Stunningly innovative digital effort points the way to new uses of vid in postmodern storytelling in Junko Wado's smart, funny and provocative "Body Drop Asphalt." Pic is certain to make waves on the art circuit but needs renegade push, such as distribbing on DVD, to reach wider, music-minded auds.

Stunningly innovative digital effort points the way to new uses of vid in postmodern storytelling in Junko Wado’s smart, funny and provocative “Body Drop Asphalt.” Pic is certain to make waves on the art circuit but needs renegade push, such as distribbing on DVD, to reach wider, music-minded auds. Hi-tech types should be interested in the work’s stylish use of medium’s alleged limitations.

First 20 minutes, more in keeping with Wado’s previous shorts, has entirely interior skew, following, in murmuring voiceover, the poetic diary musings of Eri (the very pretty Sayuri Oyamada), a would-be writer worried about life’s little speed bumps.

But when Eri finishes scribing a soapy romance novel (called “Soft Cream Love”), it’s a runaway success, and she’s suddenly thrown to the top of pop culture.

Pic then, too, takes radical turn, jumping into karaoke-type videos and near-slapstick situations. Then it gets weirder. Eri falls, pointlessly, for a curmudgeonly older publisher (real-life musician Yuichi Kishino), who looks like a cross between Ringo Starr and Salvador Dali and becomes so obsessed with writing a darker, more serious sequel to her hit, she doesn’t notice when the characters start taking on a literal life of their own, nor, when she goes outside to write on her laptop, that people are getting abducted by flying saucers just outside her field of vision.

Wada keeps upping the Brechtian ante, adding more and more preposterous elements — such as patently hokey conversations with God following what appears to be the complete destruction of the world — and daring the viewer to stay interested in the straight human drama of it all. Amazingly, it works, due in no small part to the helmer’s own lensing, which favors the deeply glowing, metallic colors unique to vid, as well as special effects so plainly false as to bring big laughs. Pic’s underlying, oddly wise sincerity makes the cleverness hit home, and Oyamada is effortlessly watchable.

Body drop asphalt

Japan

Production

An Aichi Arts Center (Tokyo) production. Produced by Koichi Fujita. Executive producer, Takashi Echigoya. Directed, written, camera (color, DigiBeta), production design, costumes by Junko Wada;

Crew

Editor, Kazuhiro Shirao; music, Yaegashi Comoesta; computer graphics, Hideo Takashima, Takeshi Hanaoka; title design, Koichiro Tsujikawa; sound (Dolby), Tetsuya Kobayashi. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (competing), Oct. 4, 2000. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Sayuri Oyamada, Makoto Ogi, Yoji Tanaka, Yuicho Kishino, Kenichi Okubo, Makoto Tezuka, Takuji Suzuki, Hiroto Ojiro.
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