Sixteenth Japanese Film Festival Hits Melbourne

Tenchi: the Samurai Astronomer is showing at the 16th Japanese Film Festival

Sweet sixteen tomorrow, the Japanese Film Festival kicks off in Melbourne with opening night movie Thermae Romae, an oddball time travelling comedy starring the classically handsome Hiroshi Abe as a displaced Roman architect who somehow finds himself set loose in modern-day Japan.

Adapted from a best-selling manga comic, it was Japan’s biggest box office hit this year. Leave your serious head at the door and expect silly hijinks from this fun romp.

Elsewhere in the fest, highlights include period biopic Tenchi: the Samurai Astronomer, relaying the tale of a super-smart 17th century samurai who charted the stars and came up with a brand new calendar.

Adapted from Tow Ubukata’s popular novel, it may seem like an odd choice from director Yojiro Takita following his Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for the more bankable Departures in 2009, but it’s gorgeous stuff.

Key of Life, by writer/director Kenji Uchida, scooped the Golden Orchid at the Hawaii International Film Festival and is a rewarding, deadpan comedy that plays with the notion of identity, while Bread of Happiness, starring Tomoyo Harada and Yo Oizumi as sea-change bakers, is feel good stuff that rises to the occasion.

With plenty on offer, from a free Yasuzo Masumura retrospective, to a doco that follows Japan’s Spice Girls AKB48 on tour, the sixteenth Japanese Film festival is well worth checking out.

Stephen A Russell