#NYAFF2015 Review — PERMANENT NOBARA, PALE MOON, and KABUKICHO LOVE HOTEL
The island sea and Shkikoku is such a marvelous part of Japan, so the setting for PERMANENT NOBARA is special. Ever since I have seen the film 24 EYES, a classic of Japanese cinema, I have always wondered about the life in this prefecture. This film captures small town atmosphere is a marvelous way – a patient and detailed set up of the environment and the lead character, Naoko, her very interesting Mom (the veteran actress Natsuki Mari, a former Tora San Madonna), along with a chorus of ladies in the beauty parlor. Their conversations about men and their private parts is hilarious.
But what makes PERMANENT NOBARA so special is the story. It comes in two parts and when, the second act takes over, focusing principally on Naoko and her life now after divorce, it becomes more mysterious. It is almost as if, in development, some of the lighter sections in the beginning were added to what was the more nuanced and layered story of the second half. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the last 10 minute sequence is an eye opener.
Like STORY OF YONOSUKE of a few years ago, these new directorial voices are finding marvelous ways to mix the lighter fare of recent Japanese films with some potent messages about society and the younger generation.
The same director has the more recent PALE MOON:
Daihachi Yoshida who directed PERMANENT NOBARA also is at the helm of PALE MOON. The iconic Rie Miyazawa remains stunningly beautiful in her role as Rika Umezawa, a wife turned, banker, turned thief to support her young paramour. The loose freewheeling style of NOBARA is replaced by elegance and form in PALE MOON.
The look of Japan in 1994/95 just as the bubble was really unraveling and debt was exploding is curious from the point of view of those who counted and clocked the money. No one wanted to admit that the economic party was over and because of that, no one seemed to notice what Umezawa-san was up to.
But, alas, the screenplay falls flat about three quarters of the way into the movie. The wonderful style, performances and montage early in the film with a slamming soundtrack — gets replaced with predictable scenes and situations. The silences and subtlety are lost and, in the end, it is a let down. If you like watching Rie Miyazawa, then you will still enjoy PALE MOON. But from the standpoint of solid screenplay – PALE MOON is lacking.
Tanimaru also reviews KABUKICHO LOVE HOTEL
KABUKICHO LOVE HOTEL is a stunning piece of work. The intertwining of stories is reminiscent of CRASH and other films where the lives of so many people intersect in the most unusual and unpredictable places. The Japanese “love hotel” is one of those attractions that most foreigners want to experience just for the fun of it.
We never think of what happens in the underbelly of the world of rooms providing an entertaining place for sex – ironically the largest hotel rooms in Japan unless you can afford the 5 star hotels: The lives of a brother and sister both drawn to the same love hotel for different reasons; A Korean born couple working in Japan to start new lives back at home when they leave; and the sad tale of a wife, a victim of domestic abuse, counting down the days until she can come out of hiding with her lover.
The lives collide in predictable and mostly unpredictable ways. The director give authentic voice to all of the participants – even when some humor is needed to break the somber tension. KABUKICHO LOVE HOTEL is another wonderful rendering of Japan today – the aspirations, the fears and the challenges faced by all, particularly the younger generation.