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Sayonora Midori

The emotional pain of discovering she's just another woman in the life of the guy she loves is the dilemma that faces a neophyte city-dweller in "Sayonara Midori," a low-key but emotionally effective meller from Japan. A clear character arc, a definable narrative and solid central perfs, particularly from Mari Hoshino in the central role, lift this well above the average for Nipponese indie fare. Pic is skedded for local release later this year, and fests with or without Asian sidebars would do well to consider.

With:
With: Mari Hoshino, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Mayuko Iwasa, Toshinobu Matsuo.

The emotional pain of discovering she’s just another woman in the life of the guy she loves is the dilemma that faces a neophyte city-dweller in “Sayonara Midori,” a low-key but emotionally effective meller from Japan. A clear character arc, a definable narrative and solid central perfs, particularly from Mari Hoshino in the central role, lift this well above the average for Nipponese indie fare. Pic is skedded for local release later this year, and fests with or without Asian sidebars would do well to consider.

Being bedded by ladies’ man Yutaka (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is the first of many lifestyle changes for innocent office girl Yuko (Hoshino). When Yutaka nonchalantly fesses up to having a g.f. (the unseen, titular Midori) in Okinawa, Yuko is initially daunted. Hoping to prove her sophistication to herself as well as to her new man, Yuko continues with their discreetly sexual friendship.

As a token of his esteem, Yutaka sets her up as a hostess in a bar opposite the cafe he runs. Far from being the promised upmarket joint with well-to-do clientele, this turns out to be just an average karaoke dive. Unable to sing or dance, Yuko is hardly suited to the work, but her charm wins over the customers and the bar’s skeptical mama-san.

The job supplies Yuko with the additional funds she needs and also allows Yutaka to keep tabs on her whereabouts while he takes on additional lovers. One of them, loopy waitress Miki (Mayuko Iwasa), even checks with Yuko that it’s O.K. to proceed on an affair with Yutaka.

Perplexed, but hooked by Yutaka’s charm, Yuko remains a patient observer of her man’s sexual olympics. Meanwhile, one of Yutaka’s staff, kitchen hand Taro (Toshinobu Matsuo), offers to rescue Yuko for himself.

As with the similarly-themed South Korean pic “This Charming Girl,” the movie relies heavily on the audience’s identification with the main actress. Hoshino gives an arresting and sensitive perf, full of subtle but unmistakable reactions. As the caddish Yutaka, Nishijima takes the opposite route, remaining so inscrutable that it’s difficult to ascertain exactly when his character is being sincere, placing the viewer in the same boat as Yuko.

Tomoyuki Furumaya (“Bad Company”) helms in a gentle style which effectively realises the script’s emotional astuteness. During two pivotal romantic conflicts, Furumaya keeps the camera fixed on the back of one participant’s head, cleverly allowing the audience to project the expected emotions itself.

Despite the low budget, tech package is professional, and tight running time suits the subject matter. Film’s upbeat outcome is mirrored during the end titles, which are accompanied by a karaoke presentation of the closing song, as if inviting viewers to sing along.

Sayonora Midori

Japan

Production: A Sayonara Midori Production Committee, BS-I, Fujiga Office Co., Happinet Pictures, TYO Prods., Mazri, TBS Service production. (International sales: Tokyo Broadcasting System, Tokyo.) Produced by Tamon Andrew Niwa. Executive producers, Shinji Takanishi, Mikio Fujiga, Michio Suzuki, Hiroaki Yoshida, Koji Chiba, Yasuo Amei. Directed by Tomoyuki Furumaya. Screenplay, Chiho Watanabe, based on a comic by Q-ta Minami.

Crew: Camera (color), Yoshihiro Ikeuchi; editor, Yuji Ooshige; music, Koji Endo; art director, Fumiaki Susaka; sound, Nobuyuki Kikuchi. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 18, 2005. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Mari Hoshino, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Mayuko Iwasa, Toshinobu Matsuo.

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