Friday, November 17, 2006

It's Only Talk (2005)

It's Only Talk (Ryuichi Hiroki, 2005)
Japanese Title: Yawarakai seikatsu

A pervading and depressing sense of temporariness envelopes the psyche of the main character of Ryuichi Hiroki's It's Only Talk. Played with heartbreaking sincerity by Shinobu Terajima (who displayed an engrossing vulnerability in her debut film as the writer in director Hiroki's breakthrough film Vibrator (2003) --- although Hiroki has been making soft core pornographic films before), Yuko is a 35 year old manic-depressive. She keeps a website where she posts pictures of choice places and events she has visited --- one of the places we see is a playground made of rubber tires; the playground's centerpiece is a tall and handsome replica of Godzilla made entirely of truck tires. Her first interaction in the film is with K (Tomorowo Taguchi), a pervert she supposedly met in the net. He takes her to Kamada (he explains that he prefers taking his mistresses to out-of-town excursions); She loves the place and decides to stay there, living off the insurance money she has gathered from her parents' death.

In Kamada, she re-unites with a former classmate Honma (Shinsuke Matsuoka), now an active politician. Honma suffers from erectile dysfunction; he claims that an antidote to his embarrassing situation is to bed a girl he's in love with --- it turns out that manic-depressive Yuko isn't the panacea to his woes, also to her dissatisfaction. Through her website, she eye-balls with fellow manic-depressive Noboru (Satoshi Tsumabuki), a young yakuza, married and with child. She shows him the rubber tire playground; we learn that Noboru harbors a childhood fondness of the elusive site and repays Yuko with friendship for re-uniting him with his past. The fourth man in Yuko's life (or at least as shown in the film) is her cousin Shoichi (Etsushi Toyokawa). Shoichi moves to Kamada to be with his mistress, after separating from his wife and child. The mistress dumps him and he is forced to move into Yuko's apartment.

There's an engrossing dynamism to Hiroki's film. Midway through the feature, Yuko suddenly wakes up, switching from her jolly nature to the depressive one as her psychological disease promises. Instead of leaving the point of view to the near immobile Yuko, Hiroki shifts interests to Shoichi, giving us a grasp as to the psyche of the men affected by Yuko and a maintained cinematic tempo. It seems (and Hiroki, in the Q&A after the film screening confirms; Hiroki wanted a happy ending to his film, injecting a memorable sound bit to the penultimate scene in the bath house) that the cinematic goal is optimistic (with bright colors and movement), probably to lessen the impact of the fact that the film is ultimately a downer.

Yuko is used to the temporary nature of her life. She's manic one day, and wakes up morose the next. Her life is a series of depressing events --- her parents died (she claims from a famous earthquake), her boyfriend perished (from the subway gas attacks), a dear friend died (from the 9/11 terrorist attack), during the pendency of the film, another important figure in her life would meet the same fate. The same way, the men of her life carry the same fate. Their lives are as volatile as their temporary encounters with Yuko. K's life, like his name, is blanketed with anonymity; most probably to protect his non-pervert facade and his family. Honma has yet to meet the woman to cure him. Noboru's profession keeps his life a mercurial matter. Shoichi's fickle-mindedness in relationships force him back to Yuko whom he previously had an intimate relationship with.

Like the effects of her bipolar nature, like the men whom she can never be with, like the interesting places that dot the Kamada neighborhood, it seems to be the fate of poor Yuko that her life be denied of comforting permanence. Her only escape is to take photographs (of the places she has visited, among other things) with her digital camera, to provide a semblance of permanence in life's grueling surprises.

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