The section that invites you to slow down and forget your sorrows. Eight Japanese films chosen for their audience-friendly, feel-good vibe.
This year's Japan Feel-Good section is an invitation to slow down. The program includes eight distinctive films with one common denominator – the space for soothing, which nowadays seems to be scarcer than ever. Five Flavours decided to meet this demand and offer narrations filled with calming energy, created by renown filmmakers.
Soothing eccentricity. A review of films by Shuichi Okita
The magic of eccentric microrelations, summer road cinema with a family comedy drama in the background, and the poetry of everyday contact with nature – the Japan Feel-Good section introduces the works of Shuichi Okita, a director who for years has been striving to create stories about incorrigible dreamers searching for their place in the world.
Okita combines the eclecticism characteristic for the Japanese pop culture with an emphatic outlook on reality. I look at characters I find all around me. I don’t draw satisfaction from accentuating their weirdness. They might seem peculiar or eccentric, but their uniqueness is a facade. As we get closer to them, we see that, in reality, they are very ordinary. Wherever we are, they probably live all around us, you just need to look closely – explains Okita.
The Japanese director observes his homeland through the grotesque, surreal narratives inspired by true stories. He is not afraid to talk about contemporary problems, marginalized groups marked with the stigma of otherness, and even non-human worlds – natural microhabitats and the creatures living in them. He is able to create a rapport with the audiences without resorting to easy exoticism. In his films, the form is closely related to the subject – eccentric protagonists are combined with colorful visuals and conceptual ideas turning up the pace of the director’s peculiar, yet consistently feel-good productions.
Funky Forest, consolation through absurd
One of the highlights of this year's line-up will be the screenings of a cult surreal comedy, Funky Forest, which ubiquitous absurdity becomes a special event once felt through a collective experience in the cinema. The movie owes its cult status to the boundless imagination of its authors, who seem to have set one goal for themselves – to constantly push the boundaries of taste and absurdity. It is the creative collaboration of Katsuhito Ishii (author of The Taste of Tea, which also enjoys a cult status), Hajime Ishime and Shunichiro Miki. The three directors easily juggle a polemic with the aesthetics of David Cronenberg) and a skewering of Japanese stereotype. Funky Forest is a love letter to the art of film – with its transgressive nature, abstractiveness, and wonderful absurdity, it also appears a wonderful hommage to the early 2000s vibes of New Age fascination.
A blissful locality
Apart from the review of films by Shuichi Okita, and the screenings of the cult Funky Forest: The First Contact, the Japan Feel-Good section is made up of four soothing stories that are guaranteed to lift your spirits and change your outlook on life. Satoko Yokohama's Itomochi talks about searching for your inner sound – it is a lovely, kind comedy about how the traditional shamisen music can resonate beautifully even in a maido-cafe. The protagonist of Hideyuki Hirayama's Tsuyukusa – a slow-paced dramedy about the dynamic of the Japanese countryside – is also immersed in sound. The routine and locality of the story alone are enough to create a kind-hearted feel-good movie. Another master of soothing narratives is Akiko Ohku, whose My Sweet Grappa Remedies shows the power of sisterhood and the Italian grappa as an antidote to the metropolitan hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Closing the section is a screening dedicated to our friend and mentor, Jagoda Murczyńska, whose memory and festival achievements will be honored with one of her favorite films, Naoko Ogigami's Rent-a-Cat – a heart-warming story about how we all need a little affection in our lives.
The section is a nod to our viewer's longing for the culinary and traveling films, the absolute hits of the Festival's 2020 program. The titles included in the Japan Feel-Good section enter into dialog with the themes familiar to Five Flavours' audiences – provincialism, localness, slow life, and the need to rest. It is a chance to deepen the relationship with nature, explore the lesser-known aspects of Japanese culture, and to revise our notions about the stereotypes that grew around Japan.
Full program of the Japan Feel- Good section
- Funky Forest: The First Contact, dir. Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, Shinichiro Miki, Japan 2005, Polish premiere
- Itomichi, dir. Satoko Yokohama, Japan 2021, Polish premiere
- Rent-a-Cat, dir. Naoko Ogigami, Japan 2012
- One Summer Story, dir. Shuichi Okita, Japan 2020, Polish premiere
- Tsuyukusa, Hideyuki Hirayama, Japan 2022, Polish premiere
- My Sweet Grappa Remedies, dir. Akiko Ohku, Japan 2019, Polish premiere
- Mori, the Artist's Habitat, dir. Shuichi Okita, Japan 2018, Polish premiere
- The Fish Tale, dir. Shuichi Okita, Japan 2022, European premiere (cinema only)