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Tran Anh Hung
Tran Nu Yên-Khê,
Nhu Quynh Nguyen,
In Korea Town Los Angeles, a young man, Kengo, believes he's the son of God - that's what his mother told him since he was a young boy. He spends his days working his dead-end job and figuring out his complex feelings for his girlfriend until, one day, he sees a one-eared man who could be his father and decides to follow him around Los Angeles. Written by
In 2004, veteran Japanese director Jun Ichikawa took one of the best short stories in Murakami's collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, and crafted a masterpiece of a film, perfectly capturing the themes of loneliness and isolation, with a great score, acting and cinematography. I strongly recommend it to everyone.
How woeful it is then that newbie American director Robert Logevall, has taken, in my opinion, the worst story in Murakami's collection, after the quake, and turned it into a dull, aimless film that manages to be both vacuous and pretentious. We follow Kengo (Jason Lew), a mixed race man, who has been told all his life that he is the Son of God by his vaguely disturbed mother (Joan Chen), as he negotiates his relationship with his girlfriend (Sonja Kinski) and boss (Tzi Ma). Kengo has lost his faith in God and his belief in his implied divinity. One day he sees a man he believes is his father. He follows him.
It's Jason Lew's first role, so his falterings as a lead are understandable, but I found him irritating and smug as his character, and uncomfortable to watch. Sonja Kinski is decent in her first role, but really it's Chen and Ma that give the only good performances in this film. The former with wonderful emotion, and the latter with remarkable subtlety and understatement. Both keep afloat a film that fails to explore any interesting themes it brings up (Oedipal complexes, religion), nor manages to deliver any interesting scenes whatsoever. The narration that aims high for philosophy but spews out drivel doesn't help, neither does the over ambiguous ending that fails to capture the existentialism of the story and just seems stupid.
It's not all bad. There's some nice cinematography, Chen and Ma's performances are genuinely wonderful, and the soundtrack by STS9, is lovely. But this is an unremarkable film, with little to recommend, even to Murakami fans. Watch Tony Takitani instead, and hold your breath for the eventual Norwegian Wood adaptation.
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