After the ambitious undertaking of Korean-Japanese political thriller "KT," Nipponese indie director Junji Sakamoto ("Face") returns to more character-driven fare with "My House," a portrait of eccentric village life from a young kid's point of view.

After the ambitious undertaking of Korean-Japanese political thriller “KT,” Nipponese indie director Junji Sakamoto (“Face”) returns to more character-driven fare with “My House,” a portrait of eccentric village life from a young kid’s point of view. A film of agreeable moments rather than a cohesive whole, this one looks more likely to inhabit Japanese film weeks and the outer reaches of the festival circuit rather than offshore arthouses.

Based on a comic by Rieko Saibara, story is set in the economic backwater of a small island fishing community. Seven-year-old Nita, and his elder brother Ita, are looked after by their mother Kanoko (TV drama actress Arisa Mizuki), who abandoned them five years earlier and sold their house but has since returned. Though it’s never developed as a consistent comic idea, Nita occasionally talks directly to the audience about the village.

Nita spends his days wandering around town and spending time with the bizarre local denizens, including Scrap Gramps, who lives in a shack; the aged Cat Lady, who collects discarded junk; and a bunch of incompetent smalltime gangsters. The kid also has a liking for a young girl, Saori.

For most of the time, there’s no real plot — more a collection of small events and character situations. When Kanoko’s elegant “elder sister” arrives on the island, Nita has to adjust to a surprising piece of news and finally bid farewell to the eccentric community.

As if in some kind of retro Czech New Wave picture, the characters are really the story — people trapped in a time warp and a world of their own, subject to special rules and customs. For non-Japanese viewers, a little of this will go a long way: Only in its final reel does the picture take on a calm, melancholic poetry that makes some emotional sense of the scattered ensemble.

Performances are well drawn, and technically the film is fine, although one gets no clear idea of the actual geography of the place.

My House

Japan

Production

An Omega Micott production. (International sales: Omega Micott, Tokyo.) Produced by Sumiji Miyake, Toshiaki Hata, Aki Tsukada, Keita Seno. Directed by Junji Sakamoto. Screenplay, Isama Uno, based on the comic by Rieko Saibara.

Crew

Camera (color), Norimichi Kasamatsu; editor, Kenta Araki; art director, Fumio Ogawa. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Nov. 18, 2002. Running time: 116 MIN.

With

Arisa Mizuki, Yuma Yamamoto, Yuki Tanaka, Claude Maki, Ran Otori.
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