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Adrift in Tokyo
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Two men, one long walk."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: Every time I see a new one, I wonder why there aren't more movies made using the same template as "Adrift in Tokyo". It's a deceptively straightforward one - two people walking through city streets, talking and getting to know each other - although for every beautiful "Before Sunrise" or "Quiet City", there's probably a dozen that are numbing story-free torture. Just because what Satoshi Miki and his cast do here is simple doesn't make it easy.

Here we have Fumiya Takemura (Jo Odagiri) and Aiichiro Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura). Takemura is an aimless college student with gambling debts; Fukuhara is the man sent to collect them. Surprisingly, Fukuhara offers Fumiya another option; he'll forget about the money if the younger man will accompany him on a walk across the city. At the end, when they arrive at what Fukuhara says is the best police station in the city, Fukuhara will confess to the accidental death of his wife.

I love movies shot like Adrift In Tokyo, on authentic city streets that have something in common with city streets everywhere but still give a feeling of being unique to that neighborhood. They aren't necessarily the places tourists take pictures, and we probably haven't seen them in other films. It's fun to play tourist that way, and when the unexpected happens - as it often does in Satoshi Miki's film - it seems both more surprising and more believable, because those scenes seldom look staged to start.

Though many films of this type are at least partially improvised, Miki is adapting a novel by Yoshinaga Fujita, so he does have a definite structure and storyline to work with. The movie occasionally cuts away to Mrs. Fukuhara's co-workers to provide a bit of tension and comic relief, for instance. Takemura and Fukuhara encounter some other characters and situations along the way that are unusually odd, even for Tokyo. The last act also brings aboard a couple other characters - Fukuhara's friend Makiko (Kyoko Koizumi) and her oddball neice Fufumi (Yuriko Yoshitaka) - and their addition is almost a little too on the nose in demonstrating (to Fumiya and the audience) the joys of family in contrast to isolation.

Making connections with other people is what the film is all about, and it works in large part because Odagiri and Miura do a fine job of connecting with each other and the audience. Jo Odagiri plays Fumiya as, quite simply, unhappy. That's different and maybe trickier than "depressed" or "angry"; those have identifiable root causes and often give an actor some sort of way to demonstrate that state of mind, while Odagiri has to portray Fumiya's lack of strong emotion until Fukuhara, by inches, draws some out. It's an easy performance to underrate, especially since Takemura often winds up in odd situations and looks kind of goofy with his afro.

Miura's hairstyle is also bizarre - a mullet that is kind of awesome in its garishness. It's a example of how this actor and character can sell the audience on quite a bit, though: We first see Fukuhara beating Takemura up to make sure he understands how close to deadline he is, and it's not long after that we learn he's killed his wife, but there's so much raw charisma that we warm to him very quickly. Miura's Fukuhara demonstrates the essential ability to find joy in everyday life that Takemura lacks, but the actor manages to keep it in the back of the audience's collective head that he's just lost his wife, and thus isn't entirely happy-go-lucky.

Together, they make for good cinematic company. Their trip through Tokyo shows us the city from a perspective we as moviegoers may not have seen it, and reminds us (along with Fumiya) that the world is full of small and large beauties, rather than just a place to pass our allotted time.

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originally posted: 08/20/08 23:21:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Satoshi Miki

Written by
  Satoshi Miki

  Jo Odagiri
  Tomokazu Miura
  Kyoko Koizumi
  Yuriko Yoshitaka
  Ryo Iwamatsu

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