I went into Kendall Square today to see a showing of Tokyo! I'd heard about it on Victoria Asher's Twitter (ahh, the age of technology) and checked out when there were screenings in Boston. Today was the first day, so I grabbed a friend from home and drove through crazy traffic (and Roxbury) to get there.
The movie is split into three films by three notable directors, all of them focusing on some aspect of Tokyo. The first was Interior Design by Michel Gondry. This was my favorite of the three films. It centered around a young couple, struggling to find jobs and an apartment in Tokyo. After losing their car and spending time crashing at a friend's place, the main character is so lost withing herself, and finds so little meaning in her life, that she transforms. It gives away the ending to tell you what she transforms into, but it is so simple and well done that her transformation gives her life a meaning it didn't have before.
The second film is Merde. It was my least favorite of the films, focusing on a vengeful sewer-dweller who terrorizes the citizens of Tokyo, first with small acts like stealing cigarettes and licking schoolgirls, but finally by throwing grenades around the city and murdering scores of innocent citizens. He is captured, and only a lone French lawyer who greatly resembles the sewer-dweller (who calls himself Merde) in his crazy beard and milky eye, can communicate with him. Through a drawn out court scene (which did have a very interesting and appealing use of four camera angles in one shot) we find out that the dweller finds the Japanese disgusting and that he wants to kill them all. But the film itself had no point and left too many questions. Why was he there? What language was he speaking and why could this lawyer communicate with him? Why did he only eat chrysanthemums (a symbol of the Japanese imperial family) and cash? Why was there gratuitous full frontal nudity? These are questions that the director, Leos Carax, never answers. Sure, it's meant to make us think further about the movie (destruction of royalty and capitalism perhaps, and fear of the unknown) but it's obnoxious in its grotesque nature.
Finally, Shaking Tokyo by Bong Joon-Ho. I'd seen The Host by Joon-Ho and liked it, so I had high hopes for this one. It revolves around a hikikomori, a shut-in, who survives off of delivery in a meticulously organized apartment until the day that the pizza delivery girl collapses on his floor during an earthquake. He finds buttons tattooed on her arms (Sadness, Hysteria, Headaches) and one on her leg (coma) which wakes her back up when he pushes it. Yet somehow this also sends everyone else in the city into their homes as shut ins as well, until the protagonist overcomes his fear of leaving the house to try and find the girl again. It was a cute idea, and the buttons do tie in a little bit again at the end, but I feel like the amazing idea of buttons for emotions was basically ignored, an idea that was wasted. It had potential but it was over too soon and let me down.
I do love, however, that in French, "directed by" is translated as "realise pres" (or at least it was in this movie). I like that the idea is "realized" by the director. It's a great concept. Overall it was a good movie, and interesting, but more than a little weird.