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This triptych of short films about Asia's most misunderstood metropolis features three directors known for cinematically capturing the uncanny, and showing the individual oddity and anxiety that lurks beneath the surface of our smooth social interaction. While the two Western filmmakers, Michel Gondry and Leos Carax, simply relocate their favorite themes to Tokyo, the Korean director Bong Joon-ho more successfully allows the city to dictate the style and content of his segment.
For more about Tokyo! and the Tokyo! Blu-ray release, see the Tokyo! Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Directors: Bong Joon-ho, Michel Gondry
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Tokyo! Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 12, 2009
Bizarre, thought-provoking and beautifully lensed, "Tokyo!" (2008) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of newcomers Liberation Entertainment. The film is comprised of three shorts directed by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Joon-ho Bong. Region-Free.
Two years after some of the greatest world directors were asked to film a short segment that summarizes their thoughts and feelings about the City of Lights for Paris, je t'aime (2006), we have Tokyo! (2008), a similar project comprised of three shorts that capture the rhythm of life in the Japanese capital. The three directors who contributed to Tokyo! are Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Leos Carax (Lovers on the Bridge), and Joon-ho Bong (The Host).
Interior Design (Gondry) – a young couple, Akira (Ryo Kase, Even So, I Didn't Do It ) and Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani, Ikusa), moves to Tokyo. They don't have a place yet but a friend lets them crash at her apartment. They don't have jobs either but have a little bit of money to tie them over until they find something. When they start apartment-hunting, however, something very unusual happens.
Merde (Carax) – a deranged man (Denis Lavant, Beau travail), who lives in the Tokyo sewer system, is terrorizing the city and its inhabitants. Many have seen the man but no one knows where he hides. He dresses in bright green clothes, eats flowers and cash and speaks an unknown language. The locals call him the Green Creature.
Shaking Tokyo (Bong) – a man (Teruyuki Kagawa, Tokyo Sonata) has spent more than a decade inside his apartment. He does not know what the world outside of it looks like. Whatever he needs, he orders by phone. The man never looks into the eyes of those who deliver his orders. He is a hikikomori.
When a beautiful pizza delivery girl (Yû Aoi, One Million Yen and the Nigamushi Woman), however, shows up at the man's door, he breaks his own rule. He looks at her and she faints. At the same time, an earthquake shakes up the city. While trying to help the girl, the man notices a number of different buttons tattooed on her skin. He pushes one of them.
Out of the three shorts in Tokyo!, Carax's Merde is the best one. It tells a very entertaining story while at the same time it effectively satirizes the Japanese society. The arrival of the foreign translator for example, one of only a few who could communicate with Lavant's character, references to the country's isolationist past. The fact that Lavant's character feeds on cash and flowers only refers to a slightly different Japan, a modern society with new priorities. The relationship between Lavant's character and Godzilla should be obvious.
Gondry's Interior Design is somewhat reminiscent of his The Science of Sleep (2006); a heavy sense of melancholy permeates the film. By large, the main characters' struggles in the Japanese capital are familiar. The final act, where one of the characters undergoes an important transformation, addresses the difficult decisions women are faced with in contemporary Japan.
Bong's Shaking Tokyo has the most transparent story. It is about the ability of Japanese men and women to connect and express their feelings without being misunderstood.
Tokyo! is a fascinating film that would appeal to those of you who like to be challenged. The three stories in it are smartly written, provocative and perfectly executed. At times, they tend to go a bit over the top, but certainly deliver their messages in a most convincing fashion.
Tokyo! Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratios of 1.85:1 (Michel Gondry's Interior Design and Leos Carax's Merde) and 2.35:1 (Bong Joon-Ho's Shaking Tokyo), encoded with MPEG-2 and granted a 1080p transfer, Tokyo! arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Liberation Entertainment.
The three shorts in Tokyo! have a unique look of their own that enhances the stories they tell. Interior Design is a dark but notably crisp looking film with strong clarity and plausible detail. Shot on video, Merde is also dark but soft looking film with an organic color-scheme. Contrast is good while clarity and detail vary, depending on the locations and the erratic camera moves. Interior Design is an impressively lensed film with terrific panoramic vistas from downtown Tokyo. Contrast, clarity and detail are very good. The color-scheme looks natural, though there are a few notable manipulations (the whites are intentionally boosted when the main protagonist leaves his home to look for the delivery girl). This being said, there is plenty of natural film grain. Occasionally, however, the grain is mixed with a small dose of digital noise. Still, the video quality is very strong. In fact, as far as I am concerned, the Blu-ray transfer replicates perfectly the theatrical presentation of Tokyo! I attended at my local cinema. For the record, the print does not reveal any disturbing debris, scratches, dirt, or specks. (Note: First, this is a Region-Free disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. Second, the Blu-ray disc does not have a pop-up menu).
Tokyo! Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. I opted for the Japanese DTS-HD Master 7.1 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track for the purpose of this review.
The Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is not overly active. In fact, there are only a couple of scenes where you would notice strong activity in your rear channels. On the other hand, the dialog in all three of the shorts is crisp, clear and very easy to follow. Furthermore, there are only a few scenes where the bass is prominent (the exploding grenades in Merde and the earthquake in Shaking Tokyo being the prime examples). The high frequencies are not overdone. There are no serious audio distortions that I detected either. Pops, cracks, clicks, or hissings do not plague the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track.
The Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is solid. Obviously, it does not match the dynamic intensity of the Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. Balance, however, is improved. On the other hand, the dialog is just as crisp and clear as it is on the Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. For the record, Liberation Entertainment have provided optional English and French subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame for Interior Design and Merde and between the image frame and the black bars for Shaking Tokyo.
Tokyo! Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
(Note: For some very strange reason, all of the supplemental features are incorrectly flagged. As a result, the image appears awkwardly stretched. You have to select "normal mode" on your TV so you could have them supplemental features properly displayed.).
Making of Shaking Tokyo – a rather long piece offering plenty of raw footage from Bong's short. There are no interesting comments by the cast and crew. (34 min, 1080p).
Making of Merde – again, a rather long piece with plenty of raw footage from Carax's short. The focus of attention here are the underground scenes. With optional English subtitles. (30min, 1080p).
Making of Interior Design – unlike the other two pieces mentioned above, here director Gondry discusses his short and explains how it was adapted from Gabriell Bell's graphic novel "Cecil and Jordan in New York". With optional English subtitles. (30 min, 1080p).
Director Interviews – a rather long and very informative featurette where the three directors discuss their films in detail. Director Carax's comments in particular are very interesting. With optional English subtitles. (24 min, 1080p).
Original theatrical trailer - in 1080p.
Photo Gallery –
Tokyo! Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I am very excited to see Tokyo! released in the United States. I saw it twice in my local cinema and thought that it was easily the most audacious film to be made during the last five years. It is such a shame that we don't see Leos Carax directing more often. I am delighted to have Tokyo! in my collection. Very Highly Recommended.
Tokyo! Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Tokyo! Announced for Blu-ray - May 2, 2009
Independent studio Liberation Entertainment enters the Blu-ray arena with its announcement of Tokyo!, a three-segment film that looks at life in Japan's capital, directed by three non-Japanese filmmakers. The film will street on Blu-ray on June 30, day-and-date ...
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