×

The Town of Whales

Even if this 68-minute vignette doesn't break out beyond fests, debuting helmer Keiko Tsuruoka's fresh voice promises bigger projects to come.

With:
With: Momoko Tobita, Sui Katano, Sakiko Yamaguchi, Kentaro Sato, Masaru Nakashima. (Japanese dialogue)

Cool as a summer drizzle, Nipponese coming-of-ager “The Town of Whales” is so slight that it will come and go without a trace, leaving only the afterthought “Oh, to be young.” Skipping from a search for a missing brother to a love triangle to a philosophical meditation on whales (not necessarily in that order of significance), the brief, almost impromptu story captures a tremulous moment of transition from youth to adulthood, from friendship to love. Even if this 68-minute vignette doesn’t break out beyond fests, debuting helmer Keiko Tsuruoka’s fresh voice promises bigger projects to come.

During the last summer vacation of high school, Machi (Momoko Tobita) makes a day trip to Tokyo with classmates Tomohiko (Sui Katano) and Hotari (Sakiko Yamaguchi) to look for her brother Tetsu, who disappeared from their provincial hometown six years ago. Tetsu’s whereabouts and Machi’s obsession with why whales migrated from land to sea are ultimately red herrings, as an amorous tiff drolly erupts during the trio’s stay. The protags exude dorky innocence, even in a scene in which Tomohiko awkwardly tries to molest Machi. Extensive closeups warmly convey the characters’ intimacy.

The Town of Whales

Japan

Production: A PIA Film Festival release and presentation. (International sales: PIA Film Festival, Tokyo.) Produced, directed, written, edited by Keiko Tsuruoka.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), art director/costume designer, Risa Takeuchi; sound (stereo), Noriko Takeuchi; line producer,Hiroshi Nagai; assistant director, Risa Takeuchi. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (New Currents, competing), Sept. 6, 2012. Running time: 68 MIN.

With: With: Momoko Tobita, Sui Katano, Sakiko Yamaguchi, Kentaro Sato, Masaru Nakashima. (Japanese dialogue)

More Film

  • Taylor Swift Variety Facetime

    Taylor Swift Opens Up About Overcoming Struggle With Eating Disorder (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the new Taylor Swift documentary, “Miss Americana,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Thursday night, there’s a montage of derogatory commentary about the singer that has appeared on cable shows over the years. One of the less nasty remarks: “She’s too skinny. It bothers me.” As it turns out, it eventually bothered Swift, [...]

  • The Painter and the Thief

    'The Painter and the Thief': Film Review

    Incredible. That’s the word that comes to mind with Benjamin Ree’s “The Painter and the Thief,” a stranger-than-fiction friendship story in which vérité techniques produce unbelievable results. I don’t mean to imply that this astonishing documentary isn’t truthful. Rather, I’m in awe of how things played out, and fully aware that there was a certain [...]

  • 'The Cost of Silence': Exclusive First

    'The Cost of Silence': Exclusive First Look at Sundance Doc on Deepwater Horizon Spill

    “The Cost of Silence,” a new documentary about the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, doesn’t just chronicle the worst oil drilling disaster in history. It looks at the devastating impact that the use of chemicals called “dispersants” had on Gulf Coast families. It turns out the so-called cleanup was not the success story [...]

  • Cuties

    'Cuties': Film Review

    Eleven-year-old Senegalese immigrant Amy (Fathia Youssouf) reckons there are two ways to be a woman. Amy could mimic her mom (Maïmouna Gueye), a dutiful drudge with three kids and a husband who’s just announced he’s bringing home a second wife. Or she could copy the “Cuties,” a quartet of brazen girls who wear tube tops [...]

  • Crip Camp

    'Crip Camp': Film Review

    If “Crip Camp” strikes you as a politically incorrect name for a movie about a summer camp where kids on crutches, in wheelchairs, and otherwise living with disabilities found it possible to feel included rather than ostracized, consider this: The irreverent, stereotype-busting documentary was co-directed by Berkeley-based sound designer Jim LeBrecht, a spina bifida survivor [...]

  • Summertime

    'Summertime': Film Review

    “Use your words.” I remember one of my sheroes saying that to a stammering 4-year-old decades ago. Here was a woman who’d dedicated her life to preschool education, whom I assisted for several summers, trying to get through to a tongue-tied little boy. The more he sputtered, the more upset he got, unable to express [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content