To describe "Saudade" as an episode of "The Wire" transplanted to Japan and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (on an off day) might be roughly accurate, but unfortunately the result is nowhere near as fun and intriguing as it sounds.

To describe “Saudade” as an episode of “The Wire” transplanted to Japan and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (on an off day) might be roughly accurate, but unfortunately the result is nowhere near as fun and intriguing as it sounds. At an unnecessarily long 163 minutes, pic takes a potentially fascinating subject — rocky relations between native Japanese and foreign immigrants, particularly Brazilians and Thais, in working-class Nippon — and muffles its impact with random storytelling, self-indulgently long scenes and little sense of structure. This is fest fare with a vengeance.

Action unfolds in the economically depressed city of Kofu, starting at a building site where workers Seiji (Tsuyoshi Takano) and Hosaka (Hitoshi Ito) bond over a mutual interest in Thailand, particularly its women; Seiji is married to a Thai woman, Keiko (Chie Kudo). Meanwhile, their fellow laborer Takeru (Takeshi Amano), who raps in his spare time, resents the local Brazilian workers and challenges rival rapper Dennis (Dennis Oliveira de Hamatsu) and his crew to a verbal joust at a local club. Pic actually gets rather interesting in its late stages, but the grueling midsection squanders auds’ interest. Title means “homesickness” in Portuguese.

Saudade

Japan

Production

A Kozuko Co. production. (International sales: Kozuko, Tokyo.) Produced by Kotaro Date, Satomi Tomita. Executive producer, Takayuki Sasamoto. Directed by Katsuya Tomita. Screenplay, Toranosuke Aizawa, Tomita.

Crew

Camera (color), Yoshiko Takano; editors, Tomita, Takano; music, Stillichimiya; production designer, Hiroshi Imamura. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 11, 2011. Running time: 162 MIN.

With

Tsuyoshi Takano, Hitoshi Ito, Takeshi Amano, Dengaryu, Deejai Paweena, Ai Ozaki, Chie Kudo, Dennis Oliveira de Hamatsu, Ieda de Almeida Hamatsu, Yusuke Noguchi, Shinji Murata, Tomohito Nakajima. (Japanese, Portuguese, Thai, English, Tagalog dialogue)

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