About the Pink Sky

Slowly paced, scoreless and shot in shallow, washed-out black-and-white, this film seems to take pride in refusing to engage the attention of its audience.

With:
With: Ai Ikeda, Ena Koshino, Reiko Fujiwara, Tsubasa Takayama.

As mainstream filmmaking continues to push toward the extreme boundaries of loudness and visual clutter, it’s easy to long for the quiet pleasures of minimalism. So what to make of a film like Keiichi Kobayashi’s “About the Pink Sky,” which is so spare it threatens to recede from view, and so sparsely adorned that it offers few arresting images or interesting conversations? Slowly paced, scoreless and shot in shallow, washed-out black-and-white, this film seems to take pride in refusing to engage the attention of its audience, and should thus have trouble drumming up much of one.

In theory, there should be something perversely admirable about shooting a film centered around modern Japan’s hyperkinetic youth culture in such a spartan, colorless manner. However, when faced with yet another long, silent shot of the film’s protagonist’s backpack bouncing up and down as she wanders aimlessly around town, any appreciation for the film’s counterintuitive style becomes purely hypothetical.

Said protagonist, 15-year-old Izumi (Ai Ikeda), is largely defined by a collection of quirks. She combs through newspapers with a marker in hand, assigning numerical grades to each article; she engages in shouted conversations with herself and surrounding bits of architecture; and she skips school to hang out with old men at a fishing pond. It’s in the midst of playing hookey that she discovers a lost wallet containing ¥300,000 (almost $4,000), a spate of good fortune that neither surprises nor excites her.

In no rush to spend the money, she soon lends a large chunk of it to a fishing buddy, then takes her girlfriends bowling. They convince her to return the wallet, apparently assuming that its rich-kid owner Sato (Tsubasa Takayama) will hardly notice the missing cash.

He does, of course, and pursues Izumi for repayment, eventually explaining that he intended to use the money to buy a top-of-the-line camera with which to capture the passing beauty of the outside world for a hospitalized friend. (The fact that beauty is entirely missing from the view of Kobayashi’s camera may or may not be intentionally ironic.) Lacking any way to retrieve the money, Izumi instead offers to start her own newspaper, one that reports only good news.

Befitting the film’s aesthetics, its plot also offers few meaningful twists or interesting shadings. Acting, from mostly first-time thesps, occasionally zeroes in on moments of minor insight, though the small cast is more frequently left adrift.

About the Pink Sky

Momoiro sora o Japan

Production: Produced by Hiroshi Harada. Executive producer, Michael Gion. Directed by Keiichi Kobayashi.

Crew: Camera (B&W); sound, Naruyuki Hidaka. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Jan. 21, 2012. (In Sundance Film Festival -- World Cinema, competing; 2010 Tokyo Film Festival.) Running time: 112 MIN.

With: With: Ai Ikeda, Ena Koshino, Reiko Fujiwara, Tsubasa Takayama.

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