Stop for a minute and consider the last good Japanese film you saw.
If you have can not think of one, then don`t worry, you are not alone. Its been a long time since Akira Kurosawa and his generation created masterpieces that could blow the socks off film fans wherever they haled from in the world. These days, for various economic reasons, the Japanese film industry tends to cluster around productions based on manga comics or popular TV dramas.
Lee Sang-il is different. In two important ways.
Firstly, his films are made specifically as standalone works of art. They have something unique to say about Japan.
Secondly, he is a Japanese citizen of Korean descent. This gives his the outsiders eye, and, in the remains of Japan`s film industry, this makes his work unique.
Hula Girls follows a Hawaiian dance troupe from the grim northern industrial areas of Japan and won Lee the Best Director and Best Screenplay prizes at the 2007 Japanese Academy Awards.
His new film is a remake of Clint Eastwood`s Unforgiven. The film has recently come out in the UK and had been slowly making its way around the world, including a Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Cineworld recently ran an interview with Lee which is well worth checking out. Also see this piece, in which he discusses limits of Japanese cinema and why it no longer has any impact on the world stage.
Finally, watch the trailer for the Japanese remake of Unforgiven.