March 10, 2012

Good meaning indie film lacks content behind urban images

Life (2006)

Pretty boy candle artist (Gou Ayano) leaves the countryside to go to Tokyo for one day to meet a handful of people. He comes across a 16 year old birthday girl, old friends in a bar, and oddly, murderous Hiroshi Yamamoto in a brief 15 second appearance.

Shin Sasaki’s Pia Film Festival production tries to be semi-existential urban mood piece, somewhat in the lines of Hiroshi Ishikawa (Tokyo. Sora, 2004) or even Ryuichi Hiroki (Vibrator, 2003), but falls short. Its characters are too forgettable, and its actors unable to communicate unwritten context. There’s also clumsy flirting with arthouse, as well as a highly amusing (fully unintentionally so) cut to an aircraft during “what’s my fiancee doing for a living” story.

Yet, the film isn’t without genuine points of interest. Even in their emptiness the gray and grainy images of our hero wandering in Tokyo with a high school girl, and Sasaki’s no-storyline leaning approach to filmmaking, are something to be appreciated. Certainly it’s more interesting to begin with than the majority of Japanese drama filmmaking (no dogs, no sick little brothers, no flashback structure…).

In the end, though, merits remain modest. Ayano’s pop star fashion sense and the title “Life” probably ought to have been enough to tell this isn’t a fully mature work. Spirit and depth are lacking, with little to be found behind the silence (and dialogue).

Life is an artistic little movie that places itself in a subgenre too challenging for it.

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