Celebrating 100 years of Japanese cinema

Last week, the British Film Institute (BFI) launched a major six-month season celebrating 100 years of Japanese cinema. Originally scheduled to run in venues across the UK (including the Showroom) from May to September, the BFI will instead present nine special collections on its video streaming platform BFI Player, with in-venue activity expected once cinemas can re-open.

BFI Japan 2020: Over 100 Years of Japanese Cinema promises to be an eclectic and wide-ranging celebration of one of the world’s greatest national cinemas and will include classics from film directors like Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, and the samurai swordsmen of Akira Kurosawa to films by post-war New Wave directors, anime masters, and the netherworlds of J-horror. The collections will also premiere 21st-century films never made available to us before in the UK, alongside celebrating contemporary filmmakers like Takashi Miike and Takeshi Kitano.

The season kicked off with collections focusing on Akira Kurosawa and “Classics”. Here are three of our top recommendations to get your started…


Directed by Akira Kurosawa and widely hailed as one of his greatest films, Ran is a spectacular historical epic and reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Set in 16th-century Japan the story sees an ageing warlord abdicate his rule to his three sons. At the time, one of the most expensive Japanese films ever made, Ran (which means “chaos” or “turmoil”) features some of the most impressive pre-CGI battle scenes ever committed to celluloid. 

Tokyo Story

Next up, hailed as the undisputed master of “home drama” – quiet and understated films, Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story is one of the directors finest films and frequently tops polls of the best films ever made. If you loved our Hirokazu Kore-eda season last year, but you’ve never seen an Ozu film, this is the place to start.

The Happiness of the Katakuris

Finally, no list of Japanese cinema recommendations would be complete without something as insane as a musical comedy zombie horror film. The Happiness of the Katakuris from the legendary director Takashi Miike, gleefully embraces its trash aesthetic, with a mash-up style that features everything from overblown musical numbers to claymation. Touted as The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead - and released with the tagline “the hills are alive with the sound of screaming”, you really couldn’t ask for anything more!

All films are now screening on BFI Player which is offering a free six week subscription to all Showroom members.

This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on 14 May 2020.

Image: HARAKIRI ©1962 Shochiku Co., Ltd


We use cookies to help us provide you with a better service, but do not track anything that can be used to personally identify you. If you prefer us not to set these cookies, please visit our Cookie Settings page or continue browsing our site to accept them. Close