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About Love, Tokyo

Posted by martinteller on March 19, 2012

Ever since being completely smitten with Who’s Camus Anyway? I’ve been hoping to see another Yanagimachi film as exciting and endearing.  His biker club documentary Godspeed You! Black Emperor has some wonderful energy to it but fizzles out in spots.  This story, focusing on the Chinese experience in Japan, is another hit-and-miss effort, to my disappointment.

Ho Jun (Gu Xiao Tong) and his friends are students trying to learn Japanese.  He and another fellow work at a slaughterhouse, another guy in a pachinko parlor.  One of their friends has a wife who is openly sleeping around with a successful Japanese man.  Ho Jun hooks up with Ailin (Asuka Okasaka), a Japanese native but of Chinese descent, who pretends to be Chinese when it suits her.  Pretty much everyone they encounter is prejudiced against the Chinese in some way.  As a statement about racism, it’s rather blunt and tedious.  And perhaps does more to reinforce stereotypes than shatter them… it doesn’t take much to corrupt Ho Jun and his pals.

The relationship between Ho Jun and Ailin starts out with a wonderful sweet sequence, that really made me think I was going to love the film.  And there’s some nice scoring and cinematography.  Certain scenes capture bonding and youth culture with the same authenticity and delight as Camus.  But it just doesn’t add up to much.  The final minutes of the movie seem confused, like Yanagimachi has built plot threads he didn’t know how to get out of.  His heart is in the right place, and some of the moments truly shine.  As a whole, however, it’s a letdown.  Rating: Fair


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