Sunday, December 23, 2012

Japanese Film Festival 2012: Identity Switch, Loss and Expiration

Guess it's about time for me to get to work on this piece, before 2013 comes along and I'll have another film festival to cover. This piece is now three months late! Hoorah for procrastination. Crud, if I ever apply for a job as a writer and Human Resources finds this blog, the first thing they'll come up with is that I'm a slow, lazy ass when it comes to 'work'- assuming composing this piece counts as work- though truth be told, I'm still on schedule, since my self-imposed deadline for posts with '2012' in the title is basically anytime before 2013.

Now, back to business. 2012 marks the- what, eight (?) Japanese Film Festival in Malaysia, and I've been fortunate to have been able to attend every single one so far. I even have a little collection of brochures- something the European Union Film Festival should pick up. Out of a total of 12 films, I caught two, the first being...

Key of Life (鍵泥棒のメソッド). Truth be told, the English name makes more sense, which is rather odd- with most Oriental films, it's the original title that sums up the film, with the English title being nonsensical claptrap (I'm mostly pointing at you, Hong Kongers). The Japanese title here literally translates into 'the key thief's method'- whatever that means.

In Key of Life, a shady underworld character named Kondo goes to a public bath after a job, and has an accident which resulted in amnesia. Meanwhile jobless wannabe actor Sakurai steals Kondo's clothes, car, and keys- leaving Kondo with his identity (helped by the lack of identification documentation rules in Japan).

Sakurai has to deal with his new-found riches... and his new job. He also watches over Kondo, worried over what will happen once the truth comes out. Meanwhile Kondo assesses his situation, and declares 'himself' to be a hopeless person (Sakurai, actually)- but learns to deal with poverty, and eventually finds love.

Eventually the truth comes out and everyone has a jolly laugh over the nonsense- though not after some intense danger. For what it's worth, Key of Life was actually screened in Malaysia before Japan- I suppose it pays to have a big sponsor like Mitsubishi Corporation.  Oh, one more bit of info to tempt you to watch this film- Hirosue Ryoko is in it.
Next up, Ending Note, a.k.a Death of a Japanese Salesman- a documentary movie about the final days of a salesman suffering from cancer, written and directed by his daughter. She followed him around with a camera, recording everything- from his discussion with a priest about converting to Christianity (not because he believes in it, but for practicality) to holidaying with his grand-kids, all the way to his death in hospital.

I was a little apprehensive about this show at first, what with it being labeled a documentary- but it turned out to be a touching bittersweet daughter's memorial to her father. The ending, of course, was predictable (for obvious reasons).

Overall- this year's festival was a pretty good showing, with a few others films being tempting enough to make me want to watch them (I missed out due to tiredness and sloth)- Rebirth, especially, if I can get my hands on it.

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