Thursday, February 2, 2012

Film review “Tokyo Playboy Club“ by Okuda Yosuke – Three stars out of five

I recently watched the Japanese film “Tokyo Playboy Club“ by Okuda Yosuke at the Rotterdam Film Festival in a packed movie theater (always fun to see a somewhat obscure film with many, many other film fans). The film centers around said night club in Tokyo, a rather shabby establishment starring three chatty showgirls and catering for passing business men (although we actually see only one customer there in the course of the entire movie). The protagonists are the club owner, a slightly sleazy character with a shady past trying to make an honest living; his stony-faced friend with anger management problems who comes to Tokyo from the province looking for work; the young goofy doorman-waiter-manager who helps run the club and is a bit of a womanizer (although I personally did not see his appeal) and his quiet and passive young wife, yearning for a better life, who gets caught up in the events. Although it took some time to crystallize the film is in essence a dark crime comedy. Things start to go wrong when the newly arrived friend of the club owner gets in trouble with the local thugs. The thugs look for compensation and later retaliation and the protagonists are pulled into a maelstrom of confrontation and violence.

The film is entertaining enough, with a few good scenes and an interesting setting, but in the end did not entirely succeed at what it set out to do. The acting was sketchy at parts (especially the goofy womanizer did not convince). The scenes inside the night club showing the daily going-ons were generally amusing (especially the first scene featuring the one-and-only involuntary customer), and I wished there had been more of those. The show girls provided good comic relief, even though I believe some of the humor is literally lost in translation (aka subtitles in this case). There were also some nicely absurd scenes, for example when the protagonists discuss a freshly committed crime in a café over breakfast, eventually reminding each other that they should keep their voices down to prevent others from overhearing. The camera then zooms out to reveal that the café is extremely crowded and the next clients are only sitting half a meter away, so no major ear dropping was needed to overhear the entire conversation.

Two more comments that I would like to make: every “normal” character in the movie just lost his or her job and is looking for work (more or less actively). Even the ones that have a job, are not actually working since there are no customers. So, times are tough everywhere.

The second comment: I really, really liked the song “Power of the world” from the Japanese rock band Elephant Kashimashi that is being used for the trailer of the movie and also during the closing credits. A great way to get to know music that otherwise would not have made it to the West.

Rating for the film: three stars out of five.

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