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Photograph: BFI‘Audition’

The BFI has a blockbuster new season of Japanese movies coming to help you survive lockdown

Phil de Semlyen

We might not be able to get down to BFI Southbank – just yet, at least – but that hasn’t stopped the BFI from announcing an epic new season celebrating Japanese cinema. BFI Japan kicks off on May 11 and will span the lockdown period, of course, but also anticipates a return to cinemas with screenings tentatively planned for its four auditoriums later this year or early next. Which, frankly, fills our hearts with joy. Arigatō

It gets underway with a celebration of the work of Akira Kurosawa, arguably the greatest of all Japanese filmmakers. The films stretch from the classics (‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Rashomon’, ‘Yojimbo’ et al) to the deeper cuts (‘The Most Beautiful’, ‘Red Beard’) to the one that inspired ‘Star Wars’ (‘The Hidden Fortress’). These will all be available on BFI Player.

Seven Samurai
Seven Samurai Photograph: © Toho Co., Ltd. A BFI release

Beyond the Kurosawa strand, BFI Japan’s online offering will be divvied up into eight more collections of films – Classics (May), Yasujirō Ozu (June), Independence (June), Cult (July), Anime (July), 21st century (September), Early films (October) and J-horror (October) – and there’s something for everyone, so you don’t need to know your jidaigeki from your seibugeki to discover a great movie. 

If you loved ‘The Lighthouse’ or ‘Midsommar’, for instance, look out for Kaneto Shindô’s unsettling folk horror ‘Onibaba’ or Masaki Kobayashi’s glorious, painterly quartet of ghost stories ‘Kwaidan’ in May’s Classics collection. And if you just want to be scared shitless, there’s October’s J-horror strand. Crawling from it like a demon from your telly will be Hideo Nakata’s ‘The Ring’ and Takashi Miike’s ‘Audition’, as well as some less well-known horror gems to keep you awake forever.

And when we’re all able to venture back to the South Bank, there’ll be Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and a bunch of Studio Ghibli movies to catch on the big screen. If London is out of reach for you, Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ will be returning to cinema screens across the country from October 23. 

For the full line-up and more info, head to the BFI Japan website. BFI Player subscriptions cost £4.99 a month and there’s a 14-day free trial available.

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