Room Laundering / ルームロンダリング [Rumu Rondaringgu] (2018)
DIRECTOR & WRITER: Kenji Katagiri
WRITER: Tatsuya Umemoto
CAST: Elaiza Ikeda, Kaoru Mitsumune, Jo Odagiri, Kiyohiko Shibukawa
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tomoo Ezaki
SOUND DESIGNER: Fumihiko Yanagiya
EDITOR: Mitsuo Nishio
Next screening: Sat July 21, 2018; 11:45 AM
When someone dies in a house or apartment, the landlord is obligated to tell prospective renters that a death occurred but luckily the law does not stipulate how many subsequent tenants need to be notified. Miko is a young reclusive woman who is paid to stay at places where deaths have occurred until a subsequent renter can be found. However, she is actually able to see the ghost of the recently deceased at each place, which proves rather irritating to her.
Okay that synopsis makes this movie sound depressing but while there are certainly sad moments and a dark opening sequence, it’s actually mostly a quirky comedy and sort of a coming of age story in the sense that Miko (Elaiza Ikeda) starts out as somebody who has shut herself away from almost all human contact but then gradually opens up and becomes more engaged with ghosts at first and then real people. Ikeda does a fine job as Miko starting out stone-faced and brooding then gradually becoming more radiant as she lets little smiles or laughs escape her until she willingly does both. Her character is given a very sad background, which feels almost too much. The story is definitely cloying and pushes the tearjerking scenes hard but for the most part it’s not too overdone (although that could be up for debate).
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Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura / DESTINY 鎌倉ものがたり [Destiny: Kamakura Monogatari] (2017)
DIRECTOR & WRITER: Takashi Yamazaki
CAST: Masato Sakai, Mitsuki Takahata, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Sakura Ando, Min Tanaka, Jun Kunimura
A recently married writer and his wife move to the small town of Kamakura, known for having lots of spiritual energy. In fact, one can see ghosts, yokai and the occasional “god”. There is even a rather friendly local shinigami (god of death) who takes the recently departed onto a train to the after life. The presence of yokai scares the wife at first but she eventually gets used to it but then something tragic occurs.
Masakazu (Masato Sakai) and Akiko (Mitsuki Takahata) are a cute couple and its mainly their bickering and joyful conversations we see but with fantasy elements thrown in here and there, which begin to increase as the story moves forward. They clearly have a strong love for each other. We see their life in little vignettes at first but seeds of a larger plot are placed here and there. The theme of death as it relates to the spiritual world is gradually introduced. The overall tone of the film is far from sad but quite the opposite. There are numerous funny moments but a few serious ones too. The ever talented Sakura Ando plays the local shinigami in a nice supporting role. Shinichi Tsutsumi who plays Masakazu’s agent has both a funny and touching character arc.
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Microhabitat / 소공녀 [So-gong-nyeo] Lit: A Little Princess (2017)
DIRECTOR / WRITER: Jeon Go-woon
CAST: Esom, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Duk-moon
This slice of life drama paints a portrait a woman who makes little money but manages to get by while enjoying her two favorite things: cigarettes and whiskey. But when the price of cigarettes and the monthly rent are increased, her budget cannot handle it and she decides to sacrifice rent and moves out. Now essentially homeless she stays over at the places of various past friends, who have their own hardships.
The premise of this movie is certainly not exciting nor does it seem particularly interesting. In such cases the characters and plot have to be strong to make the movie engaging. Miso (Esom) is the main character, a woman who is poor but enjoys the simple things in life and has a stable relationship with her boyfriend. Esom from what I can tell seems to be playing against type here. She looks suitably downtrodden but with rather good skin. Her performance is convincing and her character empathizes easily with others.
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Tremble All You Want / 勝手にふるえてろ [Katte ni Furuetero] (2017)
DIRECTOR & WRITER: Akiko Ooku
CAST: Mayu Matsuoka, Daichi Watanabe, Anna Ishibashi, Takumi Kitamura
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Natsuyo Nakamura
SOUND DESIGNER: Hajime Komiya
COMPOSER: Masaki Takano
Next screening: Tue July 17, 2018; 3:00 PM
This romantic comedy focuses on a young, introverted adult woman who has harbored a 10 year crush on classmate she barely talked to back in her high school days. Despite her lack of social skills, she manages to build up the courage to find and pursue him while she is in turn pursued by an awkward coworker who has a crush on her.
Adapted from a novel (same name as the Japanese movie title) by Risa Wataya, this is the romcom for the invisible introvert. It is shown from the viewpoint of a young adult woman, Yoshika, (Mayu Matsuoka) who goes through a kaleidoscope of emotions throughout the story as she pursues her first and only love, Ichi (Takumi Kitamura), the name of the character but also meaning the number one in Japanese. She herself is also being pursued by a coworker that she refers to as Ni (Daichi Watanabe), the Japanese word meaning the number two. This number one and number two comes up again later on the phone in a humorous moment. The film has a fair number of funny bits sprinkled which build upon previous moments throughout its running time.
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Bangkok Nites (2016)
Director: Katsuya Tomita
Screenplay: Toranosuke Aizawa
Cast: Subenja Pongkorn
Review: Starting off with the main character, Luck (Subenja Pongkorn), a Thai prostitute looking outside a hotel room, we follow her and a Japanese man named Ozawa through the world of sex tourism in Thailand and the various Japanese men who come for the services. The film looks at how richer people from Japan exploit poorer ones in Thailand. It also explores if a real relationship can grow between a prostitute and a former client and the definition of “paradise.”
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Un Printemps d’ailleurs / A Touch of Spring (2017)
Director & Screenplay: He XiaoDan
Cast: Yan WenSi
Review: The story starts with Li Fang (Yan WenSi) who has a violent breakup with her husband in Montreal over her desire to have a baby. While her husband looks for a lawyer to organize the divorce proceedings, she decides to return to her hometown of Dazu in ChongQing (municipality), China to visit her grandfather. She struggles to reconcile her family’s idea of success with her own.
With regards to the story, it’s straight-forward and simple. It’s more of a character study or a bit of a philosophical exploration. Of course, there’s a bit of a clash between traditional Chinese values and more western ones that Fang has adopted but it’s not really the focus and simply comes out naturally as events occur. In another event, what seems like a cultural clash ends up not being the case due to the secrecy surrounding a young girl that she meets at her family reunion. The pacing is rather relaxed so it can feel a tad slow but it’s mostly fine and allows one to ponder the significance of certain events or piece together information from hints given. Buddhism is often mentioned including the idea that life is suffering. Fang wonders what the secret is to a happy marriage to which her grandfather replies with a very unromantic but perhaps sage response.
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Meditation Park (2017)
Director & Screenplay: Mina Shum
Cast: Cheng PeiPei, Sandra Oh, Tzi Ma
Review: The story focuses on a grandmother named Maria (Cheng PeiPei) who’s seemingly good life is turned upside-down when she discovers her husband’s (Tzi Ma) infidelity after celebrating his 65th birthday. Further tension arises when her adult daughter (Sandra Oh) comes for a visit to pass on a wedding invitation to Maria. It’s from the son whom her husband disowned in the past.
The acting performances are amazing. This combined with the nuanced writing and efficient editing allow the story to move at a good pace that doesn’t feel too slow, which is often a problem with some dramas. Each character has their flaws and even seemingly negative characters are given dimension that gives some explanation for their actions, whether it be the neighbor who “steals turns” and undercuts his price for his backyard parking or the mistress and Maria’s husband.
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Claire’s Camera (2017)
Director & Screenplay: Hong Sang-Soo
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Kim Min-Hee
Review: The story for this movie is extremely simple. A French woman randomly meets a few Koreans (a man and two women) in Cannes during a film festival and finds out they know each other. Gradually their connections are revealed as she encounters each one multiple times and take polaroid photos of them believing that people change after she takes their photo.
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