With the shutters of our favourite places firmly locked over the past few months, we’ve all been passing the time as best we can – searching for ways to capture our imagination and keep us entertained during this difficult time. As far as escapism goes, films are right up there. And when it comes to Japanese films, Tokyo International Film Festival productions stand out as the pinnacle of Japanese cinema. Established in 1985, Toyko’s Film Festival has been entertaining film-fanatics with high-quality dramas, thrillers, comedies, and more for years with films both short and long. Proudly standing as the one and only Japanese festival approved by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations), TIFF continues to churn out top-quality viewing material.
Anyone truly interested in Japanese cinema must look no further our film recommendations below.
Without further ado, here are our best films from Tokyo International Film Festival.
Genius Party Happy Machine:
Masaaki Yuasa’s 16-minute psychedelic puzzle is weird, wacky, and wonderful. Following the progressive journey of a baby through adolescence to maturity, this animated adventure features a sinking nursey, surreal shape-shifting, a plant-eating baby waste (yes: you read that right), a raging fireball, and much more. All pushed along by a suspense-building, mystical soundtrack, Genius Party Happy Machine is a globe-trotting adventure of self-discovery that explores the ever-changing nature of one’s relationship to the world through time. Watch this intriguing Toyko International Film Festival short for a unique and truly memorable 16 minutes.
Ice Cream and The Sound of Raindrops:
A Tokyo International Film Festival classic, this 74-minute film was shot in one take and portrays a dramatic month in the life of a group of young, inexperienced, audition-cast actors in the build-up to their opening theatre show. When poor ticket sales push the producer to cancel the production just a week before opening night, the cast is devastated. Nevertheless, after grappling with their feelings the actors continue to rehearse – and their actual selves blend with the characters they are playing. (In fact, all the actors’ stage names are their real names). Director Diago Matsui appears in the film, which begins with a cast read-through, telling lead actress Kokoro Morita to give him ‘messy and raw emotions’. This sums up the film nicely.
In Ice Cream and The Sound of Raindrops, we witness broken relationships, the heartbreak of a best friend leaving, an annoying boyfriend, a dying mother, an almost three-way, guitar, and rap solos, a theatre break-in, and the absolute defiance of actors who refused to accept the reality of failure. Full of meaningful, existentialist musings like Kokoro’s repeated ‘we are the cosmos made conscious’ and her ‘my mum died this morning, no not this morning yesterday’ (taken from the opening of Albert Camus’ The Stranger) this is a real goose bump-tingler. And a genuine must-watch.
Tremble All You Want:
Based on Risa Wataya’s novel and directed by Akiko Ooku, Tremble All You Want is a comedy about long-lasting romantic feelings. About ‘the One’. Starring the brilliant Mayu Matsuoka in her first leading role, the film follows the life of a 24-year-old office worker, Yoshika, and her inability to shake her off her undiminished 10-year crush on her middle school classmate Ichimaya, or “Ichi” (meaning One). When one of her colleagues expresses his romantic interest (whom she privately calls “Ni”, meaning Two), Yoshika faces her inability to move on romantically and consequently tries to organise a class reunion: hoping to hit it off with Ichi.
This romantic comedy is a light-hearted lockdown treat that sees love triangles, friendships, fantasies and feelings run riot. Mayu Matsuoka captures the character perfectly, with the Hollywood Reporter calling her the ‘gem of comedy’, and her lively energy provides the lifeforce behind the film. Above all, Tremble All You Want speaks of a lingering love that affects our decision-making and makes our hearts ache.
Watch the full movie below.