Tokyo In Theaters
"Tokyo" - The movie "Tokyo" - (not to be confused with the current big screen release ) - opens with the first of three featurettes, INTERIOR DESIGN, from beloved international sensation Michel Gondry, whose previous features, including ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004), THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (2006) and BE KIND REWIND (2008), revealed a master of surrealist whimsy at the very top of his game.
Hiroko and Akira (Ayako Fujitani and Ryo Kase) are a young couple from the provinces who arrive in Tokyo with limited funds, short-term lodging and what appears to be a solid and mutually supportive relationship that will seemingly carry them through any challenge. Akira is an aspiring filmmaker whose debut feature will soon screen in the city — and hopefully land him an entrée to a more solid career; in the interim he lands work wrapping gifts at a local department store. After securing short-term housing in the cramped studio apartment of old school chum Akemi (Ayumi Ito) — a career girl with a demanding boyfriend who grows weary of Akemi’s houseguests — Hiroko hits the streets of Tokyo in search of a suitable apartment, finding a series of rat-infested hovels that neither she nor Akira can afford on their limited salaries. After Akira’s film screens, to dubious acclaim, one spectator informs Hiroko of the inherent struggles in relationships between creative types: often times, one half of a couple feels invisible, useless or unappreciated, something Hiroko relates to wholeheartedly in the wake of her numerous trials and tribulations in the unfamiliar city of Tokyo. She starts to question her role in the relationship, resulting in a Kafkaesque transformation of self-discovery that will delight fans of Gondry’s trademark surrealism.
TOKYO! continues with the second featurette, MERDE, from acclaimed French filmmaker Léos Carax, whose previous features include the Cannes Film Festival selection POLA X (1999), the international art-house sensation THE LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE (1991), starring MERDE lead actor Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche, and the classic French indies MAUVAIS SANG (BAD BLOOD; 1986) and BOY MEETS GIRL (1984).
Merde (a French term translating as “shit”) is the name given to an unkempt, gibberish spewing subterranean creature of the Tokyo sewers, played by Denis Lavant, who rises from the underground lair where he dwells to attack unsuspecting locals in increasingly brazen and terrifying ways: he steals cash and cigarettes from passersby, frightens old women and salaciously licks schoolgirls, resulting in a televised media frenzy that creates mounting hysteria among the Tokyo populace. After discovering an arsenal of hand grenades in his underground lair, Merde slips into full-on assault mode, hurling the munitions at random citizens and creating a Godzilla-like atmosphere of urban terror, which the media promptly laps up and reflects back to its equally voracious television audience. Enter pompous French magistrate Maître Voland (Jean-François Balmer) — a dead ringer for the sewer creature’s gnarled and twisted demeanor — who arrives in Tokyo to represent Merde’s inevitable televised trial, claiming to be the sole person in the world able to speak his client’s unintelligible language. The media circus mounts as lawyer defends client in a surreal court of law hungry for a satisfying resolution. Merde is tried, convicted and sentenced to death — until justice takes an unexpected turn.
The TOKYO! triptych concludes with the romantic featurette SHAKING TOKYO from Bong Joon-Ho, whose Korean monster movie was the hit of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival before becoming a international box office sensation.
Teruyuki Kagawa stars as a Tokyo shut-in, or hikikimori, who has not left his apartment in a decade. His only link to the outside world is through his telephone, which he uses to command every necessity from a series of random and anonymous delivery people, including the pizza that he lives on and the hundreds of discarded pizza cartons he meticulously stacks in and around his cramped apartment. But one day is different — his pizza arrives thanks to a lovely young woman who succeeds in catching the shut-in’s eye. Suddenly an earthquake strikes Tokyo, prompting the beautiful young delivery woman to faint in her client’s apartment. And then the unthinkable happens — the hikikimori falls hopelessly in love. Time passes and the shut-in discovers through another pizza delivery person that the improbable object of his affections has become a hikikimori in her own right. Taking a bold leap into the unknown, our hero crosses the threshold of his apartment and takes to the streets in search of his paramour, at last discovering his kindred spirit — at the very moment another earthquake strikes.
STARRING: Ayako Fujitani, Ryo Kase, Ayumi Ito, Denis Lavant, Jean-Francois Balmer
DIRECTORS: Michel Gondry, Joon-ho Bong, L�os Carax
STUDIO: Liberation Entertainment
RATING: R (For adult situations, language)
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 52 minutes