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Tokyo is a city of transitions in three short films. A young woman who finds her life useless experiences a metamorphosis. A disheveled Caucasian emerges from a manhole to face arrest, trial, and execution; he calls himself "Merde" and speaks a language only his look-alike attorney understands. Is he human? A recluse experiences human contact when a pizza-delivery girl faints at his door during an earthquake. He conquers fear to seek her out. A chair, a corpse, a hermit: sources of urban connection? Written by
A Comfortable Chair, A Monster, A World Without Contact...
"Tokyo!" is a three-way with Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Joon-ho Bong, re-inventing Japans great city as modern fairy tales. Three fantasies of alienation, form into the most unique, original, and entertaining film of the year so far.
Gondry is up first with an adaption from a comic book by Gabrielle Bell "Cecil & Jordan in NewYork"(surprised was I, cus its one of my favorite stories by her, I did a presentation on it and everything) here retitled as "Interior Design". The two collaborated on the screen play, and it shows in a return to form, from his last good natured but slightly flat, "Be Kind Rewind". The story is of a couple who move to Tokyo, to screen an experimental film. The director is the boyfriend, and his girlfriend is his editor, transport, and support, though he claims she lacks ambition. They are looking for an apartment, and staying with a friend in a one room apartment. The boyfriend finds a job, the girlfriend looks for an apartment, job, and place to fit in becoming more marginalized all the time, until she begins to transform into...someone useful. Shades of "The Bedsitting Room" can be found here, but Gondry's trademark visual style is in full effect, featuring some amazing special effects, and fun set designs. It asks, Is it more important to be defined by what one loves, or what one does?
Caravax's segment, called "Merde" is about a creature, like an overgrown Leprechaun, who crawls up from the sewer and begins accosting random people on the streets, eating flowers and money, licking and shoving anything and anyone who crosses his path, all to the theme of the original Godzilla. Needless to say he becomes an overnight celebrity(in Japan Sada Abe became a celebrity after murdering and removing the genitals of her lover, she played herself in plays about her life after she got out of prison, and this was before WW1. Nowadays the people photograph their monsters with camera phones). The creatures rampages turn violent, in one thrilling and especially horrific scene, and he is arrested and put on trial. The reason this is the weakest of the three, is because the creature speaks a gibberish language, and during an interrogation scene, we have about five minutes of gibberish talk, not translated til the following scene, its not really funny or dramatic, just kinda tiresome and awkward like a Monty Python skit dragged out too long. Its easy to point to terrorism and racism as the grand theme here, "he's linked to Al Queda and the Aum Cult", etc, but misanthropy in general works just as well, and is in keeping with the alienation that courses through all of the stories. Denis Lavent's performance is the best in the film, he manages to make the most inhuman character real, somewhere between Gollum and a homeless paranoid schizophrenic.
It's similar to an early Gondry short film actually, where Michel takes a s*%t in a public restroom and David Cross in a turd suit follows him around claiming to be his son and shouting racial slurs at passerby's, til he eventually outgrows his s%&t cocoon and emerges from it in full Nazi uniform to Gondry's dismay.
On the note of rampaging monsters, the final film is from Joon-ho bong, director of "The Host", called "Shaking Tokyo" about a hermit or hikikomori as they are a called in the land of the rising sun. A man has not left his house in ten years, having only human contact in weekly visits from a pizza man, whom he never looks in the face, has his delicate life jostled when an earthquake renders an attractive pizza-girl unconscious, and he is forced into direct contact. Eventually he resolves to leave his house to find her again, only to discover, or for us to discover the world is not as we remember it. Its an painfully funny but true idea (like Mike Judge's Idiocracy), that in the future, the final frontier of a technological society will become actual face to face interactions between human beings. Any of these stories would feel at home in an issue of Mome or a Haruki Marukami book of short stories, they are vibrant, whimsical, modern fantasy, that are almost so universal in their simplicity they could be told anywhere. The movie could take place in any city really, with some tweaking, but the stories do resonate specially with Tokyo. Its the best thing I've seen in a theater this year, I was smiling continuously throughout. Its 2 hours, but it goes by like lightning. Some of the stories may seem slight at first, so entertaining, it cant but be meaningless. But this ain't the case, each director brings something unique to the table, like another under-seen triptych of recent, the Atlanta made horror film "The Signal", "Tokyo!'s" directors feel like a band, jamming together more than separate artists trying to upstage each other, like in something like "Paris Je'Taime". Funny, charming, dynamic, strange, sincere, absurd, movie making. A place of robots, amphibious mutants, monstrous trolls, magical transformations, and to quote Merde "eyes which look like a woman's sex". Two Frenchmen and a Korean, re-invent Japan the city which upgrades itself more than any other, and we are all the better for it. What a strange bright future we live in.
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