Saturday, July 16, 2011

Japan Cuts: A Liar and A Broken Girl go to The Seaside Motel


I'm all movied out but I bit the bullet and went over to the Japan Society for two of the four films they are running today as part of Japan Cuts.

Waiting on line to get into my first film I was talking to Lee, who's path I've been crossing at various screenings. She was telling me about the previous night's film Three Points, which was three part film about life in three parts of Japan. Lee said that she and no one she spoke with particularly liked the film. She said it was unfocused and didn't seem to have a point. The dislike was seconded by another woman we met inside and by a couple of people I overheard talking before the second film. Star Sora Aoi was there but only appeared briefly since she was surrounded by several bodyguards who hustled her in and out.

When we got into the theater we started a heat argument between a couple of people who had seen the earlier film Love Addiction. One woman said it was 90 minutes of whiny people while a gentleman said there was actually something to the film.

The first film that I saw was Seaside Motel, about a motel in the mountains (far from the sea) and the guests who stay there. The film is based on a "long" manga simply called Motel that is more pulpy with a good deal of sex and violence than the film. The film is told in a disjointed style with our viewing of the events not in the order that everything happens.

We have:
A salesman who is surprised by a call girl arriving at the wrong room.
A business man and his wife are trying to add spark to their relationship.
A gambler and his girl on the run from debt collectors
A man pretending to be rich in order to score with a tall hostess from a club.
We also get to know a couple of nebish cops.

I can't tell you more than that because the structure of the film has most events effecting every other one.

I liked the film but I didn't love it. Lee really liked it as did several people (including a very tall very big gentleman who was laughing and carrying on much to annoyance of several people around him.) To me the film mostly works, but the construction of it all seems to be a little too forced, particular in the semi-down beat endings where life takes it's toll (for example why two people don't end up together is forcing the point, we didn't need a reason)

It was good but it wasn't worth the trip into the city. (Though the director who was in attendance was very happy we were all laughing at it)

The second film was A Liar and a Broken Girl.

This was the first time it was being shown outside of Japan and they couldn't have wished for a worse time for it to screen, namely the week after the abduction and murder of a boy in Brooklyn.

The plot focuses on a young high school student who is a bit strange but is going through life. She is being followed by a young man her own age who has vowed to take care of her. Things are complicated by the fact that some one has kidnapped two young children (the girl) and there is a serial killer slicing up young women (maybe the young man). We also see the abuse suffered by hero and heroine some ten years earlier.

A wicked mixture of cute and blackness the film is a tough nut to crack. Is the film suppose to be light and airy as some of the scenes are or as dark and nasty as the scenes of child abuse and murder are? I don't know, but I find the darkness over takes the light to the point that I was shaking my head at the ending wondering how they could end it so "happily". (and what about the idea of being kidnapped if fun if it's the right people? How about when you consider the flashback sequences?)

This film is dark at times and in some ways it's more disturbing than a film like I Saw the Devil because this is closer to reality. No the film isn't overly bloody, but there are violent moments and the implications of many bits caused people around me to cover their faces.

I am troubled by the film. I don't get how the film can undercut itself by showing us some things in a wacky mode and yet have blackness to another version of the same situation. Which is it?

The director was at the screening and I debated staying but I was too bothered by the film to be able to engage in a rational discussion. Part of it is the film and part of it is the fact that this weeks events in New York kind of stripped the film of a certain amount of leeway.

On the other hand it's just one f-ed up movie. I don't want it in my head.

And it's not that I would have had a problem if it had been lighter or even darker than it is, it's just the splitting the difference in favor of hero and heroine that is troubling since it's like its saying all of this is wrong- unless it's these two people.

I don't know.

It's a good, well acted and well made film, but I'm not sure I ever need to see it again.

And with that I headed home.

Japan Cuts continues to Friday, and I have films a screenings of Vengeance Can Wait and Into the White Night toward the end of the week.

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