Tokyo International Film Festival: Some hidden gems, but short on quality overall

Tetsuichiro Tsuta's The Tale of Iya was the highlight of the festival

Autumn is the season of the supersized film festival. Toronto, London and Busan don't so much programme films as suck them in like a black hole. Who needs to care about curating when you can show 300 films?

So it's nice to land at the Tokyo International Film Festival, where the number of films selected seems inversely proportional to the size of the population. The five main sections of the program house only 77 films. Sadly, it doesn't follow that the lack of quantity ensures a concentration on quality.

The competition selection is made up of 17 films, but it's hard to take the line-up seriously when Drinking Buddies – a likeable but lightweight American comedy – is in the running. As with the London festival's competition, it's made up of several films that have already aired elsewhere. The UK entrant, Richard Ayoade's The Double, based on Dostoevsky's classic novel, has already shown at Toronto and London. That being said, the Japanese poster for the film is marvellous, as was the official festival poster - a heart manipulated to look like a movie camera.

The winning film was Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best, a charming tale about a group of schoolgirls who start a punk band in Sweden in the early 1980s. But like a postman, it's done the rounds.

The joy of the Tokyo festival came in searching out local films from unheralded directors. There were two Japanese films in competition, both character studies in which protagonists visit seaside towns and touch upon the seedier side of life. Yet that is where the similarities ended.

One, Au revoir l’ete, stars a likeable protagonist, Sakuko (Fumi Nikaido), an 18-year-old girl who spends the summer studying for her university in a small seaside town and discovers romance, and a group of locals who wouldn't look out of place in Twin Peaks. My favourite was Ukichi (Kanji Furutachi), who runs an unofficial "love hotel". His straightforward questioning nature seems to always end with his subject staring some moral failing straight in the eye. Also intriguing is Takashi (Taiga), a refugee from Fukushima. Director Koji Fukada delights in equating the nuclear meltdown with the meltdown of the nuclear family. The title is French, and the only reason for it seems to be because the film has the sensibility of Eric Rohmer.

The other Japanese competition film, Disregarded People, has a protagonist who commits two rapes and gets into complicated relationships with both women - a young lady with a birthmark across her face whom he marries, and her aunt with whom he has a ten-year affair. Like some of the Japanese deserts on offer in local restaurants, this can best be described as not for Western palates, well, not since the 1970s New Hollywood Cinema anyway. Director Hideo Sakaki may be one of Japan's best-known actors (he starred in The Grudge), but he's unlikely to add to his fan club with this adaptation of the manga comic by Inochi (aka George) Akiyama. The film starts bleak and just gets bleaker.

Strangely, the film that would have lit up the competition - the stunning Japanese discovery of the festival, Tetsuichiro Tsuta's The Tale of Iya - was tucked away in the Asian Future section. The wordless opening scene in which a man finds a baby in the snow by a freezing lake in the mountains of Tokushima is mesmerising. When the action jumps to the present day, the baby has grown into caring woman Haruna (Rina Takeda), who is now looking after the elderly gentleman (Min Tanaka) who discovered her. It maintains a glacial high standard throughout the near three-hour runtime.

The story looks at the changing face of modern Japan. The town can no longer rely on agriculture to sustain the community and as a result many of the local population have left for the big city. They've been replaced by a group of construction workers building a tunnel through Iya and a group of foreigners protesting the defacing of the Japanese countryside. Then there is an amazing turn of events that audiences should discover for themselves. Mark 29-year-old director Tetsuichiro Tsuta on your movie dance card. 

Video: Interviews with cast of Last Vegas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence