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Saturday, May 23, 2009
Cannes Day 10: Tokyo without Tokyo
Cannes Day 10
Western filmmakers’ fascination with Japan isn’t something terribly new, and two Competition titles on Day 10 are both shot in Tokyo. First, a French enfant terrible Gasper Noe gives us a total immersion experience in “Enter the Void”, an audacious, self-indulgent and unforgettable film about death, drugs, sex and rebirth. The whole film, in a kind of no-holds-barred stunt filmmaking, has no cuts between shots or scenes, and the head-throbbing narrative is told entirely through the fist-person perspective – that of, incidentally, a dead man.
So absorbing and uncompromising that “Enter the Void” was greeted with a saucy mix of loud hooting and earnest clapping after the official screening. The story concerns Oscar. an American junkie living in Tokyo with his stripper sister Linda. The audience sees everything through Oscar’s eyes, even after he’s shot dead and becomes a spirit that hovers like an infernal helium above the heads of other characters. Noe’s take on the Oriental concept of reincarnation is literal and even superficial, but the film derives its power from its attempt to equate death with a psychedelic trip, and to transform the experience of the afterlife into a long and endless plunge into a chemical-dripping hole (there are actually so many holes and slits and cracks). The neon landscape of Tokyo is used merely as a platform for the junkie fatasia. “Enter the Void” is competing with “Antichrist” as the most divisive, provocative and plain maddening film in Cannes this year.
Unfortunately the other film shot in Tokyo is a total opposite: an insipid, stereotypical sketch of the city and its people (especially women) called “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo”, by Spanish director Isabel Coixet (her previous film was “Elegy”, which was released in Bangkok). Here Rinko Kikuchi (from “Babel”) plays a worker in a fish market who’s also, when free from chopping huge tuna, a hitwoman for hire. Yet she falls in love with her new target, a selfish Spanish man, and they embark on a series of sexual tryst that will definitely be the selling point of this forgettable film.
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