Quick Takes #8

September 6, 2013

Winter’s Alpaca (Fuyu no arupaka, 2012)

Japanese culture worships anything cute and sweet. It is no wonder Alpaca, the bad smelling mixture of sheep and camel, has become a local favourite. The South American animal is a rare but adored sight in Japan. Yuji Harada’s black comedy Winter’s Alpaca casts alpacas in supporting role.

The half-hour short film roughly resembles the early comedies of Nobuhiro Yamashita. The protagonist is an unattractive young woman in dept for the yakuza. To save her alpaca farm she sets out to collect the money before the deadline – any way possible.

The small budgeted film plays its cards well. Drama is well made and humour unexpectedly dark, cleaning the floor with the audiences sympathies. Acting and tech credits are good enough to raise the film above amateur productions. The city of Yamakoshi in the Niigata prefecture, which serves as the setting, obtained the alpacas as an international gift after an earthquake that struck the area the area.

From Here to Nowhere (Gokushiteki runaway, 2013)

23 year old director Ken Kawai’s road movie From Here to Nowhere is a humoristic coming of age story where no one really comes of age. The film follows a good-for-nothing boy who meets an eccentric prostitute in Tokyo and decide to run away with her – with no apparent destination.

Kawai was the youngest director at this year’s Yubari Fanta competition series. His good meaning film has its moments, but it hardly breaks any new grounds. The Japanese slacker movie genre has already been mastered by directors such as Nobuhiro Yamashita and Yuya Ishii. Kawai’s dry humour and quiet, ill-lucked characters feel derivative in comparison, although a graphic sex scene comes as a surprise.

Among low budget indies, the film looks quite acceptable visually. Acting is occasionally stiff, however, and some of the jokes lose their effect because of the lack of originality. Nevertheless, Kawai and his 24 year old main actors put their hearts into the film and don’t try to fish laughs with loud and childish slapstick. From Here to Nowhere isn’t a terribly good movie, but it’s a good try from a young director. Perhaps next time Kawai will find a more original approach to the material.


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