Saturday, December 17, 2011

Japanese Film Festival 2011: Happy Flight

Happy Flight
Oh dear. What a movie. 102 minutes of advertising- and it still manages to be good. Advertising, yes. As in commercial, CM, or whatever name you know it by. The ideal length for a TV commercial- for me, at least, is 30 seconds. At 102 minutes this one multiplies that figure by 204 times- but I'd still recommend it. Happy Flight was backed by All Nippon Airways, and is basically a movie about how an airport runs, focusing on three major components: the pilots, cabin crew, and ground crew. Just imagine a movie about the oil industry being sponsored by, say, Exxon-Mobil. You get the picture.

Anyway, the plot. A flight to Honolulu gets diverted to Guam due to inclement weather, with engine trouble compounding the trouble, caused by a mid-air collision with a vaguely Mexican Superman look-alike. Meanwhile inside the plane snakes have escaped from the hold, and the cabin crew, upon discovering that there's a shortage of poultry, turn Rambo (Shirts kept on) and try to catch the serpents before dinnertime.

OK, I made that up, but you should have noticed. As for what really happens: trainee pilot Suzuki (Pictured above) gets Spock... ah, Captain Harada as his evaluator, while newbie stewardess Saitou draws the 'tyrant' Chief Purser Yamazaki.
Unbelievably perky. Manic Pixie Dream Girl, perhaps?
For what it's worth in the beginning I had a hard time telling the difference between Stewardess Saitou and ground crew Kimura (Below, middle), telling them apart only by the differences between their uniforms: Saitou = skirt; Kimura = pants.
Genuinely Impressed.
Kimura has a hard time herself, believing herself stuck in a dead-end job with no chance of romance- her boss (Middle-aged balding dude above) doesn't even seem to be the type who'd bother with sexual harassment (Oh look my blog hits shot up again -sarcasm-), being too focused on having everything run smoothly; and she has to train a blockhead to boot (Above right).

There's also some focus on other aspects of the industry- who would have known that airports hire 'bird men' to scare birds away from the planes by firing blanks? Then there's the technical staff, whose work has a higher level of danger than we'd normally suspect- I wouldn't be surprised if many developed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (Did I keep all my tools? Yeah, they're all there. Wait, did I really put everything back?).

The festival brochure classified Happy Flight as a comedy, and it is, though it's not really of the 'stomach bursting, guffaw inducing' variety. It's more on the level of involuntary giggles and 'aww, ain't that cute?' moments, though that might just be me being stiff as usual.

Mark Schilling over at The Japan Times Online says it 'lacks laughs because its jokes are mainly for insiders'. Well, what's wrong with a change of perspective? Movies aren't just for people to relate to, but help in allowing outsiders to see what goes on in an area they normally wouldn't be able to visit. So what if the movie focuses on the snazzy pilots and charming stewardesses. Who cares about 'the human cattle in economy'? I've had enough experience being just that, and I really don't need to watch another movie just to remind me of how cramped and tiring flying Economy is.

....and for the record, I'm really glad the director decided to spare us the trauma of having to listen to bawling babies. Sitting in a large cinema hall with plenty of leg space and smuggled food, giggling occasionally, without having to bother about turbulence, skin drying up, and whatnot, I felt like I was flying first class. Speaking relatively, of course.

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