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Mar 06, 2009

Three directors offer their takes on this enigmatic city.

By Tara Kyle

Tokyo Triumvirate

On the surface, the tales in Tokyo!, a collection of three short films about the Japanese megapolis, might seem familiar, evoking other cities and other storytellers.
A provincial girl, ambitionless and adrift in a new city, disconnects from her longtime boyfriend. A monster crawls out of the sewers and stalks shoppers. A house-bound loner rediscovers love and the world.
Odes to cities are also somewhat in vogue, from Paris Je T’Aime to the upcoming New York, I Love You. But by instilling their stories with surrealist spins, the three cult directors of Tokyo! offer fresh takes.
In Michel Gondry’s Interior Design, the heroine, Hiroko, finds her independence through a transformation that owes more to Kafka than romantic comedy.
The monster in Leos Carax’s Merde is a little like Godzilla if the beast took time-outs from wreaking havoc on the famed Ginza shopping district to spout terrorist-inspired diatribes.
And in Bong Joon-Ho’s Shaking Tokyo, a local shut-in (“hikikimori”) awakens and woos his lover with the push of a tattooed button.
Initially, the stories—each a little over 30 minutes long—are striking for their wackiness. But these snapshots of a city that has long perplexed outsiders (Gondry and Carax are French, Bong is South Korean) are grounded in a sense of affection that carries them through.
“I care about the film,” says Carax. “It’s a farce, but I believe in it.”
Tokyo! opens on March 6 in New York, followed by a wider release in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and various other cities throughout March and April.

 

Michel Gondry: Interior Design

 

Coming from a director who made his mark erasing Kate Winslet’s memories (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), exploring Gael García Bernal’s dream world (The Science of Sleep) and magnetizing Jack Black’s brain (Be Kind Rewind), the events of Interior Design seem at first perfectly mundane. That’s until its lead character mutates into something quite different from a directionless 20-something.

Bong Joon-Ho: Shaking Tokyo

South Korean director Bong rose to international attention in 2006 with the The Host, a horror film exploring the aftermath of an American military base’s release of toxic chemicals in Yongson. Here, he switches genres for a romantic fable about love among outsiders, and being different in a land of homogeneity.

Leos Carax: Merde

It’s been eight years since one-time film critic Leos Carax made incest-themed Pola X, and 18 since his art-house hit The Lovers on the Bridge. The writer/director returns here by unleashing what he calls a “racist, fundamentalist Godzilla”—a creation he threatens to send to New York in
a sequel.

 


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