Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
This bold adaptation of Murakami Haruki’s popular novel of tortured first loves moves uncannily between elegant pictorial objectivity and rhapsodic passages that engulf us in romantic anguish. In the late 60s (most strongly evoked by the sharp fashion sense of the leads)Tokyouniversities are rife with political unrest, but Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) is consumed by inner turmoil. He is falling in love with the fragile, painfully inhibited Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) and becoming increasingly fixated on her devotion to honouring a dead boy they both loved. The morbid power of their bond is tested by his much worldlier roommate Nagasawa and the mocking flirtation of the uninhibited Midori, who clearly fancies him but won’t play second fiddle to a ghost.
‘As a maker of exquisite images, and as a poet of melancholy, Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya), is almost freakishly gifted,’ says critic Shane Danielsen, and the proof is everywhere in this film. Ravishing landscapes provide visceral expression of young hearts thrilled by the pure grandeur of emotional devastation. Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin (In the Mood for Love) and Radiohead composer Jonny Greenwood contribute crucially to Tran’s disconcerting eroticism of sorrow. Surrender to its impact while you have the chance on the giant Civic screen. — BG
“The performances of the young cast attain an affecting blend of reticence and hope, but it’s Tran’s fastidious technique that nudges the film into the realms of greatness.” — David Jenkins, Time Out