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Wednesday, Sep 16 1998
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Junk Food
Masashi Yamamoto's Junk Food opens at dawn and ends as the sun rises again the following day. During that 24-hour stretch, the film prowls the mean streets of a Tokyo that feels like a dozen different cities all calamitously colliding together, where you never know what language the next person you meet might speak, where you're just as likely to overhear Latin salsa music or Pakistani disco as anything Japanese, where the next junk food you eat might be anything from dried cuttlefish to an American burger and vanilla Coke.

Junk Food moves in circles -- in the film's most touching story, a young man quietly dies on a train, his corpse circling the city all night long. The cast of unrelated, down-and-out characters are all intriguing: Miyuki is a beautiful, well-dressed office worker who also happens to be a desperate junkie and murderer. Cawl is a Pakistani immigrant who slits his Japanese girlfriend's throat when she refuses to marry him. Mariana is a professional wrestler on tour, anxious to get home to Mexico to her kids. Myan is a Chinese-American prostitute out on the town with a guy carrying an old friend's ashes in a sack. Ryo is a gangbanger (complete with a wool cap pulled down to his eyebrows, droopy pants, and a sports logo jacket) reluctantly helping a loudmouthed gang boss track down his missing girlfriend and car.

Short on plot but long on angst and violence, the film has a druggy, slurred feel as it careens from stabbing to baseball-bat beating to shooting. If you can stomach the director's frequent violent wallowings, Junk Food builds to a compelling, even poetic power, circling back around on itself as several of the characters' stories converge at a haunting impromptu waterfront funeral at sunrise.

-- Tod Booth

Junk Food opens Friday, Sept. 18, at the Roxie.

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Tod Booth

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