Japan Cuts 2013 Angles For A Darker Side Of New Japanese Cinema

U.S. Editor; Los Angeles, California (@benumstead)
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Now in its seventh year, the New York Japan Society's Japan Cuts has built up quite the reputation for being the premiere showcase for new cinematic works from Japan, if not just for the east coast cinephiles, but the entirety of American appreciators. Their programming is nothing short of eclectic, offering the wackier, more fun-fueled or transgressive works with their co-partner New York Asian Film Festival, while presenting a slew of more somber and realist works on the back end, which rarely disappoint.

Taking a glance at this year's program prompts one to raise an eyebrow perhaps even more so than usual, as the 2013 slate covers some pretty dark territory, and most of it does not fall into fantasy genres. Chalk that up to cinema being a mirror of the greater reality and one remembers how troubling and harrowing a time the Japanese people have had these past few years. Although one could make the argument that Japanese cinema has remained so vital and potent on the world stage merely because its never shied away from putting the absolute hard truths on screen in riveting and engaging ways.

To give you a taste of what you can expect during the festival, which starts tonight and runs to the 21st, Peter Gutierrez, Dustin Chang, myself and guest contributor Steve Kopian from the undoubtedly cool Unseen Films, weigh in on a handful of this year's selection -- enjoy, and be sure to keep an eye out for full reviews from Japan Cuts 2013 in the coming days.     

I'M FLASH! (July 11, 8:30pm -- Sold Out)

While not as mesmerizing as his 2009 return to cinema The Blood Of Rebirth or 2011's Monsters Club Toyoda Toshiaki's latest should please fans for its slow burning philosophical nature and immeasurable amount of birth/death imagery.

When Master Rui, head of the Life Is Beautiful church is involved in a car accident which causes the death of a motorcyclist, and puts the young woman he was with into a coma, Rui's mother and sister (the real power players) hire three bodyguards to protect their kin, as they're now concerned that media exposure surrounding his true vapid playboy nature will bring out death threats for the nearly ineffectual if charismatic head of their operation.

The majority of the film plays out at the family's seaside estate, which resembles something between a Mormon cathedral and a Palm Springs resort -- or maybe those future domiciles from Woody Allen's Sleeper. Everything is immaculate and sterile, as if no one lives there at all. Lei resides in a room which main focal point is an altar of booze, bookended by two garish nightclub dart boards.

Lei is haunted by the night leading up to the accident; trapped by the intensity of the girl he was with -- the sister of a church member who committed suicide.

Any satisfaction the film grants comes in the luminous experiences of birth and death. For some these bring joy and a second chance, while for other it brings a fat paycheck, and for others yet: peace. -- Ben Umstead

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I'M FLASH!Japan CutsJapan's TragedyJapanese filmMasahiro KobayashiTatsuya NakadaiToshiaki Toyoda
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