Saturday, July 10, 2010

Japan Cuts 2010 "Parade"

* Parade (dir. Isao Yukisada, 2009, Japan). Yukisada's new film was on my short-list of "wants" for this year's NYAFF (and, related Japan Cuts) — see it here, and though Takao Nakano's Big Tits Zombie 3D didn't make it, Parade did, w/ one of the cutest casts in the entire festival and all that. I'd referred to it back in April as having a "chatty ensemble cast w/ dark undertones", which is fairly accurate (albeit a big dramatic). Four 20-somethings in a Setagaya, Tokyo 2-LDK, Keisuke Koide (Ryosuke, a loaferish, somewhat-uncomfortable-with-girls economics student), Shihori Kanjiya (Kotomi, a sweet if opaque unemployed actress — and may I say I love this big role for her; I know her best as a Volume character from Katsuhito Ishii's Funky Forest), Karina (Mirai, a gorgeous and abrasive illustrator — her name means "future") and Tatsuya Fujiwara (Naoki, an extremely tidy, athletic film employee) stepping over one another, greeting each other and sending one another off w/ a smile, hitting the combini together or sleuthing a next-door neighbor's supposed brothel ring, or getting wasted w/ at the neighborhood gay bar (b/c Mirai is a major fag-hag, we learn). A string of violent muggings targeting young women in the neighborhood shakes them up, but only so much, and that's when we meet the fifth "roommate", Kento Hayashi (Satoru, a lean, blond hustler, rubber-limbed and wise at the mouth), who no one seems to know but everyone welcomes as one of their own, esp. the girls. Kotomi, who is usually lonely at home, takes to Satoru immediately. As does Mirai, who seems to fall hard for him, taking him out partying then spending the night w/ him (totally innocent) and spills her brutal childhood secrets to him. Ryosuke is a bit awkward and standoffish as a straight male may be next to the glowing Satoru, but he falls under his spell as well. Only Naoki, the eldest of the group (I think) is reticent, but after tailing Satoru one afternoon, perhaps thinking him the neighborhood mugger (note here: the crime element is heavy at the beginning then quickly tucked way away in the back — do NOT forget it, as it's always underlying the action), and either has pity on him or something but invites him to volunteer at his film office one day, and they go out drinking afterward. Think of Terence Stamp in Pasolini's Teorema — Satoru is something like this, but instead of sleeping w/ everyone he awakens and/or unearths something in each of them. The roommates' general pleasantries toward one another (esp. necessary in such a tiny living space) are laid bare for him, and eventually they start opening up to one another w/o him. An example is Kotomi confiding her pregnancy in Naoki (we wonder if Satoru knew as well, and if she never would have told Naoki had Satoru NOT known). The neighborhood mugger thing comes back, violently, near the end, to the point where I was sure of one thing and suddenly it's something else altogether: a smart move by the director, and it totally made sense. And yet this unstated understanding remains; life goes on. At the Q&A, director Yukisada said something about the Japanese often "reading the air", holding back comment to first judge the situation, feel it out before letting it all out, which may mean not stating the whole truth, or going about w/ a self-made mask around your housemates or coworkers or peers. I think this idea is entirely accurate for any group of coed 20-somethings living together in a small space (anybody whose had roommates, esp. of the opposite sex, can vouch) — one the one, it's problematic when this self-made mask becomes a living reality. On the other, this unconditional acceptance, artificial though it may be, is highly reassuring. It's problematic and Yukisada does a great job forcing us to confront it w/o giving any definitive answers or judgment on what is "right" or not.