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Japan 2021

In this major season we spotlight Japanese filmmakers who have inspired admiration and fascination around the world

We have long carried a torch for Japanese film here at the BFI. Since the first BFI London Film Festival opened with Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood in 1957, we’ve played a vital role in bringing the cinema of this culturally rich nation to UK audiences through our festivals, seasons, theatrical distribution, books and video publishing. In this major season we spotlight filmmakers who have inspired admiration and fascination around the world. We begin our story with Akira Kurosawa, and over the coming months we’ll present films from the Golden Age, a focus on Yasujiro Ozu, new wave rebels, the visionary creations of anime, the netherworlds of J-horror, and so much more from archive rarities to contemporary works and cult classics.

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Seven SamuraiSeven Samurai

Drama1954207 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.

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RanRan

Drama1985154 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s visually spectacular epic transplants Shakespeare’s King Lear from Celtic Britain to feudal Japan.

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RashomonRashomon

Crime195088 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.

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Late AutumnLate Autumn

Drama1960128 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Comedy turns to pathos in Yasujiro Ozu's tale of a group of businessmen who conspire to match-make for a widow and her daughter.

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Tokyo StoryTokyo Story

Drama1953136 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

A constant fixture in critics' polls, Yasujiro Ozu's most enduring masterpiece is a beautifully nuanced exploration of filial duty, expectation and regret.

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Equinox FlowerEquinox Flower

Comedy1958118 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu's deft comedy takes an ironic look at the decline of paternal authority.

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After LifeAfter Life

Drama1998119 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda

Koreeda's lyrical fantasy challenges the viewer to reflect on the experiences that most make life worth living.

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Asako I & IIAsako I & II

Drama2018120 minsDirector: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Do we ever really get over our first love? Asako is about to find out, in this quirky romantic drama with a dash of the uncanny.

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Happy HourHappy Hour

Drama2015318 minsDirector: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

A group of thirty-something women find their friendship tested by their differing attitudes to work, love and sex in the city of Kobe, Japan.

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100 Years of Japanese Cinema100 Years of Japanese Cinema

Documentary199652 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima

Archive propels argument in this fascinating exploration of the social and cultural importance of Japan's film heritage.

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Tokyo-GaTokyo-Ga

Documentary198592 minsDirector: Wim Wenders

Profiling one of the great directors of World Cinema, Wim Wenders delivers this moving portrait of Japanese auteur Yasujiro Ozu.

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Mifune : The Last SamuraiMifune : The Last Samurai

Documentary201680 minsDirector: Steven Okazaki

The on and off-screen character of Toshiro Mifune, Japan’s first international movie star, is explored in this illuminating documentary exploring the life and legacy of this mercurial icon.

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House [Hausu]House [Hausu]

Horror197788 minsDirector: Nobuhiko Obayashi

An unforgettable mixture of bubblegum teen melodrama and grisly phantasmagoria, Obayashi’s deranged fairy tale House is one of Japanese cinema’s wildest supernatural ventures and a truly startling debut feature.

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Inflatable Sex Doll of the WastelandsInflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands

Crime196786 minsDirector: Atsushi Yamatoya

A hitman is hired to track down a kidnapped girl in this hallucinatory mix of erotica and yakuza violence.

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Love ExposureLove Exposure

Comedy2008237 minsDirector: Sion Sono

Japanese cinema's enfant terrible, Sion Sono, unleashes this demented, whirlwind tale of cults, love, violence and perversion.

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Funeral Parade of RosesFuneral Parade of Roses

Drama1970106 minsDirector: Toshio Matsumoto

Toshio Matsumoto's kaleidoscopic masterpiece is one of the most intoxicating films of the 60s.

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The Emperor's Naked Army Marches OnThe Emperor's Naked Army Marches On

Documentary1987121 minsDirector: Kazuo Hara

Kazuo Hara’s infamous and audacious documentary follows Kenzo Okuzaki, an ageing Japanese WWII veteran on a mission to uncover the truth about atrocities committed during the war in the Pacific.

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A Page of MadnessA Page of Madness

Animation & Artists Moving Image192668 minsDirector: Teinosuke Kinugasa

A haunting, silent, modernist classic, visibly influenced by The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

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Floating CloudsFloating Clouds

Drama1955123 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse

Mikio Naruse’s masterpiece about a wandering woman trying to find her identity amid the devastation of post-war Japan.

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When a Woman Ascends the StairsWhen a Woman Ascends the Stairs

1960111 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse

Mikio Naruse’s best-known film is a masterful study of Ginza hostess struggling under constant pressures to compromise her honour.

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Late ChrysanthemumsLate Chrysanthemums

Drama1954101 minsDirector: Mikio Naruse

The story of four ageing geishas as they struggle to make ends meet in post-war Japan, from acclaimed filmmaker Mikio Naruse.

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RadianceRadiance

Drama2017102 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase

A passionate writer of film versions for the visually impaired meets an older photographer who is slowly losing his eyesight, in this luminous love story from Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean).

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The Mourning ForestThe Mourning Forest

Drama200797 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase

A beautiful and contemplative portrait of grief from Cannes-winning filmmaker Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean, Still the Water).

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Sweet BeanSweet Bean

Drama2015113 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase

A struggling street food vendor accepts help from an elderly lady with a sensational recipe up her sleeve, in Naomi Kawase's bittersweet drama of culinary redemption.

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IkiruIkiru

Drama1952143 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Takashi Shimura is superb as a bureaucrat diagnosed with cancer in Akira Kurosawa’s lyrical and moving film about how we find meaning in our lives.

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Stray DogStray Dog

Crime1949122 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s masterful mix of film noir and police thriller set on the sweltering mean streets of occupied Tokyo.

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Drunken AngelDrunken Angel

Film noir194898 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Part gangster film, part melodrama and part social critique, Akira Kurosawa's first critical success follows the troubled friendship between a disillusioned doctor and a young yakuza.

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Orgies of EdoOrgies of Edo

Drama196994 minsDirector: Teruo Ishii

Teruo Ishii's landmark ‘ero-guro’ film tells three stories of moral sickness set during Japan’s prosperous Genroku era.

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Blind LoveBlind Love

Romance200565 minsDirector: Daisuke Gotô

In this bizarre but bittersweet erotic comedy, a ventriloquist supplies the voice for his best friend when he begins dating a visually impaired girl. Daisuke Gotô

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A Lonely Cow Weeps at DawnA Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn

Drama200361 minsDirector: Daisuke Gotô

In this bizarre erotic family drama, a young widow pretends to be a cow for her senile father-in-law, who's a farmer.

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Late SpringLate Spring

Drama1949108 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu's influential masterpiece is a tender meditation on family politics, sacrifice and the status quo.

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Early SummerEarly Summer

Drama1951125 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu's wonderfully poised ensemble work presents the intricacies and contradictions of three generations who have lived through the end of an era and are looking towards the new.

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Good MorningGood Morning

Comedy195994 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu's cheerful comedy about the silliness of everyday chatter

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Battle RoyaleBattle Royale

Science Fiction2000114 minsDirector: Kenji Fukasaku

Before The Hunger Games there was Battle Royale, Kinji Fukasaku's magnificently twisted shocker in which tearaway teens are given three days to kill or be killed.

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Ring [Ringu]Ring [Ringu]

Horror199796 minsDirector: Hideo Nakata

A journalist sets out to uncover in urban legend about a supposedly cursed videotape, in Hideo Nakata's chilling and highly influential tale of technological terror.

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PulsePulse

Horror2001119 minsDirector: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's dark and apocalyptic J-Horror foretells how technology serves to isolate us as it grows more important to our lives.

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Throne of BloodThrone of Blood

Drama1957110 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

A master of period-drama, Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai) recasts Macbeth as a Japanese warlord in one of the greatest Shakespearean adaptations.

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The Bad Sleep WellThe Bad Sleep Well

Crime1960151 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

The first film made by Akira Kurosawa's own production company is a dark tale of greed, corporate corruption and revenge.

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High and LowHigh and Low

Crime1963143 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s procedural crime masterpiece, from Ed McBain’s gritty novel, follows an industrialist who faces an agonising choice as a result of a botched kidnapping by ruthless criminals.

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MaborosiMaborosi

Drama1995109 minsDirector: Hirokazu Koreeda

Koreeda’s first fiction feature is an exquisite meditation on loss, loneliness, uncertainty, and coming to terms with the past.

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Nobody KnowsNobody Knows

Drama2003141 minsDirector: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Koreeda’s drama about four children left to fend for themselves is a heartbreaking study of childhood neglect.

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Still WalkingStill Walking

Drama2008115 minsDirector: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Koreeda’s subtle, moving account of the tensions within a family is his most Ozu-like film.

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AuditionAudition

Horror1999115 minsDirector: Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike burst to international prominence with this deeply disturbing tale of a deadly young woman who turns the tables on her middle-aged suitor.

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A Snake of JuneA Snake of June

Drama200277 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto

Bizarre and unsettling sex fantasy from Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo), about a woman blackmailed by a stranger into enacting his wildest fantasies.

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Tetsuo: The Iron ManTetsuo: The Iron Man

Fantasy198867 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto

Shinya Tsukamoto's wild cyberpunk tale of a businessman's agonising transformation into a walking scrap heap is a jaggedly dehumanised vision of the future.

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The Flavour of Green Tea Over RiceThe Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice

Drama1952116 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu’s beautiful domestic drama is piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone in post-war Tokyo.

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Early SpringEarly Spring

Drama1956145 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Shoji (Ryu Ikebe) and his wife Masako (Chikage Awashima), struggle with a family tragedy. When Shoji's interest turns to the office flirt, the couple's fragile peace is threatened.

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An Autumn AfternoonAn Autumn Afternoon

Drama1962113 minsDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu's elegiac final film charts the inevitable eclipse of older generations by irreverent youth.

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KwaidanKwaidan

Horror1964183 minsDirector: Masaki Kobayashi

This stunningly beautiful anthology of Japanese ghost stories is one of the most meticulously crafted supernatural films ever made.

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OnibabaOnibaba

Period drama1964102 minsDirector: Kaneto Shindo

Stylish, symbolic and erotically charged Japanese horror in which the fortunes of a murderous mother-and-daughter team are upended by a strangely masked samurai.

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Woman of the DunesWoman of the Dunes

Animation & Artists Moving Image1964147 minsDirector: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Hiroshi Teshigahara's mystifying, serene and provocative fable about an entomologist who becomes trapped in a young widow’s desert shack.

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I Was Born, But...I Was Born, But...

Comedy193287 minsSilentDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu's silent masterpiece follows two brothers as they try to outwit the local bully.

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Dragnet GirlDragnet Girl

Crime1933100 minsSilentDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

A seemingly ordinary typist moonlights as a fun-loving gangster's moll in one of Ozu's most enduring silent films.

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Days of YouthDays of Youth

Comedy1929103 minsSilentDirector: Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu’s earliest surviving film follows students Watanabe and Yamamoto as they unknowingly compete for the same girl.

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SonatineSonatine

Crime199394 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano's masterful and meditative gangster film, about a yakuza sent to the beautiful beaches of Okinawa where he has time to ruminate on his fate.

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Violent CopViolent Cop

Crime1989103 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano

In his brutal directorial debut, ‘Beat' Takeshi Kitano plays a renegade cop who frequently resorts to violence and unethical methods to get results.

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Boiling PointBoiling Point

Crime199097 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano

A young baseball player becomes mixed up with a psychotic yakuza, in Takeshi Kitano's hilarious and twisted crime tale.

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The Hidden FortressThe Hidden Fortress

Martial arts1958139 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s thrilling mix of fairy story and samurai movie - a story of rival clans, hidden gold and a princess in distress - was famously a key inspiration for George Lucas’ Star Wars.

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SanjuroSanjuro

Crime196296 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

In Akira Kurosawa's comedy of manners, a ronin runs rings around nine young, clean-cut samurai while cleaning up a spot of corruption in local government.

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YojimboYojimbo

Crime1961111 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s classic about a drifting samurai who plays two gangs off against each other, famously remade as A Fistful of Dollars.

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An Actor's RevengeAn Actor's Revenge

Period drama1963114 minsDirector: Kon Ichikawa

Kon Ichikawa's wildly melodramatic tale of a kabuki female impersonator who exacts a long-delayed revenge.