The third edition of the Japannual Film Festival takes place from 1st to 6th of October in Vienna. This year, the festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of Austrian-Japanese diplomatic relations with an excellent selection of films, showing the highlights of the bygone year. Besides the modern cinema, Japannual features two movies of the infamous director Koji Wakamatsu (“Violent Virgin” 1969, “Running in Madness, Dying in Love” 1969) accompanied by the short films of video artist Yuri Muraoka (“Schizophrenia” 2016, “Transparent, the World is” 2019).

The opening film “Blue Hour” (2019), a multi-layered comedy about a sudden family visit, is the first feature by female director Yuko Hakota and was already celebrated at the Nippon Connection Festival for its portrayal of strong female characters.

Strong female characters can also be seen in Kosai Sekine’s “Love at Least” (2018) and Momoko Fukuda’s “My Father, My Bride” (2019). Both directors will be present at the festival and so it the actress Shuri, who gives an intriguing performance of a mentally ill woman in “Love at Least”. Another interesting gender-bending role is part of Hideki Takeuchi’s “Fly me to The Saitama” (2019). Fumi Nikaido plays the male part in a flashy manga adaption, which makes fun of the relationship between Tokyo and its rural neighboring towns. Director Takeuchi (“Thermae Romae” 2012) is attending the festival as well.

Related to Japannual’s retrospective of Koji Wakamatsu is “Dare to Stop us” (2018). Kazuya Shiraishi, a former student of Wakamatsu, takes us back to 1969 to show the political turmoil of Wakamatu’s golden era of pinku productions. An unusual biopic that focuses not so much on the maestro himself, but his assistant played by rising star Mugi Kadowaki.

Next up, “Melancholic” (2018). In Seiji Tanaka’s Yakuza thriller with Yoji Minagawa in the lead, a typical Japanese bathhouse gets turned into a morgue. Having won the Best Director Award at Tokyo Film Fest, Seiji Tanaka will give insight into the budgeting of this independent production after the screening. Fans of the deceased Kirin Kiki (“Shoplifters” 2018, “An” 2015) have the opportunity to see one of her latest movie’s. In “Every Day a Good Day” (2018) she learns the ritual of a traditional tea ceremony.

The anime section is covered by “The Wonderland” (2019). Following up on his international hits “Miss Hokusai” (2015) and “My Summer with Coo” (2007) bearer of the Medal with Purple Ribbon, awarded by the Japanese Government, Keiichi Hara takes the viewer into a fantastic journey about friendship and ecology. Closer to reality and part of the documentary selection are two movies with different topics. “The Tower of the Sun” (Kosai Sekine, 2018) about universal artist Taro Okamoto and “Sending Off” by Ian Thomas Ash. Latter escorts a team of nurses, documenting their heartwarming care for elderly people at their last stage of life.

Another feature in the program is “Complicity” (2018) by Kei Chikura. Already part of the Berlinale and Toronto Film Festival this year, the film tells the story of an illegal Chinese immigrant, who works in a soba restaurant. Cult director SABU finds his way into the selection with “Jam” from 2018. The creator of “Monday” (2000) and “Dangan Runner” (1996) returns to his fast-paced action roots with this entertaining chase movie.

“Aesop’s Game” (2019) is a highlight of this edition of Japannual. Neo-director Shinchiro Ueda’s kidnapping drama plays along with the rules of his big success “One Cut of the Dead” (2018). Nevertheless, the audience is up for a surprise. “Samurai Marathon” (Bernard Rose, 2019) and “Samurai Shifters” (Isshin Inudo, 2019) belong to the classical Jidaigeki genre. These period pictures about sword-swinging heroes are shown on 5th and 6th of October.

Actually, not last nor least, the two movies at the end of this article have not even been released in Japan and display the most recent output of Japanese cinema at the festival. “My Sweet Grappa Remedies” and “A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad’s an Alcoholic” are both dramatic comedies. Thereby, the audience has the unique chance to get a glimpse of upcoming Japanese cinema productions, even before their local premiere.

Organized by the Austrian-Japanese Society, a total of 25 films will be screened during six days. At the end of the festival the “Japannual Audience Award” will be awarded. The winner of last year’s edition was “One Cut of the Dead” by Shinchiro Ueda.

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