Japan Society’s Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film has several horror, horror-adjacent, science fiction, and related genre-film gems among its first in-person edition since 2019, running from July 26–August 6 in New York City. Following are official festival descriptions of some of the films that Horror Fuel has its collective eyes on. Watch for reviews here during the festival dates! For more information, visit www.japansociety.org/film.
Best Wishes to All (North American Premiere)
Thursday, July 27 at 9:00 PM
Dir. Yuta Shimotsu, 2023, 84 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Kotone Furukawa.
What would you do for happiness? Director Yuta Shimotsu answers in his feature film debut. Executive produced by Takashi Shimizu (creator of Ju On: The Grudge) and starring Kotone Furukawa (Berlinale Silver Bear winner for Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy), Best Wishes to All follows a young woman’s visit to her grandparents’ home and discovery of what’s brought them happiness—a revelation that will lead her to question her choices, sanity and reality itself. Best Wishes to All starts slow and builds to a frantic, manic and disturbingly satisfying end.
Convenience Story (New York Premiere)
Thursday, August 3 at 9:00 PM
Dir. Satoshi Miki, 2022, 97 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Ryo Narita, Atsuko Maeda.
Stuck in a rut as a deadbeat screenwriter with a reputation for unoriginal “male fantasy films,” Kato (Ryo Narita) struggles to find inspiration for his next script. That is, however, until a supernatural occurrence at a konbini transports him to an alternate dimension where he meets young, pretty Keiko (Atsuko Maeda) and her eccentric, classical music-obsessed husband. Will they provide the creative spark he needs? This latest offbeat fantasy from Satoshi Miki (It’s Me, It’s Me, JC2013) takes a playful jab at the filmmaking industry and its surreal absurdities, co-scripted by longtime Japan Times film critic and writer Mark Schilling.
From the End of the World (U.S. Premiere)
Saturday, August 5 at 9:30 PM
Dir. Kazuaki Kiriya, 2023, 135 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Aoi Ito, Katsuya Maiguma, Aya Asahina. Special cameo by Shunji Iwai.
Kazuaki Kiriya’s first feature film in eight years is the story of the final two weeks of the planet Earth and the young girl (Aoi Ito) who has the power to save it. The imaginative director of Casshern and Goemon returns to the big screen with a film ripe with his trademark daring visuals and a mind- and time-bending narrative. From the ancient past to the far future, From the End of the World is a science fiction feast both deeply intimate and epic in scale that traces the ley lines of dreams, destiny, and a young girl’s heart.
Hand (North American Premiere)
Saturday, July 29 at 9:00 PM
Dir. Daigo Matsui, 2022, 99 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Akari Fukunaga, Daichi Kaneko.
Since her youth—and not-so-subtly informed by her own father—25-year-old Sawako (Akari Fukunaga) has had a deep curiosity about older men. Sawako’s observations and liaisons are humorous and amusing even as her fascination manifests into a scrapbook of candid photos of unassuming older “happy” men. Adroitly adapting Nao-Cola Yamazaki’s novel of the same name, Hand engages headfirst with female desire, male fragility and self-discovery through the eyes of its witty and mild-mannered protagonist. Belonging to a string of new pinku productions celebrating 50 years of Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno, Daigo Matsui’s charming erotic tale stays true to the softcore label’s legacy (most notably, a requisite sex scene every 10 or so minutes) while refreshingly modernizing its roots. This film is unrated but not recommended for audiences under 18 years of age due to strong sexual content.
MONDAYS: See you “this” week! (North American Premiere)
Sunday, August 6 at 12:00 PM
Dir. Ryo Takebayashi, 2022, 83 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Wan Marui, Makita Sports.
Live. Work. Repeat. Akemi Yoshikawa (Wan Marui) pulls an all-nighter to finish an important project for a client, only to find herself working on this same project again and again. Akemi soon understands she’s stuck in a time loop, and the only way out is to convince all her co-workers and boss (played by the prolific Makita Sports) of the time-bending situation they’re in. A zany, fast-faced comedy filled with twists, turns and PowerPoints.
Plastic (International Premiere)
Friday, July 28 at 9:00 PM
Dir. Daisuke Miyazaki, 2023, 104 min, DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With An Ogawa, Takuma Fujie, Kyoko Koizumi.
Decades after the breakup of their favorite band Exne Kedy and the Poltergeists (a fictional project by artist Kensuke Ide and producer You Ishihara of Yura Yura Teikoku fame), music obsessives Jun and Ibuki (An Ogawa, Heaven Is Still Far Away) bond over their mutual love for the ’70s glam rock band, falling deeply in love in the process. But as difficulties arise in their dreams and priorities, the couple break apart. The surprise announcement of an Exne Kedy reunion, however, brings the promise of a new tomorrow. The latest from director Daisuke Miyazaki (Tourism, JC2018), Plastic is a life-affirming jolt to the system, celebrating the cosmic power of music, and the joys of growing up and falling in love in a charming and heartfelt coming-of-age tale.
Single8 (New York Premiere)
Sunday, July 30 at 2:30 PM
Dir. Kazuya Konaka, 2022, 113 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Yu Uemura, Akari Takaishi.
After seeing Star Wars for the first time in the summer of 1978, high schooler Hiroshi (Yu Uemura) can’t stop thinking about the film’s famous opening shot of a Star Destroyer entering the frame. This obsession eventually leads him to propose making a film with his classmates for their summer festival group project, a sci-fi love story called “Time Reverse.” But will his crush Natsumi (Akari Takaishi) accept the lead role? A nostalgic, feel-good comedy that hearkens back to director Kazuya Konaka’s salad days as a student filmmaker, Single8 celebrates youth, creativity and the life-changing possibilities of cinema.
The Three Sisters of Tenmasou Inn (U.S. Premiere)
Sunday, August 6 at 2:30 PM
Dir. Ryuhei Kitamura, 2022, 150 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Non, Mugi Kadowaki, Riku Hagiwara.
In this supernatural tearjerker adapted from the manga by Tsutomu Takahashi, the waystation between life and rebirth is a traditional Japanese ryokan by the sea called Tenmasou Inn. When Tamae (Non) arrives there after a car accident leaves her body in a coma, she is greeted by Nozomi (Yuko Oshima), the inn’s polite proprietress and laid-back Kanae (Mugi Kadowaki)—half-sisters that Tamae never knew she had. Despite protestations from the irascible matriarch Kyoko (Shinobu Terajima), the effervescent Tamae starts working at Tenmasou, taking time to process her liminal state while discovering the history she shares with her sisters, including their absent father.
Wandering (U.S. Premiere)
Tuesday, August 1 at 9:00 PM
Dir. Sang-il Lee, 2022, 150 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Suzu Hirose, Tori Matsuzaka.
A sprawling account of the alleged kidnapping of a nine-year-old young girl by a university student and the years-long repercussions of the event, Wandering delves into the gray area of the circumstances in question. 15 years after their initial encounter, Sarasa runs into her accused captor Fumi, bringing forth a deluge of memories and recollections. Based on the novel by Yu Nagira, Wandering dwells on challenging ethical and moral complexities with director Sang-il Lee (Villain, Rage) offering no easy answers in this compelling, thought-provoking drama. Recommended for mature audiences.