I was looking forward to watching Ichikawa Jun's latest self-produced movie buy a suit, and the general screening was one of the first movies I had penned down when deciding what to watch from over 300 options. Alas he had recently passed away, otherwise he would be present to introduce his latest work to an audience. Needless to say, the press screening for the movie was a full house.
There was something quite uncanny as well which I felt when watching the movie. Like the lead character Yuki Kawahara, I too was on my first visit to Tokyo, and strangely enough, the very places that she visits in the film, happened to be those that I went around to when I touched down last Friday. Places like Akihabara and Asakusa were the districts where the movie was set, and I had recognized the same places that I was at during my tour of those locations, as if guided by an invisible hand to have first hand experience before I watched this film.
It's a medium length 47 minute long film, which opens with the subway trains rumbling, and a girl looking for Yamaguchi, an ex-schoolmate of her brother. As mentioned, this is her first time in Tokyo, and we see her lug her bag around trying to navigate the streets of the city, before finding Yamaguchi and spending a lunch meeting together at an al-fresco cafe. I thought there were three logical acts, with this being the first, Yuki's meeting her scruffy vagrant brother Hisashi at Azumi bridge where he lives being the second segment, and the dinner between the siblings and Hisashi's first love Tomoko, who now works in a bar, being the third act.
There were a couple of sentiments expressed that I'm not sure if it's the director's own sentiments, with some observations made aloud on Tokyoites as well as Corporations in what is known as the Age of Responsibility, where Hisashi essentially spends considerable time ranting about, including issues like Social Disparity. As we learnt, here's a man who had plenty of potential as a bright kid, but somehow fell down the society's cracks, and is now someone who has lost hope. While being quite anti-establishment, he's still quite a dreamer, as he hopes to start a business quite innovatively with eel-head ramen. And of course we do see some glimmer of hope and happiness for him, until the plug was unexpectedly pulled.
Throughout the movie, the camera was deliberately distant, as if painting the scenes with very general and broad strokes, only offering some medium and close ups as it inched toward the end. Conversations between characters too had scenes interspersed in between dialogue which showed off the city surroundings, capturing a slice of life passing by at those areas, in a homage to both Asakusa and Akihabara, each with recognizable landmarks taking prominent positions in the film. It's not that difficult to feel for Hisashi as well, given how he was robbed when he thought there would be no more keeping score with Tomoko.
There are many questions I had which could have been asked if Ichikawa Jun was around for a press conference, but alas those questions would remain unanswered. I do hope though that this movie would make it to Singapore at the next Japanese Film Festival, because going by the response to the maestro's movies during the edition two years ago, there's no lack of supporters and admirers, and I believe everyone back home would definitely be interested to have a chance to watch his latest, and last movie in a proper cinema setting.