Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Fantasia International Film Festival

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Love Letter, April Story and hana & alice.

criterion logoFew filmmakers capture the wonder and angst of young adulthood like Japanese writer-director Shunji Iwai. With the hazy, sentimental lens of his regular cinematographer Noboru Shinoda, Iwai’s early feature films explore pivotal moments in teenage life through the mundane challenges of the everyday. Audiences quickly embraced Iwai’s treatment of grief and love with his smash debut Love Letter, about a woman rediscovering her late fiancé through letters exchanged with his former classmate. Linked by their cold introductions, Iwai and Shinoda’s subsequent films – 1998’s April Story, about a shy girl’s move to university, and 2004’s romantic con-job hana & alice – trace the changing times as much as the changing hearts of their characters, and collapse style and substance into lyrical poetry. These “White Films” express Shunji Iwai’s unique view on young love and loneliness and exemplify the dreamy landscapes he nostalgically maps in his films.

SPECIAL EDITION COLLECTORS’ SET FEATURES:

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Office Royale (Kazuaki Seki, 2021) – Fantasia International Film Festival 2021

THE OL BATTLE ROYALE BEGINS!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddNaoko Tanaka (Mei Nagano) is a 26 year-old office lady – a secretarial and clerical worker in a large Japanese company. Her job at Mitsufuji is reliable, the atmosphere is laid-back, and she has some friendly colleagues, but the fires of war burn brightly beneath the veneer of the office’s calm banality. Cliques of office ladies fight for departmental supremacy like sneering gangsters and posturing delinquents. These warring clans battle daily until a new employee arrives, Ran Hojo (Alice Hirose), armed with the strength and charisma of a manga hero to become the company’s top office lady and unite its competing factions. An unlikely friendship between Naoko and Ran is found, but what will happen to them and their company when powerful OL gangs from other companies arrive to test their honor and resolve? Can Ran, Naoko, and the office ladies of Mitsufuji survive the onslaught?

Director Kazuaki Seki’s debut feature is a hilarious, uproarious, action-packed send-up of workplace pettiness and office territorialism, pitting mild-mannered, pink-collar workers in vicious duels over coffee breaks and alongside photocopiers, all under the oblivious noses of their male superiors. Comedian Bakarhythm’s screenplay riffs on the conventions of Japanese comics with a witty meta-commentary and a furiously paced series of fights. Setting superhero grandeur in an unremarkable context, Office Royale is a hysterically energetic satire and a grandiloquent action spectacle.

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio
  • Optional newly translated English subtitles on both films
  • Introduction by historian and critic Kim Newman
  • Yankees, Yakuza, and Making Copies, interview with director Kazuaki Seki
  • Heroic OL Diary, interview with screenwriter Bakarhythm
  • One-Punch Lady, interview with actress Mei Nagano
  • Ran’s House, interview with actress Alice Hirose
  • Press conference interviews with the cast
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian McEwan

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13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats (Makoto Naito, 1975)

KARATE LADY RETURNS!

Amid the success of The Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter series, Toei Company had found a new star in Etsuko Shihomi and had created its first female martial arts hero, one that was tough, virtuous, and courageous. In 1975, Shihomi found herself in possibly her sleaziest film: 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats, a pinky violence genre mash-up that mixed girl gangs, women in prison, yakuza, and martial arts action into a single sensational movie. As Maki Hyuga, Shihomi is the leader of the Stray Cats girl gang, fighting for justice against evil gangsters and stuck up rich girls. Though her karate skills are unsurpassed, Maki is framed and thrown into a sadistic women’s prison. Will she escape and take her revenge?

Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut, 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats is paired here with Norifumi Suzuki’s The Great Chase, an oddball action flick released the same year and starring Etsuko Shihomi as a race car driver moonlighting as a secret agent. Filled with unceasing action, outlandish situations, and plenty of female resistance to male domination, 13 Steps to Maki and The Great Chase reveal new shades to Etsuko Shihomi’s stardom and stand as spectacular examples of Japanese exploitation in the 1970s.

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats and The Great Chase
  • Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio on both films
  • Optional newly translated English subtitles on both films
  • New video interviews with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba and director Makoto Naito
  • Theatrical trailers for both films
  • Stills and poster galleries for both films
  • Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Kungfubob O’Brien

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Fly Me to the Saitama (Hideki Takeuchi, 2019) – Fantasia International Film Festival

SAITAMA IS WACK!

Municipal rivalries, bedroom community resentments, and capital city snobbery are made fantastically farcical in Hideki Takeuchi’s adaptation of Mineo Maya’s cult manga. In this alternate Japan, Tokyo is a luxurious metropolis surrounded by impoverished prefectures living in near feudal-era conditions. Momomi Dannoura (Fumi Nikaido), son of Tokyo’s governor and possessor of striking feminine beauty, rules a baroquely decorated academy and disdains the presence of any non-Tokyoites, particularly those from the Saitama prefecture. The arrival of the mysterious transfer student Rei Asami (GACKT) sparks an undeniable attraction in Momomi and starts a war of liberation between the disrespected prefectures and the opulent megacity. Can love and regional pride overcome big city corruption?

Fly Me to the Saitama is Japanese lunatic satire at its finest, balancing a storm of local inside jokes with universal tensions between slick urbanites and commuter belt wastelands. In between, the film stuffs wacky battles, gender-bending characters, outlandish wigs and costumes, and plenty of historical anachronisms all delivered with disarmingly earnest performances from a stellar cast. Book your ticket to this award-winning, box office smash and accept your Saitamafication!

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with director Hideki Takeuchi, creator Mineo Maya, and crew
  • Audio commentary by Japanese film scholar Mark Shilling
  • Interviews with cast and crew
  • Reverse Country Boasting Japan’s No. 1 Final Battle, a special promotional program for the film
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by manga and cosplay scholar Emerald L. King and a new printing of Mineo Maya’s original 188-page manga

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The Man Who Stole the Sun (Kazuhiko Hasegawa, 1979)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Man Who Stole the Sun.

Junior high school teacher Makoto Kido attacks a nuclear power plant to steal a plutonium capsule and then succeeds in building an atomic bomb by himself in his apartment. Calling himself “Number 9” and claiming to be a new nuclear power of his own, Kido extorts the government with demands for uninterrupted baseball games and a concert by the then-banned Rolling Stones, even going so far as to appoint his own negotiating partner, hardened police inspector Yamashita. Pitting rock icon Kenji Sawada with legendary tough guy Bunta Sugawara, Kazuhiko Hasegawa’s celebrated Japanese cult film explores the nation’s growing generation gap and the proliferation of nuclear power with black comedy, stylistic invention, and a heavy, controversial premise.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • The Legend is Lebon Video Testimony, an 84-minute documentary on the making of the film, with interviews and on-set footage
  • Walking With the Movie, a tour of the film’s locations with Japanese singer Masaki Ueda
  • Enthusiasm, Talk, Talk, My “Man Who Stole the Sun,” a 35-minute interview of director Kazuhiko Hasegawa by actor Masatoshi Nagase and special effects director Shinji Higuchi
  • 11 p.m. “Wonderful!! Is Julie a Strong Guy Like Genbaku?!,” a 20-minute edited version shown prior to the film’s theatrical released on September 20, 1979
  • Trailer
  • English subtitle translation supervised by screenwriter Leonard Schrader
  • PLUS: A new essay by Japanese film scholar Tony Rayns

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Godzilla vs. Mito Komon (Shinya Takeshita, 1991)

A cult classic to knowing G-fans everywhere, Godzilla vs. Mito Kōmon was made by Shinya Takeshita around 1991 while a student at Osaka Art University. The short is loaded with DIY charm and cheeky ingenuity thanks to Takeshita playing a one-man show as a news reporter (with pop bottle microphone), various classic kaiju and tokusatsu characters (with cardboard fins and helmets), and even multiple utility poles. Takeshita also plays various roles from the iconic Japanese television series Mito Kōmon, including the title character and his various followers. The short is memorable in part for bringing two together two Japanese icons: Godzilla and his giant monster ilk and the characters of Japan’s longest-running period drama, Mito Kōmon (1,227 episodes from 1969 to 2011), which featured a feudal lord traveling in disguise with his samurai retainers and redressing some local injustice in each episode. In these socially distanced days where scores of people are taking their creativity to webcams and video-sharing in even greater abundance, Takeshita’s film is a reminder that wacky, enthusiastic, brilliant entertainment was always just one person and one camera away.