All Under the Moon (Yoichi Sai, 1993)
Japanese Title: Tsuki wa dotchi ni dete iru
The fascinating thing about Yoichi Sai's All Under the Moon is that it focuses, not on the everyday life of Japanese citizens, but on the lives of those who seem to live anonymously in a society that seems unicultural, the foreign immigrants. The main character in All Under the Moon is Tadao (Goro Kishitani), a North Korean immigrant who works in a taxi cab corporation wholly owned by another Korean immigrant whose dream is to build a golf course (turning him into a probably victim for the yakuza's shady business proposals).
Tadao's mother owns a karaoke bar. Connie (Ruby Moreno), a Filipino immigrant, is the newly hired bartender who can fluently speak Japanese. Love-starved Tadao takes an interest on the homesick Connie to Tadao's mother's dismay. It's a realistically if not too comedically pumped romantic relationship. Tadao moves in suddenly into Connie's apartment and from then on, they share an almost normal relationship, except for the fact that their means of communication is not their native tongues, but a language they adopted due to the constraints of their financial incapability. Both foreigners in a land that sees them as second class citizens, and among their class, there are subclasses (Tadao's mom insists that Filipinos, Chinese, and other nationalities are too lazy to be successful; In a Korean wedding, the North and South Koreans wage a war using their folksongs). It's a whirlwind romance that is the heart and the soul of the movie: the homesick girl insisting that her Korean lover come home with her to the Philippines, the Korean driver whose directionless satisfaction keeps him comfortable enough to resist any change.
There are other characters of note here, mostly Tadao's wacky co-workers. There's Hoso (Yoshiki Arizono), a no-good Japanese cab driver who insists that he hates Koreans, but likes Tadao. He never seems to have any money, as he keeps on pestering everyone to loan him money, or to give him a free stick of cigarette. In one hilarious scene, Tadao and Connie were having sex only to have Hoso bother them by calling Tadao multiple times and insisting that he loan him money. What seems like a character primarily used as a comic relief blossoms into a character of poignant resolution. He is the only Japanese character in the film that is fully fleshed out. Sai, also a Korean-Japanese citizen seems to be making a point here: Hoso, the only fully characterized Japanese character ending up in a loony bin, and still trying to siphon affection and money from what he considers a hate-worthy foreign immigrant.
All Under the Moon is predominantly a comedy. Sai, with the help of Goro Kishitani's commendable comedic timing, cooks up scenes of varied hilarity. In a scene where Tadao is ripped off by a Japanese passenger, he chases the erring passenger through the city just to insist that he gets paid. In an effort to show his honesty as compared to the Japanese swindler, he even gives the change and politely delivers the customary "thank you" amidst the furious panting and sighing. Another continuing joke is about another Japanese co-worker of Tadao who consistently gets lost in Japan's major landmarks. Every time he gets lost, he would call the aging receptionist of the taxi company and ask for directions. There are several other delightful scenes that deserve a healthy chuckle, and when Japanese comedy is not your thing (comedy that ranges from crazy slapstick to far fetched scenarios), you can always treat the film as a semi-autobiographical work from a director who accurately sees the immigrant's plight in a society that somehow doesn't know that they exist.