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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
"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.
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.
Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA and ORLANDO, FL
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, story-line 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!
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.
I just saw Toyko! this week and loved it. The three film a very different yet weave together well with themes on communication, or lack there of. It is astounding how in one of the most populated cities in the world people can be so alone. Michel Gondry's "Interior Design" is both tragically realistic and sweetly surreal. The tale of the two young lovers who find their relationship unraveling after their move to Tokyo! is very touching. Ayako Fujitani's portrayal of a young woman struggle to find her purpose in the world is genuine and relatable. Not to mention is has some great visual effects in the ending. Leos Carax's "Merde" is entertaining and at times funny and sometimes tragic and disgusting. Bong Joon-Ho's "Shaking Tokyo," the story of a recluse who finally comes out of his home in search of a girl with buttons, is creative and funny and endearing. Basically, you should watch it because it's great.
Tokyo!: Looking for a unique and memorable cinematic experience? Look no further. This triptych of 1h50 goes by so fast! The final scene comes somewhat too quick but leaves you with a lot talk about. Here's my ratings for the three shorts: Michel Gondry's Interior Design: charming interesting simple story with a punch line that will make you fall off your chair! 7/10 Leo Carax's Merde: Leo brought back his craziest character from the movie Holy Motors and this short had some dragging parts but was still better than the whole movie HM. 6/10 Finally, Bong Joon Ho's Shaking Tokyo is the best of the three. A peculiar but very captivating story about isolation and agoraphobia. 8/10
*** 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.
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