Starring: Miho Nakayama, Osamu Mukai, Mirei Kiritani, Go Ayano, Amanda Plummer
Director: Eriko Kitagawa
Category: I (Japanese, French and English)
Writer-director Eriko Kitagawa's I Have to Buy New Shoes has a consumerist-sounding title, but it's set in a Paris that is more for lovers than fashionistas. Shot entirely on location in France's capital this spring, the romantic film stars - and is reportedly inspired by - Miho Nakayama, a Japanese singer-model-actress who has called Paris home since 2003.
The movie opens with a montage of black-and-white photos of Paris and its residents. Although the connection is not made explicit, it seems safe to assume that the film's makers want viewers to think that the pictures were taken by Sen (Osamu Mukai), a photographer who accompanies his younger sister Suzume (Mirei Kiritani) to the City of Love, only to get rudely dumped by the banks of the River Seine en route to their hotel.
While Suzume heads off to pay a surprise visit to Kango (Go Ayano), her artist boyfriend who moved to Paris some months earlier, Sen makes the acquaintance of Aoi (Miho Nakayama), the Paris-based editor of a Japanese-language free newspaper. Aoi literally stumbles into his life when her shoe catches onto a page of his passport which he had accidentally dropped on the ground - resulting in a broken shoe heel for her and a torn passport page for him.
Feeling obligated to Sen, especially after he proceeds to mend her shoe using Krazy Glue, Aoi gives him her business card before hurrying off on an assignment. Shortly afterwards, she gets a call for help from him and she proceeds to not only render assistance, but also provides friendship and companionship to Sen (who is at least a decade younger than her) for much of the rest of his time in the city which she informs him is a distant 10,000 kilometres from Tokyo.
Beautifully lensed by Shunji Iwai (who's also the film's producer) and Chigi Kanbe, the movie also benefits from a melodic music score composed by Kotringo and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and a signature piece by Mozart. In addition, Nakayama (who starred in Iwai's poetic Love Letter in 1995) charms along with Paris itself, while Mukai is credible as an affable fellow who is entirely trustworthy and trustful.
On the other hand, Kiritani's Suzume is a less sympathetic character - the screen time devoted to her and her artist love can feel like unnecessary padding for a film that has few sharp edges and lacks sufficient "bite" or significant depth to be much more than a fluffy, even if fairly entertaining, offering.
I Have to Buy New Shoes opens today