Tokyo! is a loosely connected trilogy from three different directors. The Host’s [review] Bong Joon-ho’s “Shaking Tokyo” is about a hoarder hermit looking for love; Michel Gondry’s [Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind] “Interior Design” is about a sweet, film-obsessed couple whose lives take on characteristics of the movies they watch and make; and lastly, “Merde,” from Leos Carax is about a nasty mutant man-creature who lives in the Tokyo sewer, eats money to stay alive and occasionally emerges to street level to terrorize the population. At its best, the movie is a stylish spin through the Tokyo universe, a play on the psychology and realities of one of the world’s most urbanized societies.
The way that Gondry displays this is one of the most unusual, surreal and entertaining things I have ever seen on film. “Interior Design” is outstanding. The other two films are not as good, so the balance is definetely uneven. However, the sum effect of all three outings is a wonderful evening of unusual cinema. The third story is both the most serious and the weakest of the lot. Bong Joon-ho makes a fable out of the life of a Tokyo shut-in or hikikomori, played by Teruyuki Kagawa. The piece is visually appealing – the hikikomori’s apartment is frequently described as “perfect,” with 10 years of pizza boxes artfully stacked – but is too self-conscious, with a corny ending.
Deploying smooth, supple camera movements that capture the flat’s warmly lit and impeccably maintained interiors, as well as wider establishing shots of the city, Bong and d.p. Jun Fukumoto effortlessly pinpoint the sense of isolation that so often permeates even the world’s most densely populated metropolitan centers. “Shaking Tokyo” is a film about undercurrents of emotion. It is the most restrained and knot-tied of the three segments with the lead fighting to come out of a state of mental fibrillation.
The stories pits the value of sanity and order against the isolation of city life and the rejection of human contact in an environment that is constantly too full of people. Somewhat going off the beaten path, the three directors working on this particular project choose to demonstrate a certain impertinence which somewhat saves the film from being one big cliche. Tokyo! leaves a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth but doesn’t cause any nausea. It is refreshing to see the freedom directors can have with a shared project and its in this aspect that I can respect the film. It doesn’t mesh as well as 3 Extreme’s, but in the end I can still recommend this as a unique and well worth your time movie experience.