young photographer finds romance where he least expects it: Paris. Sure, it is the City of Lights, but he assumed
his short sight-seeing trip would only entail some brotherly chaperoning. Instead, he spends some ambiguous quality
time with an attractive older Japanese woman in Eriko Kitagawa’s I Have to Buy New Shoes (trailer here), which screens
tonight as part of the 2013 Japan Cuts: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema.
Yagami only came to Paris at the insistence of his younger sister, Suzume. However, she contrives a way to ditch her
indulgent brother along the bank of the Seine before they even reach their
hotel. She has plans of her own,
involving her long-distance artist boyfriend.
This is rather inconvenient for Yagami, since he does not even have
their hotel information. Fortunately, a
broken heel precipitates a meet-cute with expat magazine editor Aoi
Teshigahara, at the expense of his ground-up passport.
Teshigahara helps him navigate Paris as a friendly fellow countryman abroad,
but a mutual attraction slowly grows between them. Surprised and confused by their feelings, Teshigahra
and Yagami engage in a halting courtship dance that is refreshingly chaste
compared to most films. Nonetheless,
Yagami will not see much of his hotel, wherever it might be.
in the tradition of Brief Encounter, Shoes has already been widely compared
to Linklater’s Before trilogy as well
as the 1990’s Japanese television work of Kitagawa and producer Shunji
Iwai. Yet, this is a much quieter film, saying
more with a look than a page self-consciously clever dialogue. The title may sound like chic lit, but Kitagawa
maintains a vibe of mature sadness that is anything but.
is impossible to overstate what Miho Nakayama brings to the film as
Teshigahara. A long time Paris resident
herself, she is a smart, sophisticated, and beautiful presence throughout the
film. Yet, when she lowers the dramatic
boom, it is simply devastating. Poor Osamu
Mukai’s Yagami is just no match for her, even though he has some nice moments
expressing the younger man’s very real disappointments in life. He is no boy toy, not by any stretch. Mirei Kiritani also brings unexpected depth
to seemingly coquettish Suzume late in the third act.
Just about every scene of Shoes has a subtle surprise, yet invariably rings true. It is a classy package, capitalizing on the
Parisian backdrops and sparingly incorporating Ryûichi Sakamoto’s evocative piano
themes in just the right moments. Above
all else, it is a stunning showcase for Nakayama that would elevate her to the absolute
top tier of international stardom in a more just world. Very highly recommended for those who appreciate
intelligent, grown-up relationship films, I
Have To Buy New Shows screens tonight (7/18) as this year’s Japan Cuts continues
at the Japan Society.
Labels: Japan Cuts '13, Japanese Cinema, Miho Nakayama