal website as their August issue (pages 8-9) offers an article detailing the Japanese movies at the festival.

The Festival Guide Book is now available online and provides the films' index and schedule in PDF format. (8/15)

The complete, searchable schedule is now available. (8/17)

See some press coverage on the festival:

You can also read the comments of Claude R. Blouin on the japanese movies presented at the festival on the Shomingekiblog.

More details and links will be added as the information become available.

Updated: 8/8 (MWFF teaser, Karakara & Anata e info); 8/9, 8/10, 8/11 (more movies info), 8/15 (more info, schedule & Karakara's trailer link), 8/16 (a few details), 8/17 (FFM links), 8/27 (press coverage links) & 9/16 (Shomingekiblog link).