Friday, November 09, 2007 at 6:51 am | Posted by McGarmott
This is the fifty-ninth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas, and the eleventh I saw from the AFI FEST programme. It is also perhaps the first Japanese film I saw at the big screen.
Such a weird title. And the synopsis promises that it would be black comedy. And that is confirmed within the first 2 mins of the film, when a black cat causes an accident that is gruesome and hilarious at the same time - we cut to an aerial shot with the smoking truck and two large trails of blood behind it, incidating that its victims have been squashed to pieces. Only the Japs would think of portaying it that way!
Essentially it is a story about a dysfunctional family. Far worse than any you've come across. The weird thing about this one is that the characters aren't set up in a directly opposing manner - things aren't 180 degrees opposite of each other, or even perpendicular or parallel. There are four characters, and each one seems to belong in a different universe, but neither opposes or complements the other properly, though they do interact. That actually makes their interaction a lot more unpredictable - I was frequently left wondering, oh kay, what's gonna happen next?
First off, my favourite character is Machiko, the one character who doesn't actually belong in the family. She is the sister-in-law, newly married to the eldest sibling - the step-brother. She seems to have arrived from a cartoon, with her constant nodding and smiling expressions and cutesy giggle. And, just when I announced that I haven't met a character as forgiving and patient and oblivious to others' bad intentions as Claire from Expired, here comes one to rival that.
And similarly, just like Jay from Expired, there is a humongously narcissistic and self-centred character here, and actually evil too - the second sister, Sumika. She punishes her youngest sister Kiyomi for something she did years ago - in the form of homework, consisting of poems Kiyomi has to write praising Sumika's beauty and greatness. She also plays pranks like bringing a camera into the bathroom while Kiyomi is in the bath and turning on the hot water to force her out of the bath.
Kiyomi herself is a rather enigmatic character - a quietly enigmatic one. She is constantly scared of Sumika for obvious reasons - so scared that she almost never speaks throughout the film. She has a penchant for drawing manga though, and that becomes a major element in the film. We can see that beneath her fear, though, there is something else going on, and sure enough, there is.
And then there's the eldest step-brother, Shinji. Quite a hard one to crack, this character. He is protective of Kiyomi, scared of Sumika, yet abusive towards his absolutely wonderful and hardworking and easily-content wife Machiko. He is constantly depressed or worried about something through the film.
There isn't much more to say really, except that it's a fun one - and there haven't been too many of those in this film festival. As you can surmise, the characters are pretty much all the film has.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 7.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 7.5/10