Yutaka Matsushige

Yutaka Matsushige

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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.

Continue reading: Tokyo! Review

Last Life in the Universe Review


Good
''This is bliss.'' So reads the suicide note Kenji (Tadanobu Asano) clutches in his hand as he prepares to hang himself in his Bangkok apartment. A Japanese expatriate, Kenji works in a local Japanese library and brings his librarian tendencies home with him, filling his flat with nothing but books and organizing his socks, kitchen knives, and shoes with obsessive attention to order.

It's a mystery why Kenji wants to off himself, but the first clue soon arrives, ringing the doorbell. Kenji's hanging is interrupted by his brother Yukio (Yutaka Matsushige), a loutish yakuza who has hightailed it out of Osaka after sleeping with the boss's daughter and has arrived in Thailand looking for a safe place to stay. It's not safe enough, though. Another yakuza shows up and shoots Yukio, but Kenji is quick enough to shoot the killer. With two dead bodies in his apartment, Kenji decides to take a walk.

Continue reading: Last Life in the Universe Review

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