Premiere Japan 2011: Tokyo Park (東京公園)

What better way to spend a Friday night in London than to spend it watching a Japanese movie at the Barbican? Tonight was actually my first time to see a movie at the Barbican, and I was very impressed. The cinema there has a much classier vibe than your average British cinema, perhaps because they don’t sell popcorn and cheesy nachos. Instead, there’s a bar.

So, after a beer to relax me into my Friday night, I sat down to watch Tokyo Park.

Tokyo Park (東京公園) was the first film to be shown as part of Premiere Japan 2011. Now in its seventh year in London, Premiere Japan found a new home at the Barbican this year, and will be screening six of the best and most recent features and documentaries from Japan this weekend. Highlights include Locarno Film Festival winner, Tokyo Park featuring rising star Haruma Miura; the latest delight from Yazaki Hitoshi, Sweet Little Lies adapted from Ekuni Kaori’s best selling novel, and Sketch of Mujo the first documentary to be made in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. Each screening is preceded by a short film chosen from submissions made by students, both Japanese and non-Japanese, at the University of the Arts London.

Due to other plans, the only film I was able to go and see was tonight’s Tokyo Park. Here’s the official blurb: “Based on a novel by Shoji Yukiya, this depiction of isolation, jealousy and lust follows the fortunes of a college student, Koji, whose life is transformed when he is approached by a married man to spy on his wife. Played with wide-eyed enthusiasm by rising star Miura Haruma, Koji’s journey is peppered with eccentric characters and the visual flair for which director Aoyama is renowned. Winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno Film Festival.

I’m still getting into Japanese movies, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Generally, I find Japanese live-action movies to be a little slow and very quiet (especially compared to most of what Hollywood churns out). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Tokyo Park was full of moments of contemplation, cute comedy, and quirky characters. I found the Japanese easy to follow, although it was also subtitled, and enjoyed the little music that there was. Japanese films (from what I have seen so far) seem to be braver than Hollywood movies in a lot of ways. I think a lot of Hollywood directors stick to a formula they know will sell. Tokyo Park, like other Japanese movies I’ve seen, was original and didn’t seem to worry what people thought of it. It was art, as well as entertainment.

The actors were excellent, especially Nana Eikura who stole the show for me in her role as the wonderfully weird Miyu. Haruma Miura (Koji) also did a great job of being funny, sweet, and very easy on the eyes. It wasn’t just the actors which were beautiful though. The film takes place in a number of parks across Tokyo, and is filmed during the autumn. It was a real pleasure to see the autumn leaves in Ueno Koen again!

I hope the DVD of Tokyo Park makes it over to the UK at some point (it’s already available in Japan). It’s the kind of movie I could happily watch again, and I think it would be good Japanese practice, too.

(Image © Sarah Harvey Publicity)

Premiere Japan is on at the Barbican until 27th November. For more details and ticket information, please visit the Barbican website.


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