You'll never forget this guy (above), although his is the least of the three vignettes that make up this cinematic triptych featuring the directorial talents of Michel Gondry, Leos Carax (both French), and Bong Joon-ho (Korean, he who gave us The Host). Manhole boy here is Merde, the so-called Creature From the Sewers (of Tokyo, of course), played with aplomb by the talented French actor Denis Lavant (he was great in 2005's steamy slow burn Wild Camp opposite the very hot Isild Le Besco). We learn more than we ever wanted to know about Merde, and while Lavant's performance is engrossing, it can't overcome the tedious, static tone of the piece.
Better is Gondry's bit. You'll remember him from such films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, so so) and Be Kind Rewind (2008, horrible). (More intriguing to me is Gondry's claim that all his dreams are lucid, and he directs them as he would his films -- I guess I should see his 2006 film, The Science of Sleep). Anyway, his deal concerns a hapless young couple trying to make their way in the big city (that would be Tokyo) until the girl makes a remarkable and unexpected transformation ...
Best is Bong's entry, about a thirty-something hikikomori (shut-in) who falls in love with a pizza delivery girl and learns true values (it's a lot better than it sounds). I'd recommend the film just for this segment -- however it's the last one so you might as well watch the other parts as well.
Keep an eye out for some familiar faces, like Nao Omori, forever remembered as the title character in Miike's Ichi the Killer; Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata, Hana, Sukiyaki Django); and the great character actor Renji Ishibashi (Watcher in the Attic, Audition, Crest of Betrayal, Dora-heita, and many more).
The vignettes are far stranger than I was expecting. Refreshing that, as I was dreading some drab, meandering, mumblecore thing. Only the Bong piece truly utilizes and reflects Tokyo's sense of place -- the French films use it more as a backdrop. But all in all, I'd say I'm glad I saw Tokyo! and feel sure it will appeal to fellow Nipponophiles.
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