Saturday, September 20, 2014

MWFF Japanese shorts

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.

There was five japanese short films presented at the 2014 Montreal World Film Festival. I've seen most of them and here are a few thoughts about them.


“Keblujara depicts the cycle of bullying. The weak beat the weaker and they, in turn, beat those weaker than them. This chain is finally broken by the very weakest, who turns into a beast and proceeds to fulfill his destiny.” (Text from the Festival's program)

“Fruit d'une première collaboration entre l'artiste visuel Nonowe Akihito et le compositeur Isao Sano, ce film d'animation dessiné et peint à la main raconte quatre courtes histoires issues d'un pays appelé le Keblujara.” (Extrait du programme)

This experimental stop motion animation has no dialogue and is the first part of the Keblujara series. It is the only Japanese shorts films that was in competition this year and the only one that I couldn't manage to see. However, I heard very good comments about it. For more information I refer you to the excellent commentary written by Claude R. Blouin (in French).

Kemukujara: Japan/Australia, 2014, 13 min.; Dir./Scr.: Akihito Nonowe; Phot.: Isao Sano, Konoka Takashiro; Ed. : Keblujara Productions; Mus.: Isao Sano. Presented at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 27th (CI at 9h00 & 19h00) and 28th (CI at 14h00).

For more information you can visit the following websites:

All he knows right

“In Keblujara, a mad artist lives in a box on his own back.” (Text from the Festival's program)

“Animation dessinée et peinte à la main qui raconte une histoire d'un pays fictif appelé le Keblujara, fruit d'une collaboration entre l'artiste visuel Nonowe Akihito et le compositeur Isao Sano.” (Extrait du programme)

This experimental stop motion animation has no dialogue and is the second part of the Keblujara series. I am not a big fan of stop motion animation, particularly this “artsy-fartsy” type which always have nebulous stories that can often be opened to interpretation. In this case, an artist is living in a box on his own back. It reminds me a little of weird Czech animations like The Fantastic Planet.

However, this film is technically quite interesting as it mixes techniques like stop motion and standard animation. I particularly liked the effect created by mixing real fire and stop motion animation which was well done and must have been quite difficult (as well as lengthy and complicated) to achieve.

I missed the screening of the longer first part of this series but I was told that this shorter segment was much better, easier to understand and more balanced. I had the opportunity to participate to a nice “chat” with the production team (I could follow some part of the conversation, but Mr. Blouin kindly translated most of it).

All He Knows Right: Japan/Australia, 2014, 5 min.; Dir./Scr.: Akihito Nonowe; Phot.: Isao Sano, Konoka Takashiro; Ed. : Keblujara Productions; Mus.: Isao Sano.
For more information you can visit the following websites:

Suicide Volunteers

“The film is based on a true story of the flight school instructor who sacrificed his life in the suicide attacks at the end of World War II.” (Text from the Festival's program)

“Le commandant Fujii, un instructeur de l'école de pilotage, a sacrifié sa vie dans des attentats-suicides à la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Adaptation d'une histoire véridique.” (Extrait du programme)

A man who trains Japanese airplane pilots for the their suicide mission feels he is not doing his patriotic duty and requests to join his recruits on their mission. His superior deny his plea because his position as trainer is essential and he has a wife and children. He eloquently convinces the few students who question the validity of their mission as a waste. After his wife kills herself and the children, he is finally allowed to go on a mission.

It is a beautiful treatment for the most stupid part of Japanese history. The movie seems strangely neutral about this subject, as it neither condone or condemn the use of kamikaze. It's a good period drama considering the limitation of a short film. I particularly like the effects giving the pictures an old WW2 look and feel.

Suicide volunteers (特攻志願 / Tokko Shigan): Japan, 2013, 25 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Kenshow Onodera; Phot.: Shigeo Kobayashi; Mus.: Shiro Mashiba; Cast: Mitsuki Koga, Yuka Takeshima, Yuji Shikano, Yuji Kakizaki.
For more information you can visit the following websites:

The Free man

“Jay is an ex-con who tries to turn over a new leaf by working at a laundry store [where he] shares duties with Kit, a young woman with physical disability who is the boss' niece.” (Text from the Festival's program)

“Jay, un ex-détenu, tente de tourner une nouvelle page en travaillant dans une blanchisserie. Il y rencontre Kit, une jeune femme avec un handicap physique, nièce du propriétaire.” (Extrait du programme)

This is the only non-japanese movie in this bundle of shorts. It's a gritty reality type of movie. An ex-convict work in a laundry shop and likes the handicapped niece of the owner. However, he soon realize that his boss is abusing her, but he hesitate doing anything because he really needs the job and fear going back to prison. At some point it is just too much for him… The dark photography emphasize well the oppressive feeling, but for the rest it's an average violent chinese movie.

Unfortunately, the english subtitles were out of frame for the ENTIRE movie (only the chinese subtitles were visible) so I couldn't tell the details of the story and only guess. The dumb-ass projectionist was probably sleeping on the job or, worse, simply didn't care to reframe the screen (even if several people got up to notify the theatre's staff). It's not the first time that such problem occur at this theatre. They seem to take the cinephiles for cash cows and don't give a damn about them. A real shame!

The Free man: Taiwan, 2014, 30 min.; Dir./Ed.: Sam Quah; Scr.: Yu-Li Chen; Phot.: Xin Hua Feng; Mus.: Wu Xin-Ying; Cast: Ming-Shuai Shi, Xing-Xing Rao.
For more information you can visit the following websites:

No return on perishables

“Short story about a miraculous phenomenon: that desiring another's happiness can lead to happiness for oneself.” (Text from the Festival's program)

“Une histoire courte qui illustre un phénomène miraculeux : désirez le bonheur de quelqu'un d'autre peut apporter le bonheur pour soi-même.” (Extrait du programme)

This is a nice and cute romantic comedy.

An insurance salesman meets lots of people for his job. He helps a man who wanted to commit suicide and convince him to live (at least a few more years). He also encounter a woman on a pilgrimage to help her daughter find a nice young man she could marry and bring back her missing husband. The salesman was going to the temple to pray that the flower-shop girl he secretly loves notices him and says yes to his proposal, but instead, after having met the woman, he wishes that she finds her husband and a nice son-in-law. A little later, he purchases flowers at the flower-shop and then comes back to gives them to the girl (she thinks he wants a refund, so she tells him “No return on perishables”!). But then he realizes that the mother of the flower-shop girl is the woman he met earlier on a pilgrimage and that her missing husband is back (and its the man he saved from killing himself)!

It's a funny story but I felt that the overall quality of the production was a little below professional standard. Also they used a filter on the picture to saturate the colours (to boost them out a little). At first I thought it was due to a bad print or (worse) to a bad cinematography, but after reflection it was probably deliberate to add a dreamy feeling to this moralistic fantasy.

No return on perishables (恋は考えるな、愛は感じろ / Koi ha kangaeruna, ai ha kanjiro / lit. “Do not think of love, must feel love”): Japan, 2013, 18 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Takatsugu Naito; Phot.: Akiyuki Michikawa; Cast : Ryo Yoshiki, Hiromi Hakogi, Nozomi Tanaka.
For more information you can visit the following websites:

When the sun falls

“A wealthy elite guard of the shogunate is under house arrest for dereliction of duty for allowing an unauthorized person into Edo castle. His fate is unknowned.” (Text from the Festival's program)

“En 1802, un garde d'élite bien nanti du shogunat est en résidence surveillée pour avoir manqué à son devoir en permettant l'accès au château d'Edo à une personne non autorisée. Son sort est pour l'instant incertain.” (Extrait du programme)

This is a beautiful Jidaigeki movie (period drama). A samurai who was careless in his duty must wait while his fate is decided. He is finally asked to commit seppuku.

This movie offers an interesting reflection on family, duty and how to live one's life. It is very well made and probably equals any feature-length movie of the same style (samurai costume drama). It is quite powerful for a short movie.

When the sun falls (陽は落ちる / Hi-wa-ochiru): Japan, 2014, 39 min.; Dir./Scr.: Yuji Kakizaki; Phot.: Yoshinobu Furukawa; Mus.: Shingo Nishimura; Cast : Masayuki Deai, Yuka Takeshima, Go Ibuki, Motoya Izumi, Ikuya Enokizono, Hyuma Ishida.
For more information you can visit the following websites:
This bundle of five Japanese & Taiwanese shorts was screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 26th, 2014 (Cinema Quartier Latin 13, 21h40 – there was a little more than a dozen people on the room, which was filled only at twenty or twenty-five percent of its capacity!) as part of the “Focus on World Cinema” (Regular) segment.

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