Shinsedai Festival: Tentsuki

Title: Tentsuki (aka Tenshi Tsukinuke 6-Chome)
Director: Masafumi Yamada
Starring: Taku Manabe, Natsumi Seto, Ryuzaburo Hattori, Akira Emoto, Akaji Maro
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 96 min.

After escaping from some yakuza guys who want to collect from his now-bankrupt employer, Igarashi manages to make it to an apartment complex managed by a friend, somewhere in an unmapped section of Kyoto, and his friend gives him a room. Igarashi mentions finding it oddly difficult to find the place, and how he gets lost every time he tries to get back to the complex. That’s not the only weird thing about it, either – the widow landlady often seems to appear out of nowhere, the bathroom has a bizarre recurring drainage problem, the hallways sometimes seem to tilt, and, oh yeah, there’s a girl living there who believes she’s sprouting wings.

Most of these things are treated rather matter-of-factly, leaving the film teetering on the edge of becoming a fantasy, but they’re also potentially explained by simply being a confusingly laid-out neighborhood, or a simple case of bad drains, or a strange psychosis. The pull of the surreal and fantastic remains strong, though, and the place itself seems to have a stronger-than-average tie to the uncanny. All that Miyuki (that is, wing-girl) wants is to get out of there, but she apparently can’t. Even Igarashi’s friend, who doesn’t mind living there, mentions that the town might need to have a screw tightened or something.

Would you like to know more…?

Shinsedai Cinema Festival: Battle Girls & Bondage: A Pink Film Double Bill

Filling the late night Saturday slot at the Shinsedai Cinema Festival is a double bill of ‘pink’ films. For those of you unaware of the sub-genre, pink films are short Japanese erotic productions. These were long ignored in the West, with most dismissing them as nothing but pornography, but have fairly recently been seen in a different light through the writing of Shinsedai’s Jasper Sharp in his book Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema, and the dedicated distribution of such titles by the label Pink Eiga.

What became apparent after more of the pink films were brought to a wider audience, was that many of the titles were wildly imaginative, with young directors making the most of the opportunity to make films with no restrictions. Of course budgets and timescales were limited, but this pushed many directors to just run with whatever they had, making for some exciting and madcap movies. For this reason, the films were often used as stepping stones for the directors to move on to full length, more respectable features. For instance, Yojiro Takita, director of the Oscar-winning Departures made his start in pink films.

Showing at the festival are Sexy Battle Girls (1986) and New Tokyo Decadence: The Slave (2007) and below are my brief thoughts on the titles. Now I must admit, despite being a big fan of Japanese cinema and having a fairly decent knowledge of its exploitation output in particular, I haven’t actually seen any ‘true’ pink films. I’ve seen Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion which comes close, but with its heavy doses of gore and action it’s classed as one of Toei’s ‘pinky-violence’ films which are a little different. So my reviews should give a glimpse of what a newcomer might take from experiencing these films (I watched them pretty much back to back too).

Sexy Battle Girls

Director: Mototsugu Watanabe
Screenplay: Masumi Hirayanagi
Starring: Saeko Fuji, Kyôko Hashimoto, Yukijirô Hotaru
Running Time: 59 min
Year: 1986

Sexy Battle Girls is exactly the sort of thing I picture when I think of pink films. Lots of sex of course, but also featuring plenty of schoolgirls, some brutal violence and large doses of absurdity.

The concept/story is laid out from the offset (after an extended sex scene of course). Mirai (Kyôko Hashimoto) has been cursed with an extremely dangerous ability – the ‘Venus Crush’. This is basically the ability to slice and dice anything that enters her vagina. After accidentally performing said action on her first true love (her teacher), her father scolds her and reminds her (i.e. tells the audience) that she should only use her Venus Crush for a great revenge that he has long been planning. After the incident, Mirai transfers schools to a rough private one, unaware that the school’s headmaster is the man her father wants to bring down after he took his wife from him.

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Shinsedai Festival: End of the Night

The epigraph of Daisuke Miyazaki’s post-noir End of the Night is a quote from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a story of obsession and madness: “It was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.” And indeed, perhaps it is appropriate to see End of the Night as a dream, the story of a young hitman that slowly but inevitably devolves into a nightmare. Akira begins life as the infant orphan of a family just assassinated by Tamegoro, a seasoned hitman who takes the infant and raises him to follow in his career path.

An incident as a teenager along on one of his dad’s jobs seems like it might turn Akira against the life of crime, but instead we find him later as a jaded 25-year-old, emotionless and caring for nothing except the next job – until he stops by a brothel on a whim and finds himself unavoidably involved with Yukine, one of the girls there. His involvement is not sexual nor does it seem to be emotional, except that he’s drawn to follow her and intervene on her behalf when she’s in danger. There’s a definite stalkerish quality to his actions, which she explicitly acknowledges – just before asking him in for dinner with her and her son. It’s not a normal relationship, and yet it may be the closest thing he’s ever had to actually caring about someone, and the first time in quite a while someone has wanted her for something other than sex.

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Shinsedai Festival: Hiroshima Nagasaki Download

Title: Hiroshima Nagasaki Download
Director: Shinpei Takeda
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 72 min.

Everyone knows about the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not too many people can really understand it; feel it. Director Shinpei Takeda strives to give us just that: a more sympathetic view to the historic event(s) that killed hundreds of thousands of people in 1945.

The film makers travel from city to city along the west coast of The United States interviewing survivors (hibakusha) of the blasts. The memories and emotions run high for these survivors; even now 65+ years later, as they recount the terrible things they saw and the feelings those memories can dig up.

The filmmakers also learn a bit about themselves and how their relationship with the history of their native land compares to that of the older generation. While not all that well put together from a visual or craftsman perspective, Hiroshima Nagasaki Download does offer some insight into a well known, but not all that well understood, event in human history.

Hiroshima Nagasaki Download screens this Sunday, July 15th at 1:30pm.

Shinsedai Cinema Festival: Ringing In Their Ears

Title: Ringing In Their Ears
Director: Yu Irie
Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Kurumi Morishita, Uji Kiyotaka, Yui Miura, Tatsuya Sakamoto, Mikihito Tsurugi, Toru Nomaguchi, Keisuke Horibe
Running time: 89 min.


There are countless clichés and adages that revolve around music – ‘the power of rock ‘n’ roll,’ ‘music saves lives,’ ‘I listened to them before it was cool,’ and so on and so forth. While these statements are likely to cause you to roll your eyes, it must be said that there is at least a smidgen of truth in there. It seems that there is nary a person that does not have some connection with music, be it as a distraction, a muse, requisite background noise, or a form of hope, and all of this distilled through ear buds.

Ringing In Their Ears is a film that offers a glimpse into the relationship between music and not only those who listen to it, but those who create it, as well.

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Win passes to Shinsedai’s opening night

Opening night. Press in attendance. Director in attendance. Anticipation for the festival. And a great film being screened.

It’s yours for the taking!

The fine folks at the upcoming Shinsedai Cinema Festival are offering three double passes to RowThree readers to attend the opening night screening of Ringing in Their Ears. Director Yu Irie will also be in the house for this Canadian premiere of the story of real life Japanese band Shinsei Kamattechan and some of their eccentric fictional fans.


“…narrative lines converge into an ecstatic explosion affirming the power of rock and roll.”

– Christopher Bourne, The Bourne Cinema Conspiracy


What do you need to do to score a pair? Simple – just post a comment below with the name of any other film screening at this year’s Shinsedai (hint: our preview from earlier this week might contain a film title or two in it and so might the Shinsedai web site). The first three correct comments will win the tickets. The only other requirement is that you are actually in Toronto on the date of the screening (July 12th, 7PM at The Revue Cinema). We’ll follow up in the comments section regarding how to get ahold of the tickets.

Advance tickets and passes for the 4th Shinsedai Cinema Festival (all of which takes places at The Revue Cinema) will be going on sale Thursday, June 21st.

Shinsedai Cinema Festival 2012 – Preview

I‘m very biased towards the Shinsedai Cinema Festival. Our good friend Chris MaGee is one of the founders of the fest (along with Jasper Sharp of Midnight Eye) and we’ve seen them work their butts off to make the festival not just successful, but relevant. As it prepares for its 4th year (the festival starts in 1 month and tickets go on sale on June 21st), it’s clear Chris and Jasper have grown the reputation of the event each time out and are beginning to attract more and more attention. Chris was on this year’s jury for the Nippon Connection in Frankfurt (the largest Japanese film festival outside of Japan) and filmmakers are starting to ask if they can bring their films to Shinsedai. The mandate for the festival is to expose young, independent filmmakers to a wider audience and the focus has remained on exactly that. Things branch out occasionally – e.g. the screening of a silent Mizoguchi film The Water Magician (complete with a live soundtrack) a few years ago, this year’s double bill of Pink Films – but the core of the festival has been about giving the new generation a forum for their films outside of Japan.

This year has proven extra challenging due to a location shift away from the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, but, as the kids today say, it’s all good. With much easier general access to the new downtown theatre via public transportation (The Revue Cinema – one of Toronto’s fine repertory haunts) and much more engaged PR help, the festival is definitely going to create more of a stir in 2012.

Particularly with this lineup:


Ringing in Their Ears

Described as an irreverent rock comedy/drama, Yu Irie’s Ringing in Their Ears kicks off this year’s Shinsedai with a mix of fact and fiction. Real-life band Shinsei Kamattechan moves from indie stardom to the majors and the film follows the attempts of their manager to preserve their artistic integrity while also keeping tabs on some of their odd fanbase. Live concert footage is mixed in to what I can only guess will be a wonderfully energetic way to start the fest.

“Ringing in their Ears” screens on Thursday, July 12th at 7:00PM.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: 2012 Shinsedai Cinema Festival

Absolutely stellar work on the trailer for this year’s Shinsedai Cinema Festival:



Yeah, I want to see each one of those right now too…The full lineup has now been announced and tickets go on sale June 21st, so go browse the titles and see if you can match up trailer clips to their movies. A preview post of the festival should be upcoming soon, but that trailer does a fabulous job of selling the festival on its own. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but moving pictures put together in a montage set to music speak about a thousand times more.