Hiroshi Abe as Lucius in “Thermae Romae.”
The Japan Foundation Los Angeles provides high-quality Japanese film screenings every second and fourth Wednesday at 7 p.m. at JFLA Auditorium, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, in Los Angeles.
Films are in Japanese with English subtitles. Free to attend. Reservation is not required.
This month’s films:
• “Thermae Romae” (108 minutes, 2012), directed by Hideki Takeuchi, on Sept. 14. An adaptation of Mari Yamazaki’s popular manga, which has won both the 2010 Manga Taisho (Cartoon Grand Prize) and the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize for Best Short Work. Hiroshi Abe and the rest of its cast of talented actors with sharply sculpted faces throw themselves into their roles as citizens of ancient Rome. Another striking aspect is its large open set built at Cinecitta, Italy’s largest film studio.
Lucius, an architect of spa baths for the Roman Empire, inadvertently travels through time and finds himself in a modern Japanese bathhouse. He takes elements of Japanese culture that he learns there back with him to Rome and is hugely successful, which leads the emperor to command him to build a massive spa.
A scene from “Thermae Romae II.”
• “Thermae Romae II” (113 minutes, 2014), directed by Hideki Takeuchi, on Sept. 28. This sequel depicts the humor arising from the contrast in time and space between bathhouses in ancient Rome and contemporary Japan. The film is the first Japanese production shot on location in Bulgaria, and was realized on a grander scale than the first film.
For some reason, Lucius travels in time to contemporary Japan whenever he’s stuck for new ideas. He becomes famous with constructing a new bathhouse and receives an order to build one in the Colosseum to help gladiators recover from their wounds, but faces difficulties. Thus, Lucius travels again to modern-day Japan through the time slip but finds himself wrapped up in a conflict that divides the Roman Empire.
For information on this and other Japan Foundation Los Angeles programs, call (323) 761-7510 or visit www.jflalc.org.