A director with real promise


Originally published on on November 2012

Every now and again a Japanese director pops up who seems to hold real promise. This starts with not making any compromises to the overpowering commercial interests that dominate the Japanese film industry. We can certainly say this about Sho Miyake. His first feature, Good for Nothing, used languorous black and white photography and slow moving plots. It was compared to the king of anti-commercial cinema Bela Tarr (not that Miyake’s work is that self-indulgent).

This, his second feature, premiered at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival and also shot in evocative B&W. Contemplative, moody, yet somehow engaging, this step by Miyake suggests we could be in for some great things from him in future. Haji (Jun Murakami), a struggling actor approaching 40, has death premonitions and a troubled life. He’s divorced and strapped for cash. Then even worse news: he could have cancer. On the way to a friend’s wedding he falls asleep and wakes up in a different period of his life, his schooldays. Surrounded by old friends the disturbed anti-hero is not sure what to think. Many films try to deal with the difficult subject of memory and this one grapples with it as well.

It’s not wholly successful but it’s exciting in what it is trying to do. Keep an eye on this director. (113 min)