The themes of movies are very varied; documentary, comedy, anime, short movie, retrospective etc. Enough choices for anyone's likes. Beside the screenings, there are also small stands for selling goods or tasting snacks. During the day there are also small workshops like sake tasting, tea ceremony and sushi making. Because this year theme of the festival is japalicious. All very interesting indeed!
As a my first time for this sort of event, I didnt know what to expect from the festival nor the shown movies. In the theater where I went, has eight small screening room sufficient to entertain 80 people. As I was checking for interesting picks, loads of movies were interesting. Though the movie ticket was quite expensive. Meaning I had to narrow my choices and cheated a bit. Two from list, I had to download and watched at home orz. Of course the opinion remained the same.
All trailers can be found on Youtube (I can put them here, but it will make the post unnecessarily long.)
Japanese salaryman NEOSynopsis: Shinjo gets a salaryman job at the industry’s No. 5 beer, ”Neo”. In his first weeks as a salesman, Shinjo fails to make even one sale and falls out of grace with everyone, from the short-fused Nakanishi to the company’s office-ladies. Though he feels like a total failure, instead of calling it quits, Shinjo vows to make Neo No. 1, and he hits the president’s sweet spot with a concept for a product he calls “Sexy Beer”. Assigned to head his own development team, he quickly realizes he is in way over his head! (cjf)
Review: I havent got any expectations for the first film. The only thing I knew that it was a comedy. My knowledge about Japanese comedies were only slapsticks and cheesy yet funny performance. However Japanese salaryman NEO blew my prejudice. The cast was good added with very attractive and good-looking female actors (always a pluspoint). The story setup also gave a good sample of daily life of an ordinary salaryman in Japan.
Like the building stress from work, blowing off steam in an arcade, drinking at a local bar or dating parties. It has fairly simple yet important morale in the story; ''Life is difficult, dont let it get to you. Keep your head high up and try again because that is the life of a salaryman.'' and many more. Perhaps a minor point ... during the story I had a hard time to keep track with the characters names because there are lot of them.
A small fun fact: the junior manager in the story is a huge fan of Hanshin Tigers. IIRC Nana-san is also Hanshin Tiger fan.
I would recommend anyone to watch this movie. Not only Japan fanatics will like this. It will make you laugh, enjoy and pity. I left the screening with a big smile. That says a lot. :)
Kamome DinerSynopsis: Sachie owns a small Japanese diner in Helsinki but has no customers except for a Finnish anime-fan, who wants to know the theme song to Gatchaman. Sachie only knows the tune, but then she runs into Midori in a bookstore and they bond over the lyrics of Gatchaman. Midori joins the diner soon after. They are later joined by Masako who lost her luggage at the airport. Together they work to make the diner a success. Kamome Shokudo is about being lost in a strange land with food at the centre of cultural understanding. (cjf)
Review: I have chosen Kamome Diner for the fact the place setting is much closer to home. Although its in Finland, it's still closer than Japan. I hope it's much easier to sympathize the characters and the environment. There are three female main characters. Each one has her own troubles and had a hard time to overcome it. Yet thanks to Sachie (main character), they gradually open theirselves and gladly to work for her. She has a strong and hard working character. However not everything works out. All what she hoped for, is to attract ordinary Finnish people with Japanese domestic cooking. It did work out eventually. In the end her restaurant was filled. Funnily enough it was all instigated by a Finnish animefan who was also the first customer. The other characters spoke Finnish which was new for me. I never heard of the language before. And Sachie's Finnish was great. Perhaps the actrice is living in Finland.
Though the story was interesting .. the execution was rather boring. I guess they had a limited movie budget which translated in long pause scenes and lack of background music most of the time. It's best to watch it during the daytime. Because honestly I felt asleep twice when I watched in the evening. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. There aren't any action scenes. It's slow paced and usually talk. You have to be quite open minded for it. Did I enjoy it despite the flaws? Yes, I did. It shows a very good interaction between the eating cultures. Like how Sachie wants to make onigiri more interesting for people to try. Also the basic Japanese etiquette is also presented very well.
TampopoSynopsis: A truck driver stops by a small ramen shop to have some noodles and is surprised by the bad taste of the ramen, but charmed by Tampopo, a widowed mum and terrible chef at her own ramen store. As an experienced ramen store customer, Goro feels pity and decides to help her make the best ramen.
Wonderful comical classic movie which, alongside the story of Tampopo’s ramen shop, has some exceptional sensual short scenes about people and their love for food. Don’t watch this movie on an empty stomach! (cjf)
Review: While we are on the momentum of Japanese food culture, let's continue with Tampopo. First of all Tampopo is from 1985. It shows cleary in the movie. Loads of interactions and etiquettes are easily understood by native Japanese viewers. However as foreigner we have no idea what's about. Like in a scene where was a company diner meeting with higher ups in a fancy French restaurant. All the boss ordered the same thing while a salaryman - who was knowledgeable with French cuisine - ordered much different menu and cleary showed his know-how in choosing wines. However the salaryman got constantly kicked by his manager under the table.
The plot isn't limited to Tampopo's. There are also other short scenes from a different characters which are totally irrelevant with the main plot. I was quite confused in that part. It seemed the only relation with the food. The main plot with Tampopo is the same what you expect from an ordinary cooking movie. It starts with a rubbish eating place. Then a master appears and teach the main character. Afterwards the place get renovated and the customers keeps coming in. The formula for this remains the same. (By the way very important remark, it has nude scenes. Didnt expected that!)
In the end it is a fun ride. But it shows it's age in the way of storytelling. There are any particulars I dont like. The good food looks delicious. Still I did got hungry after watching it.
Review: Finally we have reached Afro Tanaka. It's my personal favorite of the whole festival. While it is also comedy like Japanese salaryman NEO, it uses different techniques. Main difference in humor was the straightforwardness; expressions and actions. For instance pulling long face for serious discontent or daydreaming and perverted face for pretty ladies or simple slapsticks. From the laughs I had heard in the screen hall, I can say the humor was super effective.
The actor of Afro Tanaka did an amazing job at conveying character's feelings to the public and the inner monologue was too hilarious. The female actrice as supposed love interest is also very pretty and cute. And the biggest suprise was the ending. I didn't got a happy ending like in a typical Hollywood comedy-romance (I won't spoil the ending :3). Anyhow it ended in a good laugh and went back to the motto ''Life goes on, lets have a drink'' To be honest I was very pleased to see this kind of setup.
The movie is very straightforward, the same goes for the humor. You can switch off your mind and just enjoy it. I would totally recommend it to anyone.
Monsters ClubSynopsis: Ryoichi lives as a hermit in the snow covered Japanese countryside, as far away from civilization as he can afford. From his mountain cabin he has chosen to fight back at the establishment by sending mail bombs to his very own ‘Monster’s Club’, the CEO’s of corporations and TV networks. Haunted by a monster (played by Japan’s genius pansexual drag artist Pyuupiru) Ryoichi is dragged closer and closer to returning to civilization. One night his older brother, who had committed suicide, appears before him and confronts him with some life altering questions. (cjf)
Review: As I was totally pumped for another good Japanese movie. No matter how abstract it will be. However this left me in a yawn. The first half hour showed a daily life of murder hiding in a snowy mountain. Afterwards main character got hallucinations of his dead family members. And then for pete's sake scary Jeti's joker lookalike appeared. Throughout the movie short, poems were citated. No idea if they are revelant. The point were the complaints towards the industrial society.
Frankly I didn't bother with the content anymore. It was almost 23.00 in the evening. The monologue made it all more difficult to concentrate. In the end it was too deep for me. I left literally hall with a yawn. And this prelonged short movie was meant to have relevance with Totoro. I didnt see anything from it. So much for me being open minded, because it has already crushed mine.
Do I recommend it? NO, stay it away from it. No offensive, but I dont see any value for my seven euros for this.
Camera Japan Festival was an eye opener. I didn't that know our small city, Rotterdam has such cultural initiative towards Japan. There were a lot of Japanese present too. I think I will come back next year. I took part in their questionnaire. The last questions sounded along the lines ''What would you like to see in the next Camera Japan Festival?'' .... simple and straightforward NANA MIZUKI!!
I hope you all had nice read. Didnt expect from myself to post this ... all well
PS: The Nana magazines are still laying on my desk only to be covered by my homeworks orz. But I am planning to write soon enough.