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5 Films You Shouldn't Miss At The 2019 Japanese Film Festival

Good news for Nipponophiles out there: the long-running Japanese Film Festival (it was first held in 1983) is back, two months earlier than last year’s edition. The festival, co-organised by the Japan Creative Centre, Embassy of Japan (JCC), Singapore Film Society (SFS), and The Japan Foundation, takes place Jan 18 to Feb 10 at Shaw Lido, and will showcase 31 works in total.

While previous editions have had more specific themes, this year takes on the broad tagline of ‘A Celebration of Japanese Cinema’ — contemporary films make up the majority of the line-up, with a sprinkling of classic masterpieces by auteur Yasujiro Ozu and short films.

Above, we pick out the films that caught our eye:

 

One Cut Of The Dead
Consider the following plot line: a film crew is shooting a zombie flick in an old warehouse (rumoured to be the site of military experiments) when all of a sudden, the real deal appears and starts coming after them. Yes it might sound wacky but it’s apparently the good sort, seeing as One Cut Of The Dead has been one of the biggest hits in Japan last year and also won the Audience Choice award from our own Singapore International Film Festival last month. Jan 18, 9pm Jan 19, 3.20pm   Lost in Ramen
This is not a movie you’ll want to go into on an empty stomach. Lost in Ramen focuses on three strangers who only have one thing in common — their love for Seiran Restauant’s ramen. A suicidal high school girl, a grieving widower and a food expert come together to re-create the magic. Jan 26, 2.10pm The Lowlife
Adapted from a novel entitled Saitei (Japanese for the lowest), The Lowlife centres around three women, all of whom are at different stages of their careers as adult film actresses. But rather than the usual discriminatory take, the film never explicitly condones or condemns the industry (a delicate balancing act) but instead, focuses both on the good and bad that come with it. Jan 21, 7pm Jan 24, 7pm Before We Vanish
Directed by acclaimed horror filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Before We Vanish is not a straight-up horror offering but more of a philosophical-meets-witty sci-fi piece based on the usual trope of aliens arriving on Earth to wipe out humanity. Instead of the typical blood and gore, the aliens have sent a small group of scouts to acquire knowledge of humanity’s habits and workings — non-fatally. We are intrigued. Jan 19, 9.30pm     Early Spring
If you’ve ever wondered what life is like as a white-collar worker in Japan (more commonly known as salaryman) this is the film for you. Nora Sayre of The New York Times says Early Spring “conveys the claustrophobia of office life better than any other film I’ve seen.” Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, Early Spring takes a look at the stifling life of a young salaryman who, bored with his life in the office and at home, indulges in an affair. Jan 27, 4.30pm Feb 9, 4.30pm