A Closing Day

March 18, 2012

A pretentious entry into the Love Cinema series

Tojiru Hi (2000)

Isao Yukisada is a strange fellow. From stylish mainstream (A Day on the Planet, 2004) to sappy melodrama trash (Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World, 2004) to interesting indie films (Luxurious Bone, 2001) one can never be sure what he’s up to next.

A Closing Day (also known as Enclosed Pain) is his entry to the Love Cinema collection. The 6 films series was launched in 2000 to promote cost efficient digital video and promising new directors. The series was essentially V-Cinema, although they did have a brief theatrical run and caught the attention of festival programmers around the world. The best known entries were Ryuichi Hiroki’s Tokyo Trash Baby and Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q.

Yukisada’s contribution is, in theory at least, a fitting addition to the series. The film follows a sister and brother in an incestuous relationship, and their ventures into (less than) normal affairs outside the family. Nothing new under the Love Cinema barrier – despite the series title, the films are filled with very odd takes on love and relationships.

The Love Cinema films are decidedly low key on technical front. Digital cinematography, which is both one of Japanese cinema’s biggest sins and strongest assets (depending on how skillfully utilized), never did show in especially positive light in the Love Cinema films. They were budget exercises, not Shunji Iwai style explorations into a new age of high definition cinematography. Yukisada’s film looks bright, soft, and very much shot on video.

The main issue with A Closing Day, however, is lies elsewhere. Kicking off with an interesting character set up, the film soon downgrades into pretentious arthouse cinema with downright ridiculous character drama.

Idiosyncratic characters banging their head into the wall (literally) and bursting into maniacal laughter are many in A Closing Day. Childhood traumas aren’t avoided either. Perhaps most embarrassing is the moment with Masatoshi Nagase dressed up in a woman’s underwear! Fans of Yuya Ishii might find something of interest in here – although with plenty of additional arthouse stiffness.

Character depth is limited to what is displayed on screen via flashbacks. Odd technical cock-ups further hamper the impression: Ayaka Maeda’s nude scene is optically censored (even breasts), and in one scene the mic is visible at the top of the screen (the film, like other entries in the series, is presented with Academy Aspect Ratio – something cinematographer Jun Fukumoto doesn’t seem to have been aware of…).

Not everything misfires, though. Some individual scenes fare well, and there’s a rather interesting, if underdeveloped, side plot with a high school girl falling in love with the film’s introvert male protagonist. It’s the oldest unintentional trick in the book – in a dull trauma story the underwritten supporting character comes out more interesting than any of the leads (see Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions for an almost identical case).

A Closing Day’s most notable achievement, however, is the beautiful soundtrack by Hirofumi Asamoto. Asami Fujita’s theme song Seinaru ashi is used to a mesmerizing effect in various scenes. It’s a shame the rest of the film doesn’t come close to such quality, even though there are occasional effective shots where the homemade graininess of it benefits the film.

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