is no David & Lisa story of high
school understanding and healing. Ai is definitely a disturbed student, but her
art teacher seems to be part of her problem, rather than a solution. Granted,
the school nurse is sympathetic, but there is definitely some weird hidden dynamic
at work in Mamoru Oshii’s Nowhere Girl (trailer here), which screens
today during the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, following its recent NYAFF North American premiere.
was once the prized pupil of a boarding school for the arts, whose
distinguished presence helped drive enrollment. However, something happened
causing Ai to severely draw inward. Now she sleepwalks through the school like
an entitled zombie, facing no consequences for her irresponsibility. Her
classmates resent her privileged status, but they find she is tougher to bully
than she looks. On the other hand, the art teacher’s efforts to snap her out of
it, or just punish her, ought to be grounds for his dismissal. Regardless,
there are dramatic reasons for her compulsive behavior that will be revealed during
the third act.
to be spoilery, but when Ai wrestles with the Macguffin, or whatever, it is
pretty spectacular. Frankly, the big twist is not entirely unprecedented, but
Oshii still pulls it off rather adroitly. In fact, Nowhere is the sort of film worth revisiting to catch all the sign
posts we might have missed the first time around.
it is almost spoilery to note how forceful and physical Nana Seino is during Ai’s
action sequences, but her chops deserve props. It often seems like a very “closed-off”
sort of performance, but she conveys a clear sense that something tumultuous is
going on beneath the surface. Lily (as she is simply billed) is also terrific
as the nurse.
You might think you have seen a lot of twisted
Japanese school girl films, but Nowhere is
something else entirely (yet still a little warped). Anime legend Oshii
(director of the original Ghost in the
Shell) basically directs in two speeds, eerily dreamlike or blazingly fast,
but they are equally effective. The use of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Minor is also quite haunting, while art
director Michitoshi Kurokawa’s sets provide the real X-factor edge. Cool and
chilling, Nowhere Girl is recommended
for fans of mind-benders and school girl genre films when it screens tonight
(7/21), at this year’s Fantasia.
Labels: Boarding School Movies, Fantasia '15, Japanese Cinema, Mamoru Oshii