Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Kiyosu Conference

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.

“In 1582, before the unification of Japan, Nobunaga Oda was forced to take his own life at Honno-ji Temple during a violent revolt led by Mitsuhide Akechi. Following Oda’s death, the powers in Japan held the Kiyosu Conference -- the "conference that changed the course of history" -- to resolve the Oda clan’s succession of leadership and redistribute Mitsuhide Akechi’s territories. Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Nagahide Niwa and Tsuneoki Ikeda meet to decide on a successor. The conference would become Japan's first group-made political decision. In this film, director Koki Mitani, known especially for his comedies, gives us his unique interpretation of the intricate web of human relationships involved in this process as the brave general Katsuie Shibata and Hideyoshi Hashiba, who would later unify Japan, engage in a battle of wits, deceit and bargaining.” (Text from the Festival's program)

The Kiyosu Conference is the 6th feature film by Koki Mitani, a director mostly known for his modern-day comedies (Suite Dreams [reviewed in PA #90: 74] and The Magic Hour were both shown at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2006 and 2008, respectively). It is his first attempt at a historical epic. It tells the story of what's considered as the first political meeting of Japanese history. After the death of Nobunaga Oda in 1582, all the Oda clan power players (Katsuie Shibata, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Nagahide Niwa, Tsuneoki Ikeda) agree to meet at the Kiyosu Castle in order to discuss his succession. Ensues a series of political intrigues, romances and plot twists which, added to the sheer number of characters (the leaders, their vassals and retainers, all with long Japanese names), makes it rather complicated to recount the whole story (for that the synopsis in the Festival's program [above] is doing a good job).

You might think that such a serious and complex subject would be boring, but Mitani draws into his experience to create comic relief at regular intervals, so the movie carries a consistant light tone. I was actually quite surprised: I was expecting a historical saga and found what could be considered a comedy (somewhere in the movie there's even a guy wearing a Groucho Marx moustache!). Some critics have seen in the movie a political satire, but I think it is simply the result of the awkward mix of drama and comedy that can often be found in Japanese movies.

All in all, The Kiyosu Conference is a powerful movie with an all-star cast. It is well-made (although a bit long), offer nice photography and an entertaining story that teaches us about Japanese history. In the end it is a very good movie experience (the theatre was a little more than half full). I would recommend you to see it if you can, but like most Japanese movies screened at the festival it is unfortunately not yet available in English (even one year later). If you want more comments on this movie I would recommend you to read also the reviews in The Japan Times and The Hollywood Reporter.

Kiyosu Kaigi ( 清須会議 / The Kiyosu Conference ): Japan, 2013, 138 min.; Dir. & Scr.: Koki Mitani (based on his own novel); Mus.: Kiyoko Ogino; Phot.: Hideo Yamamoto; Ed.: Soichi Ueno; Prod. Des.: Yohei Taneda; Cost. Des.: Kazuko Kurosawa; Cast: Koji Yakusho (Katsuie Shibata), Yo Oizumi (Hideyoshi Toyotomi), Fumiyo Kohinata (Nagahide Niwa), Koichi Sato (Tsuneoki Ikeda), Satoshi Tsumabuki, Tadanobu Asano, Susumu Terashima, Denden, Kenichi Matsuyama, Yusuke Iseya, Kyoka Suzuki, Miki Nakatani, Ayame Goriki, Minosuke Bandou, Kenji Anan, Shinpei Ichikawa, Shota Sometani, Eisuke Sasai, Keiko Today, Zen Kajiwara, Catherine Seto, Yoshimasa Kondo, Kazuyuki Asano, Kankuro Nakamura, Yuki Amami, Toshiyuki Nishida; Distr.: Pony Canyon Intl. Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 28th, 2013 (Cinema Quartier Latin 9, 19h00) as part of the “World Great” segment (Out of Competition).
For more information you can visit the following websites:

The Kiyosu Conference © 2013 Fuji TV / Toho

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