Competing for the grand Prix in this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is a handful of marvelous world directors hailing all the way from Kazakhstan to Chile. Representing Japan this year are three works by a mix of established and up-and-coming filmmakers. The Tokyo International Film Festival closed its curtain on November 2, but you can be sure to find these films screening in local Tokyo cinemas soon.
by the window
Director: Rikiya Imaizumi
After discovering that his wife is cheating on him, Shigemi (Goro Inagaki) is more upset to find that he is not at all disturbed by her act of adultery. His peers advise him to get a divorce, claiming that he does not love his wife enough to get angry about her dishonesty. Troubled by his lack of emotions and his inability to communicate them to his wife, he seeks answers by befriending 17-year-old award-winning novelist Ai Kubo (Tina Tamashiro), who takes him around to eat fruit parfaits and talk about boy problems.
by the window takes a rather sympathetic view on adultery. Hotel rooms become a frequent setting in the movie in which side-characters such as Masa (Tatsuya Wakaba)—a close friend of Shigemi, an injured athlete who is cheating on his wife with a young TV personality—as well as Sae—Shigemi’s own wife and an editor who is sleeping with her writer—converse with their secret lovers about insecurities. Masa and Sae are fully aware of their act of disloyalty, but still chose to indulge themselves in the arms of their lovers to fulfill the gaps that their monogamous marriages leave (worry over financial troubles, not feeling loved enough).
The complications of human relationship is a topic of exploration in by the window—which thematically strays not too far from Rikiya’s past works. The film takes a dive into the characters’ personal lives as they navigate through friendships and love affairs. Conversations between characters move the story; with cinematography that involves still cameras and well-lit views of the characters’ expressions, the dialogue seems to take importance over elaborate camera movements and visual motifs.
by the window takes home the Audience Award in this year’s TIFF and is set to screen in domestic cinemas starting November 4.
Director: Matsunaga Daishi
Well-off fashion editor Kosuke (Ryohei Suzuki) employs self-trained personal trainer Ryuta (Hio Miyazawa) to help him get in shape. Their trainer-client agreement soon blooms into a sexual and romantic relationship as they spend hours together after gym sessions in Kosuke’s massive apartment. The two men fall into a codependent relationship where even a series of life-changing events were unable to keep them untangled from each other.
Egoist markets itself as a romance but audiences can expect the film to travel more ways than one. Although Matsunaga delivers on the drama aspect, he takes his time following Kosuke as he deals with the loss of his late-mother and his sexuality. When he meets Ryuta and his single mother (Sawako Agawa), Kosuke not only finds a lover but a new maternity figure as well. The story takes on a languid pace, unraveling the characters’ emotions as they come to terms with their realities. With its anti-climactic ending, Egoist is not so much a dramatic tale of lovers as opposed to a study on a man’s journey in reconciling with his childhood wounds.
Stylistic choices are made to provide intimacy with the characters. With director Matsunaga’s background in documentary filmmaking, most scenes are shot using handheld close-ups and in one take, putting trust in the three lead actors to deliver great performances.
Egoist will be screening in cinemas around the country from February 10, 2023.
Director: Fukunaga Takeshi
A famine washes over a village in Tohoku, Japan, and shuns Rin’s (Anna Yamada) family with the cruel task of throwing away dead bodies in exchange for a handful of rice. Rin, who is met every day with resenting looks from villagers and beatings from her father, exiles herself to the mountains. She flees past the sacred rock, which villagers believe should never be crossed as that is where monsters supposedly reside, and encounters a mute older man (or perhaps a mountain spirit) who guides her in finding a place of belonging. As the two continue to share wordless conversations and raw wolf meat, Rin grows fond of her life in the vast forests.
Rin believes that the mountain welcomes all human souls who have passed, regardless of social class and wealth. It provides her with the hope that one day she too can escape the suffering of the famine and ruthless politics of her village. The looming presence of the mountain is established through sound. The chirping birds and splashing sounds of water streams on top of the booming music score accompany images of the village landscape.
Director Fukunaga Takeshi works with cinematographer Daniel Satinoff to build a compelling plot through visual storytelling. In her family hut, Rin’s face is almost always swallowed by the shadows, but she is colored by the sunlight sifted by tall mountain trees as she leaves her village to connect with her spiritual beliefs.
Mountain Woman has yet to have a fixed date for its theatrical release, but audiences can expect to find it in Tokyo cinemas in 2023.