By now the name Ryuichi Hiroki (Virbrator, Love On Sunday - Last Words, Kimi no Tomodachi, New Type, Girlfriend: Please Stop The World) should ring a bell. This past year no other director has received this much coverage from me. Time to extend the current list of review entries with M, a somewhat atypical Hiroki film that might leave many scratching their heads, even though the film still features many of his
trademark elements. An interesting film indeed.
Hiroki started his career as a pinku director, a typical Japanese genre
where directors are pretty much given carte blanche as long as they meet
the required amount of nudity on screen. It's a weird mixture of
erotica and experimental filmmaking that gives birth to rare talents
once in a while. With M Hiroki made good use of his former experience
working in the pinku genre, handling the film's subject with ease and a
much needed level of respect instead of falling for cheap shock.
M is a tale of a housewife looking for a little adventure and some extra
cash. She meets up with strangers in motels, but falls into the trap of
an eager yakuza who sees great pimping material in the woman. Meanwhile
her husband recognizes his wife when browsing porn online, while a
young paper delivery boy is trying to cut her ties with the yakuza. That
all sounds like a lot of sensationalist nonsense, but there's way more
to M than this recap from an apparently simple, sleazy thriller
Hiroki approaches his characters with a lot of respect, giving them room
to grow and develop rather than stigmatize them for their actions. He
keeps a little more distance compared to his pure drama films, but still
manages to create a very naturalistic feel. He removes all the sleaze
from the setup and rebuilds his drama with what is left. The result is a
pretty interesting clash between two worlds, with no clear winner in
Visually Hiroki remains true to his own particular style. He keeps his
camera close to his characters, he aims for a total naturalistic
approach but still manages to sneak in some beautiful shots one in a
while. His films are never visually striking, but pleasing nonetheless.
It's no different with M, though I must say I am starting to become
quite curious as to how it would turn out if he paid a little more
attention to the visuals.
As for the soundtrack, it's pretty much the same story. Nice, subtle
music that goes very well with the film. Occasionally small pieces jump
out for a little extra effect, but on the whole the soundtrack is made
to support scenes rather than steer them in a particular direction. It's
solid, quality stuff, but not very adventurous.
The acting is as impeccable as always. Nao Omori and Tomorowo Taguchi
have no trouble whatsoever with their characters, Taguchi in particular
is perfect as the creepy yet controlled yakuza pimp. His character was
probably the most difficult one to translate to Hiroki's approach but
turned out to be the most believable one. Miwon also deserves credit for
her character, as she captures the role of housewife and prostitute in a
single person quite well. No doubt a rather tricky role to play.
Hiroki keeps a pretty tight balance between drama and thriller elements,
leaving the viewer with a certain level of unease while still ensuring a
rather comfortable viewing experience. It's a rare talent considering
the material this film handles, which usually lends itself for a very
different approach. It's not a real first for Hiroki though, he did a
similar thing in L'Amant, but he does take it one step further with M.
As for the ending, it would be a shame to spoil it, but safe to say it
comes with quite a surprise. Many films go for twist endings these days,
but the best examples are the ones that don't even make you realize one
is coming up. It adds a level of complexity to the film where a second
viewing is almost unavoidable to find out what Hiroki is really aiming
for, for now though I'm just happy with the intrigue and the fuzzy
feeling it left me with.
If you want another character drama, M might prove to be a too big a
challenge and there are plenty of other Hiroki films you could and
should be watching instead. But if you like to see him play with his
characteristic elements within the realms of other genres then M is
going to be a genuine hit. It's a strong film, intriguing and powerful
while remaining respectful and subtle.
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