Saturday, 6 April 2013

Michel Gondry, Léos Carax, & Bong Joon-ho's TOKYO!

This anthology of films about Tokyo from three foreign directors is probably the most enjoyable anthology I've seen in a long time but do not expect this trio of films to be linked in any meaningful way beyond the city in which they're set and broader human themes of isolation and love. The threads from each part do not tie in a neat bow at the end but that really doesn't matter. You get three odd but beautiful little gems from three talented directors who represent themselves well.

Despite having little to do with one and other, they still have a similar tempo so the transitions are not jarring. In fact, each part brings up a title and mini credits which gives an impression of a new film beginning and clearly divides each part.

The first part from Michel Gondry and tells the story of a couple who have just moved to Tokyo and are looking to settle. Their relationship is something of a metaphor for their relationship with the city itself with buildings cast as individual people. It's very comfortable viewing that ticks along nicely and plays out something like a short story from Haruki Murakami with a touch of Kafka. I enjoyed it very much.

So as the second part began from Léos Carax who impressed me so much this week with Holy Motors, I was a little concerned it might not stand up to Gondry's effort but it does and is very different. Featuring Merde (a character who appears in Holy Motors), I had some idea what to expect and in many ways, I was glad to have seen Holy Motors before this as it augmented his impact in that film which was a parade of surprises so the chain was unbroken. So you might think the surprise was spoiled for this film and maybe it was but in many ways, I think it might have made it less jarring that it might have been and allowed Carax's contribution fit in the film better.

Denis Lavant who reprised his role in Holy Motors is equally mesmerising in this film as a Godzilla-like threat to Tokyo. As with the first part, alienation is touched upon but overall, his story plays out like an urban myth brought to life with dark humour and an almost antagonistic attitude toward Tokyo.

Finally, after having enjoyed the first two instalments, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho had a lot of pressure not to drop the baton and he succeeded. Even more like a Haruki Murakami story than Gondry's effort, it tells the tale of a hikikomori (think agoraphobic) who has lived in his house for several years not even making eye contact with people who deliver the necessities to his front door. Out of all the stories, this feels the most Japanese perhaps due to my own connotations with Murakami or perhaps it's down to Joon-ho but it is a gentler tale, more like a haiku of sorts.

At various points during Tokyo! I was reminded of the Twilight Zone but when a twist appears it is done with a kind of tenderness; slow, deliberate, and graceful. The twist never changes the tempo which is constant through the entire film. Going in, I was pessimistic about how the film would hang together and I think you could watch each part of this film individually without any detriment to the story but as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tokyo! is a gentle, diverse trio of quirky tales that raise questions about human relationships both between each other and the city in which they live.

Tokyo! (Wiki)
Tokyo (IMDB)
Holy Motors (SiouxWIRE)

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