2011, colour/b&w, 1.85:1, 132 mins
Directed by Amir Naderi
By Derek Elley
Mon, 05 September 2011, 16:25 PM (HKT)
Self-indulgent, masochistic drama set in Japan and directed by an Iranian. Festivals.
Tokyo, the present day. Obsessed young film-maker Shuji (Nishijima Hidetoshi), who has so far made three productions, rants in the streets about the imperilment of independent, artistic cinema and visits the graves of Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi for solace. He also holds cinephile evenings on the terrace of his flat, screening cinema classics like The Third Man, The Searchers and Shindo Kaneto's The Naked Island. He then discovers his brother Shingo (Nikaido Satoshi) was working for the yakuza as a debt collector and has been beaten to death by them for not paying back the money he'd borrowed to finance Shuji's films. Shingo's boss, Masaki (Sugata Shun), who works out of an old boxing gym-cum-bar, gives Shuji his brother's ashes and tells him he has two weeks to pay off the ¥12,540,000 (US$160,000) debt. Shuji decides the only way is to become a human-punchbag-for-money in the gym's toilet where his brother was killed. Yoko (Tokiwa Takako), who runs the bar, manages the takings as various yakuza come to let off steam; but she becomes worried by the injuries that the obsessive Shuji is receiving and is eventually replaced by the aged Hiroshi (Sasano Takashi). Masaki has become increasingly troubled by the appropriateness of what is going on, and becomes worried for Shuji when his own boss imposes extra conditions.
Cut カット (2011) seems a long way from Iranian writer-director Amir NADERI's break-out film, The Runner (1985), and his US-set works like Manhattan by Numbers. Though Naderi has become a more and more marginal film-maker, with a following only on the festival circuit, his interest in obsessive and addictive characters has remained the same, making Japan seem a natural fit for a project. Kick-started via his friendship with actor NISHIJIMA Hidetoshi 西島秀俊 (Dolls Ｄｏｌｌｓ (2002), Tokyo Rendezvous 東南角部屋二階の女 (2008)), Cut is, however, an over-long, poorly written and self-indulgent mess that unsuccessfully tries to merge film nerdiness with psychological drama.
The cliches start piling up very soon, as Nishijima's half-mad indie director Shunji rants in the streets about the decline of artistic cinema and visits Japanese film-makers' graves for solace. While still trying to maintain the flimsy connection between two types of obsessiveness, the film then veers off into a masochistic tale of Shunji deciding to become a human punch-bag to pay off his dead brother's yakuza debt. It's the kind of story that a director like TSUKAMOTO Shinya 塚本晋也 might have made something of; but in Naderi's hands the idea idles along in neutral, exploring none of its limits and gathering no dramatic traction. Playing by Nishijima is just so-so, and as the female lead TOKIWA Takako 常盤貴子 (20th Century Boys ２０世紀少年 (2008)) is as colourless as her part. Within the film's limited acting spectrum, the best performances come from SUGATA Shun 菅田俊 and SASANO Takashi 笹野高史 as older yakuza.
HD photography, which switches into b&w at movie-nerd moments, is flat and uninteresting, like the characters; and the film desperately needs an objective editor to remove at least 30 minutes and give it some dramatic shape. Naderi wrote the original script in English with Canadian-raised video artist Abou Farman; he subsequently rewrote it in Persian, which was then translated into Japanese. Director AOYAMA Shinji 青山真治 (Eureka ユリイカ (1999), Desert Moon 月の砂漠 (2001)) gets a script credit for his work on the dialogue and for rewriting some sequences.
ContactSales: The Match Factory, Cologne (email@example.com)
Premiere: Venice Film Festival (Orrizonti, opening film), 1 Sep 2011. Theatrical release: Japan, 17 Dec 2011.
Produced by Tokyo Story (JP), in association with Bitters End. Producers: Eric Nyari, Engin Yenidunya, Régis Arnaud.
Script: Amir Naderi, Abou Farman, Aoyama Shinji, Tazawa Yuichi. Photography: Hashimoto Keiji. Editing: Amir Naderi. Music: none. Production design: Isomi Toshihiro. Costume design: Baba Kyoko. Special make-up: Umezawa Soichi. Sound: Ogawa Takeshi, Yokoyama Shogo, Seong Ji-yeong, Amir Naderi.
Cast: Nishijima Hidetoshi (Shuji), Tokiwa Takako (Yoko), Sasano Takashi (Hiroshi), Sugata Shun (Masaki), Denden (Takagaki), Suzuki Takuji (Nakamichi, Shuji's film-making friend), Nikaido Satoshi (voice of Shingo, Shuji's brother), Hayakawa Junichi (Masaki's aide), Nakamura Ikuji.