UK's Third Window Films have had a rough year, but they are coming back strong with a quartet of solid releases from some of Japan's most exciting filmmakers. Today we're looking at their recent Blu-ray releases of Uchida Eiji's Love and Other Cults, Yamamoto Eiichi and Tezuka Osamu's Animerama double feature of Cleopatra and A Thousand and One Nights, and a pair of Sono Sion films from the last couple of years, Antiporno and The Whispering Star. Learn more about these great releases below.
One of the many new voices in Japanese cinema that Third Window has introduced to the west is Uchida Eiji. They previously released his amazing feature Greatful Dead on Blu-ray and went on to produce his film Lowlife Love not too long after. Most recently Third Window head honcho Adam Torel produced Uchida's Love and Other Cults, and it's just further proof that this is a filmmaker to look out for.
Love and Other Cults is a story that centers around a pair of lost losers looking for a true calling in life. Suga Kenta is Ryota, a low level yakuza thug who is enamored with the flighty Shima Ai, played by Itô Sairi. The film follows them as they each make a million mistakes on their way to finding their mission, most of which involve flitting between religions and cults or cults of personality before finally finding that what they need is each other, kind of.
Ard Vijn saw the film at last year's Camera Japan festival and had this to say:
Playing loose does allow Uchida to focus a lot on the side characters, and a good thing that is too as they often provide the best material in the film. I'd like to single out comedian Antony, who impresses as gang leader Kenta. Being black and heavy-set, Kenta starts of as a kind-of walking special effect, with all people just scared to death of him. But he soon starts on an interesting character arc of his own, and despite being a first-time actor Antony rises to the role as needed.
All in all, Love and Other Cults is hard to define. The terms "black comedy" and "drama" don't quite cut it, though there is plenty of both in it. In this it is quite like Uchida's earlier film Lowlife Love. Both films are interesting but do require an appetite for a certain weird flavor. Maybe Uchida Eiji is building his very own niche-genre?
I must say that I was far more enamored of the meandering nature of the film. It feels very much like Sono Sion's breakout feature Love Exposure in its focus on religious transience as a mode of self-discovery. Though I do agree with the spotlight on Antony, a half-black supporting character who seems to be the only person in the entire film with his shit together. It's a fun ride and an interesting look at various subcultures in urban Japan into which not many have insight.
Love and Other Cults was shot digitally, so it looks and sounds great. No issues to report in terms of A/V
In terms of extras, Third Window have provided a lovely behind the scenes documentary on the making of the film and an interview between Uchida and his leading man, Suga Kenta. The interview, though it is shorter and more focused than the doc, is the more interesting piece to be because it exposes a unique dynamic between the director and his star, neither of whom really now much about the other. We get to watch each of them discover the other in more or less real time and that's the kind of unexpected thing I enjoy.
Love and Other Cults is definitely recommended.