Library Wars (Japan: 2013): Tales of war, stacks and romance

Library Wars is one of those Japanese pop phenomena that appears in all formats in rapid succession. It started its life as a light novel series, then a manga, then an animated TV series, then an anime feature film two years ago, followed by the live action film that I am reviewing today. If the process goes on, there will be a live action 10 part drama, followed by a live action film of that drama, followed by another TV series. I guess we do something similar here in the USA with comic book heroes and Star Wars, but we really don’t have the habit or process in place to release the same story in various formats so swiftly. When this rapid fire process happens in Japan, it usually means that we are dealing with a product aimed at younger audiences, and in this case, younger female audiences. With that in mind, I will review the Library Wars live action movie with a bit of caution. Not being Japanese, a teenager, or a woman of any sort, I’m not the target market. Is this a movie worth watching?

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REC (Korea: 2011): The night belonged to them

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The trailer I found actually isn’t very helpful to understanding REC, Joon-moon So’s 2011 short film about two men on their fifth anniversary. Young-joon (Sam-dong Song) and Joon-seok (Hye-hun Jo) have rented a hotel room and in their own little world, make a video recording of their night. They joke that in gay-relationship years, one year equals ten years of heterosexual marriage, so in a sense, they have outlasted most marriages. In the first half of the movie, they are happy, a little too playful, even. Beyond a record of their sexual encounter, they interview each other about their feelings. Joon-seok’s disappointment with his partner is that he never gives in for choices of restaurants and movies, a fairly common complaint for all couples. His biggest fear however comes from the fact that even after five years, Young-joon still believes that this relationship is only temporary. That offhand joke about gay relationship equivalent years isn’t actually so funny in that context.

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The Great Passage (Japan: 2013): Love and Loss for Lex·i·cog·ra·phers

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Yûya Ishii’s the Great Passage was Japan’s submission for Best Foreign Language film last year. It received a very limited release in the US one weekend and has played a few film festivals. I couldn’t find the name of a US distributor for the film and ended up ordering a copy of the Hong Kong version from Yesasia.com so that I could finally see it. It’s a shame, really, that the film hasn’t been picked up. I could see people adding it to their list of beloved films. It is a very easy film to like. It sums up the hopes and dreams of all of us-that we will find a task that we can be devoted to and share that devotion with others. It is an optimistic film, not lofty enough to be awe inspiring, but the world it offers up is as much a fantasy dream world as the most magical love story or futurist utopia. It’s a world worth believing in.

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The Way He Looks (Brazil: 2014); The sweetness of a stolen kiss

Rating:

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The Way He Looks is Daniel Ribeiro’s first feature film. The movie started it’s life in 2010 as a well-received short, I Don’t Want to Go Back Alonewhich told the story of a blind teenager who falls in love with a new student. That movie climaxed with one of the sweetest stolen kisses I’ve seen recently. I was glad to find out that Ribeiro was given the opportunity to expand the short into a full movie and that the movie is Brazil’s submission for Oscar consideration this year. That submission was probably one of the reasons it was picked up for distribution to US theaters for limited release.

I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone was a very simple budding romance story, and there was quite a bit that could have gone wrong in expanding it to 95 min. There needs to be complications at that length, and complications can ruin simple love stories beyond recognition. The movie actually highlights this issue in the opening scene. Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) and his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim) laze by her pool and discuss whether they will ever be kissed. They both want their first kisses to be special – romantic, but without drama. Romance without complicating drama is how I’d describe the short, and I wondered what obstacles Ribeiro was going to throw out there to make it more difficult for Leo and Gabriel (Fabio Audi) to get together.

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