Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Japan Cuts ’16: The Projects
Danchi housing complexes are sort of like old school Czech[oslovakian] Panelák
buildings. During the immediate post-war years, there were the place to be, but
now they just look old and shabby. For this building, the emphasis should
definitely be on old. It is about half empty and most of those who live there
are retirees. Of course, that gives everyone even more time to gossip about
their neighbors. The Yamashitas will give them plenty to talk about, thanks to
their new visitors in Junji Sakamoto’s The
Danchi, trailer here), which screens
during this year’s Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film in New York.
Yamashitas moved into the modest Osaka Danchi after precipitously closing their
herbal medicine store. They had their reasons for wanting privacy.
Nevertheless, their former customer Takashi Mashiro manages to track them down
and convince Seiji Yamashita to keep supplying him with treatments.
Fortunately, the depressed old herbalist still has most of their old stock stored
in their crawl space. He is always inclined to be helpful, but Mashiro is also
oddly insistent, even with his wacky Japanese syntax.
take a rather odd turn when Yamashita loses the building association election
that he was only reluctantly dragged into in the first place. Feeling tired and
unappreciated, he decided to climb in under the floor boards with his herbal
stock, only coming out for meals and to prepare Mashiro’s deliveries.
Naturally, this leads to rampant speculation Hinako Yamashita has murdered her
husband. Basically, her response to this chatter is a healthy “sod off.” As the
dramatic arc demands, gossip reaches and fever pitch just as Mashiro reveals
his true nature and places a whopper of an order.
the risk of being spoilery, we can easily compare The Projects with Cocoon (or
Heaven forbid Batteries Not Included),
except it is less cutesy and more down-to-earth. There are no montages to be
found here. However, viewers will learn how a good deal about how Chinese
herbal medicine is made.
Kishibe and Naomi Fujiyama are also terrific as the Yamashitas. His permanent
air of melancholy is pitched just right, while she is an impressively forceful
and defiant. Together, they really seem like a couple with years of difficult
shared history. The same is also true of Renji Ishibashi and Michiyo Ookusu as
Shozo and Kimiko Gyotoku, the Mertzes of the Danchi. As a further plus, Takumi
Saito’s wonderful awkwardness as Mashiro never comes across as schticky, which
really helps make the film.
Projects is exactly the sort of film
that wins audience awards, but in this case it would not be inappropriate. It is
a film with tremendous heart, but it has no time for cheap sentimentality.
Highly recommended, it screens this Tuesday (7/19) at the Japan Society, as
part of Japan Cuts 2016.
Labels: Japan Cuts '16, Japanese Cinema