Tuesday, April 21, 2009


One film -- three short stories, three directors.

Segment 1: Interior Design directed by Michel Gondry

Gondry’s film starts off simple enough but ends with an intriguing transformation.

A young couple, Akira and Hiroko, head to Tokyo to make a new life for themselves.

Akira is an aspiring film-maker looking to wow people with his gimmicky feature. While the couple search for a place of their own, they temporarily live at their friend's apartment. But things don't go per plan as Tokyo is too expensive for the couple. As Akira gains some success with his eccentric feature, Hiroko feels isolated. And a snide comment from her friend makes Hiroko feel worse and pushes her towards a metamorphosis, kafka style. The point of the metamorphosis? To emphasize the sentiment that some Japanese women feel in society.

Segment 2: Merde by Leos Carax

Merde is clearly the least subtle of the three shorts and the most political film. At first, the film feels like humour but it quickly turns into horror and then shifts into a parody of sorts.

A mysterious character emerges from the sewers and rushes to bother ordinary citizens.

His behaviour seems like a prank to begin with but quickly turns sinister. On his next visit from the sewers, the character becomes a terrorist killing people at random. After the mystery man is arrested, it is learned that he speaks an unknown language. A French lawyer, who ends up being only one of three people in the world who speaks the same language as this character, agrees to represent him in the court trail. The mysterious character is named Merde and his court trail raises some very angry reactions. The film represents how past Japanese crimes in Nanking come to bear fruit in the present and touches upon the distrust that certain Japanese have of foreigners and how some Japanese don’t like to recall their past. Leos Carax certainly goes over the top and his film is the only one of the three that can easily divide people -- some might dislike it while others might love it.

Segment 3: Shaking Tokyo by Bong Joon-ho

The shortest film of the trio ends up being a nice pleasant love story. Bong Joon-ho crafts a sweet boy meets girl tale with his own tailored twist.

The main character is a self proclaimed hikikomori who has not stepped outside his house in 10 years and not made eye contact with another human for 11 years. That changes when he makes eye contact with a pizza delivery girl. The hikikomori is finally forced to leave his home to find the girl and learns that he isn’t the only one who stayed locked up in his home. Bong Joon-ho gives a vision of a futuristic Tokyo where humans stay indoors and do not make contact with other humans. The hikikomori learns that good things happen when one leaves their surroundings and interacts with others. Love literary shakes Tokyo up!


Tokyo! contains three diverse films which primarily address the following aspects of Japanese society -- the perception of women, the distrust of foreigners, the denial of the past and the tendency towards isolation. I found all the films enjoyable yet I can’t call any of the films perfect. Bong Joon-ho’s film is the safest of the three and does not take any risks and even though Michel Gondry’s film is mostly clean-cut, it ends with a wicked metamorphosis. Leos Carax is the only one who attempts to push people’s buttons with his over the top yet smart film.

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