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"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.
Three 40 min shorts by three directors: Gondry, Carax and Bong Joon-Ho.
I went for the first and enjoyed all three very much.
Gondry's Interior Design is a slightly uneven but characteristically surprising, hilarious and deceptively light coming-of age yarn. Two naive Japanese artists find their relationship - and more besides - mutating under the pressure of moving to the city.
Leos Carax's Merde follows a possessed, green felt suit-clad Denis Lavant above and below ground. A surreal modern re-working of the Gojira (Godzilla) story, Lavant's 'Merde' terrorises the people of the city with his distracted, antisocial consumption of cash and flowers - and worse when he discovers a cache of pre-war explosives. With his slapstick language that only a preening French lawyer (Jean-Francois Balmer) can understand he cuts an equivocal figure in the film, at once entertaining and dangerously, opaquely misanthropic. It's the best performance of all three.
Finally, Shaking Tokyo sees Bong Joon-Ho create a Murakami-esqe lovestory. Teruyuki Kagawa is a recluse (or hikikomori) living in an OCD's paradise of take out food and literature. His regimen is terminally interrupted by the coincidence of a pretty delivery girl and an earthquake (yes, the latter may be said in magic realist terms to follow causally from the former, although I'm not sure this was intended). I was a little disappointed that this promising, ascetic but good-humoured film had such a facile ending but it's the most lovingly filmed of the three.
As a tribute, satire or simply guide to modern Tokyo, Tokyo! is very effective. I'm off to watch Lost In Translation again to really savour the aroma. 7.5/10
I can honestly say I've never seen a film quite like Tokyo!. It's extraordinary in its scope and themes of love, identity, and purpose. Three different filmmakers: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine...), Leos Carax, and Joon Ho Bong direct this triptych containing three different stories centered in the city of Tokyo!. All three stories do a great job conveying what it feels like to be a small fish in a big pond. The first film, Interior Design, is about a couple moving to Tokyo and trying to fit in. The second, and my favorite, is called Merde, and to explain it does not do it enough justice. You just have to watch it. The final story, Shaking Tokyo!, is a strange love story, but it works well with the city itself. The film is so unique, it must be viewed by everyone! Go see it!
I saw this at FantasticFest 2008. This collection of strange tales is
"Interior Design" I love Gondry's style, & his entry was enjoyable as expected - a girl feels she's lost her purpose in life, & changes accordingly. Great effect of her gradual transformation.
"Shaking Tokyo" Well done film - after 10 years indoors, a recluse man decides to go outside for the love of a recluse woman. Mostly narrated with thoughts of the man who has been cooped up too long. An interesting character piece, well acted and shot.
"Merde" This film starts off strong with an incredible opening sequence of continuous action for about 1/4 of a mile in the city, but when the character gets caught the story becomes a tiresome trial that no one understands, because there is lengthy "dialogue" in a fake language with no subtitles. could have benefited from being 10 minutes shorter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Full-length feature films that are really just compilations of shorter
movies - usually revolving around a single topic or theme - tend not to
work out all that well in the long one. Either the limited running time
afforded to each individual story results in characters and plot lines
that are too sketchy and underdeveloped to fully capture our interest,
or the quality of each individual part varies so wildly that the movie
as a whole fails to satisfy.
After "Paris je t'amie" a few years back and "Tokyo!" now, it would appear that, at some point, every "exotic" city will have a multi-part cinematic valentine to call its own. And whereas "Paris, je t'aime," not surprisingly, applied a romantic patina to its setting, "Tokyo!," also not surprisingly, has opted for a more sci-fi and metaphysical-oriented approach in exploring its locale.
In the first tale, "Interior Design," directed by Michel Gondy, Akira and Hiroki are a young couple who have come to the city to look for work and a place to live. He's an avant garde filmmaker, she his part time assistant and fulltime girlfriend. The movie deals with the tension that develops between not only Akira and Hiroki over finances and their future together but between the couple and the female friend whose cramped apartment they're all staying in at the moment. Then, just at the point where all is beginning to seem hopeless, Hiroki involuntarily turns into a chair. You were expecting something different, perhaps?
"Interior Design," is of interest primarily in the way that it goes from the prosaic to the surreal without the slightest transition or warning. It's amusing to watch as the characters' lives suddenly come to parallel the movies he makes and the imaginative scenarios they are constantly playing out in their relationship. That one of those scenarios suddenly turns out to be real - or is it? - is all just a part of the game.
The second episode, "Merde," directed by Leos Carax, is even more over-the-edge in its content than "Interior Design." Denis Lavant plays a grizzled sort of man/creature in a green suit who emerges periodically from his home in the sewers to terrorize the understandably distraught citizens who inhabit the world above. Unsure of how to cope with such a menace, the Japanese government calls in a French lawyer with a goatee that perfectly matches the creature's to help with the crisis. Unfortunately, this highly stylized segment becomes a grueling, heavy-handed polemic against racism, xenophobia and capital punishment, devoid of charm, grace or even a modicum of entertainment value.
Luckily, in terms of quality, things pick up considerably with "Shaking Tokyo," easily the best of the bunch in both consistency and style. Imaginatively directed by Bong Joon-ho, "Shaking Tokyo" is a lyrical and poetic tale of a "hikikomori" - a person with a pathological phobia of leaving the house - who has to figure out what to do when he falls in love with a woman who, after meeting him once, turns into a hikikomori herself.
Thus, as with many of these omnibus movie packages, "Tokyo!" becomes, ultimately, a thing of bits and pieces, of two episodes that work and one that doesn't (not a bad ratio as these things go, actually). My advice, therefore, would be to watch parts one and three and skip part two altogether.
Tokyo! Is comprised of 3 very purely and exaggeratedly visual surreal
tales about some sort of phenomenon in the titular city, each injected
with quirky, silly humor and uncompromising sadness. We never know
where any of them is going or when they will come to a close, and most
of the time, that's what makes them so good. Truth be told, when all is
said and done, these are three of the most inventively made and
engrossing short films I've seen in quite awhile. So why are they all
one movie? Why was Tokyo needed to tell these stories? Do these films
reflect actual aspects of modern Tokyo? What makes these 3 separate
films inextricably linked thus necessitating that they all be one?
Michel Gondry's Interior Design, a just barely more conventional tale,
features two young lovers new in Tokyo, who experience personal and
physical transformations during the despair of apartment-hunting. It
abounds with Gondry's usual trick photography and manipulation of set
design, though it finds a sympathetic and guileless note in its
attention to these two slackers, who are products of the new
generation, the spoiled, emotionally immature but liberal and
culturally cultivated bunch of bums we are.
The best of the three is Merde, the centerpiece by Leos Carax. If you have never before seen a Carax film, start with Tokyo! Because Merde is utterly the most bewilderingly odd, completely goofy little movies you will ever see. Might even take the cake. What makes it so incredibly good is how it isn't just a gag film, but actually subjects us to mood swings. We find the whole thing a riot, but we get seriously absorbed in its turns as eerie, suspenseful and adventurous. I can't talk about the plot, even though a simple logline wouldn't be much of a giveaway---the first shot is a long dolly track that pretty much sums up what I would say, which is a doozy---but just let the intrigue string you along and let Merde blindside you. But let me also say that Tokyo, though it is of course a part of the plot, is the least of our focus.
Shaking Tokyo, directed by Bong Joon-ho, who helmed the astounding Korean monster movie The Host, is about a hikikomori, a type so familiar the Japanese have a name for it. A hikikomori, usually male, decides to stay inside one day and essentially never leaves. Some have been reported as hermits for up to 10 years, living mostly on pizza deliveries. Joon-ho's closing segment is certainly the anthology's most heartfelt piece.
I suppose Tokyo! is guilty of nothing New York Stories or Paris Je T'aime aren't, but I guess New York Stories at least contained stories that could only work the way they did if they took place in NYC, and each of the three directors on that project were born and bred New Yorkers whose films are famous for living and breathing the city. My issue with anthology films in general, whether their content is good or not, is that they feel so jagged, incoherent, hit-or-miss, being the product of multiple directors with multiple visions and unrelated stories. Why can't Interior Design, Shaking Tokyo, and Merde especially, be celebrated as stand-alone works? I feel they more than deserve it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before I saw Tokyo! I had heard that the three short films that make it
up had nothing in common other than the common location of Tokyo but I
was pleasantly surprised to find that they complement each other quite
well. Each film is about a character who is unable to adapt to the
society of which he or she is a part and the alienation which results.
Each film also has elements that are surreal or at least unreal.
Further, each protagonist in the films uses a different coping
mechanism to deal with his/her surroundings; the film illustrates the
effects of these mechanisms.
Part 1: Interior Design (Michel Gondry) This film is about a young couple who moves to Tokyo so the man can pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker. At the beginning of the film Hiroko (the girl) is happy with her own abilities: she's somewhat artistically inclined but she has no desire to art a career. Her boyfriend criticizes her lack of ambition and she is shaken out of her complacency. To prove that she is of some use to him, Hiroko decides to apply for a retail job. Unfortunately, she goes too far in attempting to prove her worth and tries something she isn't capable of and her boyfriend ends up getting the job he didn't even really want or need. So Hiroko's in a new city with a boyfriend who is too busy working on his film and his retail job to spend any time with her and to make matters worst she is unable to find an apartment for them. As time goes on the friend she is staying with becomes impatient to be rid of them both, even explaining to another person that Hiroko (and not the boyfriend) is the problem. Gondry does an amazing job of conveying Hiroko's feelings of self doubt and worthlessness; he really builds a lot of sympathy for her in a short amount of time. Eventually, Hiroko's feelings are literalized in a surrealistic fashion as she is transformed into a piece of furniture. Her coping mechanism is becoming something less than she could be and it works to a certain extent but it also means giving up everything she ever cared about and a good part of her humanity.
Part 2: Merde (Leos Carax) This film opens with the deformed sewer dweller who comes to be called Merde crawling out of a manhole and terrorizing pedestrians on a busy Tokyo street. His hatred for mankind plays itself out humorously in this early scene: he steals things like cigarettes, crutches, and flowers from these people and introduces an element of chaos into their lives before disappearing in yet another manhole. Later on he finds some kind of abandoned subterranean military station and discovers that there is a box of live grenades there. When he next emerges it's night time and he isn't so funny anymore: he kills dozens of innocent people with these explosives. Eventually he is tried for this and he reveals his hatred for mankind in general and the Japanese specifically. He further explains that his god has ordered him to punish them for raping his mother. Merde's coping mechanism is hatred for the society he can't find a place in and his subsequent violence guarantees that he never will find a place there. This film is the least effective of the three because Merde comes across as too bizarre and unknowable to inspire sympathy and of course his actions are the most reprehensible.
Part 3: Shaking Tokyo (Joon-ho Bong) Joon-ho Bong's contribution to this cinematic triptych is the story of a hikikomori, a uniquely Japanese type of hermit. This particular man hasn't left his house in ten or eleven years. He seems perfectly content to make art of the paper products (books, pizza boxes, toilet paper rolls) he uses: he explains that he doesn't like interacting with other people or sunlight. The former is clearly exhibited by his practice of never looking at the faces of the countless delivery people who make his lifestyle possible and the latter is made clear through the dilapidated exterior which creates a sharp counterpoint to his home's fastidious interior. One day after ten years he looks into the eyes of the pizza girl and the ground literally begins to shake: this literalization of a saying is repeated several times in the film as he eventually finds the courage to leave his apartment to see the girl again. The Tokyo of this film is the most surreal of the three, the streets are completely deserted and it seems that most people are just as alienated as our protagonist, at least until another earthquake drives them out. Bong's direction is excellent in this one as there is some really great camera work and an outstanding use of visual repetition in the beginning as well as long takes and jumpcuts near the end. This protagonist's coping mechanism is shutting himself off from the world; apparently it's the most effective of the three as his decade of hibernation ends with him emerging from his cocoon and seeking out a new relationship.
The film as a whole is stronger than the sum of its parts and the theme of alienation is made all the stronger by the fact that each of these filmmakers approaches Tokyo with the outsider perspective of a foreigner.
Greetings again from the darkness. Three odd shorts merged together
because of their Tokyo locations. Normally I am not a fan of the
segmented, multi-director approach. The best that come to mind are
Paris je'Taime and New York Stories. Tokyo is not at that level.
The always interesting Michel Gondry (yes, he's French) has the best segment. Interior Design provides two story lines ... the fine line between generosity (helping a friend) and taking advantage of that friend; and the loneliness of losing one's self in a relationship. Gondry works wonders in a short time and I absolutely loved the chair as a metaphor.
The second segment comes from another Frenchman, Leos Carax. By far the weakest and least accessible, Merde is about our facing the fear of an unknown terror. We are startled in the beginning as we are introduced to Merde, but the story falls apart after he is incarcerated.
Korean Joon-ho Bong (The Host) presents Shaking Tokyo in the third segment. Dealing with a totally reclusive and obsessive character who, after 10 years, makes his first contact with another person and is captivated. There is some comedy here but also commentary on the need to connect.
Overall, some interesting shorts, but don't expect any tie to the three stories ... other than the fascinating title city.
"Tokyo!" is a collection of 3 short films each set in Tokyo, each made
by a respected director who is not Japanese.
"Interior Design" is the first entry by French director Michel Gondry (known for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" as well as all the cool Bjork videos from the 90s). This is actually an adaptation of a 4-page comic strip called "Cecil and Jordan in New York" by Gabrielle Bell. It begins with a somewhat mundane story of a young, penniless couple trying to scrape by in Tokyo, but it soon progresses into surreal, dreamlike, Michel Gondry territory. Spots of cute, satirical humor (poking fun at the pretentious artsy director boyfriend) as well as the under-appreciated girlfriend--an always welcome appearance of one of my favorite Japanese actresses, Ayako Fujitani (Steven Seagal's daughter, loved her in "Ritual")--make this a deliciously charming, mindbending treat to watch.
"Merde" (French for "sh!t") is a deeply satirical story of a repulsive criminal who lives in the Tokyo sewers, his violent activities, and society's bizarre reactions to him. Since the only real characters are the sewer monster and his kindred lawyer, there's not really anyone to get attached to. For that reason, this segment may seem unfulfilling to a lot of viewers (after all, who wants to watch a movie about a bunch of people you don't really like). But, more than any sort of human character study, this segment is rooted in deep social satire. That's where it gets its power. Directed by another French director, Leos Carax ("The Lovers on the Bridge"), this is an acidic film from start to finish. Sort of like a "Hunchback of Notre Dame" story but without any sympathy for the hunchback, this is a good film to watch when you're particularly disgusted with humankind.
"Shaking Tokyo" by Korean director Joon-ho Bong ("The Host") is a masterpiece of social disconnection. Set almost entirely in the meticulously tidy apartment of a "hikikomori"--a man with extreme agoraphobia who hasn't left his apartment in 10 years, it's surprisingly engaging despite its deliberately slow-moving presentation. The man is very likable in a nerdy way, and we instantly connect with him as someone who realizes that there's something wrong with the urban rat race, and so he withdraws into the most minimal sort of existence. But then by chance he encounters a strange visitor whose brief appearance causes him to, once again, question his chosen existence. A spectacular, mind-boggling finale rounds out this great piece leaving you with much to ponder. I also found the camera work to be the most pleasing here... You may notice cool tricks like the opening scene being shot entirely in 1 take, even though it guides us through several rooms and conveys the passing of time as if days are going by. Very nifty stuff here.
To me, "Shaking Tokyo" alone is worth the price of admission. But each of the 3 has its charm. If you're a fan of offbeat, surrealistic, artsy-but-not-annoying cinema, check these out for sure.
When I was a kid, I really liked puzzles. As an adult, TOKYO! gave me a
chance to try and piece this cinematic enigma together for 110 minutes.
TOKYO! is a collection of 3 different short films, each one
approximately 35 minutes long. Each segment has its own director, cast,
storyline and is quirkily unique. The only obvious similarity: All
three take place in the Japanese capital.
Starkly original, the film has an oddly voyeuristic undertow throughout. Perhaps this is attributable to each of the three vignettes being directed by a non-Japanese! Let's take a brief look at each short film:
INTERIOR DESIGN- As a rudderless young couple go apartment hunting, One can't help but feel claustrophobic upon being shown an array of 100 to 300 sq. ft. apartments! As the mounting stress and tensions seem to push them in opposite directions, one of them experiences a most unusual way to cope! Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine) French, directs -8*.
MERDE is next, directed by Leos Carax, also French. Careful you don't step in this one! About a repulsive little s**t whose sole purpose in life is to occasionally slither out of the sewer, where he lives, and terrify as many of Tokyo's citizens as possible...until he goes too far! -10*.
SHAKING TOKYO is directed by Korean Bong Joon, where agoraphobia has forced a man to convert his tiny apartment into his obsessively tidy decade long self-imposed prison, until a convergence of Murphy's Law and Cupid rocks his world! -9*
The thread of commonality that ties all 3 pieces together? How each person has encountered a signature formula to counteract the stifling oppressiveness and the pervasive isolation of life in the megalopolis. Here, the impact of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts: 10 Huge Stars! If you've ever felt overwhelmed by living in a huge city, TOKYO! is "Brain Candy"!... OVERALL: 9*STARS*....ENJOY/DISFRUTELA!
Any comments, questions or observations, in English or Español, are most welcome!
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