This year’s JCC has one of the largest collections of Japanese movies in JCC’s history, ranging from modern movies to ones from the past century and even an anime movie. These are our 4 picks of the movies you shouldn’t miss this year.
1. Seven Samurai (1954), Akira Kurusawa.
This movie is old but gold. Coming out in 1954, this black and white classic still scored a whopping 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
If you’re a movie enthusiast, you have probably heard of Akira Kurosawa, the genius behind this masterpiece and many others, like The Hidden Fortress which heavily inspired one of the most well known franchises, the Star Wars franchise.
Enough talking about the director and let’s dive deeper into the movie itself. Seven Samurai is the longest movie on our list with a duration of 3 hours and 27 minutes, but trust us, it’s worth it.
Long story short, this is a movie about, who would’ve guessed, 7 samurai and their journey, protecting helpless farmers, building each other up, and their selfless sacrifices made for those in need of them. Usually, only the rich were able to afford samurai, but these heroic seven didn’t care for the money as much as they cared for the lives of the innocent. The unit was lead by Kanbei, and his 6 trusty companions were Gorobei, Shichiroji, Kyuzo, Heihachi, Katsushiro and last but not least, Kikuchiyo, the iconic triangle in the bunch of circles, the black sheep of the troupe and goofball.
No fiercer battle has ever been fought on screen.
2. Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), Kenji Mizogushi.
The 50s seem to be a pretty successful decade for the Japanese film industry with this masterpiece coming out just a year prior to our previously mentioned Seven Samurai and even getting the same perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes.
This movie is about two peasants in 16th century Japan, Tobei and Genjuro, going through a very rough patch in history amidst civil war, where poorness drove people to the extreme, even justifying murder. And in a time like this, where you’d think sticking together would be pretty important, our protagonists decide to turn their backs on their relatives and even their wives, in chase of massive dreams of richness and glory. Tobei is obsessed with becoming a samurai and spends all his savings and earnings on armor and weaponry. Genjuro on the other hand gets completely sidetracked while making a pottery deal with some women, lying his way into the palace and to the top of the social ladder; but the higher you get, the lower you fall. The movie is a story about the suffering of the human condition, the cruelty of war, but also sacrifice and ambition.
This movie has some pretty interesting themes, which still apply to today’s society; but beware, with the variety of themes, we also get some riskier ones which is why we’re putting up a small trigger warning here for things like rape and prostitution if that’s something the viewer can’t handle.
3. The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017), Kōji Yamamoto.
Japan’s biggest and most important cultural export is anime, which is why we couldn’t not include an anime movie on our list, especially with an anime movie of this quality.
This one is pretty new compared to our black and white goldies, coming out in the year 2017. The movie follows Otome, a girl that could hold her liqueur very well. She basically is driven by a guy called Senpai into a bunch of not so coincidental coincidences so they’d run into each other because he’s interested in her yet too shy and nervous to actually confess to her directly. The movie might not impress with its plot, but it’s a lighthearted animation that scores high with its visuals, peculiar events and the characters’ reactions to them. If you’re looking for a less serious yet still highly enjoyable movie, look no further than The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl.
4. A Girl Missing (2019), Kōji Fukada.
This is a rather recent addition to the list of suggestions for this year’s JCC. Here we have a drama film with elements of a thriller in it.
The story is about a care-giver and nurse called Ichiko. Taking care of the Oishos’ eldery woman, she is already considered as part of their family. Through her job, she grows closer to Mokoto and helps prepare her to eventually one day take on her job. Later on in the story, Motoko’s younger sister disappears but to everyone’s surprise, returns safely a week later. However, she brings with her strange news, revealing the shocking identity of the kidnapper.
The story gets even more complicated when we realize that our protagonist has a new self, a new identity called Risa, which seems much more passive, letting the events lead the character through the movie and not the other way around. This makes things just a bit more unsettling and unpredictable, but also interesting.
The movies are screening until the end of the week. Find out where you can catch them on JCC’s official programming list.
JET Press Team