The burden of history interrupts a lone teen’s bicycle journey and more in helmer Koji Wakamatsu’s “Cycle Chronicles — Landscapes the Boy Saw.” What could have been a rigorously simple, satisfying road movie becomes a catch-all for a country’s ills, piling the weight of Japanese guilt and redemption on the slim shoulders of a troubled kid until both the journey and the film stop dead in their tracks. Enough moments of beauty remain to attract a few fest dates, but an intriguing idea isn’t allowed a life of its own.
A 17-year-old boy (Tasuku Emoto) cycles, seemingly without direction, through northern Japan. Media reports about matricides — which are reinforced by unnecessary flashbacks — make it clear that he’s just killed his mother. Pic comes to an abrupt halt when the boy meets an elderly man who lectures him on Japanese atrocities during WWII. Despite the cyclist’s continued pedaling, narrative flow remains stalled and further interruptions depersonalize his own journey toward catharsis. Emoto’s enigmatic, largely silent perf contributes greatly to keeping sympathy high, if only Wakamatsu, best known for his “pink” movies in the ’70s, had allowed him to take a solo voyage.