Friday, October 10, 2008

TJSFF’08 REVIEW: Zakuro Programmme: The Immoral Film Festival

Reviewed by Chris MaGee

The four films included in the Zakuro programme are all part of Yukiyasu Shimada’s Immoral Film Festival and have been brought to this year’s Toronto Japanese Short Film festival in conjunction with Nippon Connection On Tour. All of these somewhat naughty and subversive experimental films were screened at Nippon Connection in Frankfurt this year, so it’s definitely a treat to have gotten a chance to see them here in Toronto even if not all of them were a total success.

"The Milky Audition" – Yumi Yoshiyuki (2007)

The Zakuro programme started off with a bang with former AV star Yumi Yoshiyuki’s “The Milky Audition”. Described as a tribute to a 1970s pop star something gets lost in the cultural translation and we’re left with 8 dizzying minutes of a karaoke video/ porno mash-up. Is that a bad thing? Certainly not. Exactly why does Yoshiyuki, who stars in the film, give dueling singing performances with a sleazy young fellow? And why is it intercut with the busty actress/ director getting it on with said fellow in various clichéd porn scenarios (shy schoolgirl, S&M fetish, etc.)? Beats me, but the low budget and frankly hilarious split and blue screen effects that have Yoshiyuki somersaulting through space and multiplied into a topless dance line reminded me of the giddy and playful early days of music video. If there was a point to “The Milky Audition” besides making me smile and shake my head in confusion I really don’t want to know.

"Yueikinshikuiki: The Swimming Restricted Area" – Koji Maeda (2007)

A group of bleary-eyed 20-somethings, 4 men and 2 women, stumble through the nearly deserted early morning streets of a city. They pat their pockets down for cigarettes, stop at vending machines for drinks, go to throw up in public washrooms and get lost trying to find the train station, but why? Director Koji Maeda doesn’t tell us anything about who these people are, he just follows ahead of them with his camera capturing every yawn, shuffle and squint. It’s only once we pick up on scraps of their conversation do we start to get what kind of wild night they’re all recovering from:

“He told me to get her to drink that much.”

“You should probably go to the hospital.”

“You were much better than him.”

“Did he lick your nostrils?”

“If you end up pregnant it’s probably by me.”

By the end of “The Swimming Restricted Area” we have to ask ourselves: what’s more interesting? Seeing the drunken orgy or imagining it? This one was one of my favorites of the entire fest.

"Woman of Golden Fish" – Shinji Imaoka (2007)

Hiroshi Sato is a bit of a sad guy. The not particularly handsome single 40-years-old lives alone in a messy shoebox-sized apartment and has worked as a part-time security guard for 12 years. His only pleasures in life are going to a man-made pond to fish for goldfish and spending his evenings at hostess club with a young woman who he says looks like a Japanese pop star. Imaoka does more than interview Sato in this 23-minute documentary, he fulfills his dream by setting Sato up on a date with the girl from the hostess club… but in point of fact it isn’t the girl from the club, but an actress. Sato doesn’t seem to mind though and through an afternoon of fishing for goldfish and singing karaoke it’s obvious that he becomes smitten with this replacement woman, and this is what makes “Woman of Golden Fish” so interesting. Can men’s sexual fantasies revolve around just a single beloved woman or will we simply replace her with the next best-looking thing that comes along. In this case it’s the latter. Man, we really are hounds!

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