Wednesday, October 25, 2006

[Japanese Film Fest] Free and Easy Special Version (Tsuribaka Nisshi Supesharu)

The sudden heavy downpour in the late evening made me think that the turnout today might be less than the previous days, but I was wrong. A sizable crowd soon built up and the theatre was about 70% packed for the screening this evening.

The screening started with a call for understanding from the organizers. You see, the print they obtained from Japan is widescreen (scoped), but the projector unfortunately didn't have the proper lenses to show it in its original aspect ratio. So the result was a relatively squashed picture, which looked quite hilarious as limbs were anatomically impossibly short. It's a surprise though that none in the audience decided to walk out, which was good since you can basically sit through it once you get used to the wrong screening ratio.

The Free and Easy series is based on a popular Japanese manga, and the slew of movies starting from 1988 attests to its longevity. Co-written by Yoji Yamada and starring Toshiyuki Nishida (from the Gakko movies), Free and Easy Special Edition continues the comedy and melodrama about two good friends who are avid anglers. The movie fortunately doesn't require you to know much of the background or what had transpired in earlier movies. It's pretty much stand alone, and you'll get the hang of the character dynamics after a while.

As a bit of a limited background of the movie based on only this installment, Densuke Hamasaki (Toshiyuki Nishida) and Ichinosuke Suzuki (Rentako Mikuni) are 2 fishing buddies. They take angling quite seriously, so much so that like football fans who swear that football is better then sex, these two men too, swear in the same language for fishing. However, both of them work in the same construction company, with Suzuki being the CEO, and Hamasaki, the lowly average office worker, and to avoid gossip of nepotism etc, they keep their private and public lives very much separate, hence bringing about opportunities for some laughter in this comedy drama.

The movie plays out like a typical television drama, and this installment seemed like two episodes spliced into one. The first story focused on an arranged matchmaking story with the spotlight on the younger actors, in a typical plot consisting of boy-meets-girl-too-shy-to-approach-arrange-special-meeting-they-like-each-other-but-there's-a-third-party cliche. Much of the drama belongs to this segment. On the other story, some comedic relief kicks in as a mistaken affair between Hamasaki's wife Michiko (Miyoko Asada) and Suzuki brings about some disharmony to the Hamasaki household, especially when Densuke is finding it difficult to sleep with his wife (lol).

The pacing of the movie is a bit slow, and given its television look and feel, does seem to be trying at times as you can't wait to decipher what's going to happen next. Given the improper screening, I couldn't quite determine fairly how the actors performed, but suffice to say that there are moments of exaggeration, and the plot at times do seem a bit contrived. But it provided decent entertainment in less than 2 hours, on a rainy weekday evening.

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