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Kyojima 3rd St., Sumida City

May 14, 2011

Sumidaku kyojima 3chome (2010)

First things first, Kota Yoshida’s Kyojima 3rd St., Sumida City is the best film of 2010. Simple is beautiful.

Yoshida’s been enjoying critical success since his 2006 debut Coming with My Brother (Oneechan, otouto to iku). The drama-comedy was well received in Japan, and also screened internationally at the Nippon Connection film festival in Frankfurt. The follow-up, Yuriko’s Aroma, wasn’t completed until in 2010 after the director had recovered from a stroke. The film followed a woman falling in love with a high school kid, or, the scent of his sweat to be exact. Nippon Connection awarded the film with the Nippon Digital award, despite Yoshida stumbling into a pool of drama cliché after a promising start.

Yoshida’s most recent work Kyojima 3rd St., Sumida City came to be from film magazine Hoga Holic’s initiative. Hoga Holic is a web publication dedicated to promoting independent movies. Yoshida was asked to film something in Sumida City, Tokyo, where Hoga Holic is based. Yoshida delivered a charming 30 minute story of a school girl who tries to shoplift a cosmetics product from a small store. She gets caught, which leads into a lengthy conversation with the shop owner.

Yoshida’s film is made up of four scenes. It’s not original in terms of structure, but relies on acting, screenwriting, and cinematography. It’s beautiful filmmaking with no heavy moralizing or melodrama, just an interesting fraction of life in Sumida City. And Yoshida couldn’t possibly have found better actors for the film. With this cast and writing even the usual “shop owner telling a story” scenario works like heaven.

Masafumi Seki’s wonderful cinematography stands out especially in the outdoor scenes – the opening and closing . Most of the film takes place in two indoor locations, though. Seki uses elegant long takes, and often keeps the camera in small movement, without ever attempting dumb tricks. Director Yoshida also has visual eye, as Yuriko also came with some eye catching images. In Kyojima 3rd St. the visuals are supported by a sparsely used but excellent soundtrack (by Arakajime kimerareta koibitotachi e).

Kyojima 3rd St., Sumida City is a wonderful example of the treasures found in the Japanese indie film scene, and unfortunately, rarely see the light of day on DVD even in their native country. One can only hope Yoshida’s humane gem will gain more visibility in after its Nippon Connection screening, where it was screened together with two other Hoga Holic movies, Tuesday Girl, and A Demon Has Come.

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