EEFF 2013: 'Kuro' review

A celebration of cinema's escapist qualities, Daisuke Shimote's mischievous comedy Kuro (2012) received it UK premiere at this year's East End Film Festival after a positive reception at the Tokyo Film Festival. The film's titular protagonist (Daisuke Iijima) dreams of being a baker, yet her reluctance to work as a cashier gets her fired. She meets Gou (Hideo Nakaizumi), a theatre director looking for a new star after his leading actress became tired of his philandering ways. The pair don't exactly get along when they first meet, but after a fairly harmless kidnapping, they find themselves on a road trip heading out of Tokyo.

It's on this excursion that the pair meet Eito (Yu Saitoh), an aspiring photographer who - after a spat with his girlfriend - has decided to visit his uncle's abandoned hotel. Kuro's disenfranchised, Godardian 'Band of Outsiders' are held together by a shared sense of ennui-addled, post-adolescent malady. What we're left with is a highly stylised coming-of-age tale that imbues the suave coolness of the French Nouvelle Vague with the idiosyncratic bravura of modern Japanese cinema.

Released in Japan under the title Hanare Banareni (which translates to 'separate pieces' - the same title Godard's Band of Outsiders was given when it ventured East), Kuro is a cineliterate ode to the history of the form. The film's sly nods to the medium's golden era(s) never feel forced, whilst the characters Shimote has crafted remain genuinely endearing. Though identifying each of the film's understated caricatures of bygone memories is fun, they also provide an opportunity for the audience to emulate the film's stars and depart the real world. Shimote displays an assured eye for composition, elegantly framing his characters' jovial antics against the faded glamour of an autumnal coastal stretch.

Beneath Kuro's referential exterior lies a genuinely sweet and enjoyable romp that captures the vapid sense of emptiness felt by a generation paying for their peers' mistakes. Littered with effervescent scenes of physical comedy - including a modest game of Wii Tennis that explodes into a full-blown Wimbledon doubles match on the hotel's roof-top terrace - each of these moments are tinged with a gentle and charismatic humour.

As the bond between the film's trio inevitably fades, we're left with little more than the memory of the freedom and happiness they once shared. Each of them must attempt to reintegrate into the mundane rituals of their previous lives. However, the triumvirate's travels touch each of them in much the same way as they do the audience, leaving the viewer with an invigorating motivation to make the most of life.

The East End Film Festival takes place from 25 June to 10 July, 2013. For more of our EEFF 2013 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble


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