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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Yu Aoi, Teruyuki Kagawa, Jean-François Balmer, Ayako Fujitani and Denis Lavant
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 25 May 2009

Paris may be the City of Light and New York may never sleep, but there is an undeniable energy to Tokyo. In this anthology film, three renowned filmmakers - Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-Ho - each direct an imaginative featurette about the city...

The publicity for this release describes it as a Tokyo fantasy rhapsody - a work in several pieces.

The notion of splitting a feature film’s running time into three sections, each showcasing the differing styles of individual directors is not a new one. Aside from The Signal (one film in three point-of-view parts), the East Asian release Three... Extremes and its follow-up allowed shorter tales to be seen by cinema (and of course, DVD) audiences uncut, when the entertaining but extreme-by-nature horror tales would otherwise be cut to ribbons to be shown on television, and only then in a graveyard slot so late that even vampires would be tucked-up safely in their coffins. Conversely, the shorts contained within Tokyo! are significantly more suited to TV than cinema. As all three of the stories are bizarre rather than outright horror, I can see them showing separately as a sort of Tales of the Surreal.

In Interior Design, directed by Michel Gondry, a young couple decide to move to Tokyo. They stay with an old friend, but soon begin to outstay their welcome, especially when her boyfriend comes to stay. The couple begin to drift apart as the man - a budding director - attempts to show his audience experience film short, with some success. Increasingly distressed by the lack of attention, she quickly becomes isolated to the point that she literally becomes a piece of the furniture.

When the key character here becomes a chair, she finds herself of much more use. She’s taken to a young man’s home and utilised in front of his computer desk. Of course, he has no idea that she is actually a young woman, so therefore she gets the run of the house when he is out. This is amusing to watch, in a melancholy way, as it’s so obviously an allegory.

In Merde, directed by Leos Carax, a strange and unsavoury man-creature emerges from the sewers, frightening and distressing the people of Tokyo with his abrupt and uncouth behaviour. Reports of his antics increase to the point that it is reported on the city-wide news. However, when the creature discovers some still live hand-grenades underground and indiscriminately throws them around the city, the police put all their resources into finding him. When the man-creature is captured, he undergoes a trial. Most people want him sent to the electric chair, but he has amazingly attracted a group of followers who see him as representing the ultimate freedom and rebellion.

This is probably the strangest of the bunch. The man-creature could be any gentleman of the road, the difference here being that he has no sense of not only social etiquette but right and wrong itself, or he simply doesn’t care. He possesses a completely alien verbal and body language, not to mention outlandish mannerisms, which would normally have him institutionalised at the drop of a hat. That is until a lawyer steps in who can speak for him. The lead part is a masterpiece of acting prowess, totally different to the man himself who is seen rehearsing on a behind the scenes documentary.

Shaking Tokyo, directed by Joon-Ho Bong, follows a male hikikomori (recluse), as for ten years he has shut himself in his apartment - never venturing out, and even keeping contact with the outside world to an absolute minimum. That is until he has a pizza delivered by an attractive young woman, and falls instantly in love. He waits for her the following week, but the man who arrives with the pizza tells him the woman has become a hikikomori like him. When an earthquake suddenly rocks the city, the recluse ventures out of his house and into the light for the first time in an age. However, if he is to check on the safety of the woman with whom he has fallen in love, he will have to make the terrifying journey across town.

This segment is more about the traits and psyche of the protagonist than the earthquake, which after all only serves as a trigger point for the character’s difficult change when he realises he cares for someone in the outside world. The manner in which he keeps everything in its place, even stacking the many empty pizza boxes like a wall, stretches way beyond neatness into a psychological disorder such as OCD. Everything has become habit and routine, marking the occasion as all the more momentous when he needs to finally leave the house.

It’s weird to watch these as a film, but they are entertaining in their own way. Extras include a half hour making of… documentary for each segment.


Ty Power

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