France/Japan/Germany/South Korea
111 minutes

An oddly engaging curate's egg, this angular compendium has three acclaimed directors using the Japanese capital as backdrop and inspiration for three unconnected half-hours. It's not exactly surprising to see the end result gaining an exotic Twilight Zone ambiance, since both French pop promo whiz-kid Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) and Korean sensation Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, The Host) are better known for their smart, fantastical twists on reality.
     The strongest of the three segments, however, comes from French enfant terrible Léos Carax (Mauvais Sang, POLA X). Merde furiously and gleefully using the Godzilla movies as template for the emergence of a hallucinatory man-beast (Denis Lavant) come from the sewers, his apparently methodless madness raising havoc in the streets of Tokyo. It's the most compelling, surreal, opaque and fascinating of the stories, not in the least because mr. Carax is rarely given a chance to film.
     Mr. Bong, meanwhile, offers Shaking Tokyo, a magnificently shot meditation on love and loneliness through the story of an agoraphobic recluse (Teruyuki Kagawa) who finds himself smitten with a pizza delivery girl (Yu Aoi), enough to actually brave the outdoors to go after her – only to realise the city around him has changed in the ten years he's been inside. It's a masterful exercise in formal storytelling, with the director inserting oddly disquieting dystopic touches throughout, and its glossy elegance holds its own against mr. Carax's cackling intensity.
     The third wheel, though, is opener Interior Design, another underwhelming effort from mr. Gondry, confirming that the magic of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a fluke. His indifferently directed tale of a young out-of-town girl (Ayako Fujitani) arriving in Tokyo with her artist boyfriend only to find herself adrift and unable to fit in, adapted from a graphic novel by Gabrielle Bell, seems somewhat aimless and ends in a grace note of cuddly surrealism that would make wonders in a three-minute video but is too thin to be stretched over 30 minutes.

     Interior Design: Starring Ayako Fujitani, Ryo Kase. Directed by Michel Gondry; screenplay by Gabrielle Bell and mr. Gondry, based on the graphic novel by ms. Bell, Cecil and Jordan in New York; music by Étienne Charry; director of photography (colour by Imagica), Masami Inomoto; production designer, Yuji Hayashida; costume designer, Takako Hamai; film editor, Jeff Buchanan; visual effects supervisor, Cédric Fayolle.
     Merde: Starring Denis Lavant, Jean-François Balmer. Directed and written by Léos Carax; director of photography (colour, post-production by Mikros Image), Caroline Champetier; production designer, Toshihiro Isomi; costume designers, Céline Guignard, Miwako Kobayashi, Consuelo Forero, Isabelle Boiton; film editor, Nelly Quettier.
     Shaking Tokyo: Starring Teruyuki Kagawa, Yu Aoi. Directed, written and edited by Bong Joon-ho; music by Lee Byung-woo; director of photography (colour, processing by Imagica and HFR), Jun Fukumoto; production designer, Mitsuo Harada; costume designer, Mizue Ishibashi. 
     Produced by Masa Sawada and Michiko Yoshitake.
     A Comme des Cinémas presentation/production, in co-production with Kansai Telecasting Corporation, Sponge Entertainment, COIN Film, Bitters End, ARTE France Cinéma, WDR/ARTE; in association with Backup Films, Wild Bunch, Champion Top Investment, Vap, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Wowow, Asahi Broadcasting Corporation, Picnic; with the participation of Partizan Films; executive production, Eurospace, Offscreen, Bitters End; with the collaboration of Barunson Company. (French distributor, Haut et Court. World sales, Wild Bunch.)
     Screened: DVD, Lisbon, June 23rd 2011. 


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