Skip to main content

Key of Life



I love Japanese cinema. And probably in part due to the Seattle International Film Festival, I discovered that contemporary, non-genre cinema from Japan can be amazing and film festivals are the only places to find these films. Sure some Japanese movies make it to the theaters each year, but these tend to be horror movies or Anime. We don't get many opportunities to see the other types of movies that are made in Japan.

Key of Life is surprising because it really shouldn't be good. Any plot synopsis that essentially claims it's like Trading Places in Japan, except Dan Aykroyd has amnesia, does not sound promising. So I honestly don't know how director Kenji Uchida pulled this off.

There are three characters, Kanae is a successful and very detail oriented business women who decides to get married. So she puts her wedding day on her calendar and informs friends, family and colleagues of the impending date. The only problem is that she hasn't met the groom just yet. But she's given herself 4 weeks to meet him and another 4 weeks to get to know him. Sakurai's acting career hasn't exactly taken off. He lives in a dingy apartment and is behind on his rent and has no prospects for making money, so he attempts to hang himself. Although this doesn't have the intended consequences and so he goes to the public bath. And finally, Kondo enters the picture. He is an assassin and because of his line of work, is extremely meticulous, but also necessarily socially isolated. Kondo unknowingly enters Sakurai's life when at the public bath, cleaning up after a job, he slips on a bar of soap and is knocked unconscious  His locker key lands in Sakurai's hand and they switch lives when Kondo wakes in the hospital with no memory of who he is and only has the contents of Sakurai's locker to inform him about his identity.


The movie that unfolds is somewhat predictable, at least at first, but is also very smart in the way it uses genre. Sasato Sakai, plays Sakurai as if Key of Life is a farce. The comedy is very exaggerated in many of his scenes, but Teruyiki Kagawa plays Kondo very straight. Although, he has no memory of being an assassin, he enters Kakurai's life as if he is in a noir mystery that he must get to the bottom of. And so Kondo goes to work figuring out the sad realities of Sakurai's existence, even finding the rope that was used in the suicide attempt. Meanwhile, Sakurai is attempting to fill Kondo's shoes as an assassin and eventually needs help getting out of his new found life of crime.

Having some experience with Asian farces, I was concerned at the onset of Key of Life, but by the end, I was won over. The characters are extremely likable, and plot has some surprise twists and turns, and I loved the romantic turn at the end. It looks like Film Movement is distributing this film, so maybe there is a chance of Key of Life finding an audience in the states.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan

Right after seeing Sacha Baron Cohen's film, Borat, I was disappointed. I didn't laugh nearly as hard as I had hoped and it wasn't quite as outrageous as I had expected. But in retrospect, I have to admit the comic brilliance of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen has adeptly created a film about a fictional man, Borat, from a fictionalized Kazakhastan and used this creation to show the hipocracy of America. Using tactics pioneered by reality television shows, Borat travels across America on a quest to find his true love, Pamela Anderson. On this journey, he meets numerous people who share their thoughts about a multitude of things, exposing the way some Americans really believe about race, class, homosexuality and the other sex. It is a very interesting film. Sure, it gets laughs from ambushing Pamela Anderson with a wedding bag, traveling with a bear, and a bit of naked wrestling, but this film is also very smart in its sly portrayal of the wealth of prejudices that are ali

Girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls...

Where does one begin? Peaches Does Herself is a German concert movie of Peaches. Written by, Directed by and starring Peaches. But how does one describe this experience? Normally, I skip the Face the Music program of films at SIFF each year, but Peaches Does Herself was described as the queerest film in the festival. As it turns out, I knew exactly one Peaches song prior and still know little to nothing about her, but it didn't matter. I enjoyed the music and most of all, I loved her persona. Her sexuality was on display and was not only unapologetic, but read as loud as if it were a billboard with "fuck normalcy and judgement, this is who I am" in bright pink neon. To give an overall impression of the film, I've decided just to lay out what happens along with stills. I suspect that is the best I can do for readers to decide whether this is something they should seek out. The film begins in Peaches' bedroom and after the dancers climb through a giant vu

Brand Upon the Brain! And more horror...

Brand Upon the Brain (2007) - I'm on so much crack! I'm a huge fan of horror. Guy Maddin! I love his movies and he was just in Seattle to perform Brand Upon the Brain! I'm certain I've written about Guy Maddin's films in the past, because he has been in Seattle several times for screenings and discussions of his work, especially since he spent quite a bit of time here casting, filming and scoring Brand Upon the Brain! with all local talent. What is so unique about Guy Maddin is that he creates modern, silent expressionist horror movies. His other films have been scored and therefore have the look and feel of a 1920s era silent picture without being silent. Brand Upon the Brain! is a silent movie and his best feature thus far. Like much of Maddin's previous work, this is totally autobiographical, or to quote Guy, "The thing is literally a true story - only much, much better." The main character is the prepubescent, Guy Maddin (Sullivan Brow