The Carl Online

Tokyo! film review by tatgers
December 14, 2008, 3:16 pm
Filed under: movies

Whereas ParisJe t’aime keeps true to it’s title by presenting a collection of shorts about Paris and love, Tokyo!‘s does the same by first placing each story in Tokyo, and hugging the titular exclamation mark. But this ! does not reflect a cheerful enthusiasm.  All three films embody the ! through their  surprising eccentricity and magical realism. Even when caught in one of the films’ slow burns (Merde in particular), I couldn’t help having an appreciation for what I thought was the a new brand that I couldn’t easily judge.  You’ll have to forgive me for writing in generalities, but all three of these films benefit from their individual twists, so I won’t be going into much detail on scenes and developments.

The three films are directed :


1 Interior Design directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep).

Usually the most natural looking of the the films in its cinematography, though Gondry does find ways (boy does he) to use his characteristic warmth and whimsy. Origami gives him an excuse to revisit arts and crafts and one character’s art films allows him to play with low budget art films. But the story’s real world is where his sleight of hand and low-tech visual trickery shines. Unlike his recent films, or the other films in this collection, Interior Design is on the sweet end of bittersweet; certainly more satisfying than The Science of Sleep in letting the characters end in conditions that, while strange and not conventionally ideal, leave them content. The story is based on a short story that I have unfortunately forgotten the name of, but it’s along the lines of “BoyNamedX and GirlNamedY in/visit New York.” If that rings any bells, post a comment.  This was in some ways my favorite of the three (the playful soundtrack didn’t hurt).


2 Merde directed by Leos Carax (another French director, but one who’s other work I’m entirely unfamiliar with)

Oh, merde

Oh, merde

Merde was the most puzzling and unsettling. Consequently it is the one I’ve thought about the most. The concept of a creature from the sewers (Man? Beast? Something in-between?) coming to the surface to disrupt the everyday operations initially made me think of Jackass hijinks, partly because of the first scene’s being shot in a way that looks like it could either be planned or improvised with unsuspecting citizens. The absurdity of the dominant character is consistent, even as the film dips in and out of  issues including racism, celebrity, and repressed(or suppressed) history.  I find the last issue the most heavily weighted, and the signs are legible and evident, but unspoken.  This perspective may be skewed, however, because I was preoccupied by the distinct use of music from a film I am studying for my comps, Army of Shadows, which discusses the existential  rolls of those resisting and supporting the social fabric of Vichy France.  There are a few scenes that share the 1968 film’s stark grey–blue color palate, but aside from the recurring use of the colors and the  dark and dramatic musical theme (to open a Japanese news program, oddly enough [how appropriately kinky]), there were plenty of other familiar audio cues that I was unable to pinpoint, so the importance of Army of Shadows may be entirely aesthetic rather than thematic. More than the other two films, there were scenes that felt obnoxious and longer than required for the film to be conventionally effective, which I am certain is not an objective of this film. Even if it were, the film is unpredictable and weird enough that the (anti)hero is worth continued observation, even when destructive or annoying.

3 Shaking Tokyo directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Korean director of The Host)

Recluse protagonist

Recluse pro

The plot centers around a recluse, or hikikomori,  that hasn’t left his home in 10 years. This felt like the most tightly controlled and meticulous of the three films. The camera movement is steady and measured, without the unpredictable free wheeling Gondry or Carax’s films, and the cinematography looks unnaturally beautiful, reminding me of Chan-wook Park films (most famous in the US for Oldboy, though there seems to be a possible reference to Park’s I’m a Cyborg, but it’s OK), even though they have different cinematographers and production designers.  A some sequences of the protagonist by his front door (receiving pizza orders, debating whether to step outside) are edited witha warmth reminiscent of Amelie, aside from the lighting, that same warmth is otherwise often missing it in addressing isolation and escaping it.


1 Comment so far
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That dude coming out of the manhole looks crazy!

Comment by sciutoalex

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