Shinsedai 2010: THE DARK HARBOR
Takatsugu Naito's The Dark Harbor (Futoko) is a dramatic comedy that indicates the emergence of a genuine talent. The Dark Harbor is not perfect -- what film is? -- but the level of skill and style involved is obvious. This film is really a joy to watch.
Manzo Ishiguro (played by Hirooka Kazuki) is a fisherman who works on a boat he inherited from his father. Manzo works hard but is lonely. He joins a town-sponsored dating party in which numerous women from Tokyo come to the island. He shoots a video to introduce himself to the ladies. His pre-recorded lament is touching, but when the tape is shown at the big banquet, something strange happens: a beautiful woman and a young boy show up in the background. Who are they? How did they get in Manzo's house? Manzo doesn't know the answer to either of these questions. He doesn't seem particular concerned, either. He is so lonely that he takes them in. The strangers quickly become a family . . . a very odd family with a lot of problems.
The Dark Harbor operates at fairly high technical level. Takatsugu Naito's direction is extremely confident. This a subtle story about people (mostly one guy) so he correctly focuses on performances and mood without a lot of flash or superfluity. Hirooka Kazuki anchors the film with a strong downbeat performance. His dialog is sparse but his physical appearance (e.g., hang-dog facial expressions and slouching posture) communicates so much.
If there is one sticking point, it is in some of the writing. For half of the running time, The Dark Harbor plays like a deadpan comedic tale of a lonely man in search of companionship. The film consistently hits the mark. Once the woman and the boy enter the story, the film veers off into a more absurdist direction. These characters magically enter the narrative with a rather limited explanation as to who they are. The humor also veers off into a kind of forced quirkiness that gets annoying at times. The shift is not dramatic but it is noticeable.
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