The Musical May Not Be Back, But Japan Is

Is it just me, or are there a lot of movies coming out about Japan lately? Not since Lost in Translation have I heard so much about that Asian country that's not China, in the film world. In only the last two weeks, 3 films with Tokyo or Japan in the title have caught my eye, and now I'm finding out that the films might even be worth seeing. So Japan is back people! Or at least, back as the new trendy thing to make a movie about.

Beyond his recent news headlines as the new director slated to take over The Green Hornet, Michel Gondry is also one of the three directors to contribute to Tokyo!, a triptych of stories set in the overwhelming megalopolis that is Tokyo. I think a quote from the Tokyo! website says it best. "Tokyo! addresses the timeless question of whether we shape cities, or if cities shape us - in the process revealing the rich humanity at the heart of modern 
life." If you watch the trailer below, you'll see how imaginative, drastically far apart, and yet surprisingly similar these three stories are. Directors Leos Carax, Joon-ho Bong and Michel Gondry each look like they spent some serious think-tank time before ultimately deciding on what short story they would like to tell, and after all of that it is in no way surprising that Gondry would choose to portray a lazy woman turning into a chair. From what I gather Carax's piece will follow a sewer monster man making his way through the city, and Bong's piece will express a man's humble life within the confines of his apartment. I'm very excited to see what TOKYO! can do.  

Tokyo Sonata is set to follow a contemporary Japanese family of four. From the outset the family appears to be normal with a husband, wife and two sons, but then the slow unraveling begins when the father unexpectedly loses his job. Unwilling to bring this burden onto his family, he becomes part of the secretly unemployed workforce. While his family thinks he's trotting off to work, in fact he is spending his days sitting in libraries and walking through parks. Parallel to the father, The younger son, Kenji is forbidden by his mother to take piano lessons, but manages to take them anyway using his lunch money to pay. Like father, like son. Coming from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a Japanese director
 known for his thriller and suspense films, is said to bring his sense of tension and fear into this quietly paced suburban Japan nightmare. But what do I know, I haven't seen it yet. Mike Harvey from Nylon magazine called it, "Odd, austere, wry, subtle, explosive, poignant, and gorgeous." It sounds to me like we have a beautifully composed, subtly acted, work of art that no one will see on our hands. I'm actually dying to see it, on a hunch that it will be wonderful, and I only hope I get the chance before it hits DVD status. It will start running a limited release in the U.S. on March 13th, so this may be one of those "pay $12 to see a movie in NYC" films. 

If you watch the trailer, then you'll understand why I don't know yet what to make of Big Man Japan.
 The plot is said to follow an approx. 40 year old man who lives in a run down house in Tokyo, alone. Sounds normal so far. He periodically transforms into a giant as tall as skyscrapers, and defends Japan from similarly giant monsters. I'm sorry what??? I mean I'm intrigued, but what? From reviews already in, it's said to be pretty funny with an obvious absurdity that just makes you love it. It's unlikely to ever come to a theater near you, but just in case it's said to start running a limited release in the U.S. in mid May. The giants, monsters, and baby (?) are all done in CG, but in such a way that you understand the creator wants you to know it's digital. I can't even begin to imagine what was running through creator Hitoshi Matsumoto's mind while creating Big Man Japan. Probably something along the lines of, "this is going to rock everyone's socks, Japan style." Even just from the trailer, I'm inclined to agree.  

Flashback to 3-Iron

3-Iron (Bin-iip), a South Korean film, came out back in 2004, but I'm not sure how many people know of it or have watched. It's absolutley phenomenal in all arenas. The cinematography is outstanding, the story is original, and the acting is perfect. It follows a young drifter or squatter, who makes himself at home in people's houses while they are away on vacation. He accidentally runs into a beautiful woman unhappy in her marriage, and I'm sure you can guess what happens next... sort of. See it. It's just so damn good.


blake said...

Japan IS back! A month or so ago, I saw a brilliant Japanese film at Sundance that blew me away. I could go for some more influence from that Asian country that isn't China...

do you have a flag? said...

ooh what was the film from sundance?

blake said...

It's called The Clone Returns Home. Really good stuff.