Saturday, August 28, 2010

[Japanese Film Festival] Mime-Mime

World At Her Feet

So far we've been treated to 35mm prints of classics filmed the traditional way, but advances in camera technology means we'll begin to see a proliferation of consumer grade handheld DV cameras being used to make feature films of reasonable quality. Mime-Mime is one such film where writer-director Yukiko Sode has a story to get off her chest, so why not do so given the means readily available?

Mime-Mime opens with the audience staring at a bobbing female head. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on when she emerges after a while, wet around her mouth. Then it's the post-coitus smoke where we see Makato (Niijima Ayaco) in the room of her high school teacher, much to the disgust of visiting female students when they see the lovers in positions enough to suggest what's going on behind closed doors.

As with the theme of Youth this year, Mime-Mime follows the confused ordeals of an indifferently cool teenage girl who can't hold down a permanent job, and like most young adults, are finding and groping around their way in the dark to try and discover their calling. Meanwhile, Makato has to satisfy her desires, and so explains her weekly counselling and release sessions with her high-school teacher-lover, who's obviously in it as a no-strings attached F-buddy. Makato lives in a messy bachelorette pad, is disorganized and frankly living a very lonely and emotionally empty urban lifestyle where getting trashed in a pub is the best she could do. She has no objectives in life and is emotionally unstable, so it does get a wee bit difficult to try and identify with her predicament since she hardly takes any positive steps forward.

But the film is not about the constant moping and whining Makato finds herself in, even though her exterior can hardly betray what she's running away from, but just not aware yet. It's about breaking out of our boxed shells, and for Makato it's from the lifestyle she's most comfortable with, to in her own words, wanting to lead a decent life from a life of decadence thus far. The most symbolic gesture she will ultimately do, will be to break her own taboo of cutting the hair of friends and acquaintances, and to do so on her own. Trust me I know of folks who do that, where it's akin to a vow of trying to get themselves into a new life, a breakaway from troubles created by and to disassociate with the old facade, and to give themselves an opportunity to start afresh.

And the journey to achieve that comes with enough drama and comedy, courtesy of a series of events such as her mom remarrying, and various testy relationships blowing both hot and cold. The one major impact will be her childhood friend Nakaji coming back into her life, for some reason ended up being her roommate, and a budding romance that seems to be more platonic as he helps to provide that pillar of strength and geeky courage to encourage her to move forward rather than to be stuck in a rut, and best of all his intention of bringing her out for camping, is one of those quirky ideas that will elicit some comedic disbelief into his level of geekiness. The other highlight would be the dreadfully awkward conversions around the dinner table early in the film, and amongst all films that have dinner table conversations, this one stood out amongst the best.

It was the wonderful contemporary soundtrack that kept this film from sinking into pessimism and the drone of negativity (I for one am hardly a fan of such a mood), with some nice cinematographic moments that I'd thought would have looked absolutely gorgeous if captured on traditional 35mm film.

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