Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Asian Film Collection: Japanese Films

KUROSAWA:

The Bad Sleep Well
Japan, 1963
Run Time: 151 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

The story of corruption at the highest levels of Japanese business and its tragic consequences. Though flawed by a tedious introductory sequence and by an ending that seems out of sync with the story, it is a fascinating movie and the middle part is especially exciting.
The Japanese legendary actor Toshiro Mifune plays Koichi Nishi, the seemingly stoic bridegroom who is trying to get ahead by marrying the boss’s daughter, Kieko, who was crippled as a girl. The bride’s brother, in a shocking display, exposes the groom’s motives during his wedding toast and threatens his new brother-in-law with death if he disappoints his sister. But Nishi is not who we think. He was born the illegitimate son of the man who Kieko’s father, Iwabuchi, manipulated into suicide. Now Nishi wants revenge for his father’s death. As Nishi slowly destroys Iwabuchi’s life, he makes the fatal error of falling in love with his wife, who already loves him. Their unconsummated marriage stands between these two like a palpable pillar of stone. But just when we think the stone has been tossed aside by love, Iwabuchi finds out who his son-in-law really is.

The Hidden Fortress
Japan, 1958
Run Time: 139 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

This 1958 film tells the story of a warrior and a princess trying against all odds to return to their homeland with their fortune. Along the way, they are simultaneously assisted and thwarted by two itinerant and not too bright farmers with their own designs on the treasure, giving the story a subtle comic bent. This epic tale of struggle and honor with modern comic sensibilities was the inspiration behind the legendary “Star Wars Trilogy”.

top

Kagemusha (“Shadow Warrior”)
Japan, 1980
Run time: 159 minutes
Color
Directed by Akira Kurosawa


Set in the late 16th century, the story centers on the Takeda clan, one of three warlord clans battling for control of Japan at the end of the feudal period. When Lord Shingen, head of the Takeda clan, is mortally wounded in battle and near death, he orders that his death be kept secret and that his “kagemusha”, or “shadow warrior”, take his place for a period of three years to prevent clan disruption and enemy takeover. The identical double is a petty thief spared from exectuion due to his uncanny resemblance to Lord Shingen. But his true identity cannot prevent the tides of fate from rising over the Takeda clan in a climactic scene of battlefield devastation. Kurosawa was able to made this film with financial backing from George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, and it was the most expensive film in Japanese history to that date.

Dreams (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
Japan, 1990
Run Time: 120 minutes
Color
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

An episodic, personal work, “nonlinear to the point of expressionism,” and one of Kurosawa’s last. It explores the costs of war, the perils of nuclear power and especially humankind’s need to harmonize with nature. Martin Scorsese makes a cameo appearance as Vincent Van Gogh. “Man is a genius when his dreaming,” said Kurosawa. “Dreams” is the awesome dreamscape of one of this century’s most inspired and inspiring filmmakers.

Ikiru (“To Live”)
Japan, 1952
Run time: 143 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s compassionate reflection on living life to the fullest explores a universal theme: evaluating the meaing of one’s existence in the face of death. Takashi Shimura gives a flawless performance as a lonely civil servant who, upon learning that he is about to die of stomach cancer, realizes that he has never really lived. Moving from drunken despair to quiet resolve, he vows to make his final days meaningful.

top

The Lower Depths
Japan, 1957
Run Time: 125 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

This poignant adaptation of the play by Maxim Gorky studies a group of destitute people sharing a hove. Kurosawa creates a brilliant spectrum of characters who differ from one another in degrees of hope, resignation, and compassion: the landlady in love with a thief, the thief (played by Toshiro Mifune), the gambler, the prostitute, and many others. Through their interactions, Kurosawa explores illusion and delusion, delighting in each person’s ability to create an image of himself that doesn’t match reality.


Ran
Japan, 1985
Run Time: 160 minutes
Color
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

A retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in 16th century Japan, an aging ruler, Lord Hidetora, announces his intention to divide his land equally among his three sons. This decision to step down unleashes a power struggle between the three, when Hidetora falls prey to the false flattery bestowed upon him by the two older sons and banishes the youngest when he speaks the truth. The ruthless betrayal ultimately drives Hidetora insane, destroying his entire family and kingdom.

Rashomon (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
Japan, 1950
Run Time: 83 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

This story, in Kurosawa’s words, “goes into the depths of the human heart as if with a surgeon’s scalpel, laying bare its dark complexities and bizarre twists.” A man is murdered and his wife raped by a bandit. We get the story from four unique, if not conflicting, accounts as Kurosawa, ever the light-hearted optimist, explores the nature of truth and human (mis)perceptions thereof. The New York Times calls it “a rare piece of film art.”

top

Red Beard
Japan, 1965
Run time: 179 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s “monument to the goodness of man” chronicles the tumultuous and touching relationship that develops between a vain young doctor and a compassionate clinic director. An uplifting humanistic message prevails, as the ambitious intern, once disgusted to work at an impoversihed clini, comes to cherish the lives of his destitute patients. Set in 19th century Japan, with Toshiro Mifune as the dignified yet passionate clinic director who guides the young doctor to maturity.

Rhapsody in August
Japan, 1991
Run Time: 107 minutes
Color
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Set in the gorgeous countryside surrounding Nagasaki, this endearing saga traces the reaction of a Japanese family once torn apart by war and now facing personal demons brought on by their first contact with an American cousin, played by Richard Gere. The aged matriarch of a Nagasaki family has long lived with a legacy of horror brought on by World War II. But when an elder brohter she never knew she had resurfaces, along with his Japanese-American descendants, she must come to terms with her most deeply held feelings about America and her haunted past.

Sanjuro
Japan, 1963
Run Time: 120 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s sequel to Yojimbo is more lighthearted and less cynical, a rousing adventure with Toshiro Mifune reprising his role as the scruffy mercenary who becomes an unlikely big brother to a troupe of nine naïve samurai. Shuffling into a secret meeting where the proud young men discuss the graft choking their clan, Mifune’s Sanjuro scratches his scraggly beard and distractedly rubs his neck like some common peasant while giving them advice on appearances and truths: “People aren’t what they seem,” he warns the dubious lads. “Be careful.” Naturally they aren’t, and Sanjuro grudgingly adopts the well-meaning but hopelessly ill-equipped heroes, giving the starry-eyed youths a series of lessons in real-world honor and respect while saving their skins from reckless attacks and impulsive plans. It isn’t the subtlest of Kurosawa’s films, but it’s one of his most entertaining.

top

Seven Samurai (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
Japan, 1953
Run Time: 197 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

For years a 16th century Japanese farm village has been at the mercy of roving bandits bent on raping and pillaging. Anticipating another raid, the community attempts in desperation to hire professional warriors for protection – with nothing to offer their samurai but three meals a day. One by one the samurai are recruited… and begin to prepare for the moment when they must prove their courage. Starring a young Toshiro Mifune. The Magnificent Seven, an American movie that won best picture at the Academy Awards in the mid 1960’s, was an Americanized version of this movie set in the American West. That movie starred Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson.

Sword of Doom
Japan, 1967
Run Time: 120 minutes
Black & White

One of the most thrilling samurai epics, Sword of Doom boasts unparalleled action and the impassioned performances of Tatsuya Nakadai and Toshiro Mifune. The riveting story about a bloodthirsty samurai weighs the power of good against the forces of evil.
The brilliantly choreographed duels rival the bloodbaths of Sam Peckinpah and John Woo.

Throne of Blood
Japan, 1957
Run time: 105 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s savage, free-lfowing adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth plunges viewers into an eerie, fog-shrouded world of madness and obsession. Set in medieval Japan during a period of feudal conflict, Kurosawa’s masterpiece combines the stylization of the Noh theatre with the dynamic energy of the American Western to tell the tragic story of an ambitious warlord. Toshiro Mifune gives one of his finest performances as the proud warrior who is destroyed by his wife’s murderous greed and his own all-consuming desire for power. From its first frenzied battle sequences to the brutal climax, in which the entire forest seems to move against Mifune, Kurosawa’s brilliantly staged classic is a cinematic triumph.

top

Yojimbo
Japan, 1961
Run time: 110 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

One of the most popular Japanese films ever released in the U.S. Yojimbo radiates Kurosawa’s love for the American Western and his flair for action and dark humor.
Like so many Western heroes, Yojimbo’s samurai-for-hire is an outsider in a town gone bad. However, Kurosawa replaces the traditional clean-cut hero with a cynical and daring mercenary who cooly turns the war between two equally evil clans to his own advantage. Remade as A Fistful of Dollars with Clint Eastwood.

Dramas:

An Autumn Afternoon
Japan, 1964
Run Time: 112 minutes
Color
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Set against a background of a colorful and increasingly Americanized modern Tokyo, this serenely beautiful film tells the timeless, moving tale of a father giving up his only daughter in marriage. Both humorous and heartbreaking, Ozu’s final film sees his unique poetic style honed to absolute perfection.

The Bird People in China
Japan, 1998
Run Time: 118 Minutes
Color
Directed by Takashi Miike

One of the most extraordinary films from an extraordinary director, The Bird People in China uses magic realism to express human yearning and frustration.
We journey with the Japanese salary man, and the debt-collecting yakuza on a journey to investigate a jade mine, which turns into a search for the bird people, but ultimately becomes a voyage of discovery to the core values of modern man.
Never lacking pace, and building his narrative from his normal ragbag of materials, in this scenically stunning film, Miike once again turns his comic vision towards the only truly overwhelming adventure… the hunt for value.

Black Rain
Japan, 1988
Run Time: 123 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Shohei Imamura

A Cannes Film Festival award winner, Black Rain is an unforgettable movie about humanity and survival after the 1945 atomic catastrophe that changed the world forever. Stunning photography vividly details the horror of ravaged Hiroshima, while its shocked survivors struggle with radiation sickness as they rebuild their shattered lives. Unlike other movies about the bomb, Black Rain is both graphic and touching as you see those who escaped death cope with their haunting memories five years after the war has ended. It is a powerful and chilling movie, already considered to be a modern masterpiece.

The Burmese Harp (2 copies)
Japan, 1956
Run Time: 116 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Kon Ichikawa

This antiwar film is a poetic trek across a pain-filled landscape, one in which a Japanese private, a harp-playing scout named Mizushima, tries to convince a band of renegade mountain fighters of Japan’s official surrender. Disguising himself as a Buddhist priest, Mizushima embarks on a journey, physical and spiritual, that takes him across an endless plain of corpses into his own spiritual awakening. “Absolutely haunting,” says Sight and Sound.

top

Chushingura
Japan, 1962
Run Time: 207 minutes
Color

This movie is based on the true story of the 47 samurai who plot to avenge the death of their lord in 18th century Japan. The loyalty and self-sacrifice they showed have been held up as an ideal in Japan for the past three centuries, and their story has been made into many theatrical plays as well as this movie

Departures
Japan, 2008
Run Time: 131 minutes
Color

When his orchestra disbands, Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) decides to start over and moves back to his small hometown. Desperate for work, he secretly takes a job as a "Nokanshi," a funeral professional who prepares the deceased for burial and entrance into the next life. But while working with the families of the departed, Daigo embarks on a spiritual journey of his own as he finally experiences the joy and wonder of living.
Bonus interview with director Yojiro Takita.

Double Suicide
Japan, 1969
Run Time: 104 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda

Inspired by the classic 18th-century puppet play, Double Suicide is the heartbreaking tale of a married shopkeeper in love with a prostitute. Bound by duty, and too poor to pay her way out of bondage, Jihei asks Koharu to enter a suicide pact, the only way they can be free. Masahiro Shinoda’s moving adaptation is at once faithful to the original and extremely innovative. Puppetmasters and stage hands appear on screen, changing scenery and manipulating the actors’ movements. Even Shinoda, his cameras, and crew are visible at times. These backstage views are to accentuate how the characers’ lives are dictated by outside forces. The superb cast is led by Shima Iwashita, who plays both the merchant’s lovely mistress and his plain wife. The beautifully composed suicide scene brings the timeless love story to a shattering conclusion.

Early Summer
Japan
Run Time: 135 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Noriko, an old maid at 28, by Japanese standards, is feeling the pressure of marriage bearing down upon her. Having tasted independence and responsibility during the war, she refuses to settle for anything less than R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Her brother sees things differently and, there being a shortage of men her age, sets her up with a 40 year-old acquaintance. Noriko is determined to resist, no matter the embarassment it causes her family.

top

Enlightenment Guaranteed
Japan, 2003
Run Time: 105 minutes
Color
Directed by Doris Dorrie

Uwe and Gustav are two middle-aged brothers whose lives are a mess: Uwe's wife just left him and Feng Shui consultant, Gustav, is feeling unfulfilled. This odd couple travel together to the Sojiji Monastery in Monzen, outside Tokyo. Enroute, their mid-life crisis turns into a midnight crisis when they get lost in Tokyo's neon jungle and can't find their way back to the hotel. It's down and out in Asia's brave new world.

 

The Family Game
Japan,
Run Time: 107 minutes
Color
Directed by

Shigeyuki, a bright, handsome and ambitionless teen, has resisted all of his long-suffering parents’ attempts to get him to study. As a last resort, this respectable family hires a cantankerous and poor college student from the other side of the tracks named Yoshimoto. Yoshimoto is part Godzilla, part Karl Marx, and part marine drill sergeant all rolled into one. Shigeyuki’s parents will never know what hit them. “Wickedly funny… stylish… a visual adventure… The Family Game is so rich that Mr. Morita would seem to be one of the most talented and original of Japan’s new generation of filmmakers,” says Vincent Canby of the New York Times

Fires on the Plain *
Japan, 1959
Run Time: 105 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Kon Ichikawa

Intense, yet poetically beautiful film focuses on the brutality of war and man’s unwavering passion for life. During the final days of World War II, as the Japanese face defeat, soldiers hiding on a Philippine island commit unspeakable atrocities in a desperate attempt to survive, even for a few more days. Tamura, a tubercular soldier, is one of the stragglers. Surrounded by murder, starvation, and cannibalism, he retains his humanity in the face of his comrades’ savage behavior.

Fireworks
Japan, 1997
Run Time: 103 min
Color
Directed by Takeshi Kitano

International superstar Takeshi Kitano combines cool violence and powerful emotions to reinvent the gangster-film genre in this explosive and award-winning thriller, Fireworks. A hard-boiled ex-cop, haunted by a troubled past and pushed to the edge by the shooting of his partner, confronts his demons in a ruthless quest for justice and redemption.

Harakiri
Japan, 1962
Run Time: 134 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

In this violent yet poetic masterpiece, Kobayashi exposes the harsh code of honor of the 17th century samurai. After an unemployed warrior is forced by a feudal lord to commit “harakiri”, his father-in-law returns to the scene, seemingly to play out the same agonizing suicide ritual. But the older man is out for revenge. Tensions grow to excruciating levels until the thrilling climax, when the elder warrior strikes out one last time against the abusive society that crafted such cruelty.

top

Heaven and Earth
Japan, 1990
Run Time: 104 minutes
Color

It is 16th Century Japan – “The Age of Wars.” The Emperor can no longer control his ambitious warlords and the entire country erups into feudal warfare. Two of these warlords, one an enlightened ruler, the other a ruthless dictator, rise out of this turmoil and clash in epic confrontations – battles destined to become legend. The most beautiful samurai movie ever made in both cinematography and esthetic sense.

Himatsuri * (extremely violent and disturbing, albeit powerful, ending!)
Japan, 1985
Run Time: 120 minutes
Color
Directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi

Local lumberjack and mystic, Tatsuo, is the only one in his very traditional “old Japanese” village to resist the development of a new amusement park. Based on a true story, “Himatsuri” tells the story of one village’s struggle with the deeply rooted traditions of its past and the forces of modernization, which would uproot those traditions.

I Was Born, But…
Japan, 1932
Run Time: 89 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Following a promotion at work, a young father brings his family to the suburbs in a move that reveals his perseverance is finally paying off. However, while he feels fortunate to be able to live in the same neighborhood as his boss, his two young boys find suburbia unsettling. The neighborhood ruffians, including the boss’ son, quickly make things difficult for the boys. While having to fight for respect from the gang, matters get worse when they witness the humiliating public display of their father crouching before his boss. Harshly denouncing their father as a fool, the young brothers vow to never eat again unless dad quits his job. A very funny movie from legendary director Yasujiro Ozu, “I Was Born, but…” is also a brilliant portrait of innocent children reflecting the falseness of an adult society.

top

Kwaidan
Japan, 1964
Run Time: 164 minutes
Color
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

From the Japanese word for ghost story, this film consists of four supernatural tales: “Black Hair,” “The Woman of the Snow,” “Hoichi, the Earless,” and “In a Cup of Tea.” Combining visually stunning effects with an arresting musical score, the storyteller Kobayashi has created an engrossing masterpiece of nightmarish proportions, in which terror thrives and demons lurk. Nominated for Academy Award, Best Foreign Film.

The Last Samurai
America , 2004
Run Time: 154 Mins
Color

Tom Cruise plays Civil War hero Capt. Narthan Algren, who comes to Japan to fight the Samurai and ends up pledging himself to their cause. Ken Watanabe (Academy Award nominee) plays Karsumoto, a Samurai leader facing a vanishing way of life, whose destiny becomes intertwined with that of the American captain. Edward Zwick (winner of the National Board of Review's Best Director Award) directs this sweeping and emotional epic tale of the birth of modern Japan .

Late Spring
Japan, 1949
Run Time: 108 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

A subtle, eloquent tale of filial devotion and parental sacrifice, the story centers on a familiar, universal theme: a father giving up his daughter in marriage. A widowed professor lives contentedly with his adult daughter, Noriko. Realizing that she is too devoted a daughter to leave him, he tricks her into belieing he plans to remarry, forcing her to break away and find a life of her own. Noriko, in turn, marries and moves away, and her father resigns himself to a profound solitude.

The Life of Oharu
Japan, 1964
Run Time: 137 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, Life of Oharu is Kenji Mizoguchi’s self-proclaimed masterpiece. Known for his graceful directorial style and sympathetic portrayal of women, Mizoguchi risked all to tell the devastating story of one woman’s fall from lady-in-waiting to concubine to prostitute. Avoiding melodrama, Mizoguchi focuses on Oharu’s dignity as she is betrayed repeatedly by her father, her lovers, and society. Saikaku Ihara’s classic 17th-century novel is brilliantly realized through a masterful screenplay and the heart-rending performance of Kunuyo Tanaka.

 

Letters from Iwo Jima
Japan, 2006
Run Time: 141 minutes
Color
Directed by Clint Eastwood

The island of Iwo Jima stands between the American military force and the home islands of Japan. Therefore the Imperial Japanese Army is desperate to prevent it from falling into American hands and providing a launching point for an invasion of Japan. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi is given command of the forces on the island and sets out to prepare for the imminent attack. General Kuribayashi, however, does not favor the rigid traditional approach recommended by his subordinates, and resentment and resistance fester among his staff. In the lower echelons, a young soldier, Saigo, a poor baker in civilian life, strives with his friends to survive the harsh regime of the Japanese army itself, all the while knowing that a fierce battle looms. When the American invasion begins, both Kuribayashi and Saigo find strength, honor, courage, and horrors beyond imagination.

 

Lost in Translation
American, 2003
Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Mins.
Color

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) are two Americans in Tokyo . Bob is a movie star in town to shoot a whiskey commercial, while Charlotte is a young woman tagging along with her workaholic photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi). Unable to sleep, Bob and Charlotte cross paths one night in the luxury hotel bar. This chance meeting soon becomes a surprising friendship. Charlotte and Bob venture through Todyo, having often hilarious encounters with its citizens, and ultimately discover a new belief in life's possibilities.

The Mistress
Japan, 1953
Run Time: 106 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Shiro Toyoda

Unusually concise for a Japanese art film, this movie is an “extremely beautiful” (Donald Richie, Japanese Cinema) study of female psychology and the tensions of traditionalism and modernization. A woman believes she is married to a prosperous man, but suddenly discovers that he is already married and that she is no more than his mistress. Set in the period when Japan was moving toward industrialization, “The Mistress” explores the conflict between the demands of society and indivdual freedom.

top

Nobody Knows
Japan, 2004
Run Time: 139 minutes
Color
Directed by Kore-Eda Hirokazu

Based on true events that shocked Japan, this story of abandoned siblings is a "harrowing, tender film" (The New York Times) that "unfolds with leisurely beauty" (LA Weekly).
A childlike mother of four sneaks her children into their new apartment as if it were a game. One of the game's rules is that only Akira, the oldest, can go outside. Their mother leaves, first for a month, then possibly forever. As the money runs out and the utilities are shut off, Akira struggles to take care of his brother and sisters, determined that they stay safe...and together.

 

Samurai Rebellion
Japan, 1967
Run Time: 121 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

This samurai classic, set in 18th-century Japan, combines great acting and thrilling action with thoughtful writing and direction. The magnificent Toshiro Mifune stars as Isaburo, a renowned swordsman who is the essence of samurai loyalty until his overlord demands the return of a former mistress, Isaburo’s beloved daughter-in-law. The injustice to his family forces Isaburo to take an heroic stand for individual freedom and moves him toward a revolt he can never win. A compelling legend, stressing one man’s opposition to tyranny in an age when such opposition was unthinkable.

Sansho the Bailiff
Japan, 1954
Run Time: 125 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Mizoguchi

The compelling story of injustice and suffering made even more remarkable by its extraordinary imagery. In this legendary tale set in the 11th century, a kindly governor is exiled, his wife forced into prostitution, and his son and daughter sold into slavery to the tyrannical bailiff, Sansho. The story then chronicles the son’s escape 10 years later, his rise to power, and his harrowing search for his mother. The cinematographic images recall a painter’s canvas, rich in contrast and texture, and enhanced by authentic sets, all of which chillingly re-create the barbaric feudal society of the Japan nearly one thousand years ago.

 

Sisters of the Gion
Japan, 1936
Run Time: 66 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

Widely regarded as Kenji Mizoguchi’s best pre-war film, this movie is the story of two geisha sisters that illuminates the plight of women in Japan before WWII. The elder sister, Umekichi, is conservative, traditional, and dependent on her patrons. Omocha, the modern younger sister, exploits her customers as much as she can. The story makes it clear that the sisters’ attitudes have no real impact on their circumstances. In the end, both women remain trapped in a cruel existence.

Spirited Away
Japan, 2001
Run Time: 125 min
Color

From one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animated cinema comes the most acclaimed film of 2002. Hayao Miyazaki's latest triumph, filled with astonishing animation and epic adventure, is a dazzling masterpiece for the ages. It's a "wonderfully welcoming work of art that's as funny and entertaining as it is brilliant, beautiful and deep" (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal).
Spirited Away is a wondrous fantasy about a young girl, Chihiro, trapped in a strange new world of spirits. When her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, she must call upon the courage she never knew she had to free herself and return her family to the outside world.

Strange Dawn
Japan, 2001
Run Time: 92 min

What would you do if you found yourself in a world half your size? Nothing can be more surprising for Emi and Yuko when they discover a whole new land at their feet. To make matters even more complicated, the people of this world think Emi and Yuko are the legendary protectors of their country! It's a fantastic adventure as Emi and Yuko struggle to find a way back to their world!

top

Tokyo Story
Japan, 1953
Run Time: 139 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

The “deceptively simple tale” of a couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children and receive a lukewarm reception. A death only temporarily brings them together. Judith Crist of New York Magazine calls this film “an intimate experience, one that will remain with you as a personal memory…”Tokyo Story,” very simply, is for every parent, son and daughter…”

Tony Takitani
Japan, 2005
Run Time: 75 minutes
Color
Directed by Jun Ichikawa

Toni Takitani is an illustrator who has been alone all his life, until he meets a beautiful woman who transforms his world. The only problem is that she has a secret: she is a compulsive shopper with a penchant for high end couture fashion that leads to darkly satiric consequences.

Twenty-Four Eyes
Japan,
Run Time: 158 minutes
Black & White

Miss Oishi, a wordly woman who “wears suits like a man” and rides a bicycle to work, is sent to the remote island of Shodoshima to be a teacher. Her arrival in this peaceful, isolated community disrupts things at first, but soon the villagers accept her and she settles into her new home. Her less-than-militaristic views, however, are a tougher sell to Tokyo’s mandarins, who, with Tokyo gearing up for war, are on the lookout for “traitors in the classroom.” “Twenty-Four Eyes” is a slice of a Japan that war and progress were to change irrevocably.

Ugetsu
Japan, 1953
Run Time: 94 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

Hailed by critics as one of the most masterfully directed and beautifully photographed films of all time, Kenji Mizoguchi’s stunning classic is an eerie tale of misguided ambition and forbidden passion. Two 16th-century peasants abandon their families to seek fame and fortune, but in attaining their desires, both men destroy their lives and bring tragedy to their families. A powerful testament to the illusory nature of happiness, Ugetsu firmly established Mizoguchi’s reputation in the west, and helped earn him recognition as one of the world’s greatest directors of women.

top

Utamaro and His Five Women
Japan, 1946
Run Time: 89 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

The highly embellished account of the real life famous artist, set against the background of Tokyo in the late 1700’s. In this world of brothels, drinking parties and violent outbreaks of passion, the artist Utamaro dedicates himself to creating gorgeously vivid portraits. Although he worships women through his art, these emotional paintings are his only true connection to the passionate world around him.

Woman in the Dunes
Japan, 1964
Run Time: 123 minutes
Black & White
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara

A “bizarre, erotic, highly sophisticated primitive tale” of an entomologist stranded in a remote region of Japan. He seeks shelter for the night in a sand pit inhabited by a woman who must dig the enormous amounts of sand her village requires. In the morning he finds he is a prisoner, expected to work alongside the woman, and resigns himself to a dull life of routine with her. Director Hiroshi Teshigahara was the first Japanese director to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Zatoichi, Vol. 1—The Tale of Zatoichi
Japan, 1962
Run Time: 96 minutes
Black & White

This is the movie that introduced the legend of Zatoichi and its star Shintaro Katsu, ushering in a new era of the Japanese samurai film. Practicing his trade as a masseur in a small province, Zatoichi finds himself caught in a turf war between rival yakuza gangs. Aware of Zatoichi’s reputation as an undefeatable swordsman, yakuza leader Sukejoro tries to hire him, unsuccessfully, as a mercenary. But it’s too late. The other gang leader, Shigezo, hires a warrior with an equally fierce reputation to challenge Zatoichi. Thus the legend of Zatoichi begins with intensely choreographed battle scenes and an expertly crafted story.

Comedies:

A Taxing Woman ** (very short scene)
Japan, 1987
Run Time: 127 minutes
Color
Directed by Juzo Itami

The tale of Ryoko, Tokyo’s hardest working female tax inspector. The ruthless diligence of this innocent looking heroine is matched only by the intricate deceptions of Gondo, tax cheat extraordinaire. When Ryoko chances on one of Tokyo’s busiest “love hotels,” owned by Gondo, she realizes what a goldmine she has stumbled upon. Ryoko’s attempt to audit Gondo is thwarted by his hilarious evasive maneuvers. Against a backdrop of stake-outs, searches and a spectacular raid, the two adversaries act out a madcap game of cat and mouse. The taxing woman and her clever prey test their respective skills of detection and deception in a scenario playfully complicated by stirrings of mutual sexual attraction.

top

The Funeral
Japan, 1986
Run Time: 124 minutes
Color
Directed by Juzo Itami

When Chizuko’s ornery father unexpectedly dies, the undertaking of the three-day funeral is too much to handle. Her family and especially her husband Wabisuke find themselves in hilarious situations as the younger generation struggles with the complex rituals of the Buddhist ceremony that are fading fast from modern Japanese life.

Gung Ho (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
USA, 1986
Run Time: Unavailable
Color
Directed by Ron Howard

Michael Keaton is a hero when he persuades a Japanese auto firm to re-open his town’s now-defunct factory but quickly goes from hero to zero when he learns he must enforce the company’s policies, which are unpopular among the factory’s American workforce. Cultures clash and hilarity ensues.

Kikujiro (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
Japan, 2000
Run Time: 116 minutes
Color
Directed by Takeshi Kitano

A lonely nine-year-old, Masao, sallies forth from Tokyo to find his mother, whom he has never met, and is joined by a less than bubbly petty crook, Kikujiro. Kikujiro gambles away Masao’s travelling money, leaving the two of them with naught but their wits. They share a series of wild and unpredictable adventures and end up at a destination that neither of them could have imagined. A film Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times calls “a heart-tugger made totally irresistible. Captivating!”

Mr. Baseball (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
USA, 1992
Run Time: 108 minutes
Color
Directed by Fred Schepisi

Tom Selleck stars as a major league ballplayer who is reluctantly traded to the Chunichi Dragons in Nagoya, Japan, in this fish-out-of-water sports comedy. Replaced by a rookie, the resentful Jack Elliot (Selleck) feels superior to the other Dragons, but he has a lot to learn about Japanese baseball, which is more about teamwork than about being an arrogant hotshot. Japanese superstar Ken Takakura in their hard-headed manager, Uchiyama, whom Jack treats with disrespect, while the beautiful Hiroko helps him learn to live in – and love – his new home.

top

Shall We Dance? (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
Japan, 1997
Run Time: 119 minutes
Color
Directed by Masayuki Suo

A middle-aged workaholic’s incredibly dull life takes a funny turn when he signs up for a ballroom dance class – just to meet the sexy dance teacher. But when he finally muscles up the nerve for lessons, he winds up with a different instructor and her colorfully eccentric class of beginners. And now he’ll have to step lightly – and do some fancy footwork – if he expects to keep his new secret passion from his family and friends.

Tampopo ** (several very short scenes) (VHS, 1 copy; DVD, 1 copy)
Run Time: 114 minutes
Color
Directed by Juzo Itami

A satire about food and sex, this film parodies American westerns and Japanese samurai films, and has been called “the first noodle Western.” We follow the life of a young widow who owns a noodle restaurant in Tokyo and is guided on her quest for the perfect ramen recipe by the critical yet helpful truck-driver Goro. John H. Richardson of theDaily News calls this film “an absolute delight – funny, sexy… it is a true original.”

Teahouse of the August Moon
USA, 1956
Run Time: 124 minutes
Color
Directed by Daniel Mann

Col. Purdy has an assignment for the inhabitants of an American occupied village in 1946 Okinawa: “they’re gonna learn democracy if I have to shoot every one of them,” he vows. He puts Capt. Fisby in charge and gives him a large book of instructions. But Capt. Fisby has been “requested to request a transfer” from every Army post he’s ever held, and his chances of succeeding here are slim. He’s up against Marlon Brando as the wily Oriental interpreter Sakini. Then there’s a geisha girl named Lotus Blossom who’s trained to please and determined to make Fisby enjoy it. And finally, there are the villagers who, after 800 years of foreign occupation, know how to take advantage of it.

top


ANIME: (all anime features are dubbed in English)

Ah! My Goddess (The Movie)
Japan, 1998
Run Time: 106 minutes

Belldandy’s mentor, Celestin, was imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the Goddess System. But now he’s back with an insidious virus to corrupt the Goddess System and remove all of Belldandy’s memories of Keiichi. Will Belldandy’s love prove to be the key to ruining Celestin’s plans, or will it be the final ingredient necessary to destroy our reality?!

Akira
Japan, 1988
Run Time: 124 minutes

An intensely violent saga of power and corruption. Childhood friends Tetsuo and Kandeda’s motorcycle gang encounters a military operation to retrieve an escaped experimental subject. The military captures Tetsuo and conducts experiments on him that unleash his latent psychic ability. But when these new powers rage out of control, Tetsuo lashes out at the world that has oppressed him!

Astroboy: Tape One
Japan, 1963
Run Time: 50 minutes

Birth of Astroboy: In 2,000 A.D. Dr. Boyton creates a super-robot in his deceased son’s image. He calls the robot Astroboy. Astroboy can swim oceans, leap over mountains, even fly into space on his own power. Dr. Boyton becomes dissatisfied with the boy robot and disowns him. Astroboy is befriended by Dr. Packadermus J. Elefun, who guides him through his adventures.

The Monster Machine: When Doctor Muddle builds a radio telescope, he gets more than he bargains for when he makes contact with Ork from Numan Luman. Under Ork’s direction, Doctor Muddle builds a machine which teleports Ork to Earth. Ork and his monster machine try to take over the world. Only Astroboy, with the help of an Ultragun can stop Ork and his monster machine.

top

Astroboy: Tape Two
Japan, 1963
Run Time: 50 minutes

The Terrible Time Gun: Doctor Tempo, a brilliant but mad scientist, creates atomic time crystals. Doctor Tempo then constructs a time gun which can send its victims back through time. Feeling that he should be the head of the Istitute of Science, Doctor Tempo sends Doctor Elefun and Astroboy back to the time of King Arthur.

One Million Mammoth Snails: Professor Nutty Fruitcake has developed a unique hobby while living alone in his secluded mountain observatory. He grows giant fruits and vegetables. When the novelty of growing giant watermelons and tangerines wears thin, the Professor takes to breeding snails. The gian snails crawled from their overcrosded mountaintop toward the helpless cities. Astroboy seems to be the only resource when the Army, Navy, and Marines all fail.

Beautiful Dreamer (Movie 2)
Japan, 1984
Run Time: 90 minutes

Life is but a dream…or is it? How do you know if you’re awake or just dreaming that you’re awake? This may sound like a silly question, unless you’re a student at Tomobiki High School. Something strange is happening at Tomobiki High School, but with wacky classmates like Lum ( a beautiful alien princess with a shocking personality), Ataru (the lecherous loser she loves), and Mendou (the suave scion of the wealthiest family on Earth), anything can happen! When Ataru, Lum, Mendou, and the rest of the gang discover that they’ve been reliving the “day before the School Festival” over and over again, they may be confused, but they aren’t surprised! But things are getting worse, and if they don’t find a way to break the chain---they’ll be trapped forever!

Grave of the Fireflies
Japan, 1988
Run Time: 88 minutes

It is post-war Japan, just weeks before the American occupation. In the city of Kobe, a boy lies dying in a train station. Beside his body lies a small candy container. A janitor, unsure what to make of its ashy contents, pitches it into the night. As fireflies float softly around it, the ghostly images of the boy and his little sister appear…
Flashback to a short time earlier. Orphaned and homeless from a fire-bomb attack on their city, 14-year-old Seita nd his 4-year-old sister, Setsuko, set out to survive in the face of a society that is no longer able to protect them. Forced to live in an abandoned bomb shelter in the Japanese countryside, they slowly come to realize that they can never escape the hardships of war, or even find enough food to survive. A testament to the human spirit that shines ever brighter in the face of adversity.

top

My Neighbor Totoro
Japan, 1993
Run Time: 87 minutes

An enchanting fantasy adventure that has become an international favorite of children around the world. Deep inside a tree trunk, two children discover a fascinating new world inhabited by Totoros, amazing, charming creatures who become their friends. Some are big, some are small, but all of them are furry, loveable, and ready to do wondrous, magical things…like fly over mountains and make giant trees grow in the middle of the night! Best of all, Totoros can’t be seen by adults, only the children who love them.

Princess Mononoke
Japan, 1999
Run Time: 134 minutes

Inflicted with a deadly curse, a young warrior named Ashitaka sets out to the forests of the west in search of the cure that will save his life. Once there, he becomes inextricably entangled in a bitter battle that matches Lady Eboshi and a proud clan of humans against the forest’s animals gods, who are led by the brave Princess Mononoke, a young woman raised by wolves! This monumental struggle between man and nature will have you transfixed with amazement as stunning artistry blends with epic storytelling to create a uniquely entertaining motion picture.

DOCUMENTARIES:

Japan, vol. I: The Electronic Tribe
USA, 1987
Run Time: 60 minutes
Color and Black & White
Hosted by Jane Seymour

The first installment focuses on the contrasts between the present-day life of factory workers and the inherited religious and rural customs still found in the ordinary home. Traditional ceremonies including the bathing ritual, village festivals and more are in the first episode of this series, which also includes explorations of loyalty to family, Shintoism and Buddhism, and the historic and continuing influence of the Chinese.

top

Japan, vol. II: The Sword and the Chrysanthemum
USA, 1987
Run Time: 60 minutes
Color and Black & White
Hosted by Jane Seymour

This second installment explores the apparent paradox of Samurai culture: the coexistence of an appreciation for and patronage of high culture with an aggressive fighting spirit. This psychic schism, which Nietzsche saw in the ancient Greeks, is still alive today: from rock gardens and tea ceremonies to the violence of Japanese comic books and television which belies the relative safety of Japan’s cities. Ninja warriors, sumo wrestlers and other festivals round out the second episode of this series.

Japan, vol. III: The Legacy of the Shogun
USA, 1987
Run Time: 60 minutes
Color and Black & White
Hosted by Jane Seymour

The third installment looks at the continuing effect of the 17th century Shogun philosophy of hard work, discipline and hierarchy. The Shogun philosophy is still very important in Japan, where office workers’ desks are lined up by seniority and children are taught at a young age that hard work will lead to rewards in their adult life. The program reflects on the rapid acceleration of industry and technology in the country, industry that was non-existent fifty years ago and is fueled by the Shogun philosophy.

Japan, vol. IV: A Proper Place in a Proper World
USA, 1987
Run Time: 60 minutes
Color and Black & White
Hosted by Jane Seymour

The final episode of the series explores the reason why Japan went to such lengths during Word War II to win respect on the world stage and ward of imperialism. The subsequent military occupation after the war reformed Japan and set in on the road to having a major industrial complex. The desire for economic growth in Japan has led its people to embrace the best of the West with Japanese traditions. The role of women and their economic power is also explored.

top

The Land of the Rising Sun
USA, 1996
Run Time: 120 minutes
Color

Japan’s history and notable figures are followed from the age of powerful warlords, at times disdainful of foreign contact, through the nationalistic fervor of the Second World War, to Japan’s status today as an economic powerhouse. Its Richness in culture, martial arts, samurai warriors, geishas, religious traditions and varioius intriguing performing arts are all shown here.

The Japan Experience: Tokyo to Taiwan
UK, 1995
Run Time: 47 minutes
Color

Ride the bullet train at 160 miles per hour… Read your fortune at a Buddhist shrine… Tour the peace museum in Nagasaki… Watch a snake and mongoose fight… Swing fire at the Aso Fire Festival… Experience Japan! From the folks at Lonely Planet, makers of the famed Lonely Planet guidebooks.

Japan
USA, 1995
Run Time: 30 minutes
Color

Visit Tokyo – with over 20 million inhabitants, one of the most densely populated places on earth… Step into the serene beauty of Itsuku-Shima Shrine, a Shinto shrine that seemingly floats in Hiroshima Bay… Watch modern robotics at work at the Nissan factory… Experience the sense of harmony in nature at the famous gardens in Kenrokuen Park… Amdire the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a sculptural masterpiece made of ninety-three tons of bronze… Take part in a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony and see a demonstration of Ikebana, the ancient art of flower arranging. Part of the Rand McNally Video Traveller Collection.

top

Schools of Thought: Teaching Children in America and Japan
USA, 1995
Run Time: 55 minutes
Color

This comparison of Japanese and American educational systems examines both the differences in goals between the two and the different ways in which they seek to achieve the same goal. With Americans filming in Japan and Japanese filming in America, this documentary explore efforts in both countries to balance creativity and discipline in education. Above all, this Oregon PBS program gives American educators a better understanding of the high level of focus and discipline of Japanese students.

Japan Past and Present: The Essence of Being Japanese
USA, 1989
Run Time: 53 minutes
Color

This program covers the cataclysmic events of the 20th century – the devastating earthquake of 1923, the rise of militarism, the accesion of Emperor Hirohito, the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, the Pacific War, Hiroshima, and the American occupation of Japan – but its primary focus is on what makes Japan Japanese: the Shinto rituals which are part of modern mercantile life; such societal traits as conformism, determination, attitudes toward violence and brutality, business ethics and the life of the salary man, the attitude toward ethics, the role of the kami in modern Japan.

Living Treasure of Japan
USA, 1980
Run Time: 59 minutes
Color
Directed by Norris Brock

Amid the clamor of technological and economic success, a reverence for age, custom, and tradition endure in Japan. The honorable title, “Living National Treasure,” is the highest award of the Japanese arts. Some seventy master craftsmen and performers are bestowed this title and charged with passing on the country’s artistic heritage to future generations. This film takes you into the homes and workshops of the remarkable people who quietly keep Japan’s most precious creative traditions alive.

The Cats of Mirikitani
USA, 2006
Run Time: 74 minutes
Color
Directed by Linda Hattendorf

Eighty-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy's painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of friendship and art, this documentary won the Audience Award at its premiere in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.


top