Japan Cuts 2015 / Fantasia 2015 Film Review 100 YEN LOVE
One of the wonderful things about film festivals, in this case – JAPAN CUTS in New York and FANTASIA in Montreal, is the ability to get a broad survey of a theme or topic or a modern trend in film. Often, the festival represents the only chance the public will ever have to see a certain film. Sometimes, the greatest joy is the sense of discovery.
For many festival attendees this year, that remarkable sense of discovery occurred due to a remarkable actress, well celebrated in her home country but relatively new to many in the West : Sakura Ando.
The lucky festival goers discovered her in a charming showcase : 100 YEN LOVE.
Somewhere between ROCKY and MILLION DOLLAR BABY, 100 YEN LOVE stands tall in the ring in a weight class by itself. Stripped of the schmaltz of the former and the sentimentality of the latter, 100 YEN LOVE fights for and retains an integrity from the person who inhabits it, a loser who gets kicked, transforming into her own sense of self inch by inch. Ably acted and directed, 100 YEN LOVE grounds itself in the reality of a slow but modest Japan. Sakura Ando stands out.
Sakura Ando (100 Yen Love)
Japan Cuts 2015 Recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film
Sakura Ando appeared on the independent film scene in the late 2000s, rapidly establishing a reputation as a brave and unpredictable performer across comedy and drama with her debut in Eiji Okuda’s Out of the Wind and breakout supporting roles in Sion Sono’s Love Exposure, Yuki Tanada’s Ain’t No Tomorrows, Yu Irie’s 8000 Miles 2: Girls Rapper, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Penance. With physically and emotionally demanding performances she has distinguished herself in increasing lead roles such as in Yong-hi Yang’s Our Homeland and is recognized as one of the most highly respected actresses in the industry, recently ranked as the 8th Best Japanese Actress of all time by Kinema Junpo. She was nominated for Best Actress at the studio-driven 38th Japanese Academy Awards for her role in the independent 0.5mm, and awarded the 88th Kinema Junpo Award for 100 Yen Love and 0.5mm.
Play video games with your nephew when he gets home from school, pick up junk food at the local ¥100 convenience store, and pass out reading manga. Such is the life of Ichiko Saito (played by the luminous Sakura Ando), a 32 year old living at home with her parents and recently divorced sister. When their working class home gets too small for both sisters, her mother pushes Ichiko into the world and she gets a job at the nearby konbini. She befriends a gruff amateur boxer (Hirofumi Arai), but cruel reality soon pushes her to don the gloves herself.
As Derek Elley of Film Business Asia writes, “Ando triumphs in [this] quirky tale of a social misfit’s transformation,” exceeding all expectations in a physical performance of absurd comedy and deep pathos.
Japan. 2014. 113 min. DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Masaharu Take. With Sakura Ando, Hirofumi Arai, Miyoko Inagawa, Saori Koide, Yozaburo Ito.
“The best performance of (Ando’s) so-far brilliant career” -Mark Schilling, The Japan Times
100 YEN LOVE will last beyond most films of the year, but kudos to FANTASIA 2015 and JAPAN CUTS 2015 for introducing audiences to its wonders ahead of the trend. Years from now, when critics and public alike marvel at Sakura Ando’s brilliant career, many will cite 100 YEN LOVE as the film where she broke away from the pack.
Take notice. We Highly Recommend it.
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