Tokyo may not have won the upcoming Olympics, but thanks to a trio of legendary filmmakers – French Directors Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) and Leos Carax (“The Lovers on the Bridge”), as well as the South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (“The Host”) – this city claims inspiration rights to some of the most innovative cinema I’ve seen in a long time.
“Tokyo!” as a whole functions less as a portrait of a city then as a stack of three lenses, short jaunts into the minds of each of the directors. This is precisely what I enjoyed about it: the blind hilarity that accompanies watching a tryptic created out of three disparate units that have been billed as one. It embodies a kind of chanciness that undid all the falseness I find myself reacting against when I encounter so many museum retrospectives where pieces are curated in some bizarre narrative authored by someone I usually find myself disagreeing with.
For me, the most provocative of the three films was the least stylistically flashy. Mr. Bong’s “Shaking Tokyo,” the last in the series, is a portrait of a hikimori, a loner who – thanks to the detachment of his father’s stipend and the reliability of a local pizza delivery girl – has managed to hibernate inside his apartment for ten years without having to establish human eye contact. So much of what I loved about the film was its gentle nod toward realism. It reminded me of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s novella Sputnik Sweetheart. The best of Murakami’s work produces that moment of embodied magic which penetrates the controlled transparency of his prose producing an effect that is not so much surreal as it is a product of realization, some otherworldly, and in some cases disjointed, fragment of the narrator’s emotional core. In a sense it is merely an altered portrait of the interior sublime.
The trailer above hardly does the gravity of these films due justice. Not only visually stunning, all three function as highly articulate films both formally and emotionally. For those of you who, like me, missed these in the theatres, check them out on Netflix when you get a chance. That’s what I did.