Who's Camus Anyway? Movie Review

In my many years of writing about film, I've only really tried to make a movie once. Foreseeing any big changes, that will be the last time I will be trying to become a director. It's hell: The actors are always on budgeted time, the crew is lazy, and the writer tends to be pretentious to the point of excruciating, likening what you're doing to his work to an anal rape from which he will never recover. I've never had a higher regard for good directors than I did during that week-long shoot. But strangely, the director in Mitsuo Yanagimachi's sublime Who's Camus Anyway? is the character that you hold in low regard.

The 10 years since we've seen Yanagimachi here in the states will make for a rude awakening; where 1985's Fire Festival was brutal and brooding and Shadow of China was just plain, old bad, Who's Camus Anyway? is ferociously witty and hypnotically alert. The film depicts a collegian film crew preparing to film The Bored Murderer, a true story of a high school student who kills an elderly woman for seemingly no reason. The story's main character is said to have a close relation to Mersault, the main character in Camus' classic The Stranger. During the eight days that the film exists in, the crew prepares and shoots the film with help from their teacher, Professor Nakajo (Hirotaro Honda). The film immerses itself in every crew person, giving special attention to the director, Naoki (Shuji Kashiwabara), who must deal with an overbearing yet generous girlfriend (Hinano Yoshikawa), and his assistant director, Kiyoki (Ai Maeda), who seems to become the object of everyone's affection by the end of the eight days. There's also Ikeda (Hideo Nakaizumi), the effeminate and strange lead actor who is the catalyst for the film's chilling finale.

Beyond the uncountable but controlled cinema references in the film (Truffaut and Godard homages rival Bertolucci's The Dreamers), the true influence of this film is obviously Robert Altman, whose branded style of layered narratives and nuanced character studies drives the film. However, Yanagimachi is riffing off of Altman's style rather than copying it. The brushes of sexual obsession and intoxicating longing are mixed so delicately that you almost can't tell the difference. Also, every performance has its own rewards under attentive viewing. Hirotaro Honda makes the professor's obsession with a young grad student such a haunting and tumultuous affair; we feel sorry for him but are frightened by what capacity he might act on his emotions. Maeda and Kashiwabara conjure up emotions and manipulation with grace and subtlety unheard of before.

Camus' existential literature has always been bundled with the so-called hipster crowd, wrongly. Yanagimachi touches on what Camus was really after: the mystery of everyday things and why we do what we do. To call Who's Camus Anyway? an existentialist film would be degrading simply because of the pretentious connotation that inevitably follows. Consider it more as a section of life, with dramatics, emotions, and all the trimmings laid bare. And if your life doesn't have many of those things in it, think about becoming a filmmaker.

Aka Kamyu nante shiranai.

Reviewed as part of the 2005 New York Film Festival.


Who's Camus Anyway? Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 2005


Editors Recommendations

Labrinth - Jealous Video

With his 'Take Me to the Truth' album set for release in 2015, Labrinth has released the album's second single, 'Jealous'...

Labrinth - Jealous Video

Kristin Scott Thomas to Play The Queen in Revival of 'The Audience'

Kristin Scott Thomas has been confirmed to play The Queen in a revival of...

Kristin Scott Thomas to Play The Queen in Revival of 'The Audience'

Seth Rogen Targeted To Play Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak In Steve Jobs Biopic

Seth Rogen is reportedly being eyed to play the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak...

Seth Rogen Targeted To Play Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak In Steve Jobs Biopic

Nightcrawler - Review

A gently comical undertone makes this thriller even creepier than expected, bolstered by sharp writing and directing from...

Nightcrawler Movie Review

Charlie Sheen Addresses Rumoured 'Two And A Half Men' Return

Even though Charlie Sheen's beloved character Charlie Harper died on the...

Charlie Sheen Addresses Rumoured 'Two And A Half Men' Return

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman - Review

Shia LaBeouf is well-cast in this freewheeling combination of comedy, romance and action. He plays...

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman Movie Review

Mr. Turner - Review

It's no surprise that Mike Leigh would take a distinctly original approach to the celebrity biopic, and this film about 19th...

Mr. Turner Movie Review

Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' Lawsuit With Marvin Gaye's Family Goes To Trial

The origins of Robin Thicke and Parrell Williams' hit track 'Blurred Lines'...

Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' Lawsuit With Marvin Gaye's Family Goes To Trial

Extraterrestrial - Review

A riotous hybrid of alien mayhem and cabin-in-the-woods horror, this movie has a playful tone that makes it thoroughly...

Extraterrestrial Movie Review