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Matsuyama Kenichi Stuns as Film's Vibrant Epicentre
Possibly passed off as unbelievably quirky and whacky, Matsuyama Kenichi's performance as a hay-wired 25-year-old oddball really spiced up the entire film to be the vibrant epicentre throughout Yokohama Satoko's second feature film.
Yojin (Matsuyama Kenichi) is a 25-year-old farmer grandson who stays with only his grandmother after the departure of his grandfather, who left him only an audio tape containing agriculture tips and instructions. Suffering from a deranged mental state that prompts him to sport sudden energy outbursts and impromptu disorientated behaviour, he finds failure and no meaning in tending his grandmother's farm and looks elsewhere. His attention shifted to a new kindergarden teacher from Tokyo, Machiko (Aso Kumiko), who came here to seek a spiritual medium's help in coping with her deceased husband. It was said that his head was knocked cleanly off in a car wreck...
Matsuyama Kenichi's display of his versatile acting has earned my respect in awe as he never ceased to amaze in Bare Essence of Life. With unpredictable demeanour that triggers mostly humour and simplistic joy, he is highly the bare essence of life in The Bare Essence of Life.
Yojin's random quirky behaviour is linked to the vibrancy in life as he is possibly portrayed as a life form that is liberally without fear or woes. Akin to what Machiko has mentioned to an under appreciating Yojin during a walk home one evening, human beings have possible ceased to evolve due to fear and their focus in destroying nature (urbanisation).
However, Yojin one day discovers that by dousing himself with agriculture pesticide, he is able to retain a calm mind and a reserved body language. In hope of allowing Machiko to like him, he performs this outrageously on a routine and unknowingly causes defects to his good health. Through the pesticide showers, Yojin "evolves" and finds himself less able to express himself physically (less vibrant) but attains adequate writing capabilities (more aloof).
He further evolves to a new kind when he is actually living with a stopped heart. Not just that, Yojin also has a shocking encounter with Machiko's headless husband who is supposedly already dead. This is possible seen as the negative effects of urbanisation and mankind's detachment from nature. The film shows a man living on without a heart (spiritualism) but just a polluted mind (technological advancement). This is subtly hinted when Yojin says that Machiko is the only resident there who thinks of such complex issues of life while the others only hold simple thoughts.
The ending image of the bear savouring Yojin's brains is a powerful explanation of how nature works. Cyclical.
Nevertheless, a directional loss in story is picked up amidst some life-reviewing themes brought up by young director Yokohama. It seems as if she has been caught up with these themes and neglected the story that will serve to be the vessel transporting the logs of themes down the mind flow of the audience.
Without a feasible story, these ideas will merely stay on screen and not connect with us. In short, it will be futile.
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