Posts Tagged ‘japanese culture’



JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Yusuke Narita  Written by: Masayoshi Azuma  Novel by: Oniroku Dan  Cast: Minako Komukai, Shohei Hino, Mari Komatsuzaki, Kotono, Shunsaku Kudo, Kei Mizutani, Yasukaze Motomiya, Ayumu Saito

You should think that the Pinku Eiga is coming of age by now. FLOWER & SNAKE 3 leaves it kind of open however if it has, or hasn’t. It may simply be a matter of definition though, or maybe a matter if time.

FLOWER & SNAKE 3 has little in common with the likes of ANGEL GUTS or other Nikkatsu productions of the late 70’s or 80’s. Transgressions that once defined the genre – or creativity, as you may prefer to call it and were once a hallmark of the Japanese pink film – have made room for convention. Disregard the question if we have to attribute that creativity to censorship or not it must be noted that the Japanese pink film has always been more inventive than its western counterparts.

To be precise, the key difference is that the pinku eiga is imaginative while the western sex film is mostly solely descriptive. Like, say, the difference between Internet Explorer and Safari. This stronghold is genuinely made in Nippon, and few filmmakers outside the country have come close to the specific vision of pinku eiga directors or their literary sources.

Now how about the coming of age of the pink film? FLOWER & SNAKE 3 has come of age in the sense that it has evolved far away from the origins of the genre and represents a glossy interpretation of European soft core, a fantasy that could have come from the ever-playful mind of Tinto Brass, a film that turns transgression into fashion, lauding S&M as the new standard of the mainstream. Indeed, many ideas have moved from the periphery of society into its center, however, that doesn’t mean that the auteur has to follow that example and start depicting what is instead of what could or will be.

Losing that specific edge means losing a good part of the pinku eiga identity: there are more similarities than differences to western productions, even though FLOWER & SNAKE 3 still seems more story-driven and tries to define pleasure and pain as an expression, or result, of the relationships between the characters. But it’s a far cry from what made the pinku eiga a genuine category and that is also why I cannot think of many reasons why you need watch it.





JAPAN 2009  Directed by: Masahiko Tsugawa Written by: Yasuhiro Koshimizu, Masao Kosuge (novel) Produced by: Taiichi Inoue, Hisao Nabeshima, Tsuguhiko Kadokawa Cinematography: Katsuhiro Kato Cast: Toshiyuki Nishida, Yasuhi Nakamura, Ai Maeda, Keiko Horiguchi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Takashi Sasano, Zen Kajiwara, Hisako Manda, Sansei Shiomi, Naomasa Musaka, Hiroyuki Nagato, Ittoku Kishibe, Akira Emoto, Naomasa Musaka, Zen Ishida, Taro Ishida, Houka Kinoshita, Akaji Maro

Surprises can come in many forms, but who would have thought that a movie about our furry friends (and their friends) could be any good. PENGUINS IN THE SKY however turns out to be more than just the semi-fictional answer to HAPPY FEET.

The story is based on a novel by Masao Kosuge that again is based on true events surrounding the Asahiyama zoo, Japan’s most northern zoo. Plagued by harsh winters, lack of visitors and money and strong competition from amusement parks the Asahiyama zoo is fighting for survival. While local politicians would like to see it closed rather sooner than later the zoo’s director and staff are dedicated to keep it running and are seeking for a breakthrough idea to get the zoo back on track.

One day the nerdy Yoshida applies for a job, any job, just so he can be with the zoo and its inhabitants: ever since his childhood Yoshida prefers animals over humans thanks to bullying classmates. The dedicated but naïve Yoshida works his way up and brings with him some fresh ideas and motivation to the ailing zoo.

Things get more desperate when a disease leads to the death of some animals and a local political reshuffle starts to increase the pressure on the zoo and its staff. But great solutions are often born in difficult circumstances, so they come up with a brand new idea called “behavioral exhibition” that makes all displays more interactive and attractive and finally they play their last trump card – Yoshida promises he can make the penguins fly and Asahiyama zoo the first zoo in the world to feature this never-before-seen attraction.

It’s not that PENGUINS IN THE SKY is reinventing the wheel, but its love for the subject, its honesty and subtle way make it a wonderful film about the ever more important conflict of culture vs. nature. By definition humans turn nature into culture (and in this sense there are no good or bad kinds of culture), leading to nature being forced to retreat into reservations for preservation. Today the movie is even more relevant than when it came out – zoos may seem a trivial matter or even a place that exploits animals for the sake of family entertainment, but after the BP oil spill disaster you might want to rethink the zoo as a place that is becoming ever more important while the destruction of the environment and its species continues to progress with no end in sight.

PENGUINS IN THE SKY hasn’t exactly set out to become eco-conscious cinema, but it succeeds in creating awareness through a simple provocative question: if you had to choose, would you prefer a zoo or instead a theme park in its place? Confronted with this dilemma we begin to reflect on what’s really important, without being forced or lectured. It’s an automatic process that also reminds us of a time when we treasured seeing real animals more than seeing a plastic mouse.

Even it may follow the Japanese blockbuster recipe a little PENGUINS IN THE SKY isn’t clinically designed as entertainment, but it’s a heartfelt story with just the right attitude and message. In other words, it’s a really good movie.




UPDATE: FIND THE FULL REVIEW HERE! – – – – – – – – – – – Here’s a distinctly Japanese take on the adult-in-love-with-a-minor story: Yuriko, an aroma therapist, is in her 30’s and has a good job at an aroma salon. However, she is secretly in love (or let’s say attracted to) a 17-year-old high school student. Things get complicated as not only is he the nephew of the salon owner, but also a female customer seems to have feelings for Yuriko and starts to get a bit too close to her.

YURIKO NO AROMA is directed by Kota Yoshida and stars Noriko Eguchi, Shota Someya, Saori Hara, Jun Miko and Noriko Kijima.