Tokyo! is a collection of three short films all set in the city after which the collection is named. The three directors include Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Joon-ho Bong and each of them use their unique vision and interpretation of Tokyo to create these modern day fairy tales that ride the line between highly whimsical and incredibly frightening. While each story is actually rather simple, their themes and universality render them incredibly complex at the same time.
“Interior Design” by Michel Gondry is based on a comic book titled “Cecil and Jordan in New York” and is centered on a couple who moves to Tokyo with no clear plans for the future. While staying with a friend in her tiny apartment in the unfamiliar city, the woman in the relationship named Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani) struggles in her relationships with her boyfriend, the people around her and with the city itself as she is confronted with the need to find a sense of purpose in her life when she is told that she has no ambition. This story asks us an important question: Are individuals defined by what they do or by what they love? By the roles they play or the roles they choose not to play? The ending of the short film, while quirky and wondrous, can simultaneously be seen as very sad.
“Merde” is the short film by Leos Carax. This leprechaun-like “creature of the sewers” named Merde is seen emerging from a manhole to terrorize Tokyo senselessly and indiscriminately as the music from the movie Godzilla plays ominously in the background. One scene is particularly horrific as he carelessly but purposefully bombs the city, killing many innocent people. His strange demeanor and language goes unexplained, but the reasons for his actions once revealed point to an overwhelming theme of irrational racism. Denis Levant is spectacular in his portrayal of this strange being who seems to embody the nonsensicalness of both racism and religion (although the very end of the short film may point to some justification of his actions?).
Finally there is “Shaking Tokyo” directed by Joon-Ho Bong. This film examines the life of a hikikomori, or recluse, after having lived without stepping one foot out of his apartment for 10 straight years. Every Saturday he orders a pizza, and when one fateful pizza delivery girl faints in his doorway forcing him into his first true human contact in 10 years the hikikomori is inspired to leave his delicate world he has established for himself in search of this strange and attractive woman. Tokyo, as we know, is one small city that is populated by a vast number of people. But does its large numbers mean that people there are any less lonely? And what does it mean that there can be so many people populating one spot but that spot can remain devoid of true human interaction?
Tokyo! was a fantastic collection, and I hope that everyone checks it out. The films are interesting and delightful, and they feel to me like a Haruki Murakami short story book come to life because of their dark fantasy approach that still feels so grounded in reality.
My rating: 8/10