Wry, sympathetic visuals and an infectious warmth mark Takatsugu Naito's enjoyable scholarship feature, "The Dark Harbor."

Wry, sympathetic visuals and an infectious warmth mark Takatsugu Naito’s enjoyable scholarship feature, “The Dark Harbor.” Made with the support of Japan’s PIA Film Festival following Naito’s just-shy-of-one-hour debut, “Midnight Pigskin Wolf,” pic tracks a lovelorn fisherman desperate to find, and then hold on to, a life companion. The quirky humor and cleverly framed images keep this ultimately one-trick pony on track, though a streak of misogyny will leave some out to sea. Fests and ancillary will provide a nice berth in anticipation of stronger future efforts.

Open-hearted but socially awkward fisherman Manzo (Shinya Kote) needs a mate, but not even the matchmaking party arranged by the prefecture solves his loneliness. Then one evening, he finds a woman and child in his cupboard, like a gift from heaven, and he persuades the secret squatters to stay. Manzo falls hard for Mitsuko (Yuko Miyamoto), while little Masao (Kazuki Hirooka) delights in the new arrangement, but Mitsuko’s gratitude doesn’t extend to love. Well written and visually inventive (d.p. Kiyoaki Hashimoto regularly lensed for Kazuyoshi Kumakiri), “The Dark Harbor” boasts strong tech credits and nicely idiosyncratic music.

The Dark Harbor

Japan

Production

PIA Film Festival presentation of a PFF Partners production. (International sales: PIA Film Festival, Tokyo.) Produced by Mayumi Amano. Directed, written by Takatsugu Naito.

Crew

Camera (color), Kiyoaki Hashimoto; editor, Shinichi Fushima; music, Akira Matsumoto; production designer, Shimpei Inoue. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 26, 2009. Original title: Futoko. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Shinya Kote, Yuko Miyamoto, Kazuki Hirooka, Akaji Maro, Diamond Yukai.
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