As part of the ACA Cinema Project––”an ongoing initiative fostered by the Government of Japan to increase awareness and appreciation of Japanese films and filmmakers in the United States”––Japan Society will run “Family Portrait: Japanese Family in Flux” from February 15-24. A mix of American premieres and repertory showings, this series puts “bonds of the Japanese family” front and center to “both celebrate these traditions as well as call into question their reality and relevance in our quickly changing modern world.”
U.S. premieres include Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Yoko, starring Rinko Kikuchi, and Keiko Tsuruoka’s Tsugaru Lacquer Girl. A special spotlight is given to Ryota Nakano, whose A Long Goodbye and exquisitely titled Her Love Boils Bathwater will be making New York debuts; his 2020 feature The Asadas also plays.
Repertory screenings will be held for Kohei Oguri’s Muddy River, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, Kore-eda’s Still Walking, and Ozu’s top-shelf Tokyo Twilight––the latter two on 35mm.
Find the full slate below, which we’re proud to exclusively debut:
All films are in Japanese with English subtitles. Films are listed alphabetically.
A Long Goodbye (New York Premiere)
Dir. Ryota Nakano, 2019, 127 min., DCP, color. With Yu Aoi, Yuko Takeuchi, Tsutomu Yamazaki.
Based on the book by Naoki Prize-winning writer Kyoko Nakajima, A Long Goodbye traces the gradual memory loss of the aging Shohei (Tsutomu Yamazaki) due to Alzheimer’s and the painful challenges and unexpected joys his two daughters experience as they return home to care for him. While Alzheimer’s robs Shohei of his past, his long goodbye brings new memories and a new closeness to his loved ones.
Dir. Ryota Nakano, 2020, 127 min., DCP, color. With Kazunari Ninomiya, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Masaki Suda.
Inspired by real-life photographer Masashi Asada, director Ryota Nakano’s latest film balances humor and heart in an unexpectedly true story. An energetic dreamer in a traditional family, Masashi (Kazunari Ninomiya)’s initial artistic endeavors are met with skepticism and little support, but in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Masashi’s photographic skills are given new purpose, and embarks on a mission that brings his family – and families across Japan – together.
Her Love Boils Bathwater (New York Premiere)
Dir. Ryota Nakano, 2016, 125 min., DCP, color. With Rie Miyazawa, Hana Sugisaki, Joe Odagiri.
Rie Miyazawa stars as Futaba, a single mother diagnosed with terminal cancer. With little time left, she sets out on a mission to reconnect her family, reuniting with her husband, reassuring her daughter, and bringing both together to save the family business. A popular and critical hit, Her Love Boils Bathwater won Rie Miyazawa Best Actress and Hana Sugisaki Best Supporting Actress at the Japan Academy Awards, and the film was Japan’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2008, 114 min., 35mm, color. With Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, Yoshio Harada.
35mm Presentation. The Yokoyama family gathers for an annual commemoration of the eldest son Junpei, who drowned fifteen years ago while saving someone’s life. Over the course of the day, suppressed tensions and resentments are gradually revealed amidst forced pleasantries and shared meals as second son Ryo (Hiroshi Abe) endures feelings of inferiority in front of his curmudgeon father (Yoshio Harada) and passively judgmental mother (Kirin Kiki), both of whom disapprove of his recent marriage to a widow (Yui Natsukawa) with a 10-year-old son. Dedicated to his late mother, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 2008 drama is among his most personal films—a masterfully directed, emotionally nuanced expression of the love, heartbreak and comfort within family relationships—and a modern classic of Japanese cinema.
Tsugaru Lacquer Girl (US Premiere)
Dir. Keiko Tsuruoka, 2023, 118 min., DCP, color. With Mayu Hotta, Kaoru Kobayashi.
Traditional tsugaru-nuri lacquerwork is the Aoki family’s legacy, but their business is in decline and father Seishiro (Kaoru Kobayashi) doesn’t know if it will continue to the next generation. The family’s only hope is daughter Miyako (Mayu Hotta), but her desire to lead the family business upsets generations of customs, established gender roles, and Seishiro himself. Tsugaru Lacquer Girl vividly celebrates one of Japan’s most traditional arts and asks poignant questions about history, family, and if the past has a place in the future.
Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2008, 119 min., DCP, color. With Teruyuki Kagawa, Kyoko Koizumi, Yu Koyanagi.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s appropriately terrifying take on the domestic drama looks beyond the platitudes of familial values and empty promise of a happy life into the recesses of the human condition. Laid off in a wave of company downsizing, salaryman Ryuhei hides his misfortune, opting instead to deceive his family into thinking he still remains employed. Equally adrift are wife Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), yearning for someone to pull her out of her banal routines; teen Takashi who sees no future living in Japan, and younger son Kenji who simply desires to play piano. Searching for catharsis, the family members begin to live out clandestine lives rather than confront the creeping divide between them. Winner of the Jury Prize of the Un Certain Regard section at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Kurosawa’s cynical look at the subsurface decay and inadequacies of the traditional family points to its inherent breakdown.
Yoko (US Premiere)
Dir. Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, 2022, 113 min., DCP, color. With Rinko Kikuchi, Pistol Takehara, Asuka Kurosawa.
International star Rinko Kikuchi plays the titular Yoko in an unorthodox road movie following an isolated woman’s journey to hitchhike over 400 miles to her estranged father’s funeral. As she encounters a sweeping range of travelers across her trek, what will Yoko learn from each of them and what will they learn from Yoko? And in crossing this physical distance, can Yoko mend the emotional distance between her father and herself? Winner of Best Picture and Best Actress at the Shanghai International Film Festival.
Dir. Kohei Oguri, 1981, 105 min., DCP, black and white. With Takahiro Tamura, Mariko Kaga, Nobutaka Asahara.
Taking place in working class Osaka 11 years after Japan’s defeat, Kohei Oguri’s naturalistic debut detailing an unforgettable summer friendship between two young boys is tinged with a poetic melancholy. Seen through the eyes of 10-year-old Nobuo whose world is governed by the riverside traffic of sputtering barges, fishing boats and a “monstrous carp,” Muddy River dwells on Nobuo’s last days of innocence as he befriends poor river dweller Kiichi who lives nearby with his sister and mysterious mother (Mariko Kaga) on a ramshackle houseboat. Caught in the lives of its worn-down and impoverished residents—some still living the war, others dreaming of a new life—Oguri’s stunning black-and-white feature remains a heart-wrenching portrait of postwar Japan and its afflictions, the effects of which reverberate deep within the wordless exchanges and crestfallen faces of its downtrodden subjects.
Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 1957, 140 min., 35mm, black and white. With Setsuko Hara, Ineko Arima, Isuzu Yamada.
35mm Presentation*. In the thick of the industrial hums and billowing smokestacks of postwar Tokyo, Yasujiro Ozu’s crepuscular drama concerns the lives of elderly Shukichi’s (Chishu Ryu) two grown-up daughters, each taking lodgings at their father’s Tokyo home. Hemmed in by setbacks and personal troubles, Takako (Setsuko Hara) seeks refuge from her abusive husband while “delinquent” younger sister Akiko (Ineko Arima) faces the shock of an unplanned pregnancy. In delicate strokes, Ozu orchestrates Tokyo Twilight across waystations of contemporary Tokyo—from seedy mahjong parlors and Western-themed bars with Latin beats to desolate shipyards and train crossings. With quiet devastation and lingering regret, Ozu’s final black-and-white feature is one of his unequivocal masterpieces, a woeful melodrama illuminated against the fading light of day. *Note: Reel 2 will be projected on DCP.