Review: ‘Hadashi No Picnic’

A Japanese schoolgirl unwittingly sets off a catastrophic chain of events in 26-year-old Shinobu Yagushi's appealingly off-kilter debut, "Down the Drain." Rough-edged, unpredictable black comedy should turn heads in fest outings, particularly those devoted to emerging talent.

A Japanese schoolgirl unwittingly sets off a catastrophic chain of events in 26-year-old Shinobu Yagushi’s appealingly off-kilter debut, “Down the Drain.” Rough-edged, unpredictable black comedy should turn heads in fest outings, particularly those devoted to emerging talent.

Nabbed for train-fare evasion and fearing disciplinary repercussions at home and school, Junko heads for cover at grandma’s, but finds out she’s recently died. Entrusted with granny’s ashes, Junko klutzily drops the urn in the path of a street-sweeping vehicle.

Grief-stricken, she gate-crashes a stranger’s memorial service to mourn, but accidentally sets fire to the altar. A walking disaster area, Junko wanders cross-country, wreaking havoc on family, schoolmates and anyone else in her path.

Yagushi’s tack of constantly switching narrators creates mild continuity strife (especially in the sloppily subtitled print caught). Still, he compensates with irrepressible energy and quietly subversive comic charm, even as events spark increasingly grave and often violent results.

Pic winningly taps the humorous possibilities offered by fresh-faced schoolies driven to be bad girls.

Yagushi (whose background is in graphic design) shows a keen compositional eye that enlivens the multitude of static shots. Made for what appears to be a handful of yen, pic’s only bothersome tech note is Unohana’s mostly melodic music, ill-matched with the presidingly off-the-wall tone.

Hadashi No Picnic

(JAPANESE 16mm)

Production

A PIA Corp./Pony Canyon production. Produced by Binbun Furusawa, Mana Katsurada. Directed by Shinobu Yagushi. Screenplay, Yagushi, Takuji Suzuki, Yasunobu Kanagawa. Camera (color), Furusawa, Kazuhiro Susuki; editor, Yagushi; music, Unohana; art direction, Akihiro Inamura; sound, Youichi Kinami. Reviewed at Thessaloniki Film Festival (New Horizons section), Greece, Nov. 6, 1993. Running time:92 MIN.

With

With: Saori Serikawa, Mr. Okure, Miwako Kazi, Akane Asano, Kotaro, Shigeru Izumiya, Morio Agata.
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