Isabel Coixet claims that she came up with the idea of Rinko Kikuchi's character while promoting The Secret Life of Words (2005) in Tokyo. Coixet was taking pictures during a walk through the city. She arrived at a fish market and tried to take one of a girl who was cleaning fish. The girl refused to get photographed, so Coixet started imagining possible reasons for that refusal. See more »
After David joins Ryu at the Love Hotel after cutting his hand, Rinko Kikuchi (Ryu) is laying on a couch. Her shoulder is covered in the two close ups but largely uncovered after the cut where the camera is further from her. See more »
After the final credits there's a short scene with the mysterious plant person in the subway tunnel. See more »
This had all the credentials to be a memorable film experience.
It's by a Spanish woman who films in Tokyo attempting to have something revealed about women and the erotic mystery, and she is from the most architecturally musical city of Spain, Barcelona. So you'd expect her to have sensitive insights, to be sensitive to place, and for these to be somehow amalgamated into visual music about the yearnings.
Our entry is an inscrutability about women. Why did the ex-girlfriend commit suicide? What lurks behind the silent exterior of the girl who works nights at the fishmarket? A Spanish man has touched both.
So she (the filmmaker) puts inscrutable women at the center, one of them dead, the other an idealized cipher, the dark-haired sullen girl from manga who quietly yearns and destroys herself. She creates an affair that amounts to merely sex, fantasy and waiting for a truth that never comes, the man is just not worth her love, and yet ends it with sacrifice. So poetry about falling for a man who has nothing to give back and being cut deeply when he leaves, a complete tragedy of misspent emotion.
It has some evocative images, it seems you can point a camera anywhere in Tokyo and capture a mood, but it's all stickied to the film like polaroids on a photoalbum, a superficial loneliness to carry back home from the visit; the noodle bar with steam rising from pots, the empty karaoke bar, neon streets and fissures. So much opportunity missed to mingle with things.
So the film here in the same swoop fails to intimately know Japan, fails to know more than heartbreak, and fails to capture a fundamental mystery about touch. It may be that this woman has just not known love or was deeply hurt when she tried and still thinks it was her fault.
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