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My Secret Cache

Abizarre and occasionally wildly funny comedy about a young woman obsessed with money, director Shinobu Yaguchi's sophomore feature is a delight. Fests should grab it in the months to come, and brave arthouse distribs could take a look. Yaguchi's protagonist, Sakiko, exuberantly played by celebrated model Naomi Nishida, is a ferociously resourceful modern woman who happens to love money, even though she doesn't have much of it. For obvious reasons, she works as a clerk in a bank, and, in the film's dizzy opening sequence, is kidnapped when a couple of armed men rob the establishment of millions of yen.

With:
Sakiko ..... Naomi Nishida Edogawa ..... Go Riju Professor Morita ..... Taketoshi Naito

The fugitives and their hostage drive to a mountainous, wooded area near Mt. Fuji, where the bad guys accidentally fall into a ravine and perish. Sakiko survives and is the heroine of the day, but the money is never recovered; Sakiko, however, knows where it is, if only she can get to it.

Easier said than done. The area is notoriously inhospitable to all but the most experienced outdoors person, as Sakiko discovers when she makes a disastrous attempt to trek to the site of the cache, only to become lost for four days.

She then learns that a professor of geology, Morita, is an expert on the area — but he can’t help her because she isn’t a student. So Sakiko throws in her job and starts studying for an exam to get her into the university. She’s accepted, but only because the youth admitted before her dies of shock when told he has a place. Sakiko not only becomes a top student, she also learns to swim (and soon becomes a swimming champ) and to mountain-climb. She purchases so much geological equipment that the floor of her apartment collapses, but she never loses sight of her goal — to retrieve the missing money.

Yaguchi handles this wacky tale, with its larger-than-life heroine, with great skill. He throws in plenty of comedy, with some well-timed sight gags, but the film would be nothing much without the benefit of Nishida’s hilarious performance. Production values are modest for this original and disarmingly engaging film, which has such an ingenious plot that maybe somebody should start checking the remake rights.

My Secret Cache

Japanese

Production: A Toho Co release of a Pia Corp. production. (International sales: Toho, Tokyo.) Produced by Hideyuki Takai, Hiroshi Yanai. Directed by Shinobu Yaguchi. Screenplay, Yaguchi, Takuji Suzuki.

Crew: Camera (color), Masahiro Kishimoto; editor, Miho Yoneda; music, Kuniaki Yagura; sound, Noboru Ikeda. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 22, 1997. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: Sakiko ..... Naomi Nishida Edogawa ..... Go Riju Professor Morita ..... Taketoshi Naito

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