films seen
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Alive and kicking
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2020 / 113m - Japan
Zokki poster

Zokki is an adaptation of Hiroyuki Ohashi's cult manga. I never read it, I also wasn't immediately drawn to the film, but since Naoto Takenaka was one of the directors I figured I'd give it a go anyway. I'm glad I did. Together with Saitoh and Yamada (two famous Japanese actors turned directors) Takenaka pasted together some fun, sweet and warm vignettes.

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There's not really a main plot here, just a little city by the sea and some slightly oddball characters who inhabit the place. The directors take on various smaller stories, sometimes working together, sometimes by themselves. It plays almost like an anthology, though the stories aren't entirely disconnected.

If you've seen some Japanese dramas than Zokki won't have too many surprises for you. The performances are strong, the cinematography is polished, and the soundtrack is fitting. It's a calm, calming, somewhat slow film, paying a lot of attention to smaller moments, little gestures, and some light comedy. Good fun, but nothing too extraordinary.

Blank 13

2017 / 70m - Japan
Blank 13 poster

Takumi Saitoh's first feature film is a pretty interesting one. Probably best known for his acting work, it turns out Saitoh also has some directing chops. Though Blank 13 is a pretty basic drama in essence, there are some fun and notable directorial touches that help to set it apart from its peers.

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Masato Matsuda is addicted to mahjong. He neglects his family and his debt is mounting. 13 years after leaving his family behind, Matsuda dies. His two sons know very little about their father, but as the people attending his funeral start sharing stories, they finally get to know the man that abandoned them.

Saitoh's use of sound is remarkable. The slight (and dry) comedy touches are compelling, the way he cuts up the narrative and still makes it look effortless is also very worthwhile. The actors do a solid job, the drama is pleasant, and the film looks decent enough. Not the greatest Japanese drama out there, but a very solid film from a promising director.