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Movie Titles

Ikiru (To Live), 1952
Kumonosu jô (Spider Web Castle/Throne of Blood), 1957
Tôkyô Monogatari (Tokyo Story), 1953
Rashomön, 1950
Kwaidan (Ghost Stories), 1964
Shinjü Ten no Amijima (The Love Suicide at Amijima), 1969
Umizaru (Limit of Love), 2006
Dansu? (Shall we dance?)
Hana-bi (Fireworks)
Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke)
Kumonosu jo (Throne of Blood)
Mikan no Taikyoku (The Go Masters)
Nagaya No Shinshi Roku (Record of a Tenement Gentleman)
Nihon No Ichiban Nagai Hi (The Emperor and a General: V.J. Day August 15, 1945)
Sen To Chihiro Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)
Steamboy

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Movie Reviews

Ikiru (To Live), 1952
Director: Kurosawa
Run Time: 143 minutes
Language: Japanese

Kanji Watanabe, a bureaucrat whose life seems meaningless, discovers he has but a short time left to live and wants to do something meaningful in his final days. As usual in Kurosawa’s films, the cinematography is potent and the shots of Watanabe (Takashi Shimura ) sitting on the swing in the snow are memorable.
- Recommended by John Beatty, Japanese Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Kumonosu jô (Spider Web Castle/Throne of Blood), 1957
Director: Kurosawa
Run Time: 105 minutes
Language: Japanese

Kurosawa’s take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth is set in feudal Japan. This beautifully filmed version’s memorable scenes include parallel editing, the appearance of the apparition (the witches in Shakespeare’s version), and the famous sequence of archers shooting at Toshiro Mifune as Lord Washizu.
- Recommended by John Beatty, Japanese Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Tôkyô Monogatari (Tokyo Story), 1953
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Run Time: 136 minutes
Language: Japanese

A Japanese couple travel to Tokyo from the country to visit their children and their families. Their reception by their blood relatives is depressing as they are treated with annoyance and indifference. The wife of their deceased son behaves rather differently. The parents finally leave and return home. Poignant and touching.
- Recommended by John Beatty, Japanese Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Shinjü Ten no Amijima (The Love Suicide at Amijima), 1969
Director: Masahiro Shinoda
Run Time: 142 minutes
Language: Japanese

Masahiro Shinoda’s film is about a courtesan’s romance with a married business man and the disastrous results that follow. Derived from a puppet play by Monzaemon Chikamatsu, the film skillfully weaves aspects of the puppet theater with live actors for a powerful effect.
- Recommended by John Beatty, Japanese Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Umizaru (Limit of Love), 2006
Director: Eiichiro Hasumi
Run time:112 min
Language: Japanese

Umizaru is the third and perhaps final chapter of Umizaru that began with the film in 2004. This is a story about a young diver for the Japanese Coast Guard and his girlfriend. They are on a gigantic ferry which is about to sink. He is hesitant to commit himself to marriage but in this desperate situation he is trying to reach a decision.We can share the feelings of both and we find something important in their relationship. We also find the value of life again by facing the thrill of the sea.
- Recommended by Chie, Japanese Film Review Co-Editor

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Rashomön, 1950
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Run Time: 88 minutes
Language: Japanese

Kurosawa’s brings Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s story "In a Grove" to the screen. Several versions of several stories are told by the characters in the film. Each version reflects the teller’s own "take" on what really happened.
- Recommended by John Beatty, Japanese Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Kwaidan (Ghost Stories), 1964
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Run Time: 183 minutes
Language: Japanese

Four eerie stories of the supernatural are told in this striking film by Masaki Kobayshi. Vibrantly filmed with striking sets, the third (and possibly most famous) story "Hoichi the Earless" is the most strikingly filmed.
- Recommended by John Beatty, Japanese Language Film Review Co-Editor

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Dansu? (Shall we dance?)
Director: Masayuki Suo 1996
Run Time: 136 minutes
Japan

If you feel bored with your routine life, this film will cheer you up. You may even find in it something new and special for you. Shohei Sugiyama (played by Koji Yakusho) is an ordinary Japanese businessman who has a good family and his life is running well. But he feels something is missing. By chance, he meets a woman and he develops a strong desire to take up dancing. This is a comedy, a drama, and a romance, with genuinely charming, interesting and funny characters.
- Recommended by Chie Sato, Japanese Language Film Review Editor

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Hana-bi (Fireworks)
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
Screenplay by Takeshi Kitano (1997)
Run time: 103 minutes

In this film, the essence of Japan is scattered and spread throughout. We are mesmerized by the visual impression of Japanese gardens, flowers, the sky, and the sea. And the most impressive aspect is the character Nishi (played by Takeshi Kitano) who has two characteristics, strength and affection. His way of living itself may be compared to fireworks ('Hana-bi'). This film is very attractive. Takeshi Kitano is a director and also an actor who has received many awards, not only for this film but for many others.
- Recommended by Chie Sato, Japanese Language Film Review Editor

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Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) (1997)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Run time: 134 minutes

This animated film was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who is one of the greatest animators and directors in Japan. Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime) is the story of a mystic fight between the animal gods of the forest and humans. It is set during the Muromachi Period (1333-1568). It received the equivalent of Japan's Academy Award for Best Film in 1997.

We Japanese love all of his films (e.g. Nausicaa, Laputa: Castle in the Sky) because we are always impressed with the way he projects epics on an unprecedented and dynamic scale. His films are full of messages and passions. They are very difficult to describe clearly. Suffice it to say that, when we watch his films, we feel free and revel in the beauty of the scenes and the music.
- Recommended by Chie Sato

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Kumonosu jo (Throne of Blood) (1957)
This classic Japanese film, directed by the famous Akira Kurosawa, is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Encouraged enthusiastically by his wife, a ruthless warlord sets out to fulfill the prophecy that he is to become emperor.
- Recommended by Christine Meloni

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Mikan no Taikyoku (The Go Masters) (1982)
Directors: Masahiro Sato and Wang Zhi-Min
Run time: 134 minutes

Two Go Masters, one Japanese and the other Chinese, begin to play the ancient game of Go in 1924 but their game is interrupted by political events, in particular, the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists in China. The game is finally resumed in 1956. The film consists of flashbacks of events in the intervening years and, as a result, explores Sino-Japanese relations in this period of time. The film is available through amazon.com.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Nagaya No Shinshi Roku (Record of a Tenement Gentleman) (1947)
Run time: 60 minutes
This is a very poignant film set in the immediate post-war period in Japan. A little war orphan has been taken in by a widow who at first doesn’t want him but she then becomes very fond of him. In the end the boy’s father returns from the war and takes him away. The woman is heart broken.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Nihon No Ichiban Nagai Hi (The Emperor and a General: V.J. Day August 15, 1945) (1967)
This film is very long but it is fascinating, especially for history buffs. It describes the day that Japan decided to surrender in World War II and how hard this decision was, even after the two atomic bombs had been dropped. It shows the agony of the Cabinet and the perseverance of the military. The Emperor favored surrender because he wanted to save Japan and Japanese lives. The actors include the illustrious Toshiro Mifune as the War Minister, So Yamamura, Chishu Ryu, and Yuzo Kayama. The film is based on the controversial bestseller Japan’s Longest Day that is the literal title of the film in Japanese.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Sen To Chihiro Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)
Spirited Away was the highest grossing film in Japanese box office history. Its popularity did not end at Japan’s shores as it won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature of 2002. While moving to a new city, a young girl named Chihiro and her family make a wrong turn and find themselves in a strange and magical town. Shockingly, her parents turn into pigs and Chihiro sets off to find a way to change them back. Along the way she meets a fascinating cast of memorable characters in a bathhouse for wandering spirits. Do not let the bizarre premise deter you from an imaginative and enchanting experience. This film is available in most video stores on videocassette and DVD. The DVD allows you to play the film in Japanese with English subtitles or dubbed into English.
- Recommended by Shawn Greenstreet

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Steamboy (2004)
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Run time: 126 minutes

Legendary Japanese artist/writer/director, Katsuhiro Otomo, directs this story of a boy in Victorian England who is caught in a clash between science, industry, international weapons sales and the fight to retain the human spirit in the midst of the industrial revolution. Rei, the son of a line of inventors, must keep one of his father’s inventions, the “Steamball,” a construct of considerable power, out of the hands of those who would use it as a weapon of mass destruction. A chase ensues which culminates in revelations about Rei’s family and a showdown between rivals that leads to the incredibly animated destruction of most of London , which, frankly, is a lot of fun to watch.
Despite the carnage, Steamboy shies away from the graphic mega-violence of Otomo’s 1988 groundbreaker “Akira,” and much of current anime . The plot is complex, the themes both political and spiritual, and the animation is innovative and breathtaking. A list of theaters with “Steamboy” is maintained on the English/U.S. site at http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/steamboy/ .The Japanese site is http://www.steamboy.net/top.shtml
- Recommended by Shawn Greenstreet

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