Tetsuichiro Tsuta's Island of Dreams (Yume no Shima)
is an ultra-low budget black and white homage to Japanese cinema from the 1950s and 1960s. Sounds interesting, right? It is, but one has to get past surface appearances to really appreciate what this film is offering.
It is Christmas time in Tokyo. Alan (Yum Kido) is disaffected young man who works in a garbage dump near Tokyo Bay called the Island of Dreams. He is friendly with a young friend named Haruna, who is sick because of the polluted air. Alan is frustrated at the world, which is decaying around him. He takes out his angst by blowing up power stations around Tokyo. Crime usually attracts the police. Usually. In this case, an old cop named Terayama (Ikuro Kuraoka) and his sidekick Nomura (Tatsuro Nakamura) get assigned to track down the suspect, who is basically right under their noses.
Island of Dreams was made as a student film while Tetsuichiro Tsuta attended Tokyo Polytechnic University. Instead of going for high-def video or 35mm, he decided to shot the film in 16mm scope! What's more, he developed the negatives and edited the whole thing by hand. This rogue approach is almost a setup for failure. Indeed, the scuffs, scratches, and low contrast imagery betray the limitations of both the methods and the budget. The pacing doesn't help, either.
With that said, Island of Dreams is actually quite good. The story is interesting with engaging characters. The acting, which is mostly by amateurs, is generally good. The level of creativity on display is surprisingly high. For example, there is a small subplot involving Alan's interest in a Japanese rock band called The News ). This puts a little spin on the character's personality (he is quite sensitive) and also provides a bit of musical color to break up the film's grayness. Some other clever touches include an animated montage and a few nicely done optical effects. Island of Dreams is flawed, but it is also an earnest compelling work.
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