Yoji TanakaToshiya NagasawaChika FujimuraHidetoshi Nishijima
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Writer/director: Kaze Shindo
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Mika Okuno, Chika Fujimura, Toshiya Nagasawa, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Ryo Morikawa, Yoji Tanaka
Format: 77 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0271616/
Website category: Japanese
Review date: 5 October 2010
That's not an internet-friendly title. Go on, try googling it. It's not even pornographic, unlike, say, Office Lady Love Juice (1999), which was Best Film of the year at the Pink Grand Prix.
Love/Juice is about as indie as they get. There's no nudity, violence or horror, although there is a lesbian and goldfish-lovers will think it's a snuff film. Two flatmates, Mika Okuno and Chika Fujimura, go about their daily lives and have charming, silly conversations. One of them's a lesbian and the other one isn't. That's the entire movie. Thank goodness it's short, eh?
I liked it, though. It's mostly just our two heroines and they're rather good together. There's a spontaneity and truth about their scenes together that made me wonder how much of it was improvised. Chika Fujimura has acted in other things, although not a lot, but imdb thinks that this is to date Mika Okuno's only screen credit. Maybe that helped? Their naturalism is the film's great virtue and it's boosted by a hands-off style of cinematography that's usually content just to stand back and watch. This duo don't feel like movie characters, but instead like two real friends whose random conversations are often being captured on camera. I liked spending time with them. Their cannibalism conversation made me laugh, as did vignettes like Okuno playing with make-up.
Fujimura is the bubbly, girly one. Her obsession with the fish shop and its surly proprietor is amusing, for instance. Okuno is her rather masculine lesbian roommate. Okuno loves Fujimura and it isn't requited... but they're also female best friends and practically joined at the hip, while on top of that Fujimura's fond enough of her friend to give her a comfort snog from time to time. Okuno can confess her feelings and Fujimura doesn't even treat it as a particularly big deal. They're friends. They're girls together. No problem. They even sleep together, by which I mean "share a bed every night". However I'm not sure Fujimura truly understands what's going on in her friend's head, or else she might have thought better of the masturbation episode.
I'd bet money that writer/director Kaze Shindo is a lesbian, because this is such a delicate, honest story about a homosexual coming-of-age, but the Fujimura character seems to me like slightly bittersweet gay wish-fulfilment.
The goldfish will freak out some animal-lovers, though. That pet shop has a habit of putting a lone goldfish into its tanks of piranhas and evil-looking sea monsters. I don't know if this is feeding time or just sadism, but the results are distressing. Furthermore Okuno buys two goldfish for Fujimura, which then live together in things like drinking glasses! I'm surprised they didn't jump out or suffocate. It's obvious what metaphor Shindo's going for here, especially when we find one symbolically dead goldfish after Okuno's walked out on Fujimura, but that doesn't change the problematic fact that the fish snuff scenes are clearly being done for real.
Well, I suppose this is Japan. Fish = dinner.
This is a very minor film. It's short, it's the very opposite of blockbuster appeal and it probably cost tuppence ha'penny to make. However it's quite a sweet little character study with some nice thematic touches. Note also Okuno's photography habit. The raucous, lowlife nightclub at the beginning was off-putting, but fortunately it proved to be atypical of the film as a whole. About 95% of the film is just our two protagonists and their daily lives, so it's a good thing they're likeable.
It also has the right ending, neither happy nor sad. Instead it's truthful. Some people will probably find it boring, but I thought it was delicate and rather sweet.