Variety is spice of Japan Film Festival – by Janos_Gereben – August 29, 2017



From the opener “Flower and Sword,” about a clash between flower-arranger monks and cruel warlords in the 16th century, to the plight of a pyromaniac prostitute in “Hee” (“Fire”), the closer, the Japan Film Festival of San Francisco offers a dizzying variety of subjects, styles and moods.

Running Sept. 1 through Sept. 10 in Japantown’s 143-seat New People Cinema, the festival — part of the J-Pop Summit, a showcase of trends in Japanese music, fashion, art, anime, games, tech and food held annually since 2009 — offers some 20 features, documentaries and shorts.

“Flower and Sword,” directed by Tetsuo Shinohara, tells the story of ancient Rokkakudo Temple’s “flower monks” who created ikebana flower arrangements, taught about the art form and cultivated tea ceremonies in an era filled with armed conflict and acts of cruelty. The poster and trailer for the movie, which screens at 7 p.m. Friday, are misleading in how they punch up its comic aspects.

Other movies in the lineup include the San Francisco premiere of Ryota Nakano’s 2016 “Her Love Boils Bathwater,” at 1 p.m. Sept. 2, about a single mother’s struggle to revive the family’s failing bathhouse business, with an appearance by Nakano; and Shingo Matsumura’s 2017 “Love and Goodbye and Hawaii,” at 1 p.m. Sept. 3, a romantic comedy about complications of continued cohabitation after a breakup.

The festival screens the West Coast premiere of Junji Sakamoto’s 2016 “The Projects” at 3 p.m. Sept. 3; the offbeat film follows the adventures of an elderly couple who have recently moved into a nondescript public housing complex, and learn that its residents and visitors are not what they first seemed to be.

At 7 p.m. Sept. 4, Japan’s biggest animated movie from 2016, Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name,” screens. Critics have called the supernatural love story about a city boy and a small-town girl who intermittently wake up in each other’s bodies a “wistfully lovely tale about fate and time.”

Screening at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 is Yuya Ishii’s 2017 “The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue,” a film inspired by the poetry of Tahi Saihate which follows the complex relationship between a young construction worker and a nurse who moonlights as a bar girl.

The U.S. premiere of 2015’s “Hee,” written and directed by Kaori Momoi, who also stars, closes the festival at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 10. The riveting suspense thriller is…

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