Tokyo Eyes

A Tokyo punk and ditzy hairdresser hook up to myopic effect in "Tokyo Eyes," a wannabe study of youth anomie by French helmer Jean-Pierre Limosin that's as vacuous as its leads.

A Tokyo punk and ditzy hairdresser hook up to myopic effect in “Tokyo Eyes,” a wannabe study of youth anomie by French helmer Jean-Pierre Limosin that’s as vacuous as its leads. Despite OK playing by its young stars (both teen idols in Japan), this quintessential French take on Japanese Gen-Xers won’t get much farther than fests in major territories.

To the sounds of a pulsating music track, K (blank-faced Shinji Takeda) is shown shooting a gun at various figures of authority, and is soon christened “Four Eyes” by the newspapers, due to his trademark wearing of thick-lensed hornrimmed glasses. On a subway line, his path soon crosses with that of Hinano (Hinano Yoshikawa), who recognizes him from a portrait held by her elder brother (Tetta Sugimoto), a cop on the case.

One day, Hinano follows K, and the pair strike up a friendship that gradually takes on sexual vibes, especially on the part of the virginal 17-year-old girl. Even after seeing him casually shoot at other people, she can’t stop hanging out with him, despite a more law-abiding urge to tell her brother she’s found the man he’s after.

There’s nothing wrong with the basic idea behind the movie, even though Limosin — here returning to features after 10 years making docus — seems unaware that Japanese cinema of the ’90s is chockablock with similar Gen-X fare. But pic brings nothing new to the table, and spends far too long making the audience think it will. A late-on eccentric cameo by well-known director Takeshi Kitano, as an aging Yakuza, is typical of the movie’s strained knowingness.

Adopting the tired old Western stance that nothing in the mysterious East is as it seems, Limosin freely scatters cross-cultural references (the couple singing a French song as they walk down the street) and visual metaphors (K’s glasses, and skill at computer games) throughout the pic. “I don’t understand anything anymore,” sobs Hinano at one point. Well, join the club, baby.

Mostly shot in hand-held style, but with care rather than abandon, the film at least has a natural, untouristy feel for Tokyo’s tangled geography and does not try to impose a faux-Japanese rigor to its visual makeup. Editing and overall tempo are brisk rather than dawdling, but this is still 97 minutes going nowhere.

Tokyo Eyes

  • Production: A Haut & Court Distribution release (in France) of a Lumen Films (France)/Euro Space (Japan) production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Hengameh Panahi, Kenzo Horikoshi. Directed by Jean-Pierre Limosin. Screenplay, Limosin, Santiago Amigorena, Philippe Madral, Yuji Sakamoto.
  • Crew:
  • With: K - Shinji Takeda Hinano - Hinano Yoshikawa Naomi - Kaori Mizushima Roy - Tetta Sugimoto Yakuza - Takeshi Kitano (Japanese dialogue) Camera (color), Jean-Marc Fabre; editor, Danielle Anezin; music, Xavier Jamaux; art director, Takaaki Yano; sound (Dolby), Nobuyuki Kikuchi, Christian Fontaine; assistant director, Yoshiki Hayakawa. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 16, 1998. Running time: 97 MIN.
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