A wonderful collection of shorts, visually pleasing, fun to watch and from time to time refreshingly weird.
The good stuff
A very warm and gentle Yamashita film. Turbulent teenage emotions shine through in small gestures and meaningful stares, held in check by the idyllic charm of a peaceful, rural town. It's a pretty typical Japanese coming of age drama, but executed with such finesse that I loved every single minute of it.
I'm not a big Yamashita fan, but this mix of absurd comedy and social drama is quite something else. It kept me guessing from start to finish, it held quite a few positive surprises and the ending is simply perfect, even though it doesn't really resolve anything. Hard-Core is a very pleasant surprise, though I'm sure it's not for everyone.
Solid drama about two people trying to build something new from the rubble of their past lives. Yu Aoi and Jo Odagiri put in spectacular performance, sadly the rest of the film can't quite keep up with them. Still worth a shot though, there's plenty to like here.
A very dry mix of comedy and drama, though don't expect too many overt laughs. The main character of the film is rather tragic, a loner whose family fell apart after his father was apprehended for a sex crime. Kanta is a dayworker, spends his money on booze and prostitutes and has no tangible goals in life.
Kanta's luck seems to be changing when he meets Shoji, a more composed character who moved to Tokyo to attend school there. Things are looking up, but Kanta's troubled past is going to prove hard to overcome. If that sounds pretty dramatic, nihilistic even, it's because it is, but Yamashita's execution makes it bearable.
Some colorful characters and slightly absurd situations give the film a somewhat lighter tone. The cinematography is decent but nothing too special, the same goes for the soundtrack. Performances are strong though and give the characters the necessary weight. All in all a pretty good film, but it lacks something that makes it truly stand out.
Yamashita likes it dry and just a little absurd, which isn't always the easiest sell. The Matsugane Potshot Affair is a film that illustrates his style very well. Essentially a comedy, mixed with some crime elements, but I wouldn't be surprised if some people mistake it for a drama (or are simply too confused to stick a genre to it).
The film follows the affairs of the people in a remote mountain town, where everyday life is just a little cruder and rudimentary compared to the city. When one morning the police are faced with a hit-and-run victim, the ball gets rolling and the townspeople's lives are set to get a bit more interesting, even though they seem mostly unfazed by the events.
Think of this as A Simple Plan in Japan and you might get a decent idea of where the film is headed. Performances are solid, the cinematography is decent, the score a little underwhelming. All in all it's a pretty good time, if you like dry/dark comedy and you don't mind some slight absurdities, though don't expect anything too weird or out there.
A delightfully dry and elegantly absurd little comedy. There's nothing grand or particularly ambitious about Yamashito's film, but that's hardly a problem when you're happy to settle for an enjoyable 90 minutes. The biggest hurdle for Ramblers is that the comedy won't be to everyone's taste.
If you're a little unsure about what to expect, think of a slightly less animated Kitano comedy, without the crime elements. Just two guys who end up in a dull little village and wander around, hoping to catch a break. Of course, they never do, but they get into some pretty odd situations that are good for a couple of healthy chuckles.
Visually it's not Yamashita's best, but at least the camera is nice, and he makes good use of the setting. The actors are pretty hilarious without being explicitly funny and the film is so short that the slow and deliberate pacing doesn't get in the way of the fun. It's a very nice showcase of Yamashita's knack for dry comedy.
A light but fun and enjoyable Yamashita. It's certainly not his most distinctive film, nor his most memorable, but thanks to the deadpan comedy, the well-considered direction and a standout performance by Ryûhei Matsuda this turned out to be a very capable and charming little film.
When Yukio has to write an essay about one of his family members, his eye falls on his slacker uncle. A philosopher who just loafs around and spends his days in bed, thinking about random things. Yukio's parents are tired of his lazy behavior and send him on a blind date, which kick-starts an adventure that will take Yukio and his uncle to Hawaii.
Matsuda's character is a hoot. A calm, calculated and sneaky oddball who uses his philosophy learnings to trick people into getting what he wants. The rest of the cast is on point too, the cinematography is bright and colorful, the comedy has just the tiniest mean streak and there's a little drama to pad out the narrative. Prime filler.
A decent but pretty standard drama from Nobuhiro Yamashita. Japanese music-based dramas generally aren't the most original ones, and Yamashita does little to bend that tradition. While his qualities do surface from time to time, there's not quite enough here to set itself apart from the many films that came before.
A man wakes up all battered, no memories of his former self. He wanders around until a sees a band performing on stage. He climbs up there, grabs a mic and starts singing. The crowds love him, but band manager Kasumi doesn't really know what to do with the guy. She takes pity on him and lets him stay at her house for the time being.
Nikaido and Shibutani put in solid performances, there are some small dramatic moments that stand out and the finale is on point, other than that though the music bits aren't that great, the story shoots off in different directions and the film fails to make a real mark. A somewhat inconspicuous entry in Yamashita oeuvre.
Somewhat tepid and dire school club drama from Japan. The music as well as the direction is terribly mediocre, the acting is okay but not quite noteworthy. There are a few half-decent moments, but not enough to fill almost two hours of film. I'm usually a big fan of Japanese dramas, but this was pretty disappointing.