With multiple directors tackling different stories set within one iconic world city, Tokyo! is just like New York, I Love You or Paris, je t’aime but watchable and winning. Well, for a hair more than half the time, at least, which beats the other passport-anthology films handily.
Up first is the best, Michel Gondry’s “Interior Design,” in which an aspiring filmmaker (Ryo Case) and his supportive but ignored girlfriend (Ayako Fujitani of the ’90s Gamera revival films) crash in the tiny Tokyo apartment of her pal (Ayumi Ito, Gantz II: Perfect Answer) while in town for his screening. When their transitionary lives prove too much for her to handle, the would-be director’s neglected partner undergoes an out-of-left-field change to feel useful, but I won’t spoil what. I will, however, hereby forgive Monsieur Gondry for The Green Hornet, based upon the infectious charm and creativity of this captivating short.
Why is it that most triptych flicks seem to place the weakest segment in the middle? Such is the case with “Merde.” From Leos Carax (Pola X), it concerns the titular creature (Denis Lavant) who has all of Tokyo in a tizzy. He’s a milky-eyed, manhole-dwelling mutant who steals crutches from the handicapped and throws cigarette butts at babies. The initial scenes, clearly taking a page or two from Godzilla, are funny. Then, with a court scene that feels like actual jury duty, it grows interminable. I wanted to commit seppuku.
Finally, there’s the partly successful “Shaking Tokyo” by Joon-ho Bong (The Host). The tale centers on a hermit (Teruyuki Kagawa, Sukiyaki Western Django) who hasn’t left his home in 10 years. His life is all about ordering pizza, reading magazines and falling asleep while defecating. He hates contact with people and sunlight. The idea is intriguing, both in the movie and real life; on many a frenzied day, I could go for a solitary agenda of pizza and pooping. Who’s with me? —Rod Lott