Wednesday, August 8, 2018


This is going to sound like a spoiler but it isn't. At one point about half way through this film a young girl Seri plants a plastic Christmas tree in the clay near a river, plunges a plug into the soil and the tree lights up. It didn't work at home. The thing is when you see it you are not surprised. This film is a measured feed of strange information in morsels so manageable that something like this feels natural, not dreamlike or surreal, natural.

We first meet Seri (around twelve years old) dancing with her friends at home. At one point she breaks away and kills the mood by turning on a light and asking if any of them heard the door opening. They hadn't. She shrugs and reignites the conversation about her upcoming birthday party.

We see her interact with her mother. They have been emotionally distant  since the loss of the father/husband and coexist in a kind of ongoing truce. The mother is seeing a man and it is getting serious. Seri has a child's resentment of this and her youthful spirit cannot be easily contained.

Then we enter what might be a different timeline or even a parallel universe as a woman wakes on a ferry in confusion. She gets up, with a few bags and walks aimlessly to the deck where she interrupts a younger woman who is on the phone. The latter, Toko, is concerned about the older woman who reveals that apart from her name, Sana, she has no memory of who she is or how she got there. Toko takes pity on Sana and invites her to stay at her house which we soon know is the same house as Seri and her mother live in.

The two women strike up an easy companionship. Sana goes out looking for work and tries to work out how to establish her identity and whether the gift wrapped box she's been carrying is for her or she bought it for someone else. We get strange information about Toko who might be involved in a kind of militant activism, belying the gentle demeanour we have already observed (there is the impression that the cause is benign, though).

Through a series of near collisions between the information spaces and the timelines/worlds we are kept constantly engaged, wondering how this will resolve. This might have been the stuff of an overextended short, the type that often plays at the Forum in the early afternoon at MIFF. However, the touch is so featherlight and yet so confident that we willingly let it guide us.

The director Yui Kiyohara comes with a pedigree that reached out and grabbed me when I read it in the program. She studied under the intriguing contemporary master Kyoshi Kurosawa whose strange career led him from pinku sex films to Yakuza dramas to some of the strangest horror cinema I've ever seen (concurrent with but not part of J-horror) to the odd social fables he's more recently been making. A title card announces this film is from the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts, where Kurosawa teaches. There were two ways to take that. I took the shut and and watch path and was rewarded. A lean eighty minutes of real depth and masterful handling of material that might either crash though the floorboards or blow away into the ether. More please.

Screening notes: a very happy nothing to report. Perfect seat at a perfect screening. I do wish the festival club were open for afternoon screenings but you can't have everything. This, at about half way might well be my pick of the fest.

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