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Japanese Film Festival 2001

When 29 September 2001 (Saturday) - 7 October 2001 (Sunday)
Where The Japanese Association Auditorium 120 Adam Road

Admission is free. Queue numbers for current day sessions only, are available on a first-come, first-served basis, from 7.00pm on weekdays, and from 1.00pm on weekends, at the SFS counter outside the auditorium.

Please note that food and drink are not allowed inside the auditorium.


The Embassy Of Japan In Singapore
Singapore Film Society
The Japanese Cultural Society, Singapore
The Japanese Association, Singapore


Japanese Film Festival 2001

29th September - 7th October 2001

This film festival is part of the 31st Japanese Cultural Festival organized by the Japanese Cultural Society, Singapore


Sat 29/9        2.00pm  KIKUJIRO
                   5.00pm  DON'T LOOK BACK
                   8.00pm  BEIJING WATERMELON

Sun 30/9       2.00pm  NABBIE'S LOVE
                   5.00pm  THE BAD SLEEP WELL
                   8.00pm  NOWHERE MAN

Mon 1/10        8.00pm  DOOMED

Tue 2/10        8.00pm  SANJURO

Wed 3/10        8.00pm  QUIET DUEL

Thu 4/10        8.00pm  RED BEARD

Fri 5/10        8.00pm  THE BAD SLEEP WELL

Sat 6/10        2.00pm  ADRENALINE DRIVE
                5.00pm  KIKUJIRO
                8.00pm  NOT YET

Sun 7/10        2.00pm  NABBIE'S LOVE
                5.00pm  TORA-SAN TAKES A VACATION
                8.00pm  QUIET DUEL

All films are subject to classification and approval by the Board of Film Censors, Singapore. Films rated NC-16 are restricted to persons aged 16 and above. Films rated R(A) are restricted to persons aged 21 and above. Documentary proof of age is required for admission to films rated NC-16 and R(A).

Session times: Weekdays 8.00pm. Weekends 2.00, 5.00 & 8.00pm.



Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1960, 151 minutes, b/w scope

After making THE HIDDEN FORTRESS in 1958, Kurosawa negotiated with Toho and established his own production company, and made THE BAD SLEEP WELL. Toshiro Mifune plays a hero filled with a sense of justice in this story of revenge. Kurosawa exposes the injustice of bribery in this film, expressing his indignation at the fact that the underlings who are only carrying out orders are sacrificed, while the really bad masterminds live on elegantly. "I thought about what was the most serious social problem of the time, and decided to take a close look at the realities of bribery cases....(The bad guys) hide in the shadows of big organizations and scheme in ways that ordinary people would never even think of. I began working on this film determined to bring this problem to light, no matter what it took."


Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1949, 95 minutes, b/w

This film, set in 1944 in a frontline military hospital in post-war Tokyo, is based on a stage play by Kazuo Kikuta. The play was viewed favourably by the occupying American forces, given their interest in spreading the message of venereal disease prevention. At that time, the production of all films in Japan came under their regulatory purview. The protagonist, a military doctor, contracts syphilis through a careless mistake. After returning to Japan, he evades his lover and tries to live on through faith. This is the 'quiet duel' which the hero faces. The original stage play is a tragedy. The doctor's illness is fatal; he is charged with performing illegal abortions; and he goes insane. In the film adaptation, the hero, as interpreted by Kurosawa, becomes a righteous man with a strong will, and the story is infused with a sense of hope for the future. Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Miki Sanjo, Takashi Shimura.


Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1965, 185 minutes, b/w scope

Trained in the latest Western medical techniques in Nagasaki, returning doctor Noboru Yasumoto aspires to serve the shogun, but is instead appointed to work at the Koishikawa Hospital, an institution for the poor and the needy. Initially disappointed and disillusioned, Yasumoto is eventually deeply moved by the elderly but strong-willed Doctor Kyojo Niide, nicknamed Red Beard, who dedicates his work and life to caring for patients in the lower strata of society. The initially boastful Yasumoto gives up all thoughts of achieving fame and fortune, and decides to spend his lifetime serving the less fortunate at this hospital. Toshiro Mifune grew and kept a beard throughout the shooting of this film, and, as a result, could not take on any other film roles at the same time - a rare exception in Japan, especially when a shoot covers an extended period of time. Also starring Yuzo Kayama, Tsutomu Yamazaki.


Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1993, 134 minutes, colour

In 1943, Professor Uchida announces to his students that he will be retiring. However, leaving school does not mean separating himself from his former charges, as many of them, particularly Takayama, Amaki, Kiriyama and Sawamura, continue to visit him regularly. To them, he was and is much more than just a teacher of the German language; he is a pure-hearted human being who's taught them many things about life. Taking up residence initially in a dangerous neighbourhood, the professor develops his own unique way of dealing with burglars. On and shortly after his 60th birthday, the war erupts in full swing and he moves into a cramped house on a count's burnt-out estate. Subsequently, his students present him with a new house equipped with a strange, doughnut-shaped pond. The title of the film comes from the use of the refrain from Japanese hide-and-seek in the story: the students all sing, "Mada kai?" ("Are you ready to die yet?"), to which the professor beamingly responds, "Mada dayo!" ("Not yet!"). Cast: Tatsuo Matsumura, Kyoko Kagawa, Hisashi Igawa.


Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1962, 96 minutes, b/w scope

Kurosawa followed his 1961 smash hit, YOJIMBO, with this entertaining period film using the same hero, SANJURO. In this film, Sanjuro appears out of nowhere, helps settle dissension within a clan, and then disappears again. In YOJIMBO the hero is asked who he is, and, seeing a field of mulberry trees (kuwabatake), replies, "Kuwabatake Sanjuro". In this film his eyes fall on camellias (tsubaki), which inspire him to call himself "Tsubaki Sanjuro". As in YOJIMBO, Toshiro Mifune plays the hero, and Tatsuya Nakadai plays his opponent. Humour is furnished by characters such as the chamberlain's wife, who retains a calm mood amidst the havoc, and the rival retainer, who is held captive by Sanjuro and the young samurai. The spectacular fight scenes and distinctive sound effects as swords slash flesh exerted significant influence on later period films. Also starring Yuzo Kayama, Akihiko Hirata. Featured on MediaCorp TV 12 - Arts Central - as part of September's Kurosawa package.


Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1952, 143 minutes, b/w

Kanji Watanabe, chief of the citizens' service section of a municipal government office, has never been absent from work for the past 30 years. A medical check-up one day yields shattering results: he has stomach cancer. He overhears his son and daughter-in-law planning to get a loan against his retirement money and pension, and to build a house and not live together with him. In utter amazement and infuriation, he goes out, gets drunk, and squanders half his savings in a nightlife district. A subsequent resignation by a female employee sets him thinking about the usefulness of his work, and he turns a drainage reclamation project into a personal crusade, devoting himself to ensuring the eradication of a swamp and the construction of a children's park on the reclaimed area. When this is at last completed, he sits on a swing late at night and sings a song in contentment......Cast: Takashi Shimura, Shinichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka. Winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin.


Directed by Naoto Takenaka, 1991, 107 minutes, colour

Sukezo, formerly one of Japan's premiere manga comic artists, switches to selling rocks for a living when he tires of the increasing commercialization of manga. But his riverside shed shop does not do well, and he seeks an audience with the president of Japan's Rock Appreciation Society, only to have the wife of the president's assistant attempting to seduce him. Further efforts - stone-hunting in the mountains, participating in rock auctions - are to no avail. He eventually takes up his pen again, but produces a dark, serious work in which publishers have no interest. Refusing to compromise, he lets his marriage deteriorate, and his wife even ends up stealing vegetables, but in the end, the family's union and determination may prevail. NOWHERE MAN is a parable about the pressure faced by those resisting the competitive atmosphere of modern Japan. Cast: Naoto Takenaka, Jun Fubuki, Kotaro Santo.


Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1989, 135 minutes, colour

Based on a true story, the film revolves around Shunzo, a popular greengrocer whose life changes dramatically when he meets Li, a poor college student from China. He soon finds himself helping Chinese students with everything from finding housing to understanding local customs. He gives them his son's bicycle to use, gets them second-hand television sets, meets new students at the airport, and even becomes their legal guarantor. Enter the eccentric Zhang, who claims that watermelons from his home province in China are the best in the world, to the vehement disagreement of Shunzo. The two become firm friends despite their constant quarrelling. But Shunzo's business and health begin to fail, and when the students rush to his bedside and even man his shop as volunteers, his wife begins to change her attitude towards his selflessness. As this film was being made in 1989, the student demonstrations took place in Tiananmen Square, hence location shooting in China was not possible. The director's handling of the final sequences of the film is a poignant, definitive comment on that incident. With Masato Motai, Toru Minegishi, Takashi Sasano.


Directed by Yoji Yamada, 1990, 106 minutes, colourscope

This film is instalment number 43 in the delightful Tora-san series about the lovable travelling salesman who never marries but always falls in love. Here, Tora-san is relegated to a more fatherly role. He is now getting on in years, and becoming less eligible than ever before. Thus, the story focuses more on Mitsuo, his nephew, and Izumi, Mitsuo's old flame. Returning from one of his trips, Tora-san finds his sister distraught over Mitsuo's running away from home. "You always treat him like a kid, so he'll never be a full person."....."Even though they're college students, they're really only kids....let's go find them now." The most compelling aspect of every film in the series is the exuberant celebration of the ideal Japanese family. This episode features two runaways, a single mother, and a middle-aged bachelor. The most touching scene is the night they spend together enjoying their simulation of the ideal family on vacation. Kiyoshi Atsumi is in his element as Tora-san. Chieko Baisho plays his sister. And the lovely Kumiko Goto, with her Mona Lisa-like smile featured in countless advertisements for everything from gum to computers, plays Izumi.


Directed by Takeshi Kitano, 1999, 121 minutes, colour

Several of Kitano's other highly-acclaimed films, including KIDS RETURN and A SCENE AT THE SEA, have been showcased in our previous Japanese Film Festivals in Singapore. This year we are proud to present his KIKUJIRO, one of the best-loved films in Cannes in 1999. During his summer vacation, third-grader Masao packs his homework, his picture diary and his monthly allowance, and journeys to Toyohashi in search of his mother. He pairs up with Kikujiro, who has never had a serious job in his life. The euphoria of innocent luck at the racetrack rapidly degenerates into monetary loss and physical danger. Masao does not find his mother at her original home address, but the two friends have many adventures along the way, and end up wiser, happier, and more circumspect about various aspects of life. Kitano directed, wrote and edited this masterpiece. Co-starring Yusuke Sekiguchi, Kayako Kishimoto, Kazuko Yoshiyuki.


Directed by Shinobu Yaguchi, 1999, 112 minutes, colour

Suzuki, a meek and indecisive car rental clerk, is about to be crippled by the yakuza when a violent explosion rocks the building. Drawn to the gangsters' lair by the loud commotion, Shizuko, a plain, timid nurse who is the butt of constant teasing by her colleagues and who seeks refuge at the local convenience store dreaming of the 'new self' predicted by her horoscope, helps Suzuki into an ambulance. They end up on the run with a trunk full of bloody cash and a very enraged mobster. To make matters worse, they have a gang of hopeless hooligans in hot pursuit. The timid young pair savour their first real taste of life as they fall in love, dodging the yakuza's vengeance. With tight camerawork and an excellent script, director Yaguchi managed to sustain the pace and tension throughout what is one of the funniest comedies to emerge from Japan in recent years. Cast: Hikari Ishida, Masanobu Ando, Yutaka Matsushige.


Directed by Akihiko Shiota, 1999, 74 minutes, colour

Shiota's second film is a deeply nostalgic, quirky exercise in the boyhood mischief tradition of Truffaut and Susumu Hani. Shiota's kid protagonists, however, have been updated into the contemporary, emotionally destitute variety. Ten-year-old fifth-graders Akira and Koichi are best friends who always seem to get into trouble. When the new term starts, they are placed in different classes. Initially, this is just a minor obstacle to their continued friendship, but then their relationship begins to change. Akira befriends the fatherless Shun, while Koichi hangs out with the newly-transferred and mischievous Samajima. One day, when Akira declines an invitation to attend Shun's birthday party in favour of spending time with Koichi, tragedy strikes as Shun dies along with his mentally ill mother. Koichi and Samajima become engrossed with committing petty crimes. How will all of this work out in the end? Yusako Suzuki, Shingo Mizuno and Yuya Suzuki star.


Directed by Yuji Nakane, 1999, 92 minutes, colour

A closely-knit island community, to which Nanako returns after quitting her job in Tokyo, forms the backdrop of this deeply moving story of illicit love between grandmother Nabbie and the flamboyant SunRa. Beneath the veneer of a leisurely lifestyle and the perpetual easy-going contentment of the island lurks a sad secret buried deep in the past of Nanako's grandparents. It is ironic and tragic that so much can take place in such an idyllic setting, far south of the bustling metropolises of Japan. Nanako, coming to terms with life in her hometown after years of bustling Tokyo city life, at first wishes to keep what she has witnessed a secret, but word soon leaks out and the conservative islanders are shocked and rocked by what has happened. Grandmother Nabbie must choose between her loyalty and upbringing in the tradition of the shaman on the one hand, and her love for SunRa which has actually spanned sixty years. Cast: Naomi Nishida, Jun Murakami, Tomi Taira, Reiko Kaneshima.