Japan Cuts 2021 Preview: Newcomers and Old Faves at Fest's Hybrid Edition
After last year's all online edition, Japan Cuts, North America's largest showcase for new Japanese films, has chosen to go for a combination of online and in-person screenings (at Japan Society) for their 15th edition, taking place 8/20 - 9/2. The festival is divided in Feature Slate, Next Generation, Classics, Documentary Focus, Experimental Spotlight, Shorts Showcase, Narrative Shorts and Experimental Shorts, totaling 38 films.
The 15th Edition of Japan Cuts kicks off with the U.S. Premiere of Matsumoto Soushi's charming Sci-fi and samurai tinged celebration of cinema, It's a Summer Film! For centerpiece presentation, Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Venice Film Festival winner, Wife of a Spy. Other highlights are an in-person screening of the late Obayashi Nobuhiko's 3 hour swan song Labyrinth of Cinema, 2K restored version of the cult classic, Hiruko the Goblin and Miike Takashi's The Great Yokai War: Guardians.
Without further a do, here are 5 films I was able to sample:
It's a Summer Film!
It's a bubbly love letter to cinema with gaggle of high school girls. It stars Japanese idol singer Ito Marika (former Nogizaka 46 member) as a high schooler, Barefoot, who is obsessed with chanbara films and a Katsu Shintaro (Zatoichi) enthusiast. She is in a school film club but disillusioned by the films they produce - directed by and starring her rival popular girl Karin and her entourage. Barefoot decides to make her own samurai film to counter Karin's saccharine rom-com at the year end screening. With her best friends - Kendo champ Blue Hawaii and sci-fi nerd Kickboard and a rag-tag film crew, Barefoot embarks on a harrowing journey of indie filmmaking. Even though she prefers brusk hero than a pretty boy type, Barefoot can't stop falling for her main actor Rintaro, a handsome time-traveling stranger she chose as her main actor in her film titled, "Samurai Spring." You see, in the future, there are no such things as movie theaters, movies are only 5 seconds long and the traditional notion of cinema is non-existant. She needs to save the future of cinema! It's a Summer Film! is a cute, airy comedy geared towards Stranger Things crowd.