Film Review: 'Tokyo!'

Bottom line: Visions of Tokyo: fantastical yet familiar, exciting but excessive.

Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard

"Tokyo!" interprets facets of life in the Japanese metropolis with footloose imagination and a nonchalant attitude toward artistic discipline or meaning. An omnibus by France's Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Korea's Bong Joon-Ho ("The Host"), the directors lay down strong stamps of personality in their choice of subjects and mise-en-scenes, while employing touches of fantasy that range from teasingly surreal to unsubtly grotesque. The film would uniformly improve with at least 10 minutes trimmed from each segment to sharpen the narrative focus.

Though these vignettes appear frivolous and inconsequential when set beside the directors' features, they will tickle the funny bones of a general audience. A safe choice for fantastic fests, worldwide cinemas will open to the kind of audiences who bought tickets to see "Paris J'taime" or "To Each His Own Cinema."

Exploring the city as outsiders, all three filmmakers portray misfits who either slip out of the social fabric through mutation or withdrawal, or take on the human race with savage terrorist tactics.

Gondry's "Interior Design" retains most of his impish creativity. He describes a pair of Tokyo newcomers' humiliating struggle to fit into the city (mentally and spatially) with droll humor, and utilizes ingenious CG effects to create hypnotic dreamlike images.

Carax opens his segment "Merde" with a breathtaking continuous shot that tracks a Caucasian sewer-dweller (Denis Lavant) walking down Ginza, paralyzing pedestrians with his uncouth behavior. The nihilistic plot displays rudiments of an allegory on the historic legacy of militarism, xenophobia and the judiciary system, but these are left undeveloped, as Carax gets carried away with offensive burlesque.

Bong Joon-Ho's "Tokyo Shaking" takes on the Japanese phenomenon of "hikkikomori" -- extreme recluses who stay in their bedrooms for years -- and enters the psyche of one such person (Teruyuki Kagawa). Beautifully shot and edited, the story is disarming except for the overuse of reaction shots and blank stares of Kagawa, who never lets go of an opportunity to overact.

Writer-directors: Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, Bong Joon-Ho. Screenwriter: Gabrielle Bell. Cast: Ryo Kase, Ayako Fujitani, Denis Levant, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yu Aoi. Producers: Masa Sawada, Michiko Yoshitake.
Sales: The Wild Bunch
No MPAA rating, 152 minutes.