Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ayako Fujitani, Ryo Kase, Denis Lavant, Jean-Fran�ois Balmer, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yu Aoi
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Leos Carax, Michel Gondry
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho, Leos Carax, Michel Gondry
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Japanese, French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 112
Date: 05/14/2008

Tokyo! (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tourist Trilogy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'm usually a fan of anthology films, even if they only have one good segment, such as New York Stories (1989) or Eros (2005). But though I adore all three directors in the new Tokyo!, I found little worthwhile here, except for some empty exercises in strangeness and discomfort. All three filmmakers are outsiders visiting the titular city, and each brings his own brand of disorientation to his tale. French-born, New York-based Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) leads things off with a story of a young couple on the hunt for an apartment in the crowded city. Akira (Ryo Kase) makes arty films that play more like parodies of art films. Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani) is his girlfriend, who is still looking for her purpose in life. In what can only be called a "Kafkaesque" twist, Hiroko suddenly does find her purpose. Gondry throws in lots of little imaginative throwaway moments, such as stories of thin ghosts and amphibian creatures, and his segment may be the warmest of the three, even if its payoff feels rote. French-born Leos Carax (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf) takes one idea and stretches it too thin; a weird creature (played by the amazing Denis Lavant), with a curly red beard and a white, milky eye, emerges from the sewers and begins wreaking havoc, stealing canes and eating flowers. On one trip up, he tosses a few old hand grenades, gets caught and stands trial. The media covers the event and detractors and supporters spring up. By the end, I wasn't sure if we were supposed to feel loss or relief. The Korean-born Bong Joon-ho (The Host) brings us the third story about a hikikomori, or a shut-in, who has lived in his orderly apartment without emerging for ten years. When an earthquake hits just as his pizza is being delivered, he is shocked enough to suddenly make eye contact with his beautiful delivery-girl. He falls instantly in love and breaks his long isolation to find her. It's a nice idea, and Bong throws in some interesting images, but the story's twist "ending" once again feels empty and contrived.

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