Helmer Yoshimasa Ishibashi, enfant terrible of commercials and episodic television, fully bursts into features with “Milocrorze,” a splashy, vivid, time- and space-defying romp that loosely ties together three wildly disparate stories that feature several layers of dissonance and discordancy. Pic is featured at two overlapping Gotham fests that cater to such genre-confounding fantasy fare, serving as opener at the New York Asian Film Festival and centerpiece of Japan Cuts. Ishibashi’s apparently little-seen first feature, black-and-white “Kurawasetaino,” apparently was equally off-the-wall; this one will definitely carve a niche among vid-collectors who love the bizarre.The first (and least) of the segments, recounted like a fractured fairy tale, concerns Ovreneli Vreneligare, a 7-year-old salaryman whose diminutive stature and bright orange bowl-cut hair distinguish him from a sea of gray-garbed fellow-commuters. Encountering a beautiful woman, the “great Milocrorze” (played by the mono-monikered Maiko), on a park bench, he instantly falls smitten, takes on three jobs to afford a big house, and moves in with her in a state of simplistic bliss — until an age-appropriate problem intervenes. Second up, Besson Kumagai (Takayuki Yamada) counsels teenage boys in the throes of unrequited love. Introduced as a guest on a tawdry TV-show, he disses his gushy host and hangs up on callers. Brash, surly and contemptuous, he treats his clients as “wimps” and worse, while dispensing dubious, chauvinistic or frankly absurd advice. Decked out in a dazzling white suit, flanked by scantily clad women, he not only flouts rules of decorum but also violates physical laws, crossing over the film’s split-screen lines or invading the phone booth of the person he’s talking to. Part three features the pic’s piece de resistance, a stylized 12-minute samurai sword fight that crashes through the sliding panels of an endless, sumptuous bordello, sending drinks, blood and women flying high in slo-mo as the hero slashes his way from room to room in search of his lost love. If the second story conflates space, this third story of one-eyed samurai Tamon (Yamada again) makes a hash of time, flashing back from medieval Japan “three years previously” to the present-day where Tamon meets his soulmate Yuri (Anna Ishibashi). After Yuri is abducted, Tamon wanders the streets, his garb growing progressively more ancient until he enters the lawless feudal pleasure city of Tenzaku-Ro in a red kimono, and the action tour de force commences. The use of versatile rising star Yamada in all three love-crazed tales (he appears as a grown-up Ovreneli Vreneligare in the film’s coda) creates a cockeyed continuum. But the film’s true constant lies in its flamboyant pop-art aesthetic, wild chromatic stylization and cartoon-like manipulation of narrative.
An Ishibashi, d-rights, Kazumo production. Produced by Masataka Izumi, Toshiharu Ozawa, Hiroaki Saito. Directed, written, edited by Yoshimasa Ishibashi.
Camera (color), Katsuharu Oyamada; music, Yuko Ikoma, Kosuke Shimizu, Osamu Kubota; production designer, Ishibashi; art director, Matsuka Kimura; visual designers; Koichi Emura, Aki Funabiki; action coordinator, Fumihito Minamitsuji. Reviewed at Japan Cuts, New York, July 10, 2011. (Also in New York Asian Film Festival -- opener.) Running time: 90 MIN.
Takayuki Yamada, Maiko, Anna Ishibashi, Seijun Suzuki, Mieko Harada, Eiji Okuda, Maiko.