Eye-catching use of color and ‘Scope, and the presence of Shunji Iwai, one of Japan’s most interesting younger directors, in the lead role are the only reasons for sitting through “Ritual,” a wearisome and pretentious exercise in nothingness. Festivals tolerant of the far side of Nipponese cinema look to be its only offshore platform.
Helmer Hideaki Anno made his name as an animator (especially with the 1995 TV toon “Neon Genesis Evangelion”), and he certainly has an eye for bold use of colors (red, blue and white here) and parallel geometry (railroad tracks, highway lanes, scaffolding). In this, his sophomore live action feature after 1998’s “Love & Pop,” however, the people within his spaces are considerably less interesting: “Ritual” is a series of emotional highs and lows between a ditz (Ayako Fujitani) living in a basement full of umbrellas and a longhaired director (Iwai, looking baffled) with a video camera. Anomie is high on the menu, sex very low. Every day, the girl says, “Tomorrow is my birthday,” and believes that when her dream comes true she will disappear. Completely.