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TOKYO! (director/writer: Michel Gondry/Bong Joon-ho/Leos Carax; cinematographers: Interior Design segment-Masami Inomoto/Merde segment-Caroline Champetier/ Shaking Tokyo segment-Jun Fukumoto; cast: Ayako Fujitani (Hiroko), Ryo Kase (Akira), Denis Lavant (Creature), Jean-François Balmer (Maître Voland), Teruyuki Kagawa (the Man),Yu Aoi (Pizza Delivery Girl); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Masa Sawada/Michiko Yoshitake; Liberation Entertainment; 2008-Japan/South Korea/France/Germany-in Japanese with English subtitles)

My problem is that even though the three weird stories are intriguing and of interest in their own right, but when compiled as one film they seemed undeveloped.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Three foreign directors,Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind“), Leos Carax (The Lovers On The Bridge) andBong Joon-ho (“The Host”), each direct a short segment of this triptych feature about life in modern Tokyo. Like practically all omnibus projects, the whole is not cohesive and the film is uneven. This one conforms to my dismissive expectations of such projects, with Carax’s film being the weakest and Gondry’s the strongest. Each approaches the city from a science-fiction vantage, but each has a different degree of pessimism. My problem is that even though the three weird stories are intriguing and of interest in their own right, but when compiled as one film they seemed undeveloped.

French director Gondry’s segment is entitled “Interior Design.” It’s about a young impoverished couple, Akira (Ryo Kase) and Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani), who move in with an old school friend of Hiroko’s, a young salarywoman named Akemi (Ayumi Ito), in her cramped flat while Akira tries to make it as a filmmaker. When the couple stay longer than expected, the host’s boyfriend objects. As Akira gets a low-level job wrapping gifts at a storeand clings to his dream of being a great filmmaker, even though he seems to have little talent, his tag-along low self-esteem girlfriend Hiroko has no success tracking down a cheap apartment and goes weird as she begins to experience a startling Kafkaesque metamorphosis but finds a strange way out of her blues.

French director Carax’s following segment is entitled “Merde.” It follows a wild-eyed raving lunatic, who is disheveled, spews gibberish and is out of control when he emerges from his sewer dwelling. The foreigner, nicknamed by the press as Merde (Denis Lavant), emerges twice from the Tokyo sewers to go on a two-week rampage of taunting and frightening pedestrians, stealing flowers and money that he stuffs in his mouth to dine on, and licking a schoolgirl’s arm pits. When Merde discovers an arsenal of hand grenades in his underground hideout, leftover from the war, he emerges from the sewer and begins recklessly throwing them in the streets. After arrested, Merde is tried as a terrorist and is defended in the Japanese court by the pompous French magistrate Maître Voland (Jean-François Balmer), one of the few who claim to understand the madman’s unintelligible language and can also speak it. Merde is convicted and sentenced to death, as the pic serves up a lesson about terrorism and offers a subtle reminder of the atrocities committed by Japan against China during the occupation of that country during World War II.

The last leg is South Korean director Joon-ho’s segment entitled “Shaking Tokyo.” It tells of a recluse (Teruyuki Kagawa) who hasn’t left his apartment in over a decade and exists only on pizza. He falls for a pretty delivery girl (Yu Aoi) who passes out at his place during an earthquake, while delivering him pizza. The strange dude is a so-called hikikomori, one who never ventures out. Later he discovers the delivery girl has quit her job and has become a hikikomori herself. Thereby he boldly ventures out of his apartment, when everyone remains inside because of a renewed earthquake threat, to deliver to her his love. The moment he gazes at his love object, the ground starts to rumble once again.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”