Monday, February 21, 2005

Shimotsuma Monogatari

Great News! Kyoko Fukada won best actress in the Japanese Academy Awards for her roll in the amazing Japanese film "Shimotsuma Monogatari."

Kyoko Fukada



Currently the movie is touring films festivals world-wide under the title of "Kamikaze Girls", which if you ask me is a bad title. If I personally were to pick a title I would call it "The Lolita Princess".

Anyhoo, you can order the film in its original Japanese from: www.aznfilms.com, and www.yesasia.com -which both carry "Shimotsuma Monogatari". The title itself translates to "The Story of Shimotsuma" or "Shimotsuma-town's Story". This is one of my all time favorite films, and one of the greatest comedy movies ever made (in my humble opinion). Yet, its profound look at Japanese society is both one of playful social comentary and satirical wit.

Fukada-san


The story follows a young woman Momoko (played by Fukada) who is addicted to the Lolita fashion. It is a real trend sweeping pop-culture fashion craze among the bold renegades of style in Japan today, in which young girls are dressing in classical outfits fashioned after doll clothing. If that's not a bizarre enough character for you, wait until you hear about the story! Momoko, our fashion clad heroine, meets a highschool gangster, or "Yanki" in Japanese, named Ichigo (played by Anna Tsuchiya). The unlikely duo become friends -Ichigo basically forces Momoko to accept her in a weird encounter in which a shopping bid for unliscenced brand-name clothing (a rare double brand name vintage I might add) brings our two characters together. Ichigo continues to be a pain in Momoko's side until Momoko reluctantly starts to accept her, even as she drags Momoko into Pachinko gambling clubs where they meet many other colorful characters.

The main story focuses on the friendship of the unlikely pairing of these two "social cliques" unique to Japanese culture and societal construct, but the story also contains a more contemplative philosophical tone which takes a look at contemporary Japanese culture without becomming openly preachy. It does, however, raise the issue of why these various outlets exist, and the role they play in helping define the individual -a fairly modern concept roaring across Japan. This individual identity (often thought of westernization or modernity) is leading towards an open debate of civil rights, more specifically those rights for the individual -as this film takes a look of empowerment through expression, and more importantly has too female leads existing in a world which doesn't seem to be governed by the patriarchal traditions which still linger in Japan. In fact, the males roles in the film are more characaturized than the women, who although appear quite stylized, exist more of an antithesis to the domination of their own male governed society.

The main adventure sends our wacky, yet dynamic duo, to Tokyo together in search of a legendary stitcher who can embroider a correction to Ichigo's trench coat -which apparently has the wrong Kanji symbol printed on it. While there, Momoko meets God, and becomes a fashion designer. The after-math leaves Momoko wondering if she really desires to make the clothes, or if she just loves wearing them. They fail to find this legend and Ichigo offers to have Momoko stitch the coat, a grand gesture which solidifies their friendship. Later, Ichigo falls in love with a guy, but her heart is broken when he starts dating the leader of her own gang, and so she turns to her friend for consultation/comfort. When Momoko and Ichigo start spending too much time together, Ichigo's gang decides to teach her a lesson in dissobediance and her lack of loyalty to the clan. The end is a knock em' sock em' brawl, scooter-mopeds blazing at high speeds, a wacky car crash, a cow, and a show down with a bat wielding crazed Lolita doll out to defend her best friend.

Our Heroines


The movie is a laugh a minute, has some of the most interesting lighting, coloring, and cinematography I've seen in any film, and is supported with an all star commedian cast of veteran tallent. Kirin Kiki plays the Grandmother of Momoko, and steals every scene she is in! If you're interested in crazy fun, or Japanese pop-culture in general, this movie is for you. If you want a fun commedy with intelligent philosophical and sociological commentary -this movie is also for you! One reviewer put it as, "As wacky as "Tank Girl", but instead of tanks they drive scooters!" I must say, this film is way better than the previous mentioned, and a heck of a lot more fun too. This ground breaking Japanese movie's musical score is written by none other than the legendary Yoko Kanno! The hip-hop beats and score blend to become nothing more than fantastic, truely the icing on the cake. Please check it out!

For another review check out:http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/kamikazegirls.shtml

For those who can read Japanese, you can check out the Movie's official website at: http://www.shimotsuma-movie.jp/index_main.html

Here is an article about the movie at the Japan Time website: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?ff20040623a2.htm

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