Here's a review.  Not very cranky.


“Tokyo!” aka “Look What’s Inside the Japanese! Craziness!” is a three-man directing job which tells separate, sci-fi-tinged stories set in…GOJIRA!...I mean, Tokyo! Two Frenchies (Leos Carax of “Pola X” fame, and Michel “Spotless Mind” Goudry) along with a Korean (Joon-ho “The Host” Bong) split the duties of paring the Japanese mindset down to its terrifyingly weird and fragile bare-bones.

The first vignette (Gondry’s “Interior Design") involves a couple in love invading the privacy of an overly gracious (and too hot for comfort) host. The boyfriend is a funny, childish artist; he’s showing his film about smoking and death and…whatever… in Tokyo! in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the helpful, doubtful girlfriend is dealing with his precision obtuseness relative to her and her wants, as well as her own feelings of worthlessness in the face of hot friend (played with great subtlety by a very hot Japanese girl), the boyfriend’s burgeoning movie career, and... I dunno. Being Japanese? Seems to be the theme here. In any case, the hot friend lives in something about the size of a Geo Metro and is, like most of what happens as the couple searches with a miniscule budget for an apartment, jobs, and a parking space, a peripheral force which works to coax the good girlfriend into morphing, literally and initially against her will, into something useful, if only in a utilitarian sense. Thoughtful, subtle and well-written, “Interior Design” taken alone might pass for a direct but quirky study of purpose lost and then found. Swallowed with a handful of the following vignettes, however, it may keep you out of Japan forever.

With “Merde”, Leos Carax hits Japanese self-loathing and fear of the uncouth broadside… with a ’72 Cadillac Deville. The main character, Merde, as in scheisse (no “accident” that this was “Number 2” in the series, eh? EH?), is some kind of sewer-leprechaun with a crazy beard and a severe case of cataracts who speaks an amalgam of Klingon and Three Stooge (he hits himself quite a bit). Merde becomes a terrifying news sensation by slinking from under manhole covers and strutting through Tokyo! via longish tracking shots and acting exceptionally, randomly rude to Tokyo!’s easily offended citizenry. Things become violent after Merde stumbles across artifacts of an Imperial past which somehow made their way into the sewers. I guess the rumors of Japanese super-toilets are true. After a spree of sorts, Merde is caught and prosecuted. His lawyer is a Frenchman who bears a striking resemblance to the defendant and who presumably speaks the language of poop. We are not sure though, as they “converse” without subtitles in a manner resembling masochistic wolf-children of John Malkovitch, drunk. In some of the weirdest interrogation and courtroom scenes you will ever witness, Merde lays the shit down on the Japanese through his “interpreter”. The Japanese are, of course, mortified.  Comeuppance is swift and appears straightforward, but as we all know…Godzilla can only be held at bay for so long. “Merde” is the strongest of the three stories in my opinion, though my girlfriend begged to differ. What can I say? I like the overtly offensive. At least you know what they’re thinking.

“Shaking Tokyo!” rounds out the trio. It tells the story of a Hikikomori, or Japanese agoraphobe, who has not left his home nor made eye contact with another living being in many years. Told primarily via voiceover narration, the life of this obscenely meticulous hermit is shaken, along with all of Tokyo!, after he catches a glimpse of his hot pizza delivery girl’s curiously tattooed thigh. I can totally relate.  A goofy sort of Graduate-esque chase ensues following news that she, too, may have gone “off the grid” after her run-in with the shut-in. Our Hikikomori clumsily attempts to rescue his newfound love from that which he has inflicted on himself, and now Tokyo!  If only he can find and push the right button!

All told, “Tokyo!” is a somewhat brutal series of semi-interrelated takes on a lifestyle borne of a galactically repressed psyche (or vice versa).  It is a world I would otherwise not have ever dreamed to fathom beyond a pruely superficial grasping. But although I enjoyed the pieces quite a bit, it stands as a mystery to me that two Frenchmen and a Korean were the ones who decided to tell such intimate stories. Perhaps they are not accurate… or maybe they are and the Japanese are simply fearful of this sort of self-examination. If so, this may be a good thing...we all saw what happened after the jailbreak on Monster Island.

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Well I'm sold

nickumoh's picture

I'll watch anything directed by Michael (pronounced Michelle cause he's french) Gondry. I love his work.

Its showing at the Living Room Theatre in Portland. Thats the most upscale movie theatre in Portland. Overpriced drinks, 20 personal pizza (brought to you), live music, and (usually) top notch movies. I was actually going to watch "The Great Buck Howard" there, but instead I'll watch "Tokyo"

The first movie I ever saw at The Living Room was "Zizek!" just before I went to see Zach Galifianakis perfrom at the Crystal Ballroom. Great nite.

...what...what were talking about again?

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