Platforms streaming have changed the way of consuming cinema in the last five years, have substantially modified the offer and, therefore, also the habits. New horizons have been opened. And this I think is something to celebrate. Yes, the great offer is usually covered by the Hollywood billboard, and both the premiere and living close to the present are still two capital factors, which are even perceived as health markers of the different platforms. But it is also true that Never before has it been so easy to access independent, classic, or non-American production films. Fashions go beyond products of a more commercial nature and even find unexpected audiences. Impacts of the magnitude of Parasites (Bong Joon-ho, 2019) caused South Korean cinema to enter fully into many Spanish homes, and suddenly films like Tren a Busan (Yeon Sang-ho, 2016) were seen experiencing a second push of popularity. Now, if we go to offers like Filmin’s, all this discourse loses meaning, since that other side of cinema is its reason for being. But of course, the Spanish platform does not occupy, by far, the same number of users. Therefore, that look at a less conventional cinema that occurs in spaces like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video seems to be something to celebrate.
That is the intention of today’s article, look back at that other offer and give a little more visibility to the less conventional cinema that we can find on our most common platforms. And let’s start with the Japanese cinema, a line in which Amazon Prime Video It has always had interesting titles, and in recent times it has won integers with the inclusion of many films by figures such as Takeshi Kitano. We begin.
We open with the other side of a Japanese icon that is working wonders in American cinema right now. Godzilla is back in fashion, we have its side dedicated to anime present on Netflix, the monster-fresh from Warner, and shortly after Gareth Edwards brought us his vision of the mythical monster, this kind of reboot Japanese with Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) at the helm. Shin Godzilla reconciles the monster with his ability to generate a speech about Japanese society. A monster movie with more tension than action, with an acid and mocking look at the bureaucracy, a very particular sense of humor and an epic if possible more special. Essential if you are interested in the character and a good way to enter it if only the American versions are known.
A pastry shop in Tokyo
A pastry shop with a somewhat peculiar owner, an old woman with an incredible hand for the dorayaki, and a great desire to work, and the interesting relationship that is generated between these two characters. This was enough for Naomi Kawase to bring us in 2015 one of the most famous Japanese films to date outside the Japanese country. The director shows her sweetest face with the construction of two lonely characters but far from the clichés about Japanese society. One of those movies that take the building of relationships calmly, takes advantage of silences and is able to make you smile through the look of an act. Tender and sweet like the best of the dorayaki.
Tran Anh Hung, director of Vietnamese origin, is in charge of this Japanese production that aims to adapt nothing more and nothing less than Tokio Blues, the prestigious novel published by Haruki Murakami in 1987. The responsibility of the film is not small, and surely no one expected that it could match the sensations of the novel. But it is not a bad way to meet Murakami if one has not approached his books. A small, authorial film that begins with its protagonist listening to “Norwegian Wood” in a European airport and is transported to Tokyo in the 60s. a portrait of the youth of a bygone era, with calm, delicacy, and a great montage. You have to come prepared for silences and be clear that It is not a nice movie, but if you go into what it proposes, you will find Murakami in his speech, and that’s always fine.
A family from Tokyo
With one eye on Yasujiro Ozu and one on 21st century Japanese society, A family from Tokyo works as a remake of the mythical Tokyo Tales from 1953. But Yoji Yamada assumes that function naturally and builds a film that can be scary for its footage, yet is agile and fun. The story presents us with the journey of an older couple who leave their small island of residence to visit their children, who reside in Tokyo. Once there, the day-to-day runs over the coexistence of a family in which generational barriers can almost be palpated. A lot of daily life and a necessary look for the western public, which shows that Japan is something more than honor and righteousness. Well stirred drama and humor, which is how they work best.
A wonderful family in Tokyo
We continue with Yamada and with his gaze fixed on Ozu, but now more carefree. A wonderful family from Tokyo it puts Tales of Tokyo back into the equation, even going so far as to show the film on the screen. But here the director seems to move away from the tone of a Family in Tokyo and opts for something more festive, light, and given to sketch smiles on the faces of the spectator. The look is lighter, but Yamada stops, in the same way, in the entanglements of family crises. The divorce petition from the mother of the family dynamites her stability, a starting point to talk about selfishness, shyness, jealousy, ambition or the fatigue of living a life that has not ended as one expected. Smiles and a lot of well-understood everyday life in a movie that passes surprisingly fast.
Sonata in Tokyo
Kyoshi Kurosawa He is best known for his production within the thriller or Japanese terror, but nevertheless, this drama premiered in 2008 served to win an award at the Cannes festival. Tokyo Sonata is a devastating approximation to the crisis that would soon show its claws to the world. An uncompromising family portrait, in which the hopeless estrangement of a family is explored in which the father has just lost his job, the eldest son is absent, the youngest is unable to show himself as he is, and the mother does not have the strength to continue keeping the people around him together. A story about the abyss that opens under four people unable to stop the change in their lives. Deliciously acidic.
If we talk about Japanese cinema we cannot ignore the figure of Akira Kurosawa, one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. And it turns out that for quite some time, Amazon Prime Video has offered a small but well-stocked assortment of the Japanese master’s cinema. Six are the movies that we can find right now: The Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Live, The Hell of Hate and Yojimbo. We stop at two of them.
Akira Kurosawa highlights timelessness as a yardstick of good cinema. Yojimbo, released in 1961, is a fully functional film today, which beyond its plastic beauty, its imitated photography or its mythical planes, already put on the table codes that modern cinema continues to use today. Behind that black and white that automatically gives him an appearance of difficult digestion, he hides a film much easier to see than some of the ones exposed so far. The story places us in the footsteps of a newly arrived samurai in a town in which two gangs are fighting for control of the territory. His skills with the katana are not long in coming to light, and the two gangs will try to seize his services to finish off his rival. Humor, epic and great characters in a film that demonstrates the durability of a job well done.
The hidden fortress
One of Kurosawa’s most named films, but more because of its inspiration for George Lucas than anything else. But the truth is that we can apply the same attributes to the hidden fortress as to Yojimbo, despite having a notoriously more burdensome character for Western audiences, Princess Yukihime. In the middle of the 16th century, two run-down soldiers find gold, but before they can celebrate it they run into the menacing figure of Toshiro Mifune, whose character will subdue and use them to transport a large sum of money, in an impossible mission to keep the princess safe. A tape that works perfectly as an adventure comedy. Good dynamics between the characters of the main group, a lot of humor and enough action enough to keep us glued to the screen for more than two hours.
Takeshi Kitano, another mythical figure of Japanese celluloid, although perhaps better known in Spain for Takeshi’s Castle (Humor Amarillo). Comedian, director, screenwriter, actor and presenter. A creative force that has dozens of films behind it, both behind the camera and in front of them. Recently, Amazon Prime Video has seen fit to stock up on a few titles that are a good sample to delve into one of the most popular figures in Japanese audiovisual fiction. Some of the available movies are as follows: the Outrage trilogy, Violent Cop, Boiling Point, Hana-Bi, Brother, The Summer of Kikujiro and Zatoichi. We will stop at the last two.
The fiction starts with a nine-year-old boy, Masao, who is forced to spend the summer with his grandmother. Faced with the deep boredom caused by the absence of his usual friends, the little boy sets out to look for his mother (whom he never met) with the only clues of a photo and an address. An acquaintance of the grandmother offers her husband as Little Masao’s companion in this impossible mission, his name is Kikujiro and he is a yakuza. This is the starting point of a movie that puts the accent on one of the concepts most linked to the figure of Kitano, that of the yakuza, which he turns around to build one of the most tender tapes we could see in 1999. An ode to friendship and redemption, which has a very particular humor, almost typical of silent movies. A movie endearing of which it is easy to fall in love without knowing very well what happened.
Samurai, geishas, rival gangs, a town ravaged by criminals, a tale of revenge, and a blind masseur who turns out to be a true master of the katana. This is the cocktail that Takeshi Kitano manages in this 2003 production that earned him an award at the Sitges Fantastic Film Festival. A samurai film typical of the incipient postmodernism of its time. Action, adventure, script twists and surreal humor they shake hands in a story that starts from a classic approach, but that knows how to play its cards very well to keep the audience tense. Aesthetically stimulating, the film does not renounce explicit violence, but it frames it in the figure of the romanticized samurai, and in the plastic beauty that surrounds each of the sequences in which the katanas go out for a walk. Essential if you are interested in the figure of Kitano and samurai cinema.
And up to here the best Japanese movies present on Amazon Prime Video that we recommend from this house. As you can see, there have been many titles to be discussed, several by Kurosawa, more by Kitano and a few films that have not entered this small list. Even so, I hope this text can help someone to get closer to another way of seeing and understanding cinema beyond Hollywood, such as the Japanese. And remember, if once inside you want more material, Filmin is the way.