Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 280: Tokyo! (2009) - Rank 4/5


The film is a spectacle of an anthology featuring the directorial work of Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Human Nature"), Leox Carax ("Lovers on the Bridge") and Bong Joon-ho ("The Host"). Each half-hour vignette was theoretically created with the intent of capturing the spirit of the Japanese city, similar to the way that "Paris, Je T'aime" did the European highlight. However, I never felt like the stories immersed me into Japanese culture. I've always found that "Lost in Translation" did so successfully from an American point of view, capturing the sense of isolation and curiosity that emerges when one is a visitor to a foreign land. With the three tales within "Tokyo!" I felt that they could have been set within any major metropolis and still worked.

Gondry's story focuses on a girl who is slowly alienated by her peers and begins to turn into a chair. Joon-ho's tale centers around an obsessive-compulsive shut in that seemingly finds love in a strange, possibly post-apocalyptic future. The theme behind both is centered around the loss of identity and loneliness that comes from living in a major city. The most entertaining of the trio, Carax's "Merde," is the story of a feral, unkempt man who resides in Tokyo's sewers, eats chrysanthemums and periodically terrorizes residents with grenade attacks. When captured, he's put on trial in what is clearly an allegory for Western reaction and treatment of middle-east terrorists. There are even moments that mirror the final days of Saddam Hussein. The story calls to question the motivation behind such individuals and the aspects of hypocrisy that arise in determining punishment for them. However, as I mentioned before, I never felt like there was some unifying theme that tied the trio together and made the Tokyo setting imperative. Perhaps choosing three non-Japanese directors was the problem, but at least those three are excellent enough in their work to generate an intriguing piece.

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