Strangely Atmospheric: the videos of Shiho Kano

James Benning meets David Lynch?

Earlier this week, I caught a Balagan Film Series event compiling a variety of Japanese experimental films spanning several decades. Among the films shown was Shiho Kano‘s “Rocking Chair” which so intrigued me with it’s evocative sense of mono no aware that I had then look for more of Kano’s work on the Internet. Unhurriedly observational, mundane yet subtly evocative or suggestive, some of Kano’s films, like “Rocking Chair” and “Rosecolored Flower”, seem to have an understated mindfulness or even Continue reading

Sandwiches, Soup and Satomi Kobayashi: パンとスープとネコ日和

Just slightly more eventful than Kana Matsumoto’s earlier work Mother Water and with more of a plot trajectory, brightness and slightly faster pacing than her last feature film Tokyo Oasis, パンとスープとネコ日和 (Bread and Soup and Cat Weather) is an immersive, relaxing, short Japanese drama series that’s quietly beautiful and delightful. With characters drawn from the casts of めがねプールかもめ食堂 (Glasses, Pool, Seagull Diner)、Mother Water and Tokyo Oasis (like Ryo Kase), along with settings and relationships similar to those films, there’s a familiar, airy atmospheric quality to this 4-episode j-drama.

episode 4 title scene

I love how the series brings you into the kinds of cozy places you’ll find in Japan—cafés with simple yet stylistic decor and good, unique food, little side streets of shops and restaurants. It’s also great how there’s time for relationships to be revealed and developed in ways that couldn’t in the movies mentioned above. And the sandwiches and soups look delicious, reminding me of some of the menu items at the Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, MA and at Soup Stock Tokyo.

If you’re interested in watching the series, the DVD set will be released in just a couple days on January 15th and can be purchased via CD Japan or Amazon Japan.

There are only a few clips from this series on YouTube. Here’s a fun one from the ending of the series (no spoilers) featuring all the characters めがね メルシー体操-style. This part is much quirkier than the rest of the film which is highly quotidian and may border on understated for some viewers—I prefer to think of the film’s ambiance as unhurried, leisurely and thoughtful.

Just Watched: Closed Note

Kae reading the diary While it’s somewhat predictable if you’ve watched a bunch of Japanese (or even Korean) films and dramas, Closed Note with Erika Sawajiri, Yuko Takeuchi and Yusuke Iseya is an idyllic portrayal of the warmth and ideals of youth and human nature. The film does a good job of gradually, almost leisurely developing and revealing relationships between characters, through the present and past, through conversation and writing. Another reminder of how our thoughts and feelings can, in a way, transcend time and space.

As usual, I don’t want to give anything away. If you heartwarming/wrenching, sentimental Japanese films, give this a shot (preferably without watching the trailer below).

Yuko Takeuchi plays once again the kind of character she’s good at endearingly rendering.

In-Flight Delight: Yellow Elephant

Aoi Miyazaki as Tsuma in Yellow Elephant During a recent flight, one of the film options was Yellow Elephant with Aoi Miyazaki and Mukai Osamu. A fan of films that take their time with quotidian yet unique plots, I quickly became absorbed in this low-key film. The idyllic beginning with quietly quirky couple Tsuma (who can apparently hear animals and plants talking) and Muko (a novelist) living in the countryside gradually transforms into a tale of how the past pulls at the characters and how they rescue each other, even when they don’t realize it.

The choice of actors in this film is excellent. Most of the characters I’ve seen Aoi Miyazaki play (starting with ちょっと待って、神様 and Eureka) are rendered believable and relatable by her acting.

I love how flights to Japan can be like mini film festivals.