NYAFF 2011: MILOCRORZE: A LOVE STORY Review
The film's director Yoshimasa Ishibashi is a multimedia maestro, the world of filmmaking being only one arena he spends time doing battle in. An artist and designer in only the biggest and boldest, most incendiary ways -- he's the co-creator of TV variety show Vermilion Pleasure Night. The thing that spearheads much of Ishibashi's body of work is a topsy-turvy love affair with 50s and 60s pop culture, and that very particular Japanese take on western domestic life (see VPN skit and spin-off The Fuccons). His work bubbles over with fruit juice flavors and punchy colors -- think Van Gogh... if he grew up watching Sesame Street and a string of late-night b-movies.
And so here we have Milocrorze, probably Ishibashi's most mature piece to date.
Just think... there is that one girl you'd do anything for. You're mad about her. She's the girl you'd follow through space and time, through every possible dimension imaginable. It's all for her. You know it, and you'll fight tooth and nail, and if you fail, then fuck it, hide your heart away, because no one else is gonna do.
That is Milocrorze, a surprisingly poignant and philosophical (via way of psychedelia) take on obsessive love and the male psyche. Its three pop parables are strung together by these themes, some rather ingenious transitions, a giant fluffy cat, and most importantly, leading man Takayuki Yamada, who is one hell of a chameleon. Nasty and insipid as a misogynistic relationship coach; bound by love as a vengeful samurai; sweet and shy as a lovelorn man-child; this film is an assured calling card for Yamada's passionate and versatile abilities as an actor.
Ishibashi creates three distinct worlds for these characters to play in. On a cheerful, storybook-esque planet, 7-year old office drone Ovreneli Vreneligare meets, and falls for the ageless beauty Milocrorze. The boy grows up to become the heart-broken Yamada, living in a much more stylistically somber world. This story beautifully bookends the film.
The relationship coach who yells and dances and bullies his way through life is straight out of 1969. You know, that scenester fantasia, with plenty of funky Euro pop touches, scantly clad, big-haired women and the turtleneck-wearing poindexters that pine for them. This world quite literally crashes into the sort-of futuristic, kind-of feudal Japanese, still-very Parisian land of Tamon and Yuri and their tale of lost love: ronin style.
This is where the brunt of the picture takes place, with one hell of a sword fight as its climax. The fight's use of slow-motion is fully engrossing. It does not just add further style points to the proceedings but creates real emotional gravitas for Tamon's plight. It's a sequence certain western filmmakers could really learn from.
So yes, while Ishibashi derives his style from practically anything and everything under the cinematic sun, Milocrorze ultimately stands as its own, very (and I mean very) unique thing.
This isn't to say the film is perfect. There are some rather long-winded stretches, and a few scenes where emotions drain well before the intended impact. This rarely though, if ever, detracts from one's overall enjoyment of the picture. I just pray this isn't the highlight of Ishibashi's filmography, and so early in too. The guy has oodles of talent, and if he plays his cards right, essentially not falling into the trap of a one-trick pony, he very well could be one of the brightest spots in the next decade of Japanese Cinema.
Thinking of Milocrorze playing to a packed house with one of NYAFF maestro Grady Hendrix's whiz-bang introductions has me giddy with anticipation... and I won't even be in attendance! So while it may not end up being the best film at this year's festival, its splashy and earnest filmmaking is certainly the perfect way to kick off NYAFF's tenth anniversary festivities.
Milocrorze: A Love Story has its North American premiere this Friday, July 1st with Ishibashi and Yamada in attendance. Prior to the screening Yamada will receive the Star Asia Rising Star Award. The film plays again as a co-presentation with Japan Cuts: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema on Sunday, July 10th. Further info and tickets can be found at NYAFF's website.