For Japanese cinefiles, the name Donald Richie is synonymous with its history. It's been over a year since his passing. Japan Society in New York City is running a film festival as a tribute to Richie’s contribution.
One of the films in this festival is Shusuke Kaneko‘s, “Summer Vacation 1999”, which was loosely based on the “Heart of Thomas” manga by Hagio Moto. This manga is considered to be a classic of the Yaoi or Boy’s Love genre.
Summer vacation is something that students look forward to in an elite all-boys school. For three orphaned boys, Kazuhiko, Naoto and Norio, it’s a time they dread. So the trio were left to their own devices by doing school work during the day and dream about what life would be like if they had a family to call of their own. As if that wasn’t melancholy enough, the suicide of one of their classmates, Yu, haunts them. No one really knew the reason except for one boy, Kazuhiko, who held the secret deep inside. A new student, Kaoru, arrives just in time to add friction among the trio. To make the situation worse, Kaoru is a doppelganger of Yu. It became a summer of grief, loneliness, new discoveries, confusion, jealousy and unrequited love. Nothing is ever explicit as the situations are handled with delicate discretion. The cinematography is simply gorgeous, which helps to smooth and at times, heighten the tension among the four boys. Kaneko added a gender bending twist to the story by casting androgynous female actresses to portray the roles of the boys.
And if that wasn’t enough, there will be a Yaoi Themed after party, in which guests are encouraged to flaunt their gender bending best. Avant-garde jazz band, Ideal Orkestra, will be performing at the event.
Sadly, Summer Vacation 1999 was released only on VHS domestically and it is now out of print. Be sure to catch the rare screening of this gender bending classic!
Summer Vacation 1999
Date: March 13th, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017
Ticket prices: $15/$12 Japan Society members, seniors & students, $12/$9 Japan Society members, seniors and students.