Even for Japan, that was a bit weird. However it's not screaming in-your-face weirdness like The Happiness of the Katakuris
or Crazy Lips
, but instead just slightly odd people having offbeat conversations that ramble on and on with no obvious point and you can't tell where the story's going. You might compare it with Quentin Tarantino, but if so then it's a version of Tarantino who's focused entirely on eccentricity and has forgotten to include people getting killed. Frankly, you'd do better to compare it with Harold Pinter or Samuel Beckett.
I think I liked it, but it's one of those films for which some people are going to go crazy and other people, possibly sitting right next to them, are going to think it's a massive waste of time.
At the beginning is a mind-meltingly trivial conversation between two hotel employees, in which one of them is pretending not to be angry with the other for not admitting that he doesn't believe the first one's story about poo falling from the sky. Or something like that. However their argument is interrupted when a guest turns up, having been looking for an unpopular, out-of-the-way hotel and so it seems has hit the jackpot. His arrival causes the hotel staff to start hitting each other, while soon afterwards the guest will be having a fight with a bellhop who insists on carrying his luggage and won't take no for an answer, not even when the guest is screaming in his face and trying to wrench the bag out of his hands.
After that first conversation, incidentally, we go to a long animated opening credits sequence in which we're introduced to the entire cast, mostly one by one, as they do cool, sexy or violent things. This seems meaningless, but it's also high-energy and lots of fun. By the time we've finished watching all this anime, we're fourteen minutes into the film and yet it feels as if we haven't started yet.
I have a theory that those opening credits represent the entire film. Not literally, but thematically. Everyone in those credits is being made to look cool in a manner that might actually be the exact opposite of reality. This is significant because this is a film in which people tell elaborate, silly lies, usually to no purpose whatsoever. Sometimes they're believed and the consequences are far worse than would have happened if they'd simply told the truth from the beginning, or else sometimes they'll be poo-poohing the other person's surreally perceptive insights or else going into denial about something that's true. Sometimes their lies mess with their children's heads. However note that in contrast, the people with a background that really is something to hide and be ashamed of (i.e. the convicted perverts) are completely open about their condition and even dress up in superhero outfits. That doesn't mean they're necessarily proud of themselves, but they're not lying about anything.
I'd have to call the film surreal, but in a manner that's only eccentric rather than stark raving bugnuts. Everything could really happen, if you're prepared to stretch a point for the end credits. There are no alien invasions or line-dancing zombies. However there is a Peeping Tom (Yoshio Harada) dressed as a superhero called Captain Banana, who'd like to help a younger Peeping Tom (Tadanobu Asano) find his peephole on life. The scenes with those two could be called heartwarming, as you'd get with any uncle figure and an emotionally confused young man who doesn't know what to do with his life, except that they're about encouraging a pervert in his perversion. (There's no nudity, though.)
Those are only two characters, albeit the most extreme. There are seven such main characters altogether, hence the title. The others include an engaged couple with a lot of explaining to do, a defensive gangster who doesn't want to be found and more.
The director's style is high-energy, so much so that he almost manages to make his story not just seem like lots of dialogue. He gives whoosh sounds to that travel agent, for instance. His name's Katsuhito Ishii, he's also an animator who worked on Kill Bill and this is his second film after his reasonably successful debut with Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl. His work here is very visual, yet at the same time it feels like a theatre piece, or perhaps an unusually eccentric lost TV script from forty or fifty years ago. Specifically it's got themes which only unfold if you're patient and it takes place almost entirely inside a few enclosed rooms, although there's an exception to that in the five-minute epilogue that plays out over the closing credits. Note the way that the story comes full circle at the end, incidentally, in more ways than one.
It's got a stage production's pacing, but executed with so much vim that he's hoping you don't notice. I like stage shows, so I don't mind. There's a bit of violence, but not much. There's more depth than there might seem to be on the surface. The film can be funny, but it can also be slightly bewildering as you wonder where these conversations are going. I wouldn't say it's strong enough for a recommendation, but it definitely has its fans and it's an entertaining curiosity for those times when you're in the mood for Japanese eccentricity.