MOVIE REVIEW ★★★ Portrait of a City

‘Tokyo!’ a unique, three-director work


Michel Gondry, Leo Carax, Bong Joon

Tokyo!” is a three-part film connected only by the Japanese capital and the eerie strangeness of the unconventional, distinctive portrayals. All three directors’ contributions provoke investigation of the supernatural and fantastic, while maintaining the underlying themes of self-discovery and human relationships.

Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) directs the first vignette, “Interior Design” in “Tokyo!”. A young couple by the names of Akira and Hiroko move into the city. Akira is the novice filmmaker who seeks to fulfill his ambitions. Hiroko, Akira’s girlfriend, finds herself not sharing Akira’s enthusiasm for the city. The awkward transition to cosmopolitan life forces her to question both their relationship and means to express herself creatively. Gondry’s attention to the subtle details in characters’ expressions make dialogue irrelevant. The very real interactions and witty par between the couple breathe life into the on screen relationship.

The second part, “Merde”, follows a horrific creature that lives in the sewers and wreaks havoc in Tokyo. While initially one expects a parody on Godzilla, the film veers towards political commentary when Merde, the sewer creature begins distinctly terrorist activities. Leo Carax (“Bad Blood”) presents both a disturbing and darkly humorous film — his tongue-in-cheek humor saves the film from being a potential B-rated horror flick.

“Tokyo!” ends with a slow but endearing piece by Bong Joon Ho, “Shaking Tokyo”. Here we are told the story of a middle-aged misanthrope in the most gentle way (a hikikomori) who has not left his house for ten years. With only a telephone as his means of communication to the outside world, the man is forced to leave his house due to unforeseen circumstances and evaluate his reasons for being a hikikomori. Bong succeeds in bringing a quiet gentleness to the screen through sparse dialogue and beautiful shots.

None of the directors are Japanese, hence all of the 30-minute films are especially refreshing perspectives on Japan’s capital city. The underlying themes will resound with all viewers, proving that from the strange to the lovely, there’s a bit of “Tokyo!” in everyone’s lives.