Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Japan Cuts ’16: Three Stories of Love
distantly inter-related characters are all in various states of love.
Therefore, they are all also profoundly miserable. Of course, their cold modern
urban environment has no time for their feelings, so they will have to hold
onto whatever consolation they can find in Ryosuke Hashiguchi’s Three Stories of Love (trailer here), which screens
during this year’s Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Film in New York.
understands how cruel love can be better than Atsushi Shinozuka. The schlubby
bridge inspector never thought he would get married, until his wife came along.
Yet, she was cruelly taken from him by a knife-wielding maniac in a random
incident of street violence. When the killer was sentenced to three years in a
mental hospital by the liberal courts, Shinozuka’s grief, guilt, and anger
became cancerous. He has struggled to find a lawyer willing to press his
lawsuit, while his emotional and physical health have deteriorated.
latest lawyer to give him the runaround is Shinomiya, a young hotshot so
detested by his colleagues, one of them actually pushes him down a long flight
of stairs. Unfortunately, that precipitates an incident with the young son of Satoshi,
his old college friend and secret crush that will be willfully misinterpreted
by the boy’s mother. Meanwhile, neglected housewife Toko Takahashi begins an
ill-advised affair with Fujita, the grifter-poultry deliveryman she met through
her part-time job making bento boxes. (Shinozuka’s understanding boss Daisuke
Kuroda happens to be a customer.)
is hard to believe it has been six years since Hashiguchi’s last film All Around Us played at NYAFF. That was
the first film to really feature artist and memoirist Lily Franky in a lead
role, but he has since gone on to be a fixture in Japanese cinema. Bringing it
full circle, he has a cameo appearance in Three
Stories as a dubious fiend trying to encourage Shinozuka.
Three Stories will likely act as
a similar launching pad for Atsushi Shinohara, who has already won awards for
his devastating work as Shinzuka. You are not likely to see a better
performance all year. It might just be the definitive portrayal of grief
on-screen. In fact, he might be too good and too real, because the other Short Cuts-ish narrative strands suffer
most viewers will never much care for Ryo Ikeda’s Shinomiya and they will start
to actively dislike him after he blows off Shinozuka. Whenever he re-enters the
film, the audience will start looking for more staircases. To her credit, Toko
Narushima gives a boldly honest performance as Takahashi, but her relationship
with Fujita and his former beauty pageant winner accomplice never rings true.
Shinozuka’s story will continue to reverberate for viewers. It is by far the
most deeply felt and features several exquisitely sensitive turns, including
Daisuke Kuroda, who is a real standout as his humane namesake. This is a case
where less would have been more, but it is still worth sticking with Hashiguchi’s
film, for Shinozuka’s sake. Recommended on balance, Three Stories of Love screens tomorrow (7/18) at the Japan Society,
as part of Japan Cuts 2016.
Labels: Japan Cuts '16, Japanese Cinema