|'Gondry's offering draws on his usual magical realism to paint a fable which is both sweet, too drawn out and occasionally at least possessive of a shiver or two.'|
Tokyo! is an exciting project to consider, even now, though the result perhaps does not evidence all of the promise of the conceit. Broadly speaking a three-pronged 'love letter to Tokyo', the anthology film contains three different stories, by three different directors, all shot in the city: Interior Design by Michel Gondry, Merde by Léos Carax and Shaking Tokyo by Bong Joon-ho.
Perhaps the least successful part of the project is in the 'love letter' description. Setting alone is probably enough of a creative brief and including love as well feels a step too far for Gondry and Carax's tales in particular. Interior Design deals on the face of things with the limitations of big city living and perhaps subtextually with the anxieties of the same. Merde depicts what at times appears to be a terrorist attack on the city, before abandoning recognisable Tokyo entirely for a courtroom.
Shaking Tokyo, on the other hand, probably does fulfil that description with its tale of a shut-in (Teruyuki Kagawa), who learns to let go of his apartment during an earthquake. The message of 'know thy neighbour' is perhaps the most obvious of the triptych, but it also appears to be the warmest towards the setting and its inhabitants.
The main interest for me in the film was in the first appearance of the character Merde in Carax's segment of the same name. Merde reappears in Carax's 2012 masterpiece Holy Motors as one of the many guises of the main character played by Denis Lavant, who also plays him here. Merde is an odd goblin-like character, who begins the segment much the same was as in Holy Motors; causing general low level carnage on the street as he pushes past people, pausing to occasionally lick things. In Holy Motors his escapades escalate to slapping his massive erection around, whilst here he starts to throw grenades into crowds and is eventually hunted out by the military. This ends all movement in Carax's segment, as a trial commences and interest in Merde ends. The initial chaos is uproariously joyous and the immediate aftermath casts Merde as some sort of Godzilla-like creation, but the trial is dull and adds little.
Gondry's offering draws on his usual magical realism to paint a fable which is both sweet, too drawn out and occasionally at least possessive of a shiver or two. Ayako Fujitani is great as Hiroko, a new Tokyo resident struggling to find her feet in the city thanks to an unsupportive 'creative' boyfriend (who has made a terrible film) and a friend who needs them to move out of her tiny studio apartment. As the anxieties of her new home close in around her, Hiroko begins to change in surprising ways. The finale suggests multiple things, depending on how you read it, some of them deeply troubling indeed.
It's probably the strongest of the segments, though Shaking Tokyo is also effective. The three though don't always make comfortable bedfellows and Carax's film in particular screams out as an odd fit under this one single banner.