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Japanese Film Festival 2023

Catch the J-horror movies by the directors of 'Ringu' and 'Ju-On', a comedy about bathhouse rituals and a tribute to Takeshi Kitano.
By Sarah Ward
August 30, 2023
By Sarah Ward
August 30, 2023

J-horror fans, rejoice: Australia's Japanese Film Festival is back for 2023, and it boasts a couple of highlights for lovers of scary cinema. If you're a fan of Japan's contribution to frightening flicks, then The Forbidden Play is your first must-see. Behind the lens is Hideo Nakata, the director of 1998's iconic Ringu, aka the movie that helped spark a global obsession (and the American spinoffs, too). This time, the filmmaker tells of a son wanting to bring his mother back to life, so much so that he keeps chanting a resurrection spell that awakens something evil.

This year's JFF isn't just about unsettling titles, but it does also feature Immersion, which hails from Ju-On: The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu (who also helmed the first US remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar). In his latest effort, he's playing with grudges again, as well as traditional Japanese superstitions, virtual reality and a secluded island — which is never a good setting for a horror film.

In Melbourne, the 2023 festival arrives in October and November — and in two parts. One of the delightful aspects about this film festival is its two-pronged approach, giving both recent and retrospective titles their own time to shine. So, new releases will get a spin at The Kino and Palace Balwyn from Monday, October 23–Sunday, October 29, then classics at ACMI from Thursday, November 2–Sunday, November 5.

Officially opening the event for 2023: We're Broke, My Lord!, a character-driven story about an unexpected inheritance from director Tetsu Maeda (And So the Baton Is Passed). From there, audiences can also look forward to the aforementioned to J-horror pictures; the animated Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom; Citizen Kitano's tribute to actor, comedian and filmmaker Takeshi Kitano (Outrage Coda); and Yokaipedia, which is about three boys on a monster-filled quest.

Fellow standouts include Yudo: The Way of the Bath, a comedy about bathhouse rituals; romance We Made a Beautiful Bouquet; Natchan's Little Secret, where three drag queens head to a funeral; and Single8, with director Kazuya Konaka's paying tribute to filmmaking before the digital era.

And, in the special series — aka the fest's retrospective thread — post-war Japanese cinema figure Kо̄ Nakahira is in the spotlight. JFF will screen 1956's Juvenile Jungle and Milkman Frankie, 1957's Temptation, 1962's Danger's Where The Money Is!, and 1963's Mud Spattered Purity, as well as Flora on the Sand, Only on Mondays and The Hunter's Diary from 1964, plus 1965's The Black Gambler.

Top image: © 2023 IMMERSION Production Committee.

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