Three Movies (Post 2000) that Proves the Japanese are Better at Storytelling
Introduction to Japanese Films
The Japanese have been making great films ever since movie making has infiltrated their culture. Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Mizayaki are practically household names all over the world. Japanese film makers are not only talented but also trend setters. Below are three movies that are not as well known, but upon first viewing, I knew right away that what I was watching were mind blowing films in regards to subject matter, storytelling, direction, and style. If you want to watch Japanese movies that are not anime or about the bushido code, then check out these three spectacular films.
A middle school teacher, who lost her child due to murder, vowed to kill the culprits herself. She informs her students in the middle of the class that she is quitting teaching to find the ones responsible, who she knows is one of her students, and seek revenge.
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Confessions has to be my favorite Japanese film of all time. It is such a disturbing but mind blowing movie to me that it still haunts my thoughts now and then. Maybe you have seen a better Japanese thriller or any thriller from any country for that matter but I have never seen a movie like this.
The director, Tetsuya Nakashima, is renowned for his filmography and he did a superb job of playing with your emotions throughout the film. He always kept the audience in suspense and just when you thought you knew what was going to happen, he would throw a wrench to your face. If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball but Nakashima's wrenches were so fast and unexpected that you will end the movie bruised and banged up but still happy to have participated in the game (of watching the movie).
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The cast played their role very convincingly. Every character in the movie, including the grieving mother/teacher, were all despicable but the storytelling gave them enough room to receive some sympathy from the audience because you learn the reasons behind their actions. If you haven't seen your share of Korean movies, most Korean movies end on a depressing note. This movie, though Japanese, follows that formula. You will feel relieved, angry and dirty once the movie is over. Oldboy comes to mind when I wrote that sentence but these two movies are nothing alike.
Summer Time Machine Blues (2005)
During the hot months in the summer, five sci-fi club members in college who are not really interested in sci-fi but would rather just hang out and use the club for social gatherings become desperate to fix their broken remote for their AC. Suddenly a time machine appears in there club and they decide to use it to go back to "yesterday" to bring back the remote control.
Trailer (with no English Subtitles)
This movie takes the time traveling premise to a different level. Most time travel movies try to explain time traveling and in doing so reveal some plot holes. This time traveling movie wraps every thing in a nice little package with a bow and a greeting card. It is a low budget movie but it doesn't take away from the storytelling.
With a simple premise and meticulous attention, this makes any big budget movie look like they were done by amateurs. Summer Time Machine Blues storytelling is straightforward but is so convincing in its logic that it makes a lot of sense. While you watch the movie, you will try to nitpick at the plot holes but you will not find any and then you will just accept the fact that you just watched an exciting, fun, and funny movie about five guys who just wanted to stay cool for the summer.
The group of young actors had great chemistry. The movie made the viewer feel like and part of the sci-fi club and get a sense of the camaraderie . There were a few familiar faces if you have watched other Japanese movies, in particular, Juri Ueno from Swing Girls and Yoko Maki from The Grudge.
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The directing and film editing were spot on. It didn't feel like the pacing was slow, even though it had a slice of life aura to the film. The movie covered all its bases, to the minute detail, and didn't have major plot holes like other time traveling movies you may have seen. Summer Time Machine Blues was entertaining enough where upon the first viewing, if there were any doubt in the story, the movie would be self aware of itself and explain how it happened. If you watch the film several times, you will see the amount of attention the director and the crew paid on the details. Some people have stated that the movie was somewhat satirical in the sub genre of time travel because of the premise but it followed its own logic, didn't get to serious, and kept it light and funny.
I really like this film because it covers taboo subjects. I can't see a movie like this being made in any other country, especially the US, and nothing close to it has come to mind. When I first viewed this movie, I was thrown off by the subject matter but the style and storytelling was so captivating that I couldn't look away. I am glad I didn't and I purposely took that wrench to the face.
Fish Story (2009)
In 2012, Earth will be shattered to pieces by a comet. In a record shop in Japan, the eccentric owner informs the stubborn customers, who would rather spend their last hours in the store rather than in a safehouse or with family and friends, the comet will miss because of the story of how one obscure song made 37 years before changed the world.
Trailer (with English Subtitles)
Now this movie is as obscure as the song that is constantly repeating throughout the movie. Nevertheless, this movie is fantastic. As with the previous two recommended films, the storytelling is top notch.
Unlike the other two films, there is a narrator and it is the record store owner in Japan. He does a fine job leading the "behind the music" rendition on an obscure song that he believes one day will save the world.
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Fish Story has a unique style of storytelling. It takes four random events, including the story of the struggling band that created the song that would one day save the world, and unfolds their relationship to each other as the story progress. Each story line is engaging and entertaining on its own but is completely mind bending when it all comes together. Think Pulp Fiction lite. Great storytelling; low on violence.
The acting, directing, and editing, were above par but nothing to brag about. It was the intriguing story and sub plots that made this movie enjoyable and memorable to watch. Though it is just a movie, it will convince you to have faith in humanity.
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Which movie will you watch?
© 2014 Ken