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This movie was one of the Gala screenings at the 2012 Toronto Intl Film Festival. Unfortunately I did not manage to secure a ticket and also did not get to meet Abe-san who was there to greet fans before the show. Luckily it was one of the inflight movies on Air Canada on my way to HK, and I got to see it then. Normally on such a small screen, it would affect my enjoyment however for this particular movie, I was laughing a lot and must say one of the best comedies (with a bit of romance) I have ever seen!The music (opera) was perfect for the film, the cast especially Abe was excellent, as well as the entire production (the Rome set was impressive). If you want to have two hours of fun, this is THE movie to go to. You won't regret it :) ENJOY! I look forward to October 4 for its release in Hong Kong. You bet I want to see it again, this time on a big screen with big sound!
Lucius Modestus (Hiroshi Abe) is a hardworking bath builder in ancient Rome, but he's behind the times and no longer getting work. He can only think when under water and one day at the baths, under water, he sees something bubbling; when he investigates, he is sucked into a vortex that suddenly thrusts him out of the water.... and into a bath-house in modern-day Japan! Assuming that all the "Flat-Faced Clan" are slaves, he marvels at the bath and water-related technology available to them; he becomes emotional at the taste of a "milk-fruit" drink and soon finds himself back in Rome. But now he's back in Rome with new ideas for baths, and it isn't long before his fame bring him to the attention of Emperor Hadrianus (Masachika Ichimura). Meanwhile, young Mami (Aya Ueto) has failed in her quest to become a published manga star, and she's fired when she lets Lucius escape from his first modern-day adventure. Seeing him, she has found her new hero to draw, that is and she can only hope that he will appear again. As, of course, he does, several times.... When I read the description of this film, I knew it was going to be top of my list for 2013 FantAsia films to see, and I was very much not disappointed in it; the very premise is hilarious (did you know, for example, that ancient Romans all spoke Japanese and, well, most of them were Japanese? Or that an ancient Roman would, when asked the year, casually reply, "it's 135 AD"? Totally goofy, with a touch of romance besides, by the end even dour Lucius has a smile on his face. I hope I can find this on DVD, is all I can say!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roman architect Lucius discovers a mysterious tunnel in the bathhouse
which transports him to a modern day Japanese onsen. Amazed at the
technological achievements of this new world he decides to incorporate
them into his designs when he returns home. When he is commissioned by
the emperor Hadrian to build imperial bathhouses he becomes caught up
in Rome's political intrigue. Meanwhile, struggling manga artist Mami
attempts to make sense of the unexpected appearances of this unusual
With it's bizarre fish-out-of-water plot and plenty of jokes on this theme the film is both fresh and familiar. The first act, with Lucius discovering some of modern Japan's innovations in bathing is particularly amusing. The two leads are strong and have good comic chemistry together. The story becomes a little exposition heavy at times, but doesn't feel over long. The sets of Rome are commendable, however certain scenes, the battle scenes especially, lack the sufficient budget to make them believable. The film is knowingly absurd, and this could have been played up more, but the Roman scenes are often played jarringly straight.
The film is funny and charming The romance between the leads is not allowed to compromise the humour, as the jokes stay strong throughout, yet at the same time it is touching to see their relationship develop. Recommended viewing, if only for the scenes between Lucius and the old Japanese men in the onsen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is probably the best movie of Hiroshi Abe I have seen a great
opportunity for him to explore different expressions a public bath
designer Lucius in ancient Rome who accidentally travels back and forth
to modern day Japan. Consider the vast range of expressions he could
explore and he did very well. And he has such a beautiful body! I felt
such a privilege to witness it in the Summer International Film
It is quite a rare comedy for the generally serious Japanese to praise a cultural aspect they feel so proud of in a comical way. The plot initially appears to be a little silly but it works very well. Both the Japanese and ancient Romans live close to hot springs formed closed to volcanoes so it seems natural that both people have developed an intense interest in bathing. Hence it is also natural that there are points they can borrow from each other.
The plot has a very interesting concept. It is kind of like a live Flintstone cartoon. It also inspires you to look at your mundane daily life from a very different perspective. Do not take anything for granted!
The music is also great as familiar Italian operas appeared from time to time to match the scenes. The tenor is excellent and it matches the mood of the movie very well.
I wish the story would spend a little more on the relationship between the ancient Roman and the modern Japanese woman, aspiring manga (comics) artist Mami (Aya Ueto). But it seems it has been like this for centuries that men do not listen and women talk too much. This movie shows that men appear to be poor listeners but they actually hear you. They just do not respond right away so you do not know if they really get it. So ladies, just spell it out if you think it is important. They do hear it (maybe that's why women talks so much that it appears to be nagging;)). And man, please respond sooner. You have no idea how comforting your responses can be.
As for the shortcomings, I felt it a bit unnatural when it went a bit too far to value the Japanese team spirit. While it sort of reminded us of the rebuilding of Japan after the earthquake and this might serve as a boost of the national spirit, it sounded a bit forced and did not really go well with the development of the plot.
Another area that can be improved is the vulgar Chinese subtitles: not only was it in Cantonese which would make non-Cantonese Chinese hard to understand, but it is also very indecent which is totally unnecessary. The original Japanese does not sound so vulgar and indecent, nor does the English subtitles. This can be easily fixed before the film is publicly released. I do hope the public version will not be spoiled.
After watching this movie, you would be so drawn to soak in an onsen (hot spring) or a public bath, or at least a hot tub. I certainly did.
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