3.5 stars (out of 4)
This year’s Toronto Japanese Film Festival came to a close last Wednesday night with the North American premiere of Shinobi no Kuni, a rousingly enjoyable action movie set during the Sengoku period. Director Nakamura Yoshihiro was on hand to introduce the film and answer questions afterward.
Iga Province used to be renowned for its fearsome, highly-skilled ninja for hire. The Iga would kill without question if the price was right. Apparently, they would even sell out their own flesh and blood. As Oda Nobunaga’s forces approached their territory, in his mission to unify Japan, the Iga ninja were tasked with fighting for themselves for once, a monetarily profitless venture. How would they be able to muster up the motivation?
The acting was really good all around. The cast handled the serious dramatic scenes and the absurd comedic parts with equal flair.
The soundtrack was great too. I liked the inclusion of 70s-style rock music, which was unexpected, but really worked with the mood of the film.
Recently, I was turned off by the ugly violence in another TJFF film, Himeanole. MUMON – THE LAND OF STEALTH got it right, in my opinion. Cool-looking, largely bloodless, respectful sword fights and combat scenes are absolutely the way to go.
The movie did actually address some thoughtful themes regarding morality and honour, but it was balanced out by plenty of humour. All in all, it was a whole lot of fun to watch.
2.5 stars (out of 4)
In 1700s feudal Japan, several people devise a plan to save their suffering village from ruin by lending money to their lord in order to earn interest. Some of them get the money by selling off all of their belongings. There is no personal benefit for each of the participants, as all proceeds go to supporting the village.
It takes years for the funds to be collected and more years to convince their lord to accept the deal.
This is apparently based on a true story, and if the film is to be believed, what’s really remarkable is that even though some of the men were more miserly and self-interested than others, there was no dishonesty at all. Multiple times, just when it seemed that someone or other would be out for themselves, it was revealed that they actually had good intentions.
It certainly was a feel-good story and pretty inspiring that it could happen. It was a real miracle that so many altruistic people happened to come together and managed to accomplish something great.
3 stars (out of 4)
Released 2014 (Japan) – Closing night film of 2014 Toronto Japanese Film Festival
At the base of the story is a classic whodunit that arises when a beautiful office worker is brutally murdered. Instead of focusing on the police investigation, the film explores the spreading of information and misinformation through irresponsible news reports and the prevalent use of social media.
A few provocative tweets can affect the public’s perception of a person. And innocent past events can suddenly seem damning if you are suspected of committing a crime.
In this day and age of hurtful and judgemental internet comments by anonymous users, The Snow White Murder Case serves as a reminder that we need to keep an open mind and not assume that everything we might believe to be true is actually the truth.