The annual Japanese Film Festival returns to Row House Cinema | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The annual Japanese Film Festival returns to Row House Cinema

From cute cats to menacing tentacles, samurai to teenagers, there is something for everyone


The Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival, highlighting historically and culturally significant films from Japan, returns to town this week. The festival, offering nearly a dozen films with multiple screenings, runs April 6-19 at Row House Cinema, in Lawrenceville. Special events include a cuddle-party with kittens, and a beer-and-sushi event paired with the 1961 Akira Kurosawa samurai classic, Yojimbo

Below are some highlights:

If you’re a fan of the Japanese cat-collecting smartphone game Neko Atsume, you might squeal to learn that there is now a live-action adaptation, Neko Atsume House. In it, a young man with writer’s block tries to attract many, many cats to a house he’s renting. (Tip: Cats love the sashimi.) Tickets for this opening-night film are $15, and include Japanese treats; the $30 VIP ticket gets you an hour of playing with kittens in the adjacent tap room before the screening.

Chill with some sweet anime: Your Name (2016) is among the top highest-grossing films in Japan, and tells the story of a teenage boy and girl who swap bodies randomly and communicate via notes. 

For fans of the classics, there is the aforementioned Yojimbo; its 1962 sequel, Sanjuro; and the original 1954 mega-lizard treat, Godzilla. For more specialized tastes, check out the 1970 Japanese exploitation gangster feature Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, or the midnight screening of Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, a 1989 anime noted for being a precursor of tentacle porn.

Some more Pittsburgh premieres: Antiporno reboots the concept of “romantic pornography” films of the 1970s and ’80s, using a film-within-a-film technique to explore two actresses working on a “Roman Porn.” The Sailor Moon crew will want to book seats for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical — Le Mouvement Final. It’s a new filmed version of the stage musical, based on the popular characters. And the locally animated and produced The Day of the Western Sunrise recounts the true story of fisherman surprised by an atomic bomb test. 

The closing-night film is Wild Zero, the 1999 genre mash-up that finds the Japanese rock trio Guitar Wolf suddenly tasked with saving the planet from aliens who are turning people into zombies. You know how that happens.

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