Katsuhito Ishii: The Visionary Filmmaker You Should Know
Katsuhito Ishii is an acclaimed Japanese filmmaker known for his unique and offbeat style; some of his films have become increasingly popular in the West, with a number of them having achieved cult status, to the extent that Quentin Tarantino asked him to direct the animation segment for Kill Bill Vol. 1.
Ishii’s films are known for their quirky, comedic, and often surrealist style, dreamlike imagery and populated with odd characters making them instantly recognisable. He has often been compared to the works of legendary filmmaker David Lynch, as his films often feature the same dreamlike atmosphere and surrealistic visuals.
From his early films like Promise of August and Party 7 and his feature debut Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl, to his later films like Sorasoi, Hello Junichi, and Norioka Workshop, Ishii has consistently delivered amazing films that are rich in atmosphere and style - truly unique to the current Japanese drama movies we are used to.
So, with the Third Window Films Katsuhito Ishii blu ray boxset release later this year, let us tell you more about this director and why you should own this boxset.
History and Start in Industry
Born in 1966, Ishii’s work began with commercials in 1992. His first short, The Promise of August (the story of a young girl, August, embarking on a journey to the city of Tokyo), won the Grand Prix at Yubari International Film Festival and from there, he established himself as a film-maker to watch.
The Promise of August was followed up with his feature debut, Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (1998) a film which has huge cult-status but hard to find on physical release formats.
With access to talent through his connections built-up in making commercials, Ishii frequently collaborates with Tadanobu Asano, starting with Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl, in which Asano plays the eponymous Shark Skin Man, a low-level yazkua gang member on the run from his boss, joining up with Peach Girl (played by Shie Kohinata) who is also on the run from the yakuza. Together they criss-cross over Japan, evading colourful gang members and ludicrous over-the-top situations. Ishii’s genius shows in how he adds fantasy and whimsical elements to the Japanese comedy movies he makes.
Party 7 features seven individuals whose lives intersect around a stolen briefcase of money in a hotel room - and of course, these are not your conventional characters (one character is a voyeur known as Captain Banana). Featuring a star cast of Masatoshi Nagase (Punk Samurai Slash Down), Keisuke Horibe (Love Exposure), Yoshio Harada (Still Walking) as the afore mentioned Captain Banana, Tadanobu Asano, Tatsuya Gasyuin, Yoshinori Okada, Akemi Kobayashi as the seven in the "Party 7". These characters create different harmony for the non-typical Japanese comedy movies that exist out there.
Funky Forest: First Contact
The compendium of bizarre shorts, Funky Forest: First Contact was made in collaboration with fellow quirky comedy directors Shunichiro Miki, Hajime Ishimine; if you already own a copy of this then you'll see the varied scope of his mind-altering creations.
The Taste of Tea
The Taste of Tea (2004) is regarded as one of Ishii’s best films in Asian cult cinema. Selected for the Cannes Film Festival 2004, the film follows the life of a family living in rural Japan, and is filled with surreal and whimsical elements. The Taste of Tea was also released on blu ray in the UK by Third Window Films.
Katsuhito Ishii Blu-ray Box Set
So, given the appeal of the banal and downright weird, if you like big name actors breaking type and playing no-holds-barred crazy personalities in low-budget independent movies, and you want to delve more into some of the relatively unseen films of Katsuhito Ishii, and his peak in Asian cult cinema, then this boxset is for you.
Six films, across three discs, only 2,000 copies will be made, so these are cult collectable items.
The six films are:
- The Promise of August
- Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl
- Hello Junichi
- Norioka Workshop
- Party 7
Buy the Katsuhito Ishii blu ray boxset here on the Terracotta store - pre-orders are now open in advance of the 17th July 2023 release date, and anticipation is already high for this Third Window release. Get your copy of some of the best Japanese comedy movies to exist.