Three foreign views of life on the streets of Tokyo

Appearing in "Interior Design," one of three shorts comprising "Tokyo!" (from left) Ryo Kase, Ayako Fujitani , Satoshi Tsumabuki, and Ayumi Ito.
Appearing in "Interior Design," one of three shorts comprising "Tokyo!" (from left) Ryo Kase, Ayako Fujitani , Satoshi Tsumabuki, and Ayumi Ito.
Posted: April 10, 2009

Three short films set in Tokyo but made by foreigners - Frenchmen Michel Gondry and Leos Carax, and South Korea's Bong Joon-ho - Tokyo! finds xenophobes and freaks wandering the streets of Japan's capital, grappling with alienation and ennui, horror and regret, toilet paper and pizza boxes.

Without doubt the standout, Gondry's "Interior Design" tracks a young couple as they hunt for an apartment, staying in the claustrophobic flat of a friend while seeking employment and a space they can afford. As fans of Gondry (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) might expect, these typical pursuits turn pretty weird: I won't say how weird, but the girlfriend Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani) undergoes a metamorphosis one doesn't see every day.

Carax, in his first film since 1999's Pola X, presents "Merde," the surreal story of a Westerner with a crooked beard and a milky eye who emerges from the city's sewers to terrorize its citizens. A lengthy trial sequence, in which French, Japanese, and a made-up language known only to a lawyer and the madman he represents are spoken, tries one's patience.

Bong, of the great monster pic The Host, offers a quiet tale of isolation and love, "Shaking Tokyo," in which a recluse falls in love with a pizza-delivery girl. The relationship has seismic implications.

Tokyo! is a must-see for the Gondry segment, and a strange, diverting pleasure for the rest.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.

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