‘Still Walking’ on Criterion Channel

A family drama about absence, expectations, disappointments and acceptance, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking (Japan, 2008), is framed (and in effect defined) by the death of an eldest son. That death happened fifteen years before but the family still gathers to commemorate the memory of Junpei, who drowned saving a child swept off the nearby beach […]

Masaki Kobayashi directs the quartet of Japanese ghost stories

‘Kwaidan’ – Japanese ghost stories on Criterion Channel

Kwaidan (Japan, 1964), Masaki Kobayashi’s quartet of ancient ghost stories, may not be strictly speaking a horror film. It’s not scary or particularly unsettling apart for a few exquisitely created images. It is, however, breathtakingly lovely, visually composed like a painting, scored and sound designed by Toru Takemitsu with a spareness that leans on silence, […]

‘Miss Hokusai’ on Netflix

Miss Hokusai (Japan, 2015) is actually an artist from early 19th century Japan by the name of O-Ei Katsushika, a young woman who trained under her father, the legendary Japanese painter Hokusai Katsushika. Based on the biographical manga “Sarusuberi” by Hinako Sugiura, this is an episodic animated feature, like a collection of memories and vignettes […]

Riki Takeuchi and Sho Aikawa in Miike Takashi's Dead or Alive trilogy

Takashi Miike’s extreme ‘Dead or Alive’ trilogy on Amazon Prime

Takashi Miike made his reputation as Japan’s gonzo gun-for-hire, a genre madman who pumped manic energy and wild style into films he pushed to the extremes in every way, from violence to surreal twists. He once described himself as “an arranger, not an author.” Taking a cue from one of his own film titles, I […]

Miike Takashi’s deliriously bizarre 2001 Japanese musical remake of the South Korean dark comedy The Quiet Family

‘The Happiness of the Katakuris’ – Musical madness on Amazon Prime

The Happiness of the Katakuris (Japan, 2001), Miike Takashi’s deliriously bizarre 2001 musical remake of the South Korean dark comedy The Quiet Family, is a bright, energetic, gonzo comedy about a dysfunctional family who run a secluded inn where guests check in but they don’t check out. Think The Sound of Music at the Bates […]

Hiroshi Abe and Yôko Maki star in the family drama by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-Eda

‘After the Storm’ on Amazon Prime

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-Eda directs the most perceptive and compassionate films about the difficult relations that put strains on families and the generosity and understanding that helps overcome those difficulties. After the Storm (Japan, 2017) is one of his most understated family dramas, a lovely, low-key film about divorce and disappointment that, like the title […]