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Monday, June 25, 2018, 18:45 - 21:30

Kafka's great existential nightmare finds purchase in Tokyo's soil

Sneak Preview Screening: "The Trial (Shinpan)"
followed by a Q&A with director John Williams and
stars Tsutomu Niwa and Rino Tsuneishi

Monday, June 25 at 6:45 pm*The Trial Shimpun 356p
*Please note early start time

In Japanese with English subtitles
Japan, 2018 113 minutes

Directed by: John Williams
Written by: Jun Murayama, based on Franz Kafka's novel "Der Process"
Produced by: Sachie Takagi, Misako Furukawa, Shohei Shiozaki
Music by: Slavek Kowalski
Starring: Tsutomu Niwa, Rino Tsuneishi, Junichi Tanabe, Yusaku Kudo,
Shizuko Kawakami, Tomoko Hayakawa, Megumi Sekine, Ichiro Murata,
Ichi Omiya, Yajuro Bando, Choei Takahashi, Toru Shinagawa

Film courtesy of 100 Meter Films

"If you play by their rules," says a character in John Williams' austere, Japan-set adaptation of Kafka's iconic novel, "you can fudge almost anything." But how can Yosuke Kimura play by rules like these? He can't even figure out what they are!

Kimura (Niwa), a banker, has awoken on the morning of his 30th birthday to find two men in his apartment, announcing he is under arrest. When he demands to see the warrant, they admit they haven't been entrusted with it, but will instead be his "angels." Kimura has no idea what the charge is, and when the official warrant arrives later by special delivery, it stipulates no crime. His comely next-door neighbor, Mari Suzuki (Tsuneishi) has just dropped by to say the angels questioned her about him, and she urges Kimura to confess. He assures her he is innocent. She finds his apartment a bit too tidy, but he does seem mild mannered and is surely no candidate for a #MeToo moment.

Kimura is summoned to a court date by the National Security Council Court Office, but with the wrong address and no time. When he manages to arrive, he finds an absurd scene: the apparent chief clerk sits at a desk as a woman hangs underwear on a laundry line strung behind him. When Kimura dares to suggest that things are simply not right, the hearing is halted and he is ordered to return later. On his next court date, he finds a roomful of fellow offenders, some who've awaited trial "for an eternity."

Mari offers to give him an alibi, and the court laundry lady (Kawakami), a self-professed legal expert, suggests, "We could add testimony to your file to help you. We could lose some of the incriminating testimony." But when Kimura accepts help, or engages in harmless flirtations, he looks even guiltier. Even his lawyer despairs. "Your sloth, your avarice, your pride, your sexual deviance!" he shouts. "How can I defend such a monster?" Wherever he turns, people seem to know about his trial - worse, they all believe he's culpable and will face a terrible punishment in the end.

For those who have felt trapped by Japan's labyrinthine bureaucracy, or paranoid about the government's mounting suppression of dissent and personal liberties, John Williams' absurd - but frighteningly plausible - "The Trial" is sure to be a conversation-starter.

Discussing the story's contemporary resonance earlier this year, Williams said, "Sometimes it is hard to escape the anxiety that we are all sleepwalking our way to oblivion in a world where shopping, 'entertainment' and status are more important than political engagement, education or the environment. Media, including news itself, have become distractions from an engagement with real-world problems... I think we need to wake up... I want to try to use cinema to break out of the cage and be free, or at least shake the fences around me to see if I really am trapped in a cage."

Please join us for this sneak preview of the beautifully imagined "The Trial" before its Japanese release on June 30.

For more (in Japanese): http://www.shinpan-film.com

Welsh director JOHN WILLIAMS has lived and worked in Japan since 1988. He has written and directed three award-winning Japanese feature films: "Firefly Dreams" (2001), for which he was nominated for Best Newcomer Director by the Japan Director's Guild, "Starfish Hotel" (2007) and "Sado Tempest" (2013). Through his production company, he has also produced or co-produced several features, documentaries and short films. Williams is a professor at Sophia University.

TSUTOMU NIWA made his debut in Yukio Ninagawa's staging of "Chikamatsu's Double Suicide" while still at Keio University. After several years as a stand-up comedian in a manzai duo, he returned to acting. He has appeared in numerous roles on the stage and TV, including in the popular series "Aibo," and on NHK's morning TV dramas, including the hit "Massan." "The Trial" is his third appearance in John Williams' films and his first leading role.

RINO TSUNEISHI performed in many theatrical productions before joining the talent agency Grue. She has appeared widely on TV, in commercials and in movies, including on NHK's "Ooka Echizen" and in Katsuo Fukuzawa's hit film "The Crimes That Bind," earlier this year.

Please make your reservations at the FCCJ Reception Desk (3211-3161) or register below. You may attend the Q&A session without attending the screening, but you will not have seating priority. All film screenings are private, noncommercial events primarily for FCCJ members and their guests.

- Karen Severns, Film Committee

 

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