The Real Thing
Director: Koji Fukada
Cast: Win Morisaki, Kaho Tsuchimura, Kei Ishibashi, Akari Fukunaga
Japanese master Koji Fukada’s offering at the ongoing Tokyo International Film Festival, The Real Thing, is far too long at close to four hours. Yes, even for a master this is so, and what is the story all about? Well, a romance about a salaryman (as employees are referred to in Japan)! Scratch the surface, the movie talks about in an endless back and forth form – with repetitions – about the hero, Tsuji (played by Win Morisaki), and his “Teen Deviyan”. (Remember the Hindi film with Bollywood Casanova Dev Anand hitting it out with Nanda, Simi Garewal and Kalpana Mohan?).
First produced by Japan’s Nagoya TV as a 10-episode series from a comic book and helmed by Fukada, The Real Thing has been condensed (if one may use this term) for a theatrical opening. Given the butterfly attention we are all endowed with today, the movie is still far too, too long, and its pace does not help either.
And in these 233 minutes, Tsuji flits from one woman to another – and then back to the first and the second in what appears like an endless game of musical chairs. The Real Thing lacks the realistic pep of Fukada’s earlier works like Harmonium and A Girl Missing, and is filled with characters we find difficult to relate.
Tsuji is a bright employee at Onda Toys and Fireworks, and he has had a long affair with another employee, Hosokawa (Kei Ishibashi), and they spend after-work hours at his flat. There is also the childish Minako (Akari Fukunaga), who like Hosokawa is secretly pining to get married to the man, lanky with a boyish hair style. But catch Tsuji getting into the trap of marriage, domesticity and bawling babies.
This is when Ukiyo ( Kaho Tsuchimura) enters the hero’s life in what looks like a page out of Bollywood drama. Her car stalls at a railway level-crossing, and with the train speeding, Tsuji, who happens to be there then, plays the Superman. He pushes the car out of a possibly ghastly tragedy. She seems helpless, a real damsel in distress, and he has to come to her rescue — time again as we would see. The train out of the way, it transpires that she has no driver’s licence, and the car has been rented on the basis of a fake address.
Tsuji keeps meeting Ukiyo again and again in unbelievable coincidences, and she fits the bill of a temptress. He has to get her out of a prostitution ring by paying the underworld boss $10,000. The curtain on her life finally lifts to reveal that she has an abusive husband, who keeps demanding money from her. Poor Tsuji slips deeper and deeper into the mess called Ukiyo.
Fukada resolves the issue in his own way, but not before bombarding us with a few more shocks.
(Author, commentator, movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering the Tokyo International Film Festival for several years)