I've just seen this film in a rare cinema screening. It's difficult to comment on this film. There are so many disparate elements and themes. Perhaps what the director was trying to do was create a portrait of a society in a time and a place that was antithetical to love. How can the young love of our two heroes (Shun and Nanami) be succoured by a society that has embraced the commodification of sexuality (including the sexual commodification of children), and rigid glacial patriarchalism. The ending of the movie underlines this (but I won't give it away).
Some of the absurd constipated behaviour of the Japanese is on full display here, Shun is so up-tight that he has to go to classes and be taught to laugh. Daisuke a high-school friend of Nanami shows a film in his university film club about his love for another girl at his high school, how he never managed to express it or have it recognised. It seems he barely even spoke to the object of his affection. He says that if she had just been beautiful that he would have been able to find another love. But by all accounts he was much more deeply attracted to her. They say that one's first love is always the strongest. For Daisuke it was so strong that it becomes hollow and obsessional, he will never love again.
Of course the beauty of this movie and its inventiveness marks it out as a very interesting film. Some of the shots are amazingly beautiful, their composition not entirely relevant to proceedings, almost cinematic asides (urban vistas, and graveyard scenes). It has a sense of atmosphere on a par with Rivette and Godard, and the film is much more dense and complex than films made by those two directors, or to be more accurate presents a portrait of a Japanese society profoundly more multi-textured than the France of the New Wave. A Japan at the crossroads between tradition and modernity both spiritually, intellectually, and socially.
At least in parts this movie is ambivalent, it portrays first love as foolish, obsessional and shallow and it also is sympathetic to the sadoerotic subculture (at least in places). But that's why it's so good, nothing is fed to you on a plate.
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