- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb)
- Love Among The Ruins (Massimo Ali Mohammad)
- My Cousin Rachel (Roger Michell)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick)
- Mr. Thank You (Hiroshi Shimizu)
- The Ghost of Yotsuya (Nobuo Nakagawa)
- The Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton)
- Carnival Of Souls (Herk Hervey)
- The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur)
- The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson)
1- Everyone told me that Jiro Dreams of Sushi was amazing. It just seemed like the typical hagiographic programs one sees about chefs. It was nice to see Tokyo scenes, though.
2- I love Tim Burton’s stuff. On the very, very long flight to Tokyo I watched several movies and what a treat to see the delightfully creepy, slightly scary but ultimately sweet Nightmare Before Christmas. It helped me initiate this year’s round of horror film watching. I was thinking recently, that even though I am a great lover of musicals, film musicals always disappoint. Not this one! Wonderful, weird Danny Elfman score. Adorable trio of singing vampires. Oogie Boogie. What more could you want in a musical?
3- I thoroughly loved rewatching Mr. Thank You. The glimpse into pre-WWII Japan always fascinates me. Also, I am constantly amazed by the level of feminism in Japanese film. I will leave others to argue whether a feminist film can be made by a man. The plight of the young girl travelling to Tokyo on Mr. Thank You’s bus, probably in order to be sold into prostitution, is heart-rending but drawn with great understatement.
4- With this year’s round of Halloween movies, I confirmed for myself that what I love more than anything in this genre is a gothic atmosphere accompanied by a romantic spookiness. Nothing delivers that better than the films of producer Val Lewton. See my article Have You Tried Val Lewton?
5- In a more gory, but still spooky vein, I was happy to revisit The Ghost of Yotsuya. One of the highlight’s of our trip to Japan (and one of my main reasons for going in the first place) was a visit to the Grand Kabuki theater. I did a lot of reading and viewing beforehand to prepare, especially watching NHK World’s Kabuki Kool every week.
So much of Japanese historical film is based on stories that first appeared as Noh and Bunraku puppet plays which then got adapted into more popular Kabuki pieces. Considering Japan’s great tradition of ghost stories, it isn’t surprising that lots of Japanese films are based on these tales. They can be haunting like Rashomon and Ugetsu, or scary/gruesome like The Ghost of Yotsuya. Both genres are tremendously satisfying.