Friday 28th July 2017,
Televisual

MEDIA UPDATE: Watching: Dispatch from NewFest

Imri Khan as Imri in Japan Japan

Japan Japan (2007) –

I’m a nice guy, so I’m not going to beat up on a low-budget movie from overseas. Japan Japan is a bit of a mess, though. A NewFest program coordinator introduced the movie as “experimental.” That it is.

The movie is filmed with what seems like various cameras of various resolutions (though I’m sure it’s the same one, but with varying degrees of clarity depending on the setting). Director Lior Shamriz shoots from various angles – really all over the place – making the film seem frenetic. Maybe I was dehydrated from the heat, but I started to feel ill.

Still, the film’s randomness fits in with a theme – and that’s what saved Japan Japan. The movie follows a young Israeli gay boy planning a trip to Japan that he cannot afford; it also tracks his relationships: friends, family, lovers. Because of its youthful protagonist, Japan Japan seems to be about how young people, in loneliness, connect with the world, dream about the world and contextualize their lives in globalization.

Japan Japan is pretty smart about this. Throughout the movie, Imri, the protagonist, watches video blogs from his friend who is living in New York (she films touristy things and dresses up like a Chinese girl), he watches Japanese porn and anime as a way to connect with the place he wants to live, he visits various places in Israel, including the wall being built on the West Bank (the film’s last scene, which includes a shot out to Banksy).

These are, to be sure, superficial connections, and Shamriz, with his awkward and fast editing, seems to think the same thing. In an interesting scene, Imri visits the home of a Turkish man (a hookup?). After hearing the older man talk at length about Turkish culture, Imri, an Israeli, calls him pathetic and bolts out the door. Clearly there are limits to cross-cultural interaction if you aren’t open to it.

But young people are also stars of their own movies. Twice during the movie the plot is interesting by a sharply edited roll of credits introducing the characters and the title of the movie: Japan Japan. The idea is that these people know they are being filmed, their lives are movies (which explains the first line of the movie: “Cinema is dead.” Who needs cinema when life is cinema? YouTube anyone?). Shamriz underscores this point when he introduces an impromptu music video starring two of the main characters. The characters are also named after the actors.

Hasn’t everyone had that dream before? Your life on TV!

Note: even though I saw this movie at gay film festival, I have to say the gay themes aren’t too strong. Which I could argue is a good thing!

ALSO SHOWN WITH JAPAN JAPAN:

“Tá” (short, 2007, Dir. Felipe Sholl): Funny, clever and hopeful. Two boys flirt in a bathroom, as one talks about getting up after smoking coke. He does a line, the other boy asks if he’s hard, so they try various methods of achieved arousal: sucking, poking. Finally, they kiss. Nice. I think I missed some cultural references.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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