OK, I never heard of it either. But the good folks at AnimEigo sent me a review copy, so I feel I owe them a review. Unfortunately, this time around it's not going to be a good one.
I suppose there is an audience out there for incredibly slow Japanese films (Maborosi comes to mind … ). As it happens, The Clone Returns Home received several awards at prestigious film festivals like Sundance, Fantasia and the New York Asian Film Festival. And I can't for the life of me understand why. Maybe because Wim Wenders was executive producer? Perhaps it was one of those emperor's new clothes things; it's so tedious and boring, it must be good and I'm just not getting it. Nobody had the balls to stand up and say, "I'm sorry, but this is just pretentious and dull."
I've seen a few Japanese art films in my time, and I can go for a slow burn with the best of them. I love Kubrick at his slowest (Barry Lyndon anyone?). Kubrick is obviously an influence here, in the form of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the compositions don't warrant such loooong lingering shots, and the actors need not pause like junkies nodding out between every line.
I will admit the film gets interesting about 55 minutes in when talk turns to the spiritual ramifications of cloning and what becomes of the souls of the original person and his clones (unlike a lot of film critics, I actually welcome a little philosophical inquiry in a film). However, things snap right back to dull-as-dishwater a few minutes later and stay that way for the rest of the flick.
If you liked the film Moon (the one directed by Zowie Bo-- er, Duncan Jones), you probably would like this film too, but certainly not in its current form. Actually, while I'm no fan of remakes of Japanese films, this one could actually benefit from the Hollywood treatment (wow, never thought I'd say that).
So sorry AnimEigo, I'm a big fan of every other Japanese film in your catalog, but I'm afraid you've got a dud on your hands with this one. Slow as molasses, The Clone Returns Home is a test of anyone's attention span. Watching this film made me realize what ADD must be like.
2 hours ago