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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

It's so cool to play an oily toad(GAMA-NO-ABURA) -2

9/10
Author: tiyotiyo84 from Japan
20 June 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009(2)

It's so cool to play an oily toad Actor Koji Yakusho rummages through old memories in directorial debut 'TOAD'S OIL'

By MARK SCHILLING Special to The Japan Times

Though Yakusho did not write the script, he contributed ideas and even incidents from his own boyhood, including one in which the young Takuro cleans his family's Butsu-Dan (Buddhist altar) after the TOAD'S OIL seller tells him it will comfort the spirits dwelling there. "When I think of death, I can't help thinking of Butsu-Dan," Yakusho commented. "From the time I was a kid I've had an image of it being the gateway to another world, with the I-HI (Buddhist memorial tablets) being dead people. When I was little and realized that there was an end to human life — that I would some day die — I would get scared and crawl inside my futon. (laughs) I would sleep near the Butsu-Dan." But as personal as the film is for Yakusho, it also, he feels, "has a theme — death — that is universal." "The film has nothing to do with a particular religion," he adds. "I'm pretty sure Japanese will feel something in common (with the hero's story). I don't know how foreign audiences will react to it, but if they can relate it to their own lives, I think they will understand it as well." The film's cast ranges from Toru Masuoka, a veteran character actor Yakusho has known for decades, to Fumi Nikaido, a 14-year-old model making her screen debut, and Junichi Sawayashiki, a champion K-1 fighter who had never acted before. "The (two) newcomers were a real plus for the film," Yakusho explains. "Actors are really afraid to work with children and animals. (laughs) They bring a sort of tension to the set. But the two newcomers in this film had something natural in their personalities that was just right for their roles. They have a freshness in their performances that veterans don't. They have something that veterans have lost." Yakusho's own character — the day trader Takuro — has complexities that aren't immediately apparent, including his conflicted feelings about his family, whom he both neglects and deeply needs. He is also isolated in a bubble of wealth and ego, but has enough sense — or rather baseline humanity, to break out of it. "The hero is a man who thinks that money can solve everything, but he finally encounters problems that money can't solve, such as the dissolution of his family and the death of his son," Yakusho comments. "The women, on the other hand, have big hearts — they support the men. The "TOAD'S OIL" couple is an example. The guy is still not that good at his act, even though he's had hundreds of years to perfect it (laughs). His wife, though, is still cheering him on (laughs). She gives him the courage to go on. That is also true of the modern-day couple — the day trader and his wife." Yakusho has already lined up his next film — a period drama. ("I can't announce the details yet," he says, apologetically.) "TOAD'S OIL," though, has a special meaning for him, as well as offering a quirky, free form platform for the full display of his talents. "I want it to be a movie that gives people energy," he says. Given all the energy on the screen, mostly supplied by the ever-animated Yakusho, he needn't worry.

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