Japan film festival 2014
Where:National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
When: Today to July 12
Admission: Selected screenings are free. Ticketed screenings cost $10 to $13 from Ticketbooth (call 6296-2929 or go to www.ticketbooth.com.sg)
Some 17 out of 24 films at this year's Japan Film Festival will be screened free, including a "mystery" title that closes the event.
These include all 15 films screened under the retrospective category this year paying tribute to Kon Ichikawa, the late film-maker who helmed acclaimed works such as Nihonbashi (1956) and The Makioka Sisters (1983).
The director, who died of pneumonia in 2008, was considered by many film critics to be among the masters of Japanese cinema.
One of the critically acclaimed works to be shown is Ten Dark Women (1961), in which a philanderer's wife and nine mistresses conspire to murder him.
Critics often cite this as one of the most subtle and underrated black comedies to come out of Japan from any director.
Festival director Gavin Low declined to reveal the budget of the event, which kicks off at the National Museum of Singapore today, but said that, due to "goodwill from sponsors", the festival is able to offer the complimentary screenings.
He tells The Straits Times' Life!: "The festival hopes to provide an alternative to commercial cinemas to develop film tastes here and to further cultural exchanges, even while operating at a loss - if we are measured in business terms, anyway."
The event, launched in 1999, is organised this year by the Singapore Film Society, The Japan Foundation, Japan Creative Centre, Luna Films and the National Museum of Singapore.
In previous editions of the festival, there have been several free screenings as well.
The festival's closing film this year, to be held on July 12, will be, as Mr Low described, a "mystery screening".
"I want the film to be seen without any preconceived notions," he said cryptically.
Moviegoers will have to buy tickets for seven films in the Currents section, which screens some of the most talked-about movies to come out of Japan in the past decade.
These include Nao Kubota's Homeland (2014), about a man who returns to his home that is forever changed by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and Gen Sekiguchi's Survive Style 5+ (2004), the critically acclaimed film featuring five bizarre, loosely linked plotlines and starring Tadanobu Asano and Vinnie Jones.
Mr Low said: "The contemporary component is made up of a selection of sensitive, heartfelt and bold works by upcoming directors, and presents an opportunity to enjoy the diverse talents of these bright sparks of Japanese cinema of our times."
This article was first published on June 26, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.