Films: Tokyo!

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France, 2008, 90 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: Germany, Japan, South Korea
Genre/Subjects: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Foreign, Social Issues
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: Japanese, French English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Leos Carax, Michel Gondry, Bong Joon-ho
Producer: (executive) Kenzô Horikoshi, (executive) Hiroyuki Negishi, (executive) Yuji Sadai, Anne Pernod-Sawad
Editor: Nelly Quettier
Screenwriter: Bong Joon-ho, Leos Carax, Michel Gondry
Cinematographer: Caroline Champetier, Jun Fukumoto, Masami Inomoto
Principal Cast: Yu Aoi, Yosiyosi Arakawa, Jean-Francois Balmer, Julie Dreyfus
US Distributor: Liberation Entertainment

Along the lines of New York Stories and Paris, Je t’Aime, this cinematic triptych uses Tokyo as a backdrop for offbeat segments by directors from not Japan but France and South Korea. Upping the ante of the old noir catchphrase “there are eight million stories in the naked city—this has been one of them,” Tokyo! offers three unrelated but equally surreal visions of the teeming metropolis.

The quirkiest of these is “Merde,” in which a seemingly feral creature emerges from the sewers to freak out passersby with mostly harmless pranks and fleeting, petty assaults, like a small-scale Godzilla. The camera never strays from this red-bearded man-monster as, in one continuous take, he lopes down the streets of Tokyo’s business district—stealing a lit cigarette on the fly, eating flowers and cash, and licking the armpits of schoolgirls. (In 1999, director Leos Carax received a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes for his controversial feature Pola X.)

Michel Gondry’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) “Interior Design” edges toward the bizarre as it follows a young couple trying to weather a move to Tokyo. The boy is a filmmaker but takes a job wrapping gifts to pay the bills, while his girlfriend searches for an apartment. As frustrations rise, she begins to lose any sense of purpose, until finally she metamorphoses into…well, into a piece of furniture.

Bong Joon-Ho—whose 2006 twist on the horror genre, The Host, has earned him something of a cult following—completes the trio with “Shaking Tokyo,” about a recluse in the hikimori tradition who falls in love with a pizza delivery girl after she collapses in his apartment during an earthquake. When she herself withdraws from society, he must decide whether to brave the world on the other side of his apartment door to seek her out.


Asian Art Coordinating Council

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