Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tokyo Eyes

All a film needs is a simple story and two good faces. In Tokyo Eyes (good title, too), the faces belong to Hinano Yoshikawa and Shinji Takeda. Yoshikawa's got great lips and eyebrows that can arch or level in a half-second. Takeda's a handsome slacker: pretty face, bad posture and a walk like Jean-Louis Barrault in Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (or like Denis Lavant in Merde), but more pathetic than menacing. The simple story belongs to a film that was never made: Paris Eyes, the movie Jean-Pierre Limosin had originally planned. Then, on a whim, he decided to shoot it in Japan instead with a Japanese cast and a French crew. He even got Xavier Jamaux to do the music (Jamaux was doing acid jazz then, but he's since swapped acid for cocktails and does the music for Johnnie To and Wai Kai-Fai's movies)

Yoshikawa plays a teenager who begins following Takeda, who she believes is a notorious gunman called Four Eyes. Four Eyes has been going around shooting people, mostly single men, and Yoshikawa's detective brother has been assigned the case, which has consumed his life. When he falls asleep, he dreams that he's at the police station, still working. Limosin throws in Kafka gags, little jokes about A Woman is a Woman and Tokyo Decadence, even a poster for Irma Vep. Takeshi Kitano and Ren Osugi both show up, but this is to be expected -- Limosin directed the Cinéma, de notre temps episode on Kitano the next year, and he called it L'imprévisible (The Unpredictable).

Limosin's an interesting character himself. He's done a TV movie,
a script by Christophe Honoré, documentaries. He did two more Cinéma, de notre temps episodes -- on Kiarostami and Alain Cavalier. You can almost imagine him as the sort of man who is fascinated by Kitano (whom he films like some sort of talking bird -- after getting used to Kitano's image in his own films, it's fascinating to see someone else filming him, trying to catch his strangeness), admires Kiarostami (the video games here are filmed with the same intelligence as Kiarostami's cars), but believes himself to be damned like Cavalier.

It's a little film, the sort of movie where the shape of a space doesn't matter half as much as the objects cluttering a shelf. No rooms, just windows and tables. No apartments, just couches and doors. No train cars, just handrails. Tokyo Hands, they should've called it, because it's the cinema of the hand more than the eye, the camera less concerned with what the eye catches than what the hand might be able to touch. Anything that exists outside of the possibility of being touched has no place in this film. If you see a ceiling, it's because it's too low (and even in the subway cars, the first thing we notice isn't the ceiling itself, but the hanging advertisements, just within reach). So we see newspapers, cigarette lighters, video arcade machines, shoulders, haircuts, handbags, guard rails, walls, cell phones, and, of course, guns and cameras. Of course, of course, of course. Most of Tokyo Eyes is shot with a handheld camera, which isn't that different from a gun, maybe a little bit heavier, but just as easy to use and only a little less dangerous.

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