TG10 Guest List: brazybenjamin (Japanuary)

Welcome to TG10s. This year, echoing another publication, we are posting our top 10s, and taking votes from you. Keep reading The Twin Geeks for lists from our regular writers, as well as some extra special selection of lists from some amazing guests.


Cure is a very particular type of horror. It is the type of horror that reaches into and imposes itself upon the deepest recesses of our minds and souls. It probes into our biggest insecurities, secrets, and fears and forces us to reflect inwardly and about society. The silence speaks volumes, and the imagery is unforgettable. Kiyoshi Kurosawa is more than a master of horror— he is one of the great contemporary filmmakers. From his humble beginnings in the world of V- Cinema (direct-to-video movies) to becoming a festival regular, Kurosawa has consistently put out films that brilliantly examine the human condition and what it means to be a small part of a bigger, enigmatic whole.


Harakiri is everything I could ever want from a movie. It features riveting storytelling, masterful direction, and powerhouse performances, which all come together to tell a deeply human story that challenges mainstream ideas and the societal status quo. I vividly remember my first time watching it, immediately knowing I was about to experience something spectacular and singular from the very first frame. It is so engaging that I find myself losing all sense of time and forgetting to breathe whenever I watch it. There are just so very few actors and directors at the level of Tatsuya Nakadai and Masaki Kobayashi, and Harakiri is them at their very best.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man

All cinema lovers and aspiring filmmakers should watch the works of the great Shinya Tsukamoto. He does so much with so very little. Tetsuo: The Iron Man is perhaps the best example of that, with Tsukamoto directing, writing, producing, photographing, and starring in this passion project of his. It is a film that you experience through all of your senses. It is grotesque, fascinating, visceral, and mind-melting. One cannot overemphasize the film’s importance for Japanese independent cinema and the cyberpunk genre. The pulsating industrial score, the skin-splitting practical effects, and the sheer freneticism and ferociousness of the filmmaking are a delight to behold.

Ichi the Killer

One of the most notorious films from Japan, Ichi the Killer faced distribution bans and cuts in various countries worldwide. Of course, it was directed by none other than Takashi Miike. Audition (1999) tends to be cited as Miike’s best by most people, but Ichi the Killer has always been my favorite Miike film. It honors its manga source material both in thematic content and visual presentation, but Miike makes it a much more compelling commentary on humanity’s infatuation and relationship with violence. It also is the perfect balance between his dark comedy and horror sensibilities. Factor in the unforgettable performances from Japanese independent cinema icons such as Tadanobu Asano, Shinya Tsukamoto, Nao Ōmori, Jun Kunimura, SABU, Susumu Terajima, and Shun Sugata, and what we have is a timeless cult classic whose influence is apparent in many films, from Tarantino’s Kill Bill films to the 2021 Palm d’Or winner Titane.

Woman in the Dunes

I am convinced that no one else ever has and will capture psychological horror and internal struggles quite as captivatingly and gorgeously as Hiroshi Teshigahara. Woman in the Dunes forces us to reflect upon our place in society, values, and will, but more importantly, the nature of life and our purpose. It is challenging, confrontational cinema that sticks with its viewers far beyond the credits. Yet, it also serves as a welcome reminder that mulling over all the elements of our existences, even those that are taxing or scary to examine, is well worth the time if we wish to better understand ourselves and what it means to be one part of a larger whole.

9 Souls

Toshiaki Toyoda is one of the great contemporary filmmakers from Japan. He makes works of elegant fury, with a penchant for examining flawed or overlooked people. 9 Souls is an example of that—a film that follows nine convicts after they escape from prison. These are people that most people would find easy to push aside, ignore, and demean, but Toyoda never once does that. Instead, he sees them as they are… People with hopes and dreams, just like you and me. People with good and bad qualities, just like you and me. People who are negatively impacted by their environment and societal expectations, just like you and me.
It is an honest, heartbreaking, and touching piece of filmmaking that deserves much more attention than it has received. It is also a perfect marriage of music and moving imagery, something Toshiaki Toyoda accomplishes in all of his works. He undoubtedly would have become a household name like Hirokazu Kore-eda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa had it not been for legal issues. However, despite the setbacks and attempts to blacklist him from filmmaking, Toyoda has continued to make powerful anti-establishment films that honor and embrace outsiders. As someone who feels like an outsider themselves, I have never so profoundly connected with a filmmaker as with Toshiaki Toyoda.

Still Walking

Hirokazu Kore-eda never fails to capture the little moments, interactions, and experiences of life that define who we are and how we navigate life. Still Walking is a family drama, and it is not a particularly complex one. However, like one of the other great Japanese directors, Yasujirō Ozu, Kore-eda manages to uncover the magic and significance within the mundane and standard parts of life. No matter where you are from or where you are in life, there are characters in Still Walking that will remind you of yourself and your family and friends. Being a child is challenging. Being an adult or an elderly adult is too. We are all always caught up in a web of never-ending obstacles, and we all seem to think that no one else understands. Kore-eda’s films remind us that we are all much more alike than we are different.

Death by Hanging

Nagisa Ōshima is kind of the best. He understands that filmmaking is inherently political. Even films without an explicitly political purpose carry consequential political views and values within them. Ōshima always made his political values and stances known, never succumbing to the notion that subtlety is necessary for proper and constructive intellectual discourse about social issues. Meaningful political action and impact will not stem from ambiguous and subtle statements, so Ōshima was never one to be ambiguous and subtle. Death by Hanging is an explicit, clear, and nuanced condemnation of Japan’s role in perpetuating various injustices, particularly racism toward Korean people. It is a dense and sometimes darkly funny work that could not unpick the corrupt nature of the Japanese bureaucracy any better.

Last Life in the Universe

I love films where people from various backgrounds and walks of life come together and create something beautiful. Last Life in the Universe is that and more. Tadanobu Asano is one of the greatest, most accomplished Japanese actors. Christopher Doyle, an Australian man, best known for his contributions to Hong Kong cinema and his work on Wong Kar-wai films, is one of the most influential and acclaimed cinematographers in the business. Pen-Ek Ratanaruang is one of the most notable directors of the Thai New Wave. With Last Life in the Universe, all their talents come together to create a wholly unique feeling film, an unconventional romance of sorts, that resonates with me on a profoundly personal level. It would be easy to categorize it as a film that coasts on ethereal vibes but reducing it to that would be a disservice. Instead, it is a film that expresses a deep understanding of what it feels like to be alone and how companionship often crops up from unexpected places and events at the times we least expect.

August in the Water

Gakuryū Ishii, like Shinya Tsukamoto, cannot have his importance for Japanese cinema overemphasized. The Japanese film industry was hierarchical and impenetrable for the longest time. Individuals would usually have to go to prestigious universities and spend a great deal of time working under established directors in assistant roles before they could lead projects of their own. Ishii was not having any of that. As a university student, he broke that barrier by creating punk films in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Specifically, his films Panic in High School and Crazy Thunder Road proved that young, ambitious directors could create critical and commercial successes with minimal resources and assistance. August in the Water is no punk film, though. It can only be likened to a spiritual experience. Ishii transitioned from punk works to meditative, moodier pieces in the late 1980s and 1990s, and August in the Water is the peak of that second phase of his career. It features soulful, inventive filmmaking and a beautiful blend of evocative imagery, mystical music, and metaphysical musings. It is a film you feel rather than fully understand, but the feelings the film pulls out of you are as rewarding of a film experience as one could ever hope to have.

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