Friday, December 11, 2009

REVIEW: Tomie: Another Face

富江:アナザフェイス (Tomie: anaza feisu)

Released: 1999

Toshiro Inomata

Runa Nagai
Akira Hirai
Chie Tanaka

Mitsuaki Kaneko
Eriko Odaira

Running time: 72 min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

After a successful first feature film adaptation of "Tomie", Toei Films and Kansai Television thought it would be a terrific idea to work together, taking the episodic structure of the manga and applying it to a straight to video format for a new "Tomie" film. Of course, they didn’t want to wait even a year for the new film to be released, taking the time to come up with a solid, creative idea for the new V-cinema adaptation, so in 1999, not one, but two "Tomie" films came out. So how does the rushed video format "Tomie: Another Face" compare with the theatrical precursor? Let’s break it down.

he tale is broken into three stories, all linked by a mysterious stranger with an eye patch that seems to be tracking Tomie down. The first follows Miki and her on again off again boyfriend Takashi, who discovers their classmate Tomie, who also happened to steal Takashi from Miki, is found dead. Of course she returns, and no one can understand why or how. But when Takashi kills her, and tells Miki this isn’t the first time he’s done so, things get a little weird. The second tale finds Mori, a photographer who becomes obsessed with Tomie at a young age, spending his adult life trying to track her down, idolizing her as the perfect subject. However, once he starts taking her photographs, they don’t turn out quite the way he expected. The third tale features businessman Yasuda who proposes to his girlfriend Tomie. However, when he finds himself and Tomie attacked by the eye patch man, he discovers his lover isn’t all she appears to be.

The good: Well, there’s not much good. Luna Nagai, a busty young idol with no screen experience plays Tomie, and to surprisingly good effect. She can be both cute and sexy, and switches fairly quickly to seductive, manipulative and plain old fashioned evil. The episodic structure works quite well for the video format, something Takashi Shimizu would later use with the "Ju-on" series. It is one of the saving graces of the film. At a time when the j-horror boom was spreading, this structure was a breath of fresh air. And the script is surprisingly tight, considering how rushed the film was. It does a good job of remaining somewhat faithful to the original series, depicting the manipulative nature of Tomie, and touching on the every spreading virus like nature of the demonic teenager. However, it does also seem they just grabbed three chapters from the "Tomie" series and translated them on to the page with little imagination too.

The bad: The first film was made with the assistance of Junji Ito, and while it didn’t completely capture the impending madness and bloody nature of the manga, it tried hard, and for the most part succeeded. Here there’s almost no blood. There is nothing remotely scary, or even a little bit creepy. The gruesome demise of Tomie at the hands of her lovers is relegated to a series of falls off of buildings or strangulations that frankly don’t cut it. The visual nature of the video format really doesn’t lend itself to creating such visually inventive worlds that Ito’s characters always seem to exist in. It’s also painfully obvious that there was no budget for this film. Everything seems pretty make shift, more improvised, on the spot filmmaking, where the first and only time director Toshiro Inomata just took whatever he found and shot in it. The world of Tomie this is not. While the images are composed by a professional, at times the film still looks pretty amateurish.

The ugly: The special effects. They range from okay to downright awful. The climax of the third story, in which the ashes of Tomie rise and form a whirlwind image in the air looks terrible. It looks like they didn’t even try. Sometimes, it’s a sorry excuse for a film. While it wasn’t great, "Tomie: The Beginning" still managed to take advantage of the low key nature of video film making. Takashi Miike went ballistic adapting "MPD Psycho" for the video market. But here, it seems completely uninspired.

So should you watch this film? Maybe. Only if you have a slight obsession with "Tomie". Otherwise, stay away.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

No comments: