My Rainy Days -- Film Review

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TOKYO -- Yuri Kanchiku's directorial debut "My Rainy Days" dallies with social phenomena highly publicized in Japan: the Lolita complex and teenage prostitution. Yet it is neither controversial nor serious. With a cast that belongs on the cat walk rather than ordinary life and every frame exquisitely designed to look like a fashion magazine advertorial, the film -- about a romance between a wayward high school girl and a bookish college professor -- is as sweet and sparkling as a Bellini cocktail, and just as light and frivolous.

Although the film under-performed domestically with around $2 million in ticket sales, it is marketable in Asia as a hip date movie and fashion Bible. Taiwan and Hong Kong, among others, have secured rights. Western potential stays within male Asianphile circles.

Rio (Nozomi Sasaki) a dishy 17-year-old with a traumatic past, presides over a school prostitution ring. Rio meets history professor Kouki (Shousuke Tanihara) through an incident of mistakenly swapped photos. It rains on their first rendezvous, giving her an excuse to get under his umbrella and eventually into his heart.

The exploits of Rio and her gang of glamorously dressed nymphets consist less of sexual hijinks than a whirlwind tour of Tokyo's classiest shopping, dining and clubbing hotspots. Trendy art direction, racy editing and a youthful J-pop score imbue the girls' goings-on with sugar daddies and pimps with an air of artificiality that downplays the sleaziness of the situations.

The love relationship draws on the stuff of Korean TV soaps -- brain tumors (revealed at the opening) and amnesia. It is topped with more novel improbabilities such as Rio's overnight renouncement of her decadent lifestyle in favor of extra homework and field trips with Kouki. Nevertheless, in execution, the film avoids conventional tearjerking pitfalls with some unexpected narrative turns. It underplays Kouki's morbid adult problems, and highlights Rio's youth and the fearlessness it brings, giving the film its upbeat tone and some poetic license.

Newcomer-idol Sasaki has the face of a porcelain doll and the body language of a giselle. She has yet to gain her acting chops, but her value in the film is to be a charismatic, slightly unreachable presence. This she effortlessly delivers. Tanihara's character is more grounded, but he moderates it with flashes of daft humor.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kanchiku proves she is still young enough to capture pubescent sexuality and the mind-sets and mannerisms of the new generation without being patronizing or judgemental. Moreover, her direction reveals maturity and assurance, especially her ability to make scenes of dissonant moods segue fluidly into each other.

Venue: Tokyo International Film Festival

Sales: Gaga Corporation
Production: SEDIC Deux Inc, "My Rainy Days" Film Partners
Cast: Nozomi Sasaki, Shosuke Tanihara, Hikaru Yamamoto, Mitsuki Oishi
Director/screenwriter: Yuri Kanchiku
Based on the original web novel by: sin
Producer: Yasushi Umemura
Executive producer: Michihiko Umezawa
Director of photography: Shinichi Tsunoda
Production designer: Nori Fukuda
Music: indigo blue, Zentaro Watanabe
Costume designer: Minori Arasaki
No rating, 119 minutes
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