the devastating 2011 earthquake, the city of Sendai could use something to
cheer about. An unassuming burglar could
too. He has a girlfriend considerably out
of his league and a mentor who cares about him in his own gruff fashion, but he
has a lot of issues gnawing at him.
However, redemption may yet arrive through the most unlikeliest of agencies
in Yoshihiro Nakamura’s graceful knockout punch of a film, Potechi (Chips), the official closing film of the 2012 New YorkAsian Film Festival, co-presented with the 2012 edition of Japan Cuts: The NewYork Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema (trailer here).
Imamura dresses like a gasman, but it is just a front. He works pretty steadily though, since the
ringleader (a.k.a. “the CEO”) of a burglary ring has taken a shine to him. Earnest to a fault, the young thief is pretty
good at his job, having been trained by one of the best—the glacially stoic
Kurosawa. Breaking-and-entering has been
good to Imamura. Through a strange set
of circumstances, a job led to his relationship with the attractive
Wakaba. However, Imamura gets an odd
sensation of déjà vu when he drags his indulgent girlfriend on a fateful
did not just happen to be in a certain baseball player’s apartment when the
phone rings. Ozaki has long been his
sports idol. The player used to be Sendai’s
local hero during his high school years, but for several seasons he has been stuck
riding the pine for the local pro franchise.
Imamura still has faith though, feeling a certain connection to the
player. As it happens, he and Ozaki
share the same birth date.
Potechi (or Chips depending on which website you
visit) is driven by a confluence of coincidences, yet Nakamura never bashes the
audience over the head with them.
Instead, he allows them to quietly accumulate over time. What could have been heavy as an anvil is
quite subtle and beguiling, until Nakamura dexterously lowers the climatic
the felonious Obiwan figure, Nao Ohmori (still best known as Ichi the Killer) displays
super-heroic powers of understatement, dominating his scenes with his uber-gravitas. Still, it is Gaku Hamada who truly sets the
tenor of the film as Imamura with a performance so sincere, it sort of
hurts. Fumino Kimura’s spirited Wakaba
keeps the proceedings nicely grounded, while Nakamura himself steals a few
scenes as the CEO.
(Chips) is a fantastic little
film, but the sixty-eight minute running time might make it difficult for some
fests to program (fyi, stay for the stinger during the closing credits). Fortunately, Japan Cuts and NYAFF will screen
anything they jolly well feel like, which is why they rock. In an elliptical way, it is a film about
healing that earns its payoff fair and square.
Very highly recommended, Potechi
(Chips) screens this Sunday (7/15) as the 2012 NYAFF closes and the 2012
Japan Cuts continues with its independent selections.
Labels: Japan Cuts '12, Japanese Cinema, Nao Ohmori, NYAFF '12