Review: ‘The Invitation From Cinema Orion’

Melancholy nostalgia generates excessive sentiment in Nipponese drama "The Invitation From Cinema Orion."

Melancholy nostalgia generates excessive sentiment in Nipponese drama “The Invitation From Cinema Orion.” Gentle tale of a loser learning the picture-show business from a couple who manage a theater pours too much syrup on its popcorn. In its wistful evocation of the ’50s setting, film targets the same Japanese audience that embraced 2005 hit “Always: Sunset on Third Street,” and ironically has been partially eclipsed on home turf by that pic’s sequel, which opened simultaneously in November. Despite solid local B.O., international RSVPs will be rare.

Troubled married couple Yoshie (Kanako Higuchi) and Yuji (Tomorowo Taguchi) receive an invitation to the closing of Kyoto’s Orion Cinema, where they first met as children. Cue flashback to the early ’50s, when the kids witnessed unemployed goof Tomekichi (Ryo Kase) score an apprenticeship with gruff cinema manager Matsuzo (Ryudo Uzaki) and wife Toyo (Rie Miyazawa) that led to him taking over the theater — and, reportedly, Toyo’s affections. Pic makes the common mistake of saluting an earlier film (1943’s “The Life of Omatsu the Untamed”) that is far superior. Tech credits are solid, though the re-creation of period streetscapes is a little flat.

The Invitation From Cinema Orion

Japan

Production

A Toei Co. presentation of a Wilco Co., TV Tokyo, Toei Co., Toei Video, Shueisha, Mobcast, TVQ Kyushu Broadcasting, Television Osaka, Aichi Television Broadcasting, Television Hokkaido Broadcasting production, in association with the Agency for Cultural Affairs. (International sales: Toei, Tokyo.) Produced by Akiko Sasaki. Directed by Kenki Saegusa. Screenplay, Kiyotaka Inagaki, based on the story by Jiro Asada.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Hiroo Yanagida; editor, Hiroaki Morishita; music, Takatsugu Muramatsu; production designer, Hidefumi Hanatani. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Special Screenings), Oct. 25, 2007. (Also in Pusan Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 116 MIN.

With

Rie Miyazawa, Ryo Kase, Ryudo Uzaki, Tomorowo Taguchi, Hitomi Nakahara, Kanako Higuchi, Yoshio Harada.
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