Yoshino’s family heeded the advice of a certain science fiction novelist. They started their own religion. Perhaps cult would be a more accurate term. Regardless, his telegenic looks have served
the church well during his tenure as “Guru.”
Unfortunately, scandal threatens to disrupt the family business in
Toshiaki Toyoda’s I’m Flash (trailer here), which screens tonight
as a co-presentation of this year’s Japan Cuts: the New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema and the New York Asian Film Festival.
Guru has not been himself lately.
Physically, he is fine. He walked
away from the car crash that killed a motorcyclist and left his single young
lady passenger in a coma. However, the
incident has left its mark in other ways, as viewers will learn over time. To protect their frontman and their interests,
the family sequesters the Guru in his tropical compound, recruiting three
unnamed underworld types to serve as his bodyguards. Their services will indeed be needed.
controversial figure in his own right, Toyoda bounced back from his unplanned
filmmaking hiatus with two wildly idiosyncratic films. His hard-rocking period fantasy Blood of Rebirth is a redemption
allegory of unusual power, which will reverberate in viewers’ heads, perhaps for
all eternity. His subsequent Monster’s Club, an austere invitation to
sympathize with the devil, might have been more about exorcising some of his
own tortured demons. Happily, I’m Flash is an eerie return to form and
arguably Toyoda’s most accessible film since his “troubles.” In fact, I’m
Flash often seems poised on the brink of a caustic noir portrait of
corruption in the Chinatown tradition,
yet it always remains slyly elusive.
Death Note’s Tatsuya Fujiwara
nicely hints at the imp of perverse lurking inside the not-as-dumb-as-he-looks
Guru and Ryuhei Matsuda sets off all the right alarms bells as the bodyguard
who is not too young and impetuous or old and cantankerous, but just deadly
right. Kiko Mizuhara also keeps viewers
thoroughly off balance in her flashback sequences as the mystery woman. Still, everybody wilts when sharing the
screen with Michiyo Ookusu as the Guru’s Machiavellian mother—have mercy.
Like everything about Toyoda, I’m Flash is bound to be divisive. Those
with a taste for intelligently challenging films will appreciate its genuine
air of mystery. It is also a
surprisingly handsome production, capitalizing on the evocative locale and
subtly creepy set design, most notably the Guru’s villa, which looks as if it
could grace the cover of both Architectural
Digest and Cult Living.
Toyotarô Shigemori’s cinematography is also weirdly
effective, in a way that is difficult to pin down. Over-used as a form of critical shorthand,
the term “fever dream” does not really apply here. This is clearly our world, in broad daylight,
but something still feels not quite right. Very highly recommended for the moderately
adventurous, I’m Flash screens at the
Japan Society, this evening (7/11), the opening night of this year’s Japan
Cuts, in conjunction with the New York Asian Film Festival.
Labels: Japan Cuts '13, Japanese Cinema, NYAFF '13, Toshiaki Toyoda