L + R

Narrator: Yukika Kudo.

Narrator: Yukika Kudo.

A modernist interested in sounding the limits of expressive documentary, Austrian helmer Edgar Honetschlager delivers a far-out portrait of contemporary Japan in “L + R.” Told sometimes through striking paradoxes and sometimes in overly personal, diary-like essays, pic opens with a painful reminder of postwar misery, then quickens its pace to keep up with modern life. Contrived in conception but generally enjoyable, pic has an up-to-the-minute look with its bright, color cinematography that should play well in more experimental venues before leaping to TV.

Docu is divided into sections whose connecting thread is the misunderstandings that arise between Japanese and Westerners. Symbolic of this is the way the former tend to switch “l” and “r” when they pronounce English words, as perky girl narrator Yukika Kudo good-naturedly illustrates on her boat tour of Tokyo. Honetschlager has some intelligent observations to make about cross-cultural differences rooted in the West’s worship of progress and the East’s acceptance of fate. In a teasing, breezy tone, he offers a vast catalog of old movie footage, idyllic villages, interviews and legends that all point to the mysterious spell Japan holds over him.

L + R

(DOCU -- AUSTRIA)

Production: A Fischer Film production. Produced by Markus Fischer. (International sales: First Hand Films, Bulach, Switzerland.) Directed, written by Edgar Honetschlager. Camera (color/B&W), Norbert Artner, Honetschlager, Karl Neubert; editor, Kurt Hennrich. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival, Jan. 28, 2000. Running time: 79 MIN.

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