In 1993 Kanao and Shoko are a Tokyo couple awaiting the arrival of their first child. Although both have studied art, Kanao works as a shoe repairman which doesn't stretch his rather ... See full summary »
Two young guys work in a plant that manufactures oshibori (those moist hand-towels found in some Japanese restaurants). Their weird bond is based on uncontrollable rage--something neither ... See full summary »
Set during Japan's Shogun era, this film looks at life in a samurai compound where young warriors are trained in swordfighting. A number of interpersonal conflicts are brewing in the ... See full summary »
Tamako graduated from a university in Tokyo, but she now lives with her father back in Kofu. Tamako doesn't help her father or tries to get a job. She spends her time just eating and sleeping throughout the four seasons of the year.
I am not sure whether the great Japanese new wave director Imamura Shôhei ever got to see this independent film, or even heard about it, but it is safe to say that he would have been amused if he did. Directed by the prolific and versatile Sakamoto Junji, a one-time assistant to Ishii Sôgo who burst onto the scene the same year as the now highly regarded Kitano Takeshi and Tsukamoto Shin'ya, Face (Kao) has as its protagonist the kind of woman who would have felt at home with Imamura. If her almost terrifying innocence and social awkwardness, not to mention her body type, bring to mind Harukawa Masumi's Sadako from Intentions of Murder (1964), then the ruthlessness she projects under duress recalls the likes of Hidari Sachiko's Tomé from The Insect Woman (1963) and Watanabe Misako's Shima from Endless Desire (1958). (Watanabe, incidentally, has a brief role here as the mother of this character.) And she is as enigmatic and indomitable as any of them.
After committing a heinous crime, which eventually ends up having a liberating effect on this previously withdrawn, miserable individual, Masako embarks on a darkly comedic journey across provincial Japan, finding a way to avoid the law both through sheer luck (her mildly retarded demeanor turns out to be helpful) and, to her own surprise, personal resourcefulness. During this ordeal, she manages to fulfill her dreams of learning how to ride a bicycle and how to swim, both of which turn out to be helpful in her flight. Like Imamura, Sakamoto neither judges nor makes a victim of her, choosing instead to simply observe this fascinating creature, brilliantly essayed by theatre actor Fujiyama Naomi. Though the plotting at times leaves something to be desired, the various episodes add up to a pretty accurate depiction of contemporary Japanese society, where social exclusion and gender inequality remain prominent issues. But above all, Face is one of the more remarkable and complex portraits of a woman Japanese cinema has produced in recent years.
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