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Tokyo!

More Than Just a City

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

This is the type of film where I don’t really want say much. It’s a fantastic experience set in a truly cinematic city. To say too much would ruin that experience. All I want to say is that you should go see it. Of course, I’ll give you a bit more than that.

Tokyo! compiles three short films from Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) , Léos Carax (Lovers on the Bridge, Pola X) and Bong Joon-ho (The Host). Actually, none of these filmmakers are Japanese, which allows for an outsiders look at the city. However, this isn’t really a film about Tokyo, the city. Sure, all three stories use it as a backdrop, but there’s more to them than just buildings and city streets. There’s a common thread throughout the three stories about fitting in. And what better place to set stories about feeling like a outcast than the “city of the future”?

Gondry’s tale “Interior Design” tells the story of Hiroko and Akira, new transplants to the city. They stay with a friend, but she soon grows tired of the couple as they struggle to find a place of their own. Akira, a struggling filmmaker, is able to find work as a gift wrapper as he attempts to make it as a true artist. All the while, Hiroko looks for apartments and does little else. As Akira is able to assimilate to their new life easier, Hiroko starts to feel more withdrawn and useless. Eventually, the story takes a quite Kafkaesque turn and you realize it wouldn’t be a Gondry film without something strange yet endearing.

But if you thought Gondry was strange, his is tame when compared to fellow Frenchman Léos Carax’s film “Merde", which is taken from “shit” in French. Carax crafts the story about a true outcast, a man Merde, who comes from the sewers to aimlessly attack Tokyo. He becomes a phenomenon after he’s captured and a French lawyer, who looks awfully close to the creature, claims he is the only person in the world who can speak to him. As a media frenzy surrounds Merde, we are given a glimpse into the true nature of being human.

The film ends with the most delicate and serene portion, Bong Joon-ho’s “Shaking Tokyo.” The story follows a nameless hikikomori, or shut-in, who finally decides to break free of his self-made prison. It starts on the most depressing note of the film, but ends on a high note of freedom and acceptance.

Tokyo! is a film that everyone can relate to. Whether trying to fit into a new city, or one that you’ve lived in for years, everyone has felt out of place or as an outcast. These filmmakers illustrate that it’s ok -- everyone must find their own way.