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1 item from 2005

Who's Camus Anyway?

18 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Energy and comedy are in large supply in writer-director Mitsuo Yanagimachi's "Who's Camus Anyway?," yet another riff on the levels of reality that occur when a cast and crew make a movie. The twist here is that the filmmakers are a group of university students, who must juggle classes and complicated love lives while under the pressure of making their first movie.

After establishing a light-hearted mood, Yanagimachi tries a subtle tone change that edges the movie into serious matters, creating a kind of movie within a movie that is only partially successful. But by focusing on amateur filmmakers who clearly love movies, Yanagimachi conveys the passion that motivates nearly everyone who gets into such a crazy business.

A bright, young cast of actors and models well known in Japan and other Asian markets assures the film successful theatrical run there. And the universal situations of a college campus and film set make exposure elsewhere a strong possibility. Another big plus is that Yanagimachi, who has taught film production at a university, was given access to a Tokyo campus for his main location.

"Camus" is actually a film more about pre-production. Five days before shooting is to begin on "The Bored Murderer", things are in turmoil. The lead actor has dropped out, forcing director Matsukawa (Shuji Kashiwabara) to go with his "second choice," the strange and strangely effeminate Ikeda (Hideo Nakaizumi).

Meanwhile, Matsukawa is being stalked by his passive/aggressive girlfriend Yukari (Hinano Yoshikawa). So persistent is her shadowing of him that the crew refers to her as Adele, after "The Story of Adele H.", Truffaut's masterpiece about Victor Hugo's daughter's increasingly psychotic obsession with a British army officer.

Similarly, the campus' resident film director, Professor Nakajo (Hirotaro Honda), carries the nickname of Aschenbech, after the Dirk Bogarde character in Visconte's "Death in Venice". Sure enough, he does have a romantic obsession with a young person, a willowy and exotic coed named Rei (Meisa Kuroki).

The students' movie, "The Bored Murderer", based loosely on Albert Camus' novel "The Stranger", concerns a student who as an "experiment" kills an old woman. As Ikeda struggles with such a motive, others in the crew debate the mindset of such a character when he commits his crime. The filmmaker then contrives to have "real life" bring about a near tragedy that better acquaints them with such a mindset.

This means that the subplots involving the two "stalkers" must take serious turns. The tonal shift here is not completely smooth. The bright naivety of the student filmmakers and their subsequent encounter with sobering events both feel a bit forced.

Junichi Fujisawa's hand-held camera follows characters around the campus and surrounding area with frantic nervousness. This includes an opening tracking shot lasting many minutes, in which characters discuss the upcoming film and filmmaking in general including long tracking shots lasting many minutes. (This is acknowledged as a repeat of the joke that opened Robert Altman's "The Player".)

The cast is a sheer delight. The actors clearly enjoy the chance to play characters who, unlike many people in Japan, cannot hide feelings by withdrawing into a socially correct shell.


Production Gunro

Credits: Writer/director: Mitsuo Yanagimachi; Producer: Kazuo Shimizu; Director of photography: Junichi Fujisawa; Production designer: Iwao Saito; Music: Yasuaki Shimizu; Costumes: Takako Hamai; Editor: Hiroshi Yoshida.

Cast: Matsukawa: Shuji Kashiwabara; Yukari: Hinano Yoshikawa; Hisada: Ai Maeda; Ikeda: Hideo Nakaizumi; Rei: Meisa Kuroki; Oyama: Tomorowo Taguchi; Prof. Nakajo: Hirotaro Honda.

No MPAA rating, running time 115 minutes


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1 item from 2005

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