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Japanese Film Festival Returns To Brisbane And Sydney In 2021 With Subversive Classics Program

December 9, 2020 Events Calendar No Comments

In 2021, The Japanese Film Festival (JFF) returns to cinemas in Brisbane (8-27 Jan) and Sydney (6 Feb – 3 Mar) with a subversive FREE Classics program exploring Provocation and Disruption: Radical Japanese Filmmaking from the 1960s to the 2000s, as well as a Sydney-exclusive talk event on Queer & Transgender Visibility in Cinema (20 Feb).

From revolutionary Japanese New Wave cinema to surrealist psychedelic expressions and gritty cyberpunk, the program features boundary-shattering masterpieces from avant-garde Japanese auteurs including Shinya TsukamotoNobuhiko ÅŒbayashi and Seijun Suzuki.

Program highlights include award-winning horror films – Shinya Tsukamoto’s Fantafestival Best Film winning cyberpunk classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a horrific, visceral story of revenge that explores the relationship between humanity and technology; and Nobuhiko ÅŒbayashi’s Blue Ribbon Best New Director winning experimental horror film House, about six school girls’ deadly visit to a supernatural mansion with a proclivity for devouring humans.

Other award-winning films include: Brisbane International Film Festival FIRPESCI Prize Winner Seijun Suzuki’s Pistol Opera, a stylistic action-packed drama about a number three ranked assassin who embarks on a bloodthirsty mission to ascend to the top rank in the hierarchy of assassins at her secretive workplace; and the Fantafestival Best Film and Best Director winning Mind Game directed by Masaaki Yuasa, a mind-bending animation chronicling the psychedelic journey of an aspiring manga writer following his murder at the hands of Yakuza loan sharks.

Catch a rare glimpse into the queer community of 1960s Japan in Funeral Parade of Roses, an intoxicating film following the trials and tribulations of Tokyo’s underground gay scene; explore political radicalism in arthouse biopic Eros + Massacre, which intertwines two parallel stories from likeminded anarchists living in different time periods; and immerse yourself in the chaotic love story between a book thief and a woman posing as a store clerk who catches him in the act in the anti-establishment New Wave film Diary of a Shinjuku Thief.

Rounding out the program is Nobuhiko ÅŒbayashi’s experimental short film Emotion (That Dracula We Once Knew), which melds reality and dreamlike imagery to craft a bizarre love story between a young girl and an enigmatic vampire.

Audiences in Sydney can look forward to a fascinating talk on Queer & Transgender Visibility in Cinema exploring queer identity and non-conformative gender representation in film. The discussion will take place following the 20 Feb screening of Funeral Parade of Roses at the Art Gallery of NSW and features guest speakers Senior Lecturer, Creative Practice at AFTRS, Maija Howe; performance and interdisciplinary artist Bhenji Ra, independent filmmaker, critic, programmer and FBI Radio Host Jen Atherton; and filmmaker and producer Charlotte Mars.

The Classics program is part of the annual Japanese Film Festival presented by The Japan Foundation, Sydney and made possible by The Japan Foundation Film Library.

The Classics program is free admission. See for ticketing details.

2020 Japanese Film Festival Classics films include:

  • Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

A subversive take on the Greek tragedy Oedipus, this intoxicating and surreal film follows Eddie, played by Shinnosuke Ikehata aka Peter (Ran), a notorious hostess and rising star of a queer nightclub in Tokyo’s underground scene. Eddie is enveloped in destructive intimacy and a violently jealous love triangle, and as a result is confronted with traumatic childhood memories. This all comes to a head with the film’s dizzying climax, fuelled by a whirlwind of drugs, sex, music and undeniably fabulous glamour.

Catch a rare glimpse into the queer community of 1960s Japan through this visual and sonic cacophony of Japanese New Wave cinema.

  • House (1977)

House is a fusillade on the brain cells and a smorgasbord of filmic delights, which is apt given that it’s about a house that devours schoolgirls. Described as ‘unhinged extreme’, House (aka Hausu) is an experimental horror film that amalgamates 1970s pop culture with mysterious phenomenology. The late auteur Nobuhiko ÅŒbayashi had his 11-year-old daughter help with many of the story ideas, lending to the film’s dreamy, phantasmagorical sensibilities. House famously employs unrealistic special effects, outrageously stylised sets, and a storyline where literally anything can happen to a group of teenyboppers vacationing at a mysterious aunt’s isolated mansion for the summer.

  • Emotion (That Dracula We Once Knew) (1967)

The dreamlike world of this experimental short film from the late Nobuhiko ÅŒbayashi depicts a young girl named Emi who moves from her seaside home to the city. There, she befriends a girl named Sari, and the two enjoy sun-kissed, youthful days together until both Emi and Sari fall in love with the same man, leading one to turn her jealous desire toward an enigmatic vampire played by ÅŒbayashi himself. But for this surreal short film, the plot takes a back seat to a cross-genre hotchpotch of cinematic styles and techniques in mesmerising succession.

  • Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (1969)

Diary of a Shinjuku Thief is a chaotic film that responds to the climate of social upheaval in Japan during the late 1960s. The ambiguous narrative centres on a man who steals from a bookstore in Shinjuku and the woman who catches him in the act. Sparks fly between the two, and they embark on a quest to achieve ecstasy through episodic moments that break down traditions of fiction and reality.

Acclaimed director Nagisa ÅŒshima utilises a unique cinematic vocabulary to take a deep dive into young lovers attempting to free themselves from the trappings of previous generations and paternal social constructs.

  • Pistol Opera (2001)

The deadly Stray Cat is ranked number three in The Guild, an organisation of assassins so secretive that she herself isn’t fully convinced it exists. When the mysterious Sayoko UekyÅ assigns Stray Cat a new target, The Guild’s number one assassin, Hundred Eyes, Stray Cat’s hunger for power and status wins out and she embarks on a hunt to claw her way to the top of The Guild.

Thirty years after Branded to Kill, master filmmaker Seijun Suzuki returns with his signature style, complete with outlandish yet tight storylines, offbeat editing, lavish colour and over-the-top action.

  • Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Marked as director Shinya Tsukamoto’s (Killing, JFF2018) breakout film, Tetsuo: The Iron Man tells a horrific visceral story of the relationship between humanity and technology. Metal Fetishist, a strange contagious man with a compulsion for stuffing metal into his body, is on a mission to get back at Salary Man and his girlfriend for running him over with their car. After the accident, Salary Man starts sprouting metal parts from his body. Unbeknownst to Salary Man, his nemesis Metal Fetishist is controlling his lurid, hell-like transformation and will soon be back to exact his revenge.

  • Eros + Massacre (1970)

This biopic follows the life of Sakae ÅŒsugi, a TaishÅ Era (1912-1926) anarchist known as a proponent of sexual freedom. His three lovers aren’t all as enamoured with his flouting of the monogamous sexual mores of the time, which, when combined with his detractors’ distaste for his non-traditional lifestyle, leads to his downfall. ÅŒsugi’s story intertwines with that of Eiko, a 1960s university student who sympathises with ÅŒsugi’s anarchical philosophies on free love and radicalism. Japan’s quintessential arthouse film, Eros + Massacre examines political radicalism of Japan in the 1910s and 1960s through non-linear, parallel storytelling.

  • Mind Game (2004)

Robin Nishi is a 20-year-old loser who dreams of becoming a manga artist. One day, he runs into his childhood crush Myon and begins to reminisce about what could have been, but his sad life is cut tragically short when he is shot and killed by a yakuza loan shark. Instead of moving on to the great beyond, Nishi’s death gives him a fresh perspective and a new lease on life.

What ensues is a psychedelic comedy road trip that takes Nishi and Myon inside the belly of a gigantic whale, with surreal sequences and montages offering insight into the background of the various characters.

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