Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Japan Cuts ’15: I Alone
ought to understand the horoscope has absolutely no value as a daily planning
tool. Nevertheless, two losers will prove it ever so clearly, yet again. When
the local news station’s “Astrology Idol” advises Libras “go for it,” they do.
Chaos thusly ensues in Sho Tsukikawa’s I
screens as a selection of this year’s Japan Cuts, the Festival of New Japanese Film in New York.
Ito is a former punk rocker turned salaryman, who has been thoroughly beaten
down by life. Koga Kuroda is the rebellious son of a mildly corrupt police
detective. They have very little in common, except they are both Libras who watch
the Astrology idol. This is supposed to be their day, but it does not work out
that way. Ito gets berated at work, while Kuroda is finally expelled from
school for his latest delinquency. That night, out of some madly perverse
impulse, Ito decides to steal an idling luxury car. Equally perversely, Kuroda
decides to play the hero.
Kuroda catches up with Ito, both men are rather surprised to find a baby in a
card box on the back seat. They are pretty dumb, but they both quickly figure
out she is not the daughter of the car’s Yakuza owner. In fact, he kidnapped
her to force her reformist politician father to drop out of the mayoral
election. Scapegoated for the crime, Ito and Kuroda become wanted men.
misleadingly titled I Alone is a
weirdly effective mish mash of genres, starting out as some sort of Three Men and a Baby style comedy, but
morphing into The Raid, when Ito,
Kuroda, and his punky friends fight their way to the corrupt mayor’s office in
city hall, floor by floor. All the elements of the odd couple buddy picture are
present and accounted for, but there are some massive beatdowns and brawls in
the third act.
Sports looks like a sad hound dog as Ito, but he captures the zeitgeisty
essence of the weary, ever-toiling salaryman archetype. Likewise, Sosuke
Ikematsu projects all the nervous energy and cynicism of the disillusioned
youth. They develop great chemistry together, especially when they are beating
each other fifty seven shades of black and blue. This is definitely their show,
but Chiba Masako adds some dignity and character as Kuroda’s teacher, who also
happens to be the last holdout against the mayor’s pocket-lining market district
I Alone has to be one of
the most “realistically” violent comedies you will see in a month of Sundays. For
a film about two very different men uniting for the sake of a baby, it is also
unusually unsentimental. However, Kensuke Matsuse’s screenplay is scathing in
its contempt for municipal politics. It turns out Japanese politics are a lot
like ours. National issues get the most attention, but the biggest money is in
local land use and zoning policy. Sharply honed and thoroughly entertaining, I Alone is highly recommended for action
comedy fans when it screens tomorrow (7/12) at the Japan Society, as part of
the 2015 Japan Cuts.
Labels: Japan Cuts '15, Japanese Cinema