Surreal views of Tokyo

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 December, 2008, 12:00am

French directors Michel Gondry and Leos Carax, and Korean filmmaker Joon-ho Bong each contribute 40 minutes of tribute to, satire on and unique opinions of the Japanese capital city in Tokyo!, a series of three short stories.

Gondry's Interior Design is a humorous love story. A couple arrives in town and stays at a friend's flat. The pressure of the city causes them to drift apart: while the guy buries himself in his work, the girl feels left out.

Believers in the adage 'what you do defines who you are' will appreciate Gondry's insightful exploration of Japanese women's social status and self-worth.

A possessed, monstrous man from the sewers in Leos Carax's Merde is sure to thrill. He harasses the citizens of Tokyo with his unreasonable antisocial attitude and unknown language.

Carax abstractly portrays the Japanese concept of 'aliens' - the way local Japanese view foreigners. But while this has a promising start and premise, the man's gibberish quickly becomes annoying and the ending is weak.

Joon-ho Bong's Shaking Tokyo is about a hikikomori, or recluse, who has shut himself in at home for 11 years, gorging himself on delivery food and literature, and avoiding human contact. But his world is turned upside-down when a beautiful pizza delivery girl brings his meal and an earthquake strikes.

The entertaining story examines the problems of isolation in this densely populated city and is perhaps the most appealing of the films.

All three directors' Tokyos are surreal in a fantasy-horror/sci-fi way. It's as if the trio consider the city to be a place where bizarre, unthinkable things happen daily, where absurdity is normal and rationality does not exist.

This attitude has resulted in a series of rather stereotyped stories. If you're familiar with Japanese history and culture, you may even find them disrespectful. A Japanese director would have provided balance.

Despite the realistic settings, you may struggle to relate to the highly unlikely events. However, the beautifully-shot scenes more than make up for the oddities, and will make you want to jump on a Tokyo-bound plane.

We have 10 pairs of tickets to give away. Send an e-mail marked 'Tokyo' to - don't forget your name, phone number and mailing address.