clichés require two to tango, but that is usually not a problem in the movies.
Instead, rom-com tropes are dashed upon the rocks of genre cinema in a new long
short and a short feature by Japanese J-horror auteur turned art-house
favorite, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Sure to have a long shelf life on the international
festival circuit, Kurosawa’s Beautiful
New Bay Area Project (trailer
here) and Seventh
here) played as a double bill during the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival.
yourself for a look at the seedy side of urban redevelopment in Bay Area (originally conceived as part
of a themed anthology). Amano’s family has always ruled the Yokohama port and
continues to do so, even though he is a mere wastrel figure-head president of
the family development business. They have ambitious plans to turn transform
the waterfront, but he is more interested Takako, a beautiful laborer. Evidently,
he has dreamed of her, but this means nothing to her.
it is not exactly clear who or what she is, but she takes her work as a
longshoreman and her father’s name very seriously. Enraged by her rejection,
Amano steals her ID tile and instructs security to forcibly remove her should she
come to reclaim it. That she does—far stronger than anyone expects.
all honesty, the story of Bay Area does
not make much sense and it looks like it was filmed with the cheapest digital
camera available at Wal-Mart (not to mention grossly violating the principle of
Chekhov’s gun, or rather Chekhov’s norovirus), but it is an awful lot of fun
when Takako starts taking care of business. Kurosawa considers this his twenty-nine
minute foray into action filmmaking and he duly delivers a series of fan
pleasing fight sequences. Tasuku Emoto might not be much as Amano, but Mao Mita
is likely to a lot of NYAFF patrons’ new movie crush as the lovely and steely
first blush, Akiko seems to have little in common with Takako. She is the
ostensibly innocent protagonist of the hour-long Seventh Code, who has followed the mysterious Matsunaga to
Vladivostok, because she was deeply taken with him during a chance meeting in
Japan. Hardly knowing her, Matsunaga encourages her to return home, but when
she persists, his dodgy Russian associates steal her luggage and passport,
leaving her in the middle of nowhere.
it will take more than that to get Akiko to give up. Eventually, she will find
limited work and friendship with an expatriate Japanese restauranteur and his
Chinese girlfriend, Hsiao-yen, while continuing her search for Matsunaga. Yet,
now and then, Kurosawa drops hints there might be more to this story than meets
contrast to Bay Area, Code looks fantastic.
Kurosawa effectively takes viewers on a walking tour of Vladivostok’s back
alleys, giving the audience a vivid rough-and-tumble sense of place. He also
stages another first-rate fight scene and maintains a general vibe of
weirdness. While the big surprise might be easy to anticipate, Japanese pop
star Atsuko Maeda turns it quite agilely as Akiko. It is a nice acting debut
vehicle for her, even though Chinese television host Aissy steals a number of
scenes outright as the ambiguously ambitious Hsiao-yen. Unfortunately, Kurosawa
has a hard time wrapping-up Code,
tacking on a number of false endings and a completely random performance from
Maeda, perhaps intended to satisfy her fans.
While both films are a bit of a mixed bag, they
are brimming with energy and spectacularly showcase the talents of Mita, Maeda,
and Aissy. They fit well together, but represent another curve ball for
cineastes familiar either with his previous genre work, like Pulse, or his more sensitive recent releases,
such as REAL or Tokyo Sonata. Recommended for fans of action and espionage films
with resourceful leading ladies, Beautiful
New Bay Area Project and Seventh Code
screened this week at NYAFF, so expect them to pop up at more fests
Labels: Aissy, Atsuko Maeda, Japanese Cinema, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, NYAFF '14, Short Films