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Contemporary Japanese Cinema: a starter list

500<400, Favourite 1001 movies, Doubling the Canon, Film World Cup and many other votes
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Contemporary Japanese Cinema: a starter list

#1

Post by Onderhond »

Contemporary Japanese Cinema: a starter list on ICM

With the Japanese challenge coming up next month, I decided to make a contemporary Japanese cinema starter list. It's a list of 100 films that should offer a relatively solid mix of personal preferences, critical favorites, local hits and obscure gems. Because of that specific mix, some big names are missing (Ringu for example), but it was never intended to be an "objectivity-first" project.

Some extra rules & remarks:
* contemporary = 25 years, so anything older than 1996 had to go
* I put he films in alphabetical order since rank isn't important
* I limited myself to 1 film per director (as the film should serve as an entryway into a director's oeuvre)

I'll be posting 20 entries per day, so we should be done by May first, after that I'll also put the ICM list public.


01. 19 by Kazushi Watanabe

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02. Ai no Mukidashi [Love Exposure] by Sion Sono

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03. Aoi Haru [Blue Spring] by Toshiaki Toyoda

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04. Avalon by Mamoru Oshii

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05. Batoru Rowaiaru [Battle Royale] by Kinji Fukasaku

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06. Blame! by Hiroyuki Seshita

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07. Boku to Tsuma no 1778 no Monogatari [1,778 Stories of Me and My Wife] by Mamoru Hoshi

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08. Byôsoku 5 Senchimêtoru [5 Centimeters Per Second] by Makoto Shinkai

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09. Casshern by Kazuaki Kiriya

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10. Cha no Aji [The Taste of Tea] by Katsuhito Ishii

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11. Colonel Panics by Cho Jinseok

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12. Crazy Samurai Musashi by Yûji Shimomura

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13. Daiteiden no Yoru Ni [Until the Lights Come Back] by Takashi Minamoto

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14. Deddo Ribusu [Dead Leaves] by Hiroyuki Imaishi

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15. Disutorakushon Beibîzu [Destruction Babies] by Tetsuya Mariko

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16. Electric Dragon 80.000 V by Gakuryu Ishii

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17. Funuke Domo, Kanashimi no Ai wo Misero [Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers!] by Daihachi Yoshida

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18. Gangu Shuriya [Toy Reanimator] by Hakubun

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19. Gantz: O by Yasushi Kawamura, Keiichi Saito

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20. Gekijouban Mozu by Eiichiro Hasumi

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Last edited by Onderhond on April 30th, 2021, 9:55 am, edited 3 times in total.
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#2

Post by Ritesh »

Could you also please make your japanese favorites as a separate icm list ?
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#3

Post by Onderhond »

Ritesh wrote: April 26th, 2021, 5:03 pm Could you also please make your japanese favorites as a separate icm list ?
No prob, I'll add it later this week :)

Also on my blog for those who are interested.
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#4

Post by Onderhond »

Ritesh wrote: April 26th, 2021, 5:03 pm Could you also please make your japanese favorites as a separate icm list ?
https://www.icheckmovies.com/lists/onde ... onderhond/

There you go 1-166 are unsorted 4* ratings, the rest is ranked. Not ideal, but no time to get it right now :)
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#5

Post by Lakigigar »

Okay, can we make this an official list (lol). I'll check and perhaps i'll watch something.
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#6

Post by cinewest »

Thanks, onderhond. I have heard of a handful of these filmmakers, and liked Taste of Tea quite a bit.

One thing we have always agreed upon is that practically every national cinema (post 1970) is almost completely ignored on this board, apart from American cinema, and those foreign films that are included in the arthouse offerings, which is a shame because World cinema has really taken off in the past 30 years
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#7

Post by Onderhond »

cinewest wrote: April 27th, 2021, 7:52 am Thanks, onderhond. I have heard of a handful of these filmmakers, and liked Taste of Tea quite a bit.

One thing we have always agreed upon is that practically every national cinema (post 1970) is almost completely ignored on this board, apart from American cinema, and those foreign films that are included in the arthouse offerings, which is a shame because World cinema has really taken off in the past 30 years
Let's hope others here launch similar projects for different countries. I've done this thread for Chinese/HK/Taiwanese films already, but together with Japan those are the two focus points where I feel quite comfortable drawing up such a list. Would be nice to draw from the knowledge of other forum members when it comes to contemporary cinema from other parts of the world.

Anyway, second batch:

21. Genius Party Beyond by various

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22. Gerumaniumu no Yoru [The Whispering of the Gods] by Tatsushi Ohmori

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23. Gokudô Daisenso [Yakuza Apocalypse] by Takashi Miike

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24. Gureitofuru Deddo [Greatful Dead] by Eiji Uchida

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25. Gusha no Bindume [Hellevator] by Hiroki Yamaguchi

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26. Hakuchi: The Innocent by Macoto Tezuka

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27. Herutâ Sukerutâ [Helter Skelter] by Mika Ninagawa

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28. Heruzu Enjueruzu [Hells] by Yoshinobu Yamakawa

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29. High & Low: The Movie [Shigeaki Kubo]

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30. Hikari [Radiance] by Naomi Kawase

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31. Himitsu: The Top Secret by Keishi Ohtomo

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32. HK: Hentai Kamen - Abnormal Crisis by Yûichi Fukuda

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33. Hot Gimmick: Girl Meets Boy by Yûki Yamato

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34. Ihatôbu Gensô, Kenji no Haru [Spring & Chaos] by Shôji Kawamori

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35. In Za Pûru [In the Pool] by Satoshi Miki

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36. Iya Monogatari: Oku no Hito [The Tale of Iya] by Tetsuichirô Tsuta

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37. Jin-Rô [Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade] by Hiroyuki Okiura

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38. Kaguyahime no Monogatari [The Tale of The Princess Kaguya] by Isao Takahata

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39. Kaijû no Kodomo [Children of the Sea] by Ayumu Watanabe

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40. Kanojo Ga Sono Na wo Shiranai Toritachi [Birds Without Names] by Kazuya Shiraishi

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#8

Post by St. Gloede »

Great initiative Onderhond. Only seen about 140 Japanese films from the last 25 years (compared to 200+ from the 60s alone), so this should be a good source for recommendations.
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#9

Post by Lonewolf2003 »

Cool project. I see at least 1 I already have lined up for next month. I also just watched Gantz:O for the animation challenge. Really liked it. Is Blame a movie that watchable standalone or is it part of a series?
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#10

Post by Onderhond »

St. Gloede wrote: April 28th, 2021, 8:36 am Great initiative Onderhond. Only seen about 140 Japanese films from the last 25 years (compared to 200+ from the 60s alone), so this should be a good source for recommendations.
Thanks! I wish I could've put a bit more time and effort into this, do little write-ups for each director and such. Maybe next time, as I hope to keep this project alive with yearly updates (a nice benefit of the 25 year rule - every year films will fall off).

But at least the outcome will be a neat little ICM list, perfect for compulsive checkers :P Time for the next batch:

41. Kashikoi Inu wa Hoezuni Warau [Shady] by Ryôhei Watanabe

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42. Kemonogare Orera no Saru To [Getting Wild with Our Monkey] by Hideaki Sunaga

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43. Kikujirô no Natsu [Kikujiro] by Takeshi Kitano

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44. Kiraware Matsuko no Isshô [Memories of Matsuko] by Tetsuya Nakashima

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45. Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo [The Kirishima Thing] by Daihachi Yoshida

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46. Kizumonogatari: I Tekketsu-hen by Akiyuki Shinbo & Tatsuya Oishi

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47. Koe no Katachi [A Silent Voice] by Naoko Yamada

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48. Kôhî Jikô [Café Lumière] by Hsiao-hsien Hou

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49. Kono Sekai no Katasumi Ni [In This Corner of the World] by Sunao Katabuchi

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50. Kurôn wa Kokyô wo Mezasu [The Clone Returns Home] by Kanji Nakajima

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51. Megane [Glasses] by Naoko Ogigami

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52. Mind Game by Masaaki Yuasa

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53. Mirai no Mirai [Mirai] by Mamoru Hosoda

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54. Mizu no onna [Woman of Water] by Hidenori Sugimori

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55. Monday by Sabu

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56. Netemo Sametemo [Asako I & II] by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

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57. Ninkô no Junan [Suffering of Ninko] by Norihiro Niwatsukino

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58. Noruwei no Mori [Norwegian Wood] by Tran Anh Hung

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59. Oretachi no Sekai [This World of Ours] by Ryô Nakajima

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60. Orochi [Orochi - Blood] by Norio Tsuruta

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#11

Post by Onderhond »

Lonewolf2003 wrote: April 28th, 2021, 9:47 am Cool project. I see at least 1 I already have lined up for next month. I also just watched Gantz:O for the animation challenge. Really liked it. Is Blame a movie that watchable standalone or is it part of a series?
There's a manga and a mini (really mini) series, but they aren't very related apart from sharing the same universe. The Blame! film doesn't really tie in with the story of the manga, so apart from a bit of world building and maybe a familiar character left and right, you're not missing out on anything.
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#12

Post by Onderhond »

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#13

Post by Onderhond »

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#14

Post by Onderhond »

The only problem I have with this list myself is that it's missing a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film. I'm not his biggest fan, but he is one of the bigger names in Japanese cinema and not having him on here feels like an oversight. So far he hasn't made it in my list of personal favorites though, so until that time you'll just have to do without him. Some lesser names (like Miwa Nishikawa) aren't on here either, but I'm less bothered by that.
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#15

Post by clemmetarey »

Cheers for the list Onderhond, I'm only at 11/100, with 3 favorites. I have a few lined up for the japanese challenge next month, I've been meaning to see Avalon for ages in particular (hopefully I'll like it as much as you did).
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#16

Post by Onderhond »

clemmetarey wrote: April 30th, 2021, 11:26 am Cheers for the list Onderhond, I'm only at 11/100, with 3 favorites. I have a few lined up for the japanese challenge next month, I've been meaning to see Avalon for ages in particular (hopefully I'll like it as much as you did).
That'd be quite something, since it's been my top favorite for almost 20 years :D

Think Stalker meets Ghost in the Shell in a Polish setting and with a gamer plot that's really more about the immersion in online communities. Hope you can find some inspiration in the rest of the list. With 89 unchecked films, there's still plenty to discover!
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#17

Post by clemmetarey »

Onderhond wrote: April 30th, 2021, 11:33 am
clemmetarey wrote: April 30th, 2021, 11:26 am Cheers for the list Onderhond, I'm only at 11/100, with 3 favorites. I have a few lined up for the japanese challenge next month, I've been meaning to see Avalon for ages in particular (hopefully I'll like it as much as you did).
That'd be quite something, since it's been my top favorite for almost 20 years :D

Think Stalker meets Ghost in the Shell in a Polish setting and with a gamer plot that's really more about the immersion in online communities. Hope you can find some inspiration in the rest of the list. With 89 unchecked films, there's still plenty to discover!
Yeah that's setting the bar a bit high, but you never know!

Your description makes it sound intriguing, and I'm sure I'll find some more recommendations as I explore your list.
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#18

Post by Onderhond »

clemmetarey wrote: April 30th, 2021, 3:39 pm Yeah that's setting the bar a bit high, but you never know!

Your description makes it sound intriguing, and I'm sure I'll find some more recommendations as I explore your list.
Fingers crossed you'll like it then, looking forward to seeing your rating pop up in the challenge thread!
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#19

Post by prodigalgodson »

Thanks onderhond! Love the passion. Only seen a few of the usual suspects (Love Exposure, Battle Royale, 5 Centimeters, Spirited Away), but enjoyed all of those. Any you think I'd particularly like?
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#20

Post by flavo5000 »

Good list! I'm at 41/100 myself. Honestly I'm not sure I'd call this a starter list but more half starter,half deeper dive. There are things like Battle Royale and Spirited Away that are definitely starter kit material. But then Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse not being on here is a pretty big gap as you mentioned. I didn't see any Shinji Aoyama either who is a pretty big figure in the Japan arthouse cinema of the 00's. And Yakuza Apocalypse as the only Miike film on here? Kind of a weird choice. You may not like them as much but ones like Audition, Ichi the Killer and Dead or Alive are definitely much more well-known and probably more representative of Miike's general filmography. Love Exposure is definitely my favorite Sion Sono film but I'm not sure that 4-hour slab of insanity should be part of a contemporary Japan "starter kit". Interestingly with Sono, Love Exposure is more indicative of a lot of his filmography despite Suicide Club being probably his most well-known. As far as Studio Trigger, I would've gone with Madoka Magicka over Monogatari. It's definitely MUCH more accessible for a "starter" list.

All that to say, I like the list, maybe just not the branding :)

I'll definitely be watching some of the ones on here in May for the Japan challenge.
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#21

Post by Torgo »

flavo5000 wrote: April 30th, 2021, 8:09 pm But then Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse not being on here is a pretty big gap as you mentioned.
And Yakuza Apocalypse as the only Miike film on here? Kind of a weird choice. You may not like them as much but ones like Audition, Ichi the Killer and Dead or Alive are definitely much more well-known and probably more representative of Miike's general filmography.
I just have to second this. Onder already noted it by himself - and I don't know why none of the 100 films could give up a place for Kiyoshi, really - but the Miike choice is at least as weird.

Probably I could grouch some more which would distract from how valuable this kit is.
Thanks for the work. :poshclap:
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#22

Post by flavo5000 »

Torgo wrote: April 30th, 2021, 8:15 pm
flavo5000 wrote: April 30th, 2021, 8:09 pm But then Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse not being on here is a pretty big gap as you mentioned.
And Yakuza Apocalypse as the only Miike film on here? Kind of a weird choice. You may not like them as much but ones like Audition, Ichi the Killer and Dead or Alive are definitely much more well-known and probably more representative of Miike's general filmography.
I just have to second this. Onder already noted it by himself - and I don't know why none of the 100 films could give up a place for Kiyoshi, really - but the Miike choice is at least as weird.

Probably I could grouch some more which would distract from how valuable this kit is.
Thanks for the work. :poshclap:
I mean, I did have fun with Yakuza Apocalypse but it felt like Miike was even more ADD than usual on that one.
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#23

Post by Onderhond »

flavo5000 wrote: April 30th, 2021, 8:09 pm All that to say, I like the list, maybe just not the branding :)
re: branding, I get it, even though I don't agree :)

As I explained in the first post, this project definitely has a very personal bias, and that was very deliberate. I started from my personal toplist (which immediately disqualifies films like Pulse, Ichi The Killer, Dead or Alive, Suicide Club, Eureka and a bunch of others) that would've been better choices for a more neutral starter kit. I just really didn't see the point in making a list like that, everybody here could do that by looking at this list and do the work themselves. Apart from the ICM bias that is there, it would just increase the echo chamber, and I don't want to be a part of that.

That isn't to say that I solely went by personal favorites. Spirited Away wasn't my favorite Miyazaki, but it is in my list of favorites and that film is so monumental that I included it over The Wind Rises & Ponyo. The same goes for Sono btw, Love/Exposure is far from my favorite work of his, but it's definitely a fine film and in Asian-minded communities people are completely mad over that one. So the fact that it is 4 hours long, is offset by the fact that for many it becomes an immediate favorite (it's a shame these communities aren't very poll-minded, I'm quite certain it would easily score a top 5 place).

Miike was a tough one, not in the least because I had many films to choose from. I just rewatched Audition last week and even though I agree it's a perfect entry film for people unfamiliar with Miike's work, its biggest strength is showcasing that Miike can in fact do restrained and well-structured films. Personally, I'd rather highlight a film that underscores the elements that make Miike unique, so I just went with my favorite and one of the maddest Miikes of the bunch (Gozu would've been second in line).

Your pick for Shinbo I don't get. Madoka Magicka is like a show for 5 year olds mixed with arty-farty animation. As much as I appreciated bits of it (and quite a lot of it in case of the second film), I don't even understand who the target audience of that show is supposed to be. If I had to pick an easy Shinbo film, I'd have gone with his adaptation of Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?

For Kurosawa, there simply were no favorites to pick from (yet). Eyes of the Spider is sure to appear at some point and Loft/Bright Future are waiting for a rewatch, but the fact I've postponed these films for so long means I'm not quite certain they'll hold up. The same goes for Aoyama's Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?, which has a decent chance of becoming his representative in the future.

So yeah, I get this isn't your typical, "objective" starter kit and some big names are missing (like the aformentioned Ringu/Nakata), but I still feel every film in the list deserves to be there, either because it's an important part of the modern canon, or because it broadens the horizon that the basic canon offers (which can actively turn people away from cinema too).
Torgo wrote: April 30th, 2021, 8:15 pm Thanks for the work. :poshclap:
You're welcome! I had fun doing this project, so it wasn't much of a chore really :)
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#24

Post by Onderhond »

prodigalgodson wrote: April 30th, 2021, 6:06 pm Thanks onderhond! Love the passion. Only seen a few of the usual suspects (Love Exposure, Battle Royale, 5 Centimeters, Spirited Away), but enjoyed all of those. Any you think I'd particularly like?
That is quite hard to say, since I wouldn't have immediately picked these films for you. We usually don't have much overlap in the weekly threads and the film you see rarely ring a bell for me. From the recent Tsai's you liked, I figured you'd be more into hardcore arthouse/slow cinema and the likes, but that doesn't really gel with the films you picked here.

Sorry if I pegged you wrong, but assuming you're looking for somewhat slower and/or darker dramas, the following films might be good options:

- 22. Gerumaniumu no Yoru [The Whispering of the Gods] by Tatsushi Ohmori
- 36. Iya Monogatari: Oku no Hito [The Tale of Iya] by Tetsuichirô Tsuta
- 48. Kôhî Jikô [Café Lumière] by Hsiao-hsien Hou
- 89. Tokyo.sora by Hiroshi Ishikawa
- 91. Tonî Takitani [Tony Takitani] by Jun Ichikawa
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#25

Post by Fergenaprido »

Thanks for taking the time to put this together Onderhond. I also like the presentation method and am grateful for an icm list. Only seen 6 (5 animation and 1 WC film), so I've got lots to explore, but I don't imagine I'll surpass 25% for many years. I don't care about the branding aspect above; I see this list as 100% unapologetically Onderhond, and that's where I think it's merit and value come from. :) I wish I had half the talents for self-expression (and coding) as you do so that I could share the films that I enjoy with as much passion and aestheticism.
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#26

Post by Onderhond »

Fergenaprido wrote: May 7th, 2021, 12:39 am I don't care about the branding aspect above; I see this list as 100% unapologetically Onderhond, and that's where I think it's merit and value come from.
Well, I'm always going to start from my own list of favorites, so there's no point in escaping the personal bias there. I wouldn't commit to saying it's 100% unapologetically Onderhond (I'd really never pick Spirited Away, which I rewatched just very recently and is hanging on by a thread), but I have no problem if people see it that way. I still stand by the starter kit branding though, even when that entails picking some rather obscure film that represents a very local yet popular niche (like Liar Game) over some dudes and dudettes doing something Koreeda-like. After all, it is meant as an introduction to Japanese cinema, not as a fanboy list for a Westerner's view on Japanese cinema.
Fergenaprido wrote: May 7th, 2021, 12:39 am I wish I had half the talents for self-expression (and coding) as you do so that I could share the films that I enjoy with as much passion and aestheticism.
Haha, thanks (though credit where credit is due, it certainly helps to work among colleagues who are always ready to share advise on how to improve or solve issues, both on the technical as well as the aesthetic side)! And we all wish for things we lack I guess, as I'd rather be creating myself rather than write about what others are creating. But alas, we make due with the skills we are given.

In any case, glad to hear you appreciate the list! It's been going over rather well in other places I've shared it, it's always nice to hear effort hasn't been made in vain :)
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