The Japanese director who wasn’t here, anymore?
A photography student is hired to follow the wife of a dentist who spends her days at the park.
THIS JAPANESE DIRECTOR
Shinji Aoyama gained some attention in the West with Eureka, a 4-hour long about the loneliness, grief & death experienced by characters who survived a hostage-taking situation. It was in 2000, and since then, the director has never provoked the same enthusiasm in the West. There are many reasons, among them, his films haven’t been so well distributed outside Japan, & these films have received pretty much mixed reviews – on one said, they are said to be self-parody, on the other, they’re praised for their subtle depth.
With this film, Aoyama is interested in describing the ambiguous relationships between men & women, using the simple starting plot to discuss about the idea of happiness, love and its impossibility as well. On the paper, that’s quite an interesting theme, allowing characters to face their emotional troubles, while pointing out the consequences of what society expects from people (the very same society that will soon be devastated – that’s the 3.11 point).
But Tokyo Park suffers from many problems. Its overall treatment is vague. Instead of using the stalking idea at the very center of the story, as a way to let the main character experiences moral difficulties on this strange job, Aoyama is putting his focus elsewhere. Creating overlong dialogue sequences to let the characters explain what they feel/experience. The audience isn’t involved in this process, which makes it frustrating, and boring at some point. Knowing that the few stalking scenes are incredibly flat & not engaging – nothing really happens, at all.
Tokyo Park looks more like a chain of little scenes ranging from comedy to melancholy, with no main theme to connect them all. But with some ideas; there’s a touch of fantasy, and there’s Aoyama paying tribute to horror films, from time to time – he’s obviously a cinephile, and expresses himself through the girlfriend, who mentions lots of films – from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Romero or Tai Kato.
At one moment, Aoyama has even directed a nightmarish zombie attack. An original idea. Too bad, it’s just one scene. At least here, the references are being used to try to create something, and are not just explained by the characters.
IDEAS AREN’T ENOUGH
The film feature some nice shots, the parks of Tokyo look gorgeous (in the Fall). The directors lets the audience enjoy these beautiful contemplative shots. It’s the same during most dialogue scenes. The editing job is only here to underline some of the major points of the dialogues, still, it’s not over-edited.
Another nice idea, the frontal shots. It’s like the audience can watch the main character watching the world through his digital camera. There’s the idea to really observe the world, the people – to get out of our misrepresentation of them. But again, there’s no solid narrative to structure the idea. It is always painfully exposed through never-ending dialogues, from uninteresting characters too busy explaining what they are.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Tokyo Park smells like a pointless auteur-ish film, offering lots of ideas, but never actually exploring & organizing them (cinema-like). Plus, it’s overlong, the score is awful. Two things to remember though, the performances from Nana Eikura, as a charming & annoying girlfriend, & Shota Sometani who is ghostly cool (even though he appears less than 10 min on screen). For Shinji Aoyama hardcore fans only — 2/10.
AKA Tokyo Koen, 東京公園