Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Film Review, Tokyo Godfathers

As regular readers may have realised, I am not much into film and it is rarely mentioned here. But I have just seen a good one that I'd like to recommend.

Tokyo Godfathers is a Japanese animated feature film from 2003, written and directed by Satoshi Kon. It's a variation on the theme of John Ford's Westerns Marked Men from 1919 and The Three Godfathers from 1948, both based on a 1913 novel by Peter B. Kyne. But Kon's version is highly individual. Here the unlikely three who find an abandoned baby are homeless people in the gothamesque Shinjuku precinct of Tokyo. A shaggy drunk, a middle-aged transvestite and a runaway teen share a makeshift cardboard dwelling and take turns foraging for food. And on Christmas Day, they suddenly hear the cries of a baby in a dumpster.

The film is visually quite stunning: hyper-realistic yet aestheticised scenery à la Black Rain, characters portrayed in an anime style that mixes realism and cartoonish grotesquerie depending on context, little nods to traditional Japanese art here and there. A lot of foul language, a lot of humour, all quite heart-warming. This is very far from the flinty hard side of the Japanese psyche that has produced harakiri, kamikaze and karoshi. A feel-good movie, but in touch with the realities of homelessness, and not too sentimental.

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