Friday, May 7, 2010

REVIEW: Tomie: The Final Chapter – Forbidden Fruit

富江 最終章 : 禁斷の果實
(Saishuu-shô - kindan no kajitsu )

Released: 2002

Shun Nakahara

Nozomi Ando
Aoi Miyazaki
Jun Kunimura
Yuka Fujimoto

Ayaka Ninomiya

Running time: 91 min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

How long does it (or should it) take a film series to mature, breaking the shackles of the mundane and creating true works of originality? Most horror series I would argue never really reach this level of complexity throughout their existence, and in fact travel in the opposite direction, becoming unoriginal works used to generate nothing more than money. The Tomie series seems to be a rollercoaster ride with its peaks (Tomie and Tomie: Rebirth), its plateaus (Tomie: Replay) and its deep, deep valleys (Tomie: Another Face and Tomie: The Beginning). The not so aptly dubbed "Tomie: The Final Chapter – Forbidden Fruit", not so aptly dubbed because they have in fact continued on with the series, is without a doubt the most mature film in the series, exhibiting a great deal of understanding for the world Junji Ito had created with his manga, as well as crafting a tense piece of horror filmmaking. Perhaps this stems from director Shun Nakahara being the oldest director in the Tomie series to date, he was 52 when he made the film, or perhaps it’s from writer Yoshinobu Fujioka’s familiarity with the subject, having written the Takashi Shimura entry "Tomie: Rebirth".

"Tomie: The Final Chapter – Forbidden Fruit" introduces us to Tomie Hashimoto (Aoi Miyazaki), a cute but somewhat nerdy teenage girl who lives with her father in a small town. The few ‘friends’ she has at school belittle and demean her constantly, so she spends most of her alone time pursuing her passion in life, writing, scribing epic romantic tales with dark twists. Her father Kazuhiko (Jun Kunimura) lives a quite, solitary life, doing his best to raise his daughter, but ultimately being quite self absorbed. Tomie’s far from perfect life changes suddenly when she meets Tomie Kawakami, a beautiful and confident girl who takes a swift liking to her shy counterpart. The two Tomie’s quickly become friends, and the new Tomie pushes the boundaries of what Tomie Hashimoto has experienced in life. The title "Forbidden Fruit" seems to imply that some of this exploring of boundaries will push the limits of Tomie’s sexuality, but despite a few minor hints towards a loving lesbian relationship, nothing is ever developed. As time passes, and the girls grow closer, the new Tomie starts to behave strangely, as does Kazuhiko, and he soon admits that 25 years ago he was in love with a girl named Tomie, whom he named his only daughter after, and he can now rekindled that passion! The nature of Tomie Kawakami’s character starts to unravel as Kazuhiko becomes more obsessed, and Tomie strings him along. He starts to work out obsessively, and soon father and daughter are caught in a struggle as Tomie plays one against the other. A love triangle like this can’t end well.

"Forbidden Fruit" does something no other film in the series has done before it, and that’s capturing the world of Ito’s manga and the nature of Tomie herself. Nozomi Ando is the best incarnation of Tomie thus far, not only because of Ando’s performance which is at times tender and touching, and others sexy and psychotic, but also because of the depiction of what she really is: a demon. This isn’t a film aimed at teenagers, it has a higher purpose: to engage adults, and not just ones who have a Junji Ito hard-on! The tone is bang on, and is able to switch between horror, drama, obsession and dark humour with easy and precision. Tomie in her larvae stage is probably the perfect summation of this layering of thematic elements. It’s strangely cute, funny and disturbing. But what really makes this film stand out compared to the rest in the series is how it’s simplicity, like Ito’s original manga. It doesn’t seek to intertwine several tales, creating a jumbled mess. It creates a tense, slow burn horror film based around the three way relationship between father, daughter and Tomie. It’s a delight to watch unfold, and I think its this horror grounded in the characters relationship that has attracted Paul Schrader to essentially turn this film into his incarnation of Tomie, albeit his is a father, son and Tomie tale from the sounds of it.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

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