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Quick Takes #2: Short Films

July 29, 2011

Based on the song ”Thank You” by Shogo Hamada. One of the more unusual film projects, director Naoki Hashimoto set to make a double feature inspired by the works of singer / songwriter Shogo Hamada. The first film, Catch Ball (2005) was a poorly executed drama-comedy featuring two noisy kids (or chubby elementary school comedians, if you will) travelling to see their father. Kimi to aruita michi (2005), a junior high school film, is the far superior of the two. Beautifully shot with pleasing colors, slight grain and bright image, its visual appearance is slightly reminiscent of Iwai, Yamashita, and Ishikawa.

Hashimoto is not in the same league with the forementioned directors, though. His impressive images are coupled with songs that don’t quite blend in, and narration that sometimes brings it to the verge of accidental genre parody. Furthermore, the last five minutes is puzzlingly (and amusingly) bad in its uneven trendiness. But then again, taking a little less critical view on what came before it’s is actually rather nice little movie and certainly easy on the eye. Some might criticize it as bad film, but I’d be tempted to call it a good one.

Everybody wants to die in Tomoya Sato’s semi-documentaristic short film L’Ilya (2001). The 40 minute movie tries an interesting spin on the topic, adapting the view of a cinematographer turning suicides into disco-entertainment and video art. Shot harsh and grainy the pic looks pleasing but doesn’t have the courage to go to the satirical pop-dimensions of Sion Sono Suicide Club. Sato’s film is, in the end, a far more conventional offering with dramatic soundtrack and preachy message. It’s unable to bring anything of its own to the topic, mainly aiming at drawing affirmative audience reactions such as “yes, it’s a sad world indeed“. It soon becomes more frustrating than poignant.

One of Nobuhiro Yamashita’s many gun-for-hire gigs, Dohyogiwa no aria (2010) is a “cell phone romance” aimed at female audiences. The four part series was originally distributed as cell phone download content through AU’s Lismo Channel. Each of the five minute episodes covers a piece of the protagonist’s life, starting from childhood and proceeding to present moment: the wedding day. And yes, the series does feature Chiaki Kuriyama dressed up as a 12 year old, a 15 year old, etc., as part of the fun. Pacing is set with portable device in mind, however, the series does work on bigger screen as well. It’s nicely shot, and while Yamashita’s true slacker days may be long gone, his recognizable touches can still be seen. Chia-chan here is essentially a feminine reincarnation of the Yamashitan loser hero – not quite a Hiroshi Yamamoto, but facing the same communication problems nevertheless.

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