Tokyo! – Review

29 Jul

Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-ho are all powerhouse directors in their own respects. Gondry has made dazzling films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and worked on multiple music videos. Carax has been working since the eighties with his most recent success being the critically acclaimed Holy Motors. Bong has also become a directing commodity in South Korea after his smash hit film The Host. All of these directors, wether you’re fans of their work or not, are all exceptional film makers with their own visions and styles. Their collaborative effort, Tokyo!, that consists of three shorts films directed by each film maker offers a trippy view of the city of Tokyo, but it also provides a dreamlike and inspiring cinematic experience.

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In Michel Gondry’s segment, Interior Design, Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani) and Akira (Ryō Kase) are a young couple who have graciously accepted an offer by their old friend Akemi (Ayumi Ito) to stay in her small flat while they search for an apartment of their own. As time quickly passes, and Hiroko is having no luck in terms of employment and finding an apartment, she begins to feel completely worthless to herself and everyone. Things change in many different ways when an unbelievable physical transformation happens to Hiroko. In Leos Carax’s segment, a mysterious psycho from the sewers, referred to as Monsieur Merde (Denis Lavant) begins terrorizing the city of Tokyo until he is eventually arrested. A trial soon happens with a special lawyer (Jean-Françoise Balmer) brought in from Paris to represent Merde. During the trial Merde’s true intentions are discovered. In Bong Joon-ho’s segment, we see a shut in (Teruyuki Kagawa) who meets a woman during an earthquake who has buttons on her body that seem to control her functions and emotions. The shut in is then forced to leave his house and brave earthquakes in order to find this mysterious woman whom he has fallen in love with, even after spending ten years in his house.

Gondry really has an amazing artistic eye but also a strange sense of humor and design that always makes his movies interesting. With his segment in Tokyo!, he has to pack all of that style and storytelling into a short film. What we get is a moving examination on young adult life and also a theme of self worth, which is told in the most unique way I’ve ever seen. Props have to go to Gabrielle Bell who wrote the short story comic that this is based off of, Cecil and Jordan in New York. For most of the segment, it’s a story about a young couple trying to really get their lives started, but it ends with a fairy tale ending of transformation that left me practically speechless. Gondry got his point across easily without being derivative, and this is easily the best segment of the entire film.

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Carax’s segment brought me back to the night that I watched Holy Motors and the mixed feelings I had about it. Luckily with his part of the movie, I got to see the first time Carax used his character Monsieur Merde, who also had a scene in Holy Motors. This is a strange story, possibly even as strange as Gondry’s, but completely different. I’m not entirely sure what this part is about, but Carax said that he simply got the idea of some sort of creature coming out of the sewers and killing people, so it might be a bit much to try and dig into it to find some deeper meaning. If I had to I’d say it would be about the ugliness of bigotry and hatred, but this could also just be a cartoonish entry that is meant to highlight the character that Carax created. Either way, this was entertaining as all hell and Denis Lavant showed me yet again that he is an underused and excellent actor.

Finally, we come to Bong Joon-ho’s segment, which I think is the weakest of the entire film, but that’s not really belittling it since the first two were so over the top and awesome. This is a much quieter and human story with some really touching depictions of loneliness and love, even with a strange fantastical, almost science fiction twist. I kind of wish that this idea was expanded a little more because the buttons used to activate the woman’s emotions and actions was a cool idea. This is still a beautifully shot short film that shows the talent Bong has behind the camera as well as in writing. Compared to the other two, however, if could have a been a little stronger.

Tokyo! was an excellent film that had strong entries by each of its three talented directors. I feel like a central theme that can be seen weaved throughout all of these unique tales is a theme of being alone in a city that is dense with millions of people who are going on about their own business, and not paying you any mind unless you give them reason to. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the uneven film that I heard it was. In fact, this film surprised me on many levels and I can highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

 

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