Thursday, August 25, 2011


Tokyo! is an omnibus film by three different filmmakers about the city of Tokyo for three different stories. For this film, non-Japanese directors were employed as Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-ho provide their own different stories set in Tokyo. Starring Ayako Fujitani, Ryo Kase, Ayumi Ito, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Denis Lavant, Jean-Francois Balmer, Julie Dreyfus, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yu Aoi, and Natao Takenaka. Tokyo! is an extraordinary ominbus from the trio of Gondry, Carax, and Joon-ho.

Interior Design (Written and directed by Michel Gondry, based on the short story comic Cecil & Jordan in New York by Gabrielle Bell).

Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani) and Akira (Ryo Kase) have arrived in Japan to stay at the home of their friend Akemi (Ayumi Ito) for the first screening of Akira’s first film. The couple is also looking for an apartment while dealing with low money and parking tickets prompting Akira to take a job. For Hiroko, she finds herself not really doing anything and trying to find an apartment as their car has been impounded. With the screening for Akira’s film happening, Hiroko ponders her own existence as something strange happens to her in her moment of despair.

Merde (Written and directed by Leos Carax)

A strange man (Denis Lavant) comes out of the sewers to wreak havoc and terrorize people as many wonder who he is and what is he doing. After more chaos that led to the deaths of many, the man is captured with no one able to understand him. A French lawyer named Maitre Voland (Jean-Francois Balmer) arrives to Japan to communicate with the man as a trial is set to happen. Yet, the trial becomes a media circus as the man’s statement of hate divides people as he is to be sentenced to death by hanging if found guilty.

Shaking Tokyo (Written and directed by Bong Joon-ho)

A hikikomori (Teruyuki Kagawa) is living a life of isolation has he hasn’t left his apartment for a decade with his telephone being the only outside link so he can order food with the money he has. One day, he makes his first eye contact in a decade to a beautiful young woman (Yu Aoi) who is delivering pizza as an earthquake happens and she faints in his apartment. Though he was able to revive her, she leaves as he yearns to see her again. When a new pizza delivery man (Natao Takenaka) reveals that she quit, the man seeks to find her as he goes outside for the first time in a decade.

The film is essentially about three different stories all set in Tokyo for each director to create their own forty-minute story about things happening in Tokyo. For those three filmmakers, they each get a chance to put their own stamp about life in Tokyo from their own perspective. In Michel Gondry’s short, it’s about a woman whose attempt to help her filmmaker boyfriend in finding an apartment and to help him is a mixture of Gondry’s whimsical humor but also with bits of light-drama that includes his own quirky visual style. Leos Carax’s film is a comedy about a man wreaking havoc creating a state of anarchy as he’s put on trial in a film that is dark but also very humorous. Bong Joon-Ho’s short is a more dramatic piece about the world of the hikikomori in this touching tale of isolation and longing.

The shorts that each filmmaker creates adds to the beauty that is Tokyo and its people as the stories that Gondry, Carax, and Joon-Ho create from an outsider perspective allows the audience to be engaged by these stories. With the characters they present through the different locations in Tokyo, the three filmmakers create a film that is truly spellbinding and imaginative. Whereas most omnibus and anthology films tend to have segments that are great and some that aren’t, this film manages to do more by actually having three great segments that combines into one dazzling film.

The cinematography by Masami Inomoto (Interior Design), Caroline Champetier (Merde), and Jun Fukumoto (Shaking Tokyo) each has a distinctive yet grainy look to the film but they also allow themselves to add their own elements to each segment. Inomoto brings in more stylish look to the coloring for Gondry’s segment while Champetier adds something much darker to the look of the trial scenes in Carax’s segment. Yet, it’s Fukumoto who stands out with a more sunnier yet lush look for many of the interior settings in Joon-Ho’s segment. The editing of Nelly Quettier for Carax’s segment is the most stylish for its jump-cuts and multiple split-screen segments. Cedric Fayolle’s visual effects work for the segments by Gondry and Carax is superb as he creates a wonderful look to a transformation sequence in Gondry’s segment while providing some explosive stuff for Carax’s segment.

The production design work Hiroshi Hayashida for Gondry’s segment is among the best of the three for its claustrophobic look in the apartment while Mitsuo Harada’s work in the Carax segment doesn’t include much except for the cave that the stranger lives in. The set pieces for Joon-Ho’s segment by Toshihiro Isomi is wonderfully stylish for its stack of pizza boxes, books, and various objects. Paul Hsu’s sound work in Gondry’s segment is very good for capturing the chaotic atmosphere that is Tokyo. The music of Etienne Charry for Gondry’s segment and the original music of Byung-woo Lee for the rest each provide some wonderful moments for the film. Charry adds a sense of whimsy to Gondry’s piece while Lee provides some more ominous pieces for Joon-Ho’s segment with a more comical piece for Carax’s score.

The casting is excellent as the film includes some small but notable appearances that include Satoshi Tsumabuki as a businessman that Akira meets in Interior Design, Julie Dreyfus as a interpreter in Merde, and Naoto Takenaka as the pizza delivery man in Shaking Tokyo. In the Interior Design segment, Ayumi Ito provides a very good performance as Akemi, a friend of Hiroko who tries to help her while Ryo Kase is also good as Hiroko’s ambitious filmmaking boyfriend Akira. Ayako Fujitani is brilliant as Hiroko as a young woman lost in a world of ambition and trying to find something as she feels useless in her life. In Merde, Jean-Francois Balmer is very funny as the lawyer while Denis Lavant is great as the strange creature who wreaks havoc upon everyone. In Shaking Tokyo, Yu Aoi is wonderful as an eccentric yet shy pizza delivery girl while Teruyuki Kagawa is phenomenal as the equally shy yet secretive man living as a total recluse.

Tokyo! is a charming and exhilarating omnibus film from the trio of Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-Ho. Fans of these filmmakers will no doubt enjoy the shorts they make while it also offers something for those new to the omnibus/anthology films. It’s a film that proves what omnibus films can do when its filmmakers are each on the same page about how to make all their material into one great package. In the end, Tokyo! is an extraordinary film that features some of the best work of Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-ho.

Michel Gondry Films: Human Nature - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Dave Chappelle’s Block Party - The Science of Sleep - Be Kind Rewind - (The Thorn in the Heart) - The Green Hornet - The We & the I - Mood Indigo - (Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?) - (Microbe & Gasoline)

© thevoid99 2011

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