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Tokyo! Review


OK
Tokyo! is a curious conundrum. The movie is a triptych of short films about the titular metropolis made by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Joon-ho Bong, three non-Japanese filmmakers. Each tries to offer up personalized impressions of the Japanese capital, and that alone would suggest a worthwhile cinematic experience. But the films themselves lack the intimacy with Tokyo's cultural nuances that we crave from a piece like this, trafficking instead in stereotypes and platitudes.

For its easy charm and humor, Michel Gondry's "Interior Design" comes off best. Gondry's story follows a young couple -- Hiroko and Akira (Ayako Fujitani and Ryo Kase) -- who have just moved to Tokyo, struggling to find an apartment, jobs, and generally to start their new lives. Akira's an aspiring filmmaker-artist, hence a bit of a space case, while his girlfriend Hiroko is smart but directionless. While getting started in Tokyo, they bunk up with a friend in her absurdly tiny apartment. Gradually, Hiroko pulls away from Akira and, in a Gondry-esque bit of transmogrification, she suddenly has the ability to shift from human to chair form and back. As a chair, she becomes part of the furnishings in a stranger's home, and feels herself an object of value, something she lacked as a human being. Gondry pokes fun at Tokyo's housing crisis: The living spaces are hilariously cramped, hardly more than glorified closets. With the low-key bantering of its characters, the quotidian details of Tokyo street life, its movie-within-a-movie device, the human-chair magic trick, and the overall theme of life-as-reverie, this is a Gondry project through and through. And, though not illuminating on the subject of its city, it's still a cute, clever take on Tokyo to keep us amused.

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All About Lily Chou-Chou Review


Excellent
The inexplicable adolescent roller coaster we all go through is often difficult to articulate on screen without including the dull, stereotypical norms of peer pressure to smoke, drink, and have sex. But writer/director Shunji Iwai finds a more unique youthful voice for his new feature All About Lily Chou-Chou. He aptly mixes current culture with an anxious boredom that creates a powerful story, even if it can be difficult to watch.

The 2 1/2 hour journey is based on the path of Yuichi (Hayato Ichihara) and takes place over the course of several years. Being average and shy, he is the frequent object of bullying. He lives with his pregnant mother, her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's son. As both adults work to support the family, Yuichi is left to his own devices often, as are most of his peers, which can be dangerous during an age when you are usually trying to get away with as much as possible.

Continue reading: All About Lily Chou-Chou Review

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