Posts Tagged ‘Jun Kunimura’



JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Takeshi Kitano Written by: Takeshi Kitano  Produced by: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida  Cinematography by: Katsumi Yanagijima  Editing by: Takeshi Kitano  Music by: Keiichi Suzuki  Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomoko Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yuka Itaya, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura

An “entertaining” movie he wanted to make, Takashi Kitano said about OUTRAGE. A movie with no other ambition than that, a movie not even marking a return to the Yakuza genre. Something quite different from the preceding films.

In many ways OUTRAGE quite well corresponds to Mr. Kitano’s intentions. It was Mr. Kitano himself who delivered the swan song of the Yakuza movie two decades ago – interpreting OUTRAGE as a movie depicting a changing world where the old code of honor is worth nothing would mean to ignore the oeuvre of Mr. Kitano (as well as that of many other directors). Hailing OUTRAGE as a milestone of the genre, or as an epic story about the system individuals operate within, as well as the rules they abide by, would be nothing but evidence of ignorance.

Watching OUTRAGE is a bit of a time machine experience: we are revisiting places, characters and motifs of Mr. Kitano’s milestones, all amid a permanent conflict of signals the film sends. Is that shirt or that suit actually from the 80’s? But then why is that car from the 2000’s? There are obsolete characters in a modern world, and then there are contemporary characters in an obsolete world. It’s a constant struggle, also for the writer-director Takeshi Kitano. It seems like the cast from VIOLENT COP was beamed into modern-day Japan.

But what exactly is the difference between now and then? What has changed? Not much, I have to say. People kill for money, or for revenge, or for power. At some point Mr. Kitano rephrases the motif for violence as being “career”: a term that fits to times like these, where people spend 80% of their time on playing politics in corporations, positioning themselves and lying their asses off, while only spending 5% of their time actually working (the other 15% are spent on facebook @work). Nevertheless, climbing up the social ladder is what it’s always been about, and the way to get there doesn’t differ much from how it happened in Mr. Kitano’s earlier films. The permanent betrayal is nothing but an amplification of what we have seen before, and it much more has become a means of dramaturgy that drives the film forward than it being the actual subject of the movie. Betrayal doesn’t indicated loss of values in the Yakuza universe anymore, it merely indicates plot points.

For Otomo (or whatever he was called before) things don’t change however, and he doesn’t participate in change. Change is for the others. Betrayal comes as a surprise. He is a guy who cuts his finger off first and only later finds out that he did it for someone who deceived him. And he hasn’t realized yet that cutting off fingers just doesn’t cut it anymore anno 2010 in the first place. What makes him an anachronism also makes him the biggest threat to the “career Yakuza”: he doesn’t live for tomorrow, he lives for the past. The good old days are preserved within the Otomo character as he acts by their rules and their ethics and applies that school of thought to a world that has evolved.

Otomo doesn’t oppose progress (he doesn’t care enough about it), but he is the force that prevents it from happening (even though the world moves on without him finally). What Mr. Kitano doesn’t make clear is if OUTRAGE now is a statement for or against progress, or if it just laments that the world changes indeed with or without us, or if it’s an advice to adapt or if it’s about the survival of the fittest, whatever that means at a specific point in time.

Maybe OUTRAGE is a melancholic statement that there’s nothing left worth fighting for, or it’s the same statement made before, that idealists are a dying breed. But most probably it’s none of the above, but instead what Mr. Kitano set out to do in the first place: rock-solid entertainment that plays with genre conventions rather than making any statement or providing any new insights at all. OUTRAGE, maybe for the first time, is really a genre movie, not the genre-bending Kitano movie we all know.







JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Toshio Lee  Written by: Satoshi Suzuki, Tamio Hayashi, Koji Kinjo (novel) Produced by: Mieko Fujiwara, Kei Haruna  Cinematography: Koichi Nakayama  Music: Coba  Cast: Takashi Okamura, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Hisashi Yoshozawa, Jun Kunimura, Atsuro Wataba, Mieko Harada, Masami Nagasawa

Toshio Lee’s first of at least two films released in 2010 (the other one being BOX!) is based on the autobiographical book of the same title by Koji Kinjo and tells the true story of a nerd and his wife who coincidentally become what today’s been called “environmentalists”. Kenji’s true love is the sea, especially the coral reefs; since his childhood he is fascinated by the ocean and spends every single minute possible by the water.

It is not surprising therefore that he fails as a professional: he regularly loses his jobs and hence leads a simple life together with his wife and kids. Kenji believes he could do many jobs, but at the end all he cares about is the sea. One day however he finds a way to turn his love for coral reefs into a business: he opens up a “coral bar”, a pub that showcases corals in a fish tank and aims to recreate the Okinawa sea. He calls the joint Bar Blue and quickly develops it into a successful franchise.

It comes as a shock to his family and friends when he decides to close down the bar business and instead wants to replant corals in nature. What got into him? Once again his passion gets in his way and all he dreams about is cleaning up the sea and breed corals. He starts with transplanting his Bar Blue corals into the ocean, but the more corals he plants the more resistance he meets from fishermen and politicians. While Kenji wants to preserve nature others want, or need, to exploit it. The conflicts of interest soon make big waves in the press and Kenji becomes something like a local hero, supported by many, disliked by even more.

His main idea becomes crucial for his undertaking: Kenji believes he can become the first person in the world to ever spawn coral reefs. Nobody has achieved this before, but Kenji thinks he can do it. Scientists quickly reveal his lack of method and are questioning his mission that is driven by little more than ambition and intuition. Kenji is facing the challenge of a lifetime: can he make corals spawn before he finally runs out of money, support and luck?

Forget AVATAR, watch SUNSHINE AHEAD instead. If you are looking for eco-conscious entertainment that’s authentic, absolutely not fabricated and free of clichés SUNSHINE AHEAD is the best choice in recent years. Even though it seems convenient to release the movie in times like these (the BP oil spill came later but once again proves that the movie’s timing is right), SUNSHINE AHEAD has absolutely nothing to do with calculated commercial moviemaking.

I have not read the novel but the storyline seems to stick to the real events as only a very few plot points hint at a basic dramaturgy that has little in common with conventional mainstream scripts. The movie has its ups and downs of course, yet it is going with the flow without being trivial. SUNSHINE AHEAD is very convincing as a movie with a message, but it also remains unpretentious from beginning to end.

Story aside, some of the movie’s footage features breathtaking images of nature that make us feel for the hero and his mission even more – SUNSHINE AHEAD may be a drama but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a cinematic experience. The movie is carefully framed and beautifully shot when it matters, and otherwise leaves it to the believable cast to make SUNSHINE AHEAD a really likable film.

SUNSHINE AHEAD is the best proof that a touching movie with a sincere message doesn’t require 3D. Also, it reminds us that despite the technological advancement all that matters is a great story. SUNSHINE AHEAD is a well-rounded, relevant movie that’s especially valuable for oil company executives.




UPDATE: FULL REVIEW POSTED ON JUNE 25 HERE! – – – – – – – Here’s one for all you hippies and Birkenstock fans: Toshio Lee’s SUNSHINE AHEAD tells the story of an environmentalist and his wife who set out to create coral reefs in the sea. Based on a true story (Koji Kingo’s autobiographical novel) it seems that SUNSHINE AHEAD might be the right film at the right time.

If you have missed the premiere at the Okinawa International Film Festival you can now catch it in your local Japanese theatre. Starring Takashi Okamura, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Yu Yoshizawa, Jun Kunimura, Masami Nagasawa, Atsuro Watabe, Mieko Harada, Meiken Ito, Kinuyo Kodama and Masaaki Akahori.