of it as a hikikomori Rocky, but we
are definitely talking about the original, gritty and down-to-earth film—not the
flashier sequels. Ichiko is a woman in need of empowerment, who looks for it in
the boxing ring during Masaharu Take’s 100
Yen Love (trailer
screens as a selection of this year’s Japan Cuts, the Festival of New Japanese Film in New York.
is a drop-out near-shut-in who is content to live off her bento box-making
mother. Unfortunately, when her divorced younger sister moves in with her young
son, the cramped and increasingly tense environment forces Ichiko to move out.
To her credit, she also takes a job at the local convenience store. An
excessively high self-image has never been her problem. Unfortunately, that
also makes relationships difficult, but again, she gives it a good try with
Yuji Kano, a thirty seven year-old boxer about to age out of the sport, who is
almost as socially clueless as she is.
Kano eventually dumps Ichiko, she finds solace training in his former gym. For
the first time, she develops a real goal: attaining professional status and
having an official bout before she in turn ages out (thirty-two being the magic
number for female boxers in Japan). As is often the case, that drive helps her
become more confident in other spheres of life. Does 100 Yen end with a climatic fight? You bet, but it still largely
avoids most of the boxing movie clichés.
100 Yen back-to-back with Asleep really proves how chameleon-like
festival special guest Sakura Ando truly is. In both films she is on-screen
carrying the dramatic load nearly every second. They are each highly damaged
characters, but in radically different ways, yet she is completely convincing
in the two parts. Viewers should be warned, 100
Yen might sound like a quirky woman finding herself story, but Ichiko has
to deal with some rough stuff, including a sexual assault. However, there is
also real growth and unusual honesty baked into the mix.
is rather extraordinary portraying Ichiko’s transformation. It is a quiet but
violent performance. She also has impressive chops in the ring. It is her show
and don’t you forget it, but she gets tons of support from a first class
supporting ensemble. Saori Koide, Osamu Shigematsu, and Yozaburo Ito all have
powerful moments as Ichiko’s sister, her boxing manager, and her father,
Yen is not a showy film, but periodically
screenwriter Shin Adachi drops a line that will knock you back on your heels.
It also features an awesomely funky soundtrack composed by Shogo Kaida with
enough heavy drums to power several movies. Frankly, this film is nothing like
what it probably sounds like. Recommended for fans of realistic underdog
dramas, 100 Yen Love screens this
Thursday (7/16) at the Japan Society, as part of the 2015 Japan Cuts.
Labels: Japan Cuts '15, Japanese Cinema, Sakura Ando