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Wednesday, Mar 11 2009
Does anyone remember Japan? The tri-part Tokyo! revisits the Land of the Lost Decade—or at least its largest city—courtesy of tourist filmmakers Michel Gondry and Leos Carax, plus South Korean neighbor Bong Joon-Ho. Gondry’s opening “Interior Design” is a vaguely Jarmuschian hipster entertainment about an aspiring filmmaker and his slacker girlfriend who arrive in Tokyo and immediately succumb to the inexplicable hassles of metropolitan life. “Interior Design” evokes Gondry’s pet distinction between animate and inanimate in Japanese terms; “Merde,” the first Carax film of the 21st century, is a more confrontational riff on the most celebrated of Japanese monsters. Dubbed the “Creature From the Sewer” by deadpan newsreaders who link him to al-Qaeda, Aum Shinrikyo, and Siberian witchcraft, this chaotic eruption is shown to embody Japan’s historical repressed as well as Europe’s guilty conscience. As much a form of performance art as a movie, “Merde” offers the funniest urban rampage since Bong’s The Host. Bong’s own “Shaking Tokyo” is a quieter monster movie that addresses hikikomori, a specifically Japanese form of agoraphobia in which a young person retreats into his or her room, sometimes for years. A love story (possibly involving a robot), it’s the anthology’s least flashy filmmaking, but the truest to its location—lugubrious, a bit sentimental, and hopeful that Japan will again emerge from its shell.
Starts: March 20. Daily, 2009

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J. Hoberman


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