Review: ‘Colourful’

The spirit of a dead man gets a second chance at life in the body of a 14-year-old school kid in "Colourful," an intriguing little pic that just misses the bar as a really offbeat black comedy of manners. Full of some wonderful individual moments, but flawed by an over-cutesy tone and a not fully worked script, this could find time on cable and quality webs after some further festival exposure.

The spirit of a dead man gets a second chance at life in the body of a 14-year-old school kid in “Colourful,” an intriguing little pic that just misses the bar as a really offbeat black comedy of manners. Full of some wonderful individual moments, but flawed by an over-cutesy tone and a not fully worked script, this could find time on cable and quality webs after some further festival exposure.

The unnamed, unseen hero, who prior to his death committed a crime he’s already forgotten, is assigned to the body of Makoto (Koki Tanaka) to mull over his past and maybe escape being sent to hell. The “new” Makoto suddenly revives on a hospital slab — to the delight of his family — and becomes the opposite of the introverted, lonely kid he used to be.

Humor comes from the way in which everyone else reacts to his new-found optimism and happiness that unsettles them and exposes fault lines in their own personalities. Dad is a career failure who burdens himself with guilt over the way he used to ignore Makoto; mum is constantly trying to improve herself with night classes, the latest of which is flamenco dancing; and big brother is a closet transvestite and masochist.

Weird behavior of all the people in Makoto’s average suburban world is drawn in a nicely offhand way, with mom falling for her flamenco teacher and dad being propositioned by one of the girls in a volleyball class he teaches. Weirdest of all is one of Makoto’s fellow pupils, a pretty teenage flower who candidly admits she’s “selling her youth” to buy nice clothes and shoes while she’s still in bloom. In the sweetest possible way, she adds that her price for sex with him is 20,000 yen.

Script by Yoshimitsu Morita (a noted helmer in his own right, back to ’80s classic “Family Game”) has enough ingredients for a biting satire on Japanese mores, but the whole spirit-in-another-body thing keeps getting in the way. Shinichiro Ikebe’s score is also too self-consciously cute. Performances, however, are all fine, and tech credits ditto.

Colourful

Japan

Production

An NHK Enterprises 21 production. (International sales: NHK 21, Tokyo.) Produced by Yasuo Takahashi, Kanji Hagiwara.

Crew

Directed by Shun Nakahara. Screenplay, Yoshimitsu Morita, based on the novel by Eto Mori. Camera (color), Junichi Fujisawa; editor, Isao Tomita; music, Shinichiro Ikebe. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (competing), Sept. 2, 2000. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Koki Tanaka, Sawako Agawa, Kanako Magara, Asuka Komayu, Yuki Kageyama, Shinosuke Saito, Jun Eto, Sansho Shinsui.
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