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Kiyoshi Kurosawa Composes “Tokyo Sonata”

Kiyoshi Kurosawa Composes “Tokyo Sonata” (photo)

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There are plenty of scares in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Tokyo Sonata,” but none of the serial killers or ghosts that have populated his earlier films like “Pulse” and “Cure.” Instead, in his latest film the director focuses on the effects of Japan’s long-term recession on a nuclear family. After being laid off, patriarch Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) pretends that he’s still going to work, donning a suit and tie to hang out at the library and go to an open-air soup kitchen for free food. His wife (Kyoko Koizumi) and two sons are equally troubled. For once, Kurosawa has made a film that feels connected to earlier, more traditional Japanese cinema. His penchant for apocalyptic endings has come full circle — “Tokyo Sonata” is about what it feels like to live in a society undergoing massive, disorienting change. I spoke to him by phone during a recent visit to L.A.

Do you feel nostalgic at all for an older, more stable Japan?

I actually don’t feel any nostalgia for something like that, because I don’t remember that there has ever been an economically or socially stable time in Japan. There was a lot of economic growth, definitely, but no real stability in the past few decades.

You’ve cast Koji Yakusho in many of your films. What attracts you to his work?

Obviously, he’s a very talented actor, which can’t be underestimated. An important point is that he’s exactly the same age [53] as me. He’s not only easy to work with as an actor, but he’s very similar to me as a person. He has similar values and sensitivities. We’re from the same generation. That’s a big reason why I enjoy working with him on the set.

Do you feel much kinship with other Japanese directors of your generation?

I think my peers generally started making films in college on Super-8 and eventually moved into commercial filmmaking. I do feel some kinship with them, but the types of films we make are all over the map.

You honed the script of what would become your 1999 film “Charisma” at the Sundance Lab in 1992. How did the experience influence the final direction the film took?

It’s been a long time since I participated in it, so I don’t remember it clearly. I can say that participating in it was a very valuable experience for me. Up to that point, I had loved American films. I had watched many of them. The Lab made me realize that the ways of making films in America and Japan are very different. Even though I had harbored hopes of making a film in the U.S., I realized how difficult it would be.

“Tokyo Sonata” is the only one of your films that seems to have much connection to classic Japanese directors like Yasujiro Ozu. You’ve talked a lot about the influence of Robert Aldrich on your work, particularly “Charisma.” Do you feel you’ve been influenced more by American or Japanese cinema?

In the beginning, I idolized American films. I started off very influenced by American cinema, but I was always aware that I was going to be making Japanese films. After I started making my own films, I studied Japanese cinema. At this point, I’d say I’m also influenced by Japanese films.

03112009_tokyoSonata2.jpgWhat are your favorite of those?

There are many Japanese filmmakers I admire, but if I had to choose one, I’d pick Ozu.

Which film of yours would you describe as your most personal?

It’s difficult to answer. I would probably have to say that the student films I made on Super-8 are my most personal. I shot and edited them myself. Once I started making commercial films and working with a large cast, D.P. and crew, I’ve never felt that I could call any of the films I made in this format personal.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.