Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
SFIFF ’15: Wonderful World End
you can make a career out of being cute and popular in Japan, but it isn’t
easy. Would-be model-actress Shiori Hayano does not have that many followers
for her social networking outreach, but she has one undeniable super-fan. Their
relationship will be hard to classify, but all kinds of intense (as befits its
internet origins) in Daigo Matsui’s Wonderful
World End, which screens during the 2015 San Francisco International Film Festival.
of people watch Hayano put on make-up and discuss her Gothic Lolita wardrobe,
but that mostly just earns her demoralizing work handing out fliers and the odd
appearance on dodgy late night talk shows. However, thirteen year old Ayumi Kinoshita
thinks she is the living end. Eventually, the shy girl runs away from home,
hoping to be near her idol. Hayano’s hipster boyfriend Kohei Kawajima obliges,
letting Kinoshita crash at their pad. Initially, Hayano is put off by his
presumption, but she soon enjoys the constant adulation. As she tires of Kawajima’s
pretensions, Hayano starts to develop a yuri-ish attraction to her younger fan,
but it will be rudely interrupted when Kinoshita’s mother tracks her down.
various junctures Wonderful threatens
to turn dark and heavy, but for a film about runaways, it maintains an
unusually upbeat mood. In fact, crazy surreal third act developments turn it
into a legitimate genre picture, but what genre is anyone’s guess. Somehow, Ai
Hashimoto manages to anchor the hyper-real proceedings, neatly balancing Hayano’s
pronounced vanity with affecting sensitivity. She is relentlessly endearing,
especially as she starts to develop offline human connections. Jun Aonami also
looks frighteningly young and vulnerable as Kawajima, while Marie Machida has
some strange but compelling moments as her mother.
Wonderful is a two-hander with
Hashimoto assuming the senior partner role. However, veteran thesp Go Riju
steals a few scenes as Hayano’s sleazy agent. He almost makes exploitation look
quirky and charming—almost. Since her label helped underwrite the production,
Japanese alt-rocker Seiko Oomori also gets her feature spots in performances
that were also produced as music videos. She is a charismatic live performer
who nicely fits the film’s milieu, so her musical interludes do not feel so
very out of place.
The vibe of Wonderful
veers all over the place, but its energy is consistently impressive. In
many ways, it suits the nature of contemporary uber-connected youth culture.
Odd but indisputably grabby, Wonderful
World End is recommended for fans of jpop and yuri manga when it screens
tomorrow (4/30), Friday (5/1), and Saturday (5/2), as part of the 58th
San Francisco International Film Festival.
Labels: Japanese Cinema, SFIFF '15