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Adrift in Tokyo [DVD]
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Leading a lazy life, Fumiya has been a university student for 8 years and owes money to loan sharks. One day, a man named Fukuhara comes to collect the loan, which Fumiya cannot pay. So Fukuhara makes a proposition: He will cancel the debt as long as Fumiya agrees to walk with him across Tokyo to the police station of Kasumigaseki, where he intends to turn himself in for a crime he deeply regrets. Not having much choice, Fumiya accepts the deal. Thus begins their journey which will lead them to various unusual encounters, most of all with themselves. Based on the original novel by Naoki Prize winner Yoshinaga Fujita comes a fascinating, humorous and wildly clever film that is sure to charm you. With his trusty companion Endo (Matsuo Suzuki - Robogeisha ) in tow, he sets off on a quest for the elusive insect and along the way meets the mysterious Sayoko (Rinko Kikuchi - Norwegian Wood ), a former dominatrix and habitual wrist-cutter who delights in rubbing wasabi into her wounds, as well as a pudgy gang boss yearning for a new life and his trusty assistant, an over-the-top Yakuza (both played by Miki Satoshi regulars Ryo Iwamatsu and Eri Fuse).
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It's certainly entertaining and there are laughs to be had if you like Japanese comedy.
Without giving too much away, Fumiya is an orphan. Abandoned by his parents when he was a baby he has never known what the concept of family is. Fukuhara has married but we learn that the marriage is not only loveless, but also childless. The film plays on the needs the two men have, one for a father and the other for a son. Not surprisingly, skeptical toleration turns into familial warmth as the pair go on an adventure. The film’s most successful sequence has them eating dinner with a friend of Fukuhara’s, Makiko (Koizumi Kyōko) and a young teenager, Fufumi (Yoshitaka Yuriko) who is living with her. They enjoy a ‘family meal’ together with one important difference – none of them are related. A beautiful idea, it says it all about the way the concept of ‘family’ has gone in today’s society. People have lost the ability to live together happily in real families, but the basic desire for family security, for family love never dies.
Some people have raved about this film. I enjoyed it with certain reservations. The improvised nature of many of the scenes works very well. The two main actors give fresh and spontaneous performances which are natural and empathetic. We care about these people and the pay-off at the end is moving. As a resident in Japan I have to say though that I get irritated by certain stereotypes of ‘Japanese’ behavior that keep reappearing here in film after film and TV program after TV program. A walk through Tokyo can’t just be a walk through Tokyo. It has to be pepped up with kung-fu expert octogenarians, weirdo theme-dressing nightclubs, fantastical leaps off roof-tops, a lone rocker walking the streets of Shinjuku blaring away with his electric guitar, and so on. In short it’s the kind of stuff that Clive James used to make TV programs about and which feeds the ever-growing (mistaken) belief held by westerners that the Japanese are a very strange lot indeed. The Japanese enjoy letting their hair down by looking at themselves like this and a casual glance at TV here shows a picture very similar to the one Miki draws – his TV origins couldn’t be any clearer. For westerners who aren’t familiar with Japanese films or TV the episodes our two protagonists have might appear fresh and incisive. For me, however it’s just more of the same. Why do I need to watch this in a cinema when I can switch on the TV and see it any time I want? Less of the willful, hackneyed bizarre, and more fresh psychological depth would have helped Miki no end here. It’s a shame really, because as said, there’s nothing wrong with the framework of the story which in itself is an excellent idea which hits home successfully. Oh, and I can’t resist adding that I really enjoyed recognizing the many Tokyo locations used in the film. For returned ex-pats familiar with Tokyo this film will definitely bring back a lot of memories.
This Third Window Films DVD is excellent quality, the anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio providing true visuals and the 5.1 surround sound ideally clear. There is a 70 minute ‘Making Of’ documentary which is actually very good. We get to go behind the scenes and see Miki directing many of the scenes. The extra was made for the Japanese market and is interesting for foreigners wanting to understand how different the culture really is, the way actors are interviewed and how the production staff treats each other on set. I see you can also buy this film as a 3DVD set released by Third Window which also includes Instant Swamp and Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers. I haven’t seen either of these and can’t comment. Probably if you want just a Miki taster then Adrift in Tokyo is the one you should see first.
The two principal characters in this affair seem to have just about nothing in common except their own particular weirdness, the one being co-opted by the other into taking a very extended stroll over various days through different parts of Tokyo.
Although it is not story driven, it nevertheless captures your attention by means of the two main characters, (a loan shark collector and his victim), and the very natural way they interact with each other and the constant change of neighbourhood that drifts through the whole film.
It is a finely nuanced film, and very well acted. It's also quite original in concept with a very restrained, unobtrusive style of direction. On the other hand, when all is said and done, it doesn't amount to all that much, and perhaps deserves 3 1/2 stars rather than 4. Still, as it's no doubt a quality product, I have erred on the side of generosity and given it 4 stars.
Now, I'm not going to spoil it by giving to much away, but I think some people will be touched but the sincerity of the film and how to people from different backgrounds can get along
I give this a Massave thumbs up, and recommend throughly.
It was also nice to see Kumiko Aso reprising her policewoman role from the TV series "Time Limit Detective" (which also starred Jo Odagir) - even wearing the same non-standard uniform and hat that she wore on TV... nice.
The comedy here comes more from the situations the two men find themselves in rather than the main characters themselves being weird or eccentric.
I go to Tokyo a lot on holiday and as they were walking through parts of the city I was mentally saying "been there", and also taking a note of places to see next time.
For me this is an easy 10/10.
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