Originally Reviewed – 4/15/2010
Interesting, artistic and sometimes head scratching, Toyko! is a spirited trio of films directed by three auteur directors, Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho. As the title would suggest, all three shorts are set in Tokyo and feature a combination of slice of life drama in the big city with off beat and occasionally stunning imagery. Of the three films, one is excellent, another is visually mesmerizing and the third is a big stinking pile. Which is which…keep reading to find out!
The first film, entitled Interior Design and directed by Gondry, is the best of the three. It’s the story of a young filmmaker and his tag-along girlfriend as they try to make their way through a new life in downtown Tokyo. While the first two-thirds of the film play like a straight ahead coming of age story, the final third quickly turns into an interesting display of classic Gondry camera trickery and visual flair. The film also hits home at just the right points with a message that’s sweet and endearing. Definitely the best of the three and worth the price of admission alone.
Then comes the second film, Merde, directed by Carax and is that aforementioned stinking pile. While the film is visually interesting, its aimless story, ham-handed inner meanings and bizarre ending make it the sore spot of the trilogy. The story about a strange sewer dwelling creature causing increasing amounts of mischief through the streets of Tokyo, is a shuffling and shiftless as it’s protagonist, full of mean spirited moments, odd violence and one scene that’s downright gratuitous for no real reason. Even the visuals, which should have been this films hallmark, wear off after two minutes, leaving the viewer with 25 minutes of tedium. The final third of the film is especially painful, with over the top acting and a storyline that goes nowhere. Not worth seeing, at all.
Luckily for Tokyo!, the final film, Shaking Tokyo, directed by Bong Joon-ho, is a return to tone and form for the trilogy. The very sweet story of a Japanese shut-in who, after falling for the local delivery girl, decides to step out for the first time in ages, is a sweet and artfully directed short. The most mesmerizing of the three films, Shaking takes the viewer on a wonderful ride through the streets of Tokyo in a stylish and beautifully realized way. While this is least “visual” of the three films, this one connects the most on an emotional level. Great work by a true artist.
As a whole, Tokyo! is a fine example of true artists stretching their minds and creativity, for better or for worst. While the second film really doesn’t do the other two justice, Tokyo! Is still a bright oasis in a land of bland filmmaking, and should be checked out by fans of the genre. Luckily for the film as a whole, one common thread exists and that’s the city itself featured as a central character. All three films do a great job of showcasing the different facets and fold of Tokyo and is worth a watch for that reason alone.
Score – 70%