Eriko Hatsune

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Emperor Review


OK

An attempt to spice up a true story with fictional characters and events leaves this film feeling artificial. And it doesn't help that the two likeable lead actors never quite crack the surface. But this is still a fascinating moment in history, and the film captures a strong sense of the setting as well as the importance of this urgent meeting of two cultures.

It takes place in August 1945, just after Japan surrenders to the Americans. General MacArthur (Jones) is now charged with determining whether Emperor Hirohito (Kataoka) should be tried for war crimes. So he assigns General Fellers (Fox) to define Hirohito's role. Fellers has experience with Japanese culture: he lived there before the war and fell in love with university student Aya (Hatsune). But he never knew what happened to her, so in addition to working with his translator Takahashi (Haneda) to meet with various wartime officials, he also looks for news about Aya.

There's something fishy about this whole Aya business right from the start, as we doubt that such a high-ranking military officer, charged with such a vitally important task, would spend so much time on his own personal search. We also never really care about Fellers' feelings for Aya, so nothing about this plot-thread and its gauzy flashbacks feels realistic. And sure enough, a bit of research reveals that it's complete fiction. The far more interesting relationship here is between Fellers and Takahashi, which is played with intriguing texture by Fox and especially Haneda but is never properly explored on-screen.

Continue reading: Emperor Review

Emperor Trailer


Following the catastrophic events of World War II which led to the Japanese forces' surrender, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers General Douglas MacArthur charged his Japan expert protégé Bonner Fellers with the task of making the hugely significant decision of whether or not Japanese emperor Hirohito should be tried and executed as a war criminal for the part he played on behalf of his government over the war period. However, his choices are deeply affected by his love for exchange student Aya who he met in the States years previously and subsequently searches for when he reaches Japan. With her beside him, he finds himself developing the insight and wisdom enough to give him the strength to make the major verdict.

This heart-wrenching war film is based on the true events following the surrender of Japan in 1945. Directed by Peter Webber ('Girl with a Pearl Earring', 'Hannibal Rising') and written by Vera Blasi ('Tortilla Soup', 'Woman on Top') and David Klass ('Kiss the Girls', 'Desperate Measures'), 'Emperor' is the mind-blowing story of justice and morality and the role that love serves in making choices about each. It debuted at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and will be release in the US on March 8th 2013.

Director: Peter Webber

Continue: Emperor Trailer

Norwegian Wood Review


Good
"I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me?" So begins the eponymous Beatles song, which echoes literally and thematically through this delicately offbeat Japanese drama by Vietnamese filmmaker Tran.

Watanabe (Matsuyama) is a 19-year-old shaken to the core when his best pal (Kora) commits suicide. While comforting his grief-stricken girlfriend Naoko (Kikuchi), Watanabe begins to fall for her, but their mutual attraction only makes her depression worse so she flees to a healing retreat in the woods.

Watanabe's womanising pal Nagasawa (Tamayama) advises him to find another girl, but when he meets Midori (Mizuhara) the relationship is equally complicated.

Continue reading: Norwegian Wood Review

Uzumaki Review


Grim
Originally conceived as a manga graphic novel by Junji Ito, the new Japanese horror film Uzumaki doesn't survive the cinematic translation. Those expecting another meta-thriller like Hideo Nakata's popular Ring series and Kiyoski Kurosawa's Cure may find some haunting, Escher-like visuals and an appropriately disturbing apocalypse-bop finale, but this directorial debut from music video show-off Higuchinsky is all flash. Inattentive to genre basics like mood, suspense, creepy lighting (as opposed to boy band lighting), and character development, Uzumaki works on the level of visceral sideshow thrills: watch the snail people climb up a wall, see the human contortionist twist his body into a pretzel, see the hospital-bound grieving widow slice off her fingertips before doing battle with an insect predator. If it weren't cursed with the Charlie's Angels-short attention span video-trained directors have been bombarding us with, Uzumaki might be commended for its spate of bedazzling creature effects.

Anything goes in Asian horror, using basic plot scenarios to tap into feverish nightmare set pieces. Possessed by a bizarre supernatural force, the residents of a small seaside village become obsessive over spiral shapes and snail shells. A schoolgirl weaves her hair into a Medusa pattern, other children start taking on the characteristics of amphibian creatures, and there are a series of cult-induced suicides. Amidst this slow building carnage are a young couple (Eriko Hatsune and Fhi Fan) who consider eloping, but their Scooby Doo curiosity gets the best of them and they attempt to solve the mystery. All the makings of a first rate creepshow are there (consider John Carpenter's terrific In the Mouth of Madness as the American version), but Higuchinsky hasn't seen enough surrealist-nightmare Dario Argento movies and it quickly devolves into the attention-grabbing camera tricks that similarly undermined Michel Gondry's Human Nature. Unable to sustain mood, they go for high concept designs that might work in a three-minute video but grow quickly tiresome in a full-length feature.

Continue reading: Uzumaki Review

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