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Closed Note

A leftover diary provides both illumination and mystery in literary, lightwight and overlong Japanese romantic meller "Closed Note."

A leftover diary provides both illumination and mystery in the literary, lightwight and overlong Japanese romantic meller “Closed Note.” Helmer Isao Yukisada has long provided stimulating work within the Nipponese studio system, but this lifeless effort progresses only from charming to dull. Pic has a smooth, manufactured quality that makes perfs and production easy to digest, but lacks vitality. Released in Japan in September, film garnered boffo returns but has fallen in the shadow of ongoing local powerhouse “Hero.” Successful openings will continue across Asian markets where mellers rule, but not beyond.

Pic begins as college student Kae (Erika Sawajiri), who’s training to become a teacher, moves into an apartment and discovers a forgotten diary in a hidden compartment. Kae begins reading the journal and discovers it belongs to the apartment’s previous tenant, Ibuki (Yuko Takeuchi), and covers her first year as a teacher at a nearby grade school.

Flashbacks reveal Ibuki to be a kindhearted soul who managed to inspire all her students (bar one troubled tyke) by encouraging them as individuals. The love of Ibuki’s life was a former college colleague, Takashi. Inspired by a movie poster of her favorite cinematic heartthrob, Tetsushi Tanaka; Kae visualizes Ibuki’s beau as looking and dressing identically.

Kae is enthralled by the diary, but is troubled by events in her own life. Financing her own training by working in a fountain pen store, she finds herself gently refusing the advances of her best friend’s b.f. Kae has more trouble getting the attention of offbeat illustrator Ryu (Yusuke Iseya). Pic criss-crosses between past and present and takes its time before establishing the connecting link in the narrative.

Even then, the yarn takes its time tying up strands, apparently leaving no page unfilmed in its desire to be faithful to the original source, a novel by Shusuke Shizuki. Story would probably have been rendered incoherent by the serious trim that should have been executed in the scripting stage; resulting 138-minute marathon is long even by the standards of patient Japanese auds.

Perfs are effective enough to mildly entertain, but don’t really resonate.

Sawajiri created major controversy in Japan by expressing, with uncharacteristic frankness, her indifference toward the pic at a recent Tokyo press conference. Consequently, thesp has been “retired” from TV and film work for a year by her agency.

Yukisada’s helming is smooth, though almost anonymous in its execution. All tech credits are top-quality.

Closed Note

Japan

  • Production: A Toho Co. presentation of a Toho Co., Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, SDP, Sony Music Entertainment (Japan), Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co. production. (International sales: Toho Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Minami Ichikawa, Kai Haruna, Moriso Amagi, Akihiro Yamauchi, Hisashi Usui. Directed by Isao Yukisada. Screenplay, Tomoko Yoshida, Chihiro Ito, Isao Yukisada, based on the novel by Shusuke Shizuki.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Koichi Nakayama; editor, Tsuyoshi Imai; music, Meina Co.; production designer, Sachiko Ito; sound (Dolby Digital), Hironori Ito. Reviewed at Pusan Intl. Film Festival (Open Cinema), Oct. 6, 2007. Running time: 138 MIN.
  • With: Kae - Erika Sawajiri Ryu - Yusuke Iseya Ibuki - Yuko Takeuchi Takashi - Tetsushi Tanaka
  • Music By: