A subtle new direction for Japanese indie production, “Breakable” takes an unblinking, Euro-style look at urban twentysomethings and their vague search for meaning. Remarkably, the quietly satisfying pic neither condescends nor succumbs to their torpor, but small scale and lack of “Less Than Zero” histrionics will probably keep it from cracking offshore B.O.
First-time helmer Takayoshi Yamaguchi says Woody Allen is his fave, but Eric Rohmer is a closer model for his breezy, docu-style story, which follows the low-key exploits of Minoru (long-faced Hironobu Hirabayashi), the laconic editor of a dumb comic book called “Maiden’s Dream.”
Minoru has grown comfy in his unquestioned relationship with serious Kyoko, but this is shaken by a chance meeting with pretty Yumi, the sister of an almost pathologically uncooperative illustrator. Soon he’s indulging, among other things, Yumi’s taste for occidental oddities like jam on toast. Eventually, he’s forced to reevaluate his primary affair when Kyoko gets a chance to work at a sushi house in Brazil, but his conclusions remain elusive.
All this romantic flummoxing sounds fairly spare, but it’s frequently enlivened by droll humor (as when a friend totals Kyoko’s car, and everyone is too polite to talk about it) and incisive, yet compassionate, jabs at Japanese materialism and its dispirited offspring.
A nifty surf-guitar score gives a Jarmusch-like kick to Akihito Shiota’s cool b&w lensing. Twentysomethings themselves, Shiota, Yamaguchi and producer Koji Hirata comprise the maverick collective Far East Films, and each is slated to helm future pix.