Adrift In Tokyo (Another Review!)
[Because it opens in Toronto for a limited run tomorrow, and after personally missing it at not one, but two festivals, yet hearing all the buzz, here is one final take (of a relative ScreenAnarchy late comer) on Satoshi Miki's fabulously quiet little Sidewalk Cinema]
The ‘road movie’ while mainly an American staple in filmmaking has entries and variations all around the globe. Usually two (or three or more) unlikely partners, travel to a specified or vague destination and get in misadventures along the way whilst learning about life and living. It can be big budget or micro, mainstream or arty, be in a romantic aim or a goofy buddy sense, and is oft time even used as a vehicle for horror. Credit director Satoshi Miki for somewhat re-inventing the genre with this “Sidewalk Movie.” A film that puts two very genial actors, Jô Odagiri and Tomokazu Miura, side by side perambulating the various neighborhoods and lesser-known sites of the worlds largest city.
The razor-thin plot has a debt collector (a mulletted Miura) trying to muscle 100,000 yen out of unfocused and perpetual law-student (crazy-haired, but isn't he always crazy haired Odagiri). After near suffocation with a sock and a harsh deadline, a strange proposal is reached wherein Odagiri will accompany the tough guy around town, where the tough guy choses to close off his debt. Looking for the catch, yet unable to pass up the chance, the two simply walk around Tokyo, talk about life and have strange encounters that have a way of leading to both the surreal, and unexpected conclusions.
Is anything learned, accomplished, or otherwise gained in Adrift in Tokyo? Not really. But as a hanging out movie (as road movies often do double duty as), the goal is achieved marvelously. (Perhaps Two Lane Blacktop with out any cars or races). The two fellows are quite different from one another, but find a fair bit of common ground simply from proximity. Even at the half-way mark they seem soul-mates of a sort. Odagiri’s near panic attacks at having lost him at one point in the film feels strangely honest and impactful. Reminiscent of Katsuhito Ishii’s Funky Forest and The Taste of Tea for its vignette style and non-sequitur long-takes (not to mention a bit of warm goofiness around every corner and that Tomokazu Miura has a role in the latter as well). But Adrift in Tokyo is a more languid and mild mannered beast, allowing for a lot of texture to seep in the margins, even as the characters are not in a hurry to be all that developed (yet they are not types either). A side plot regarding the debt-collectors wife’s coworkers at time feels a bit distracting to the story, but many of their own wandering conversations tie into the central conceit of the film. By the end, you kinda would like for the three of them to have their own movie about visiting raman noodle stands and playing extras in Ittoku Kishibe movies.
Consider Adrift in Tokyo a companion piece to Sion Sono’s Hazard, which features Jô Odagiri traipsing around New York City in a similar unfocused fashion which yields its own set of rewards. Now that I am on the subject of asking for things, lets have Joe wander aimlessly around other major cities like Karachi, London and Beijing. Oh wait a minute, he can be found involved in a fair bit of gangster chicanery in Sao Paulo in 2008’s Plastic City! So we are well on our way then. Yet I do not think any of the past or future entries will be quite as charming as this one.
As noted earlier with our giveaway, Adrift in Tokyo has a limited run at the AMC in Toronto over the next couple weeks. Come out and support this type of filmmaking getting to North American cinemas, especially in the rare case of something like this playing commercially outside of a festival.