[working review title, reminiscent of 1970’s British sex comedies: “Konfessions of a Kappa”]
Film: “Underwater Love: A Pink Musical” (Onna no Kappa / おんなの河童)
Director (& Co-writer): Shinji Imaoka
Venue: Rich Mix, London
Running time: 87 minutes
Other Info: UK Premiere
Further Info: Full-length concert by Stereo Total + Special (surprise) guest, Christopher Doyle
Released & Distributed in the UK by Third Window Films – details here (and again at foot of review):
Film Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pinkmusical
Awards & Festivals:Winner at Fantastic Fest 2011 – Fantastic Features category: Best Actress – Sawa Masaki (Underwater Love) Winner at Sitges Film Festival 2011 – Special Mention (Noves Visions) category: Underwater Love Tribeca Film Festival 2011 – World Premiere Udine Far East Festival 2011 – European Premiere Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival 2011 – Korean Premiere Fantasia Film Festival 2011 – Canadian Premiere Fantastic Fest 2011 – Texas Premiere Stockholm International Film Festival 2011 – Nordic Premiere Sitges Film Festival 2011
This film and the premiere itself took me to places (other than Japan!)… and namely…
…Under Water, Above Expectations and Beyond Believability
Excuse a pun on the venue name but what a Rich Mix of Continents: From Japan, to Germany, then England & Surrounding Waters. All of these, because of the mix of audience, film collaborators and world interest. Not least also, because of the attendees themselves of this UK Premiere – one being an impromptu arrival at the pre-film drinks of the soon to be announced ‘special guest’. It’s fair to say that many, many audience members were surprised (understandably) when he was introduced.
To explain this movie in just a few words would be foolish, not to mention difficult. So, I guess I’m perhaps the right guy to do this. I know, I know… this site is called ‘mini mini’ but some may already know that I occasionally doth like to ramble.
Into the water we jump and what do we have?
Firstly, a narrator doing… well, some narrating of course. As brief as this moment is it tells us enough.
Listening and intrigued I couldn’t help but chuckle at the mention of a certain character’s love for cucumber. One couldn’t want a more sexual innuendoed vegetable if one tried. However true a legend this character is or his love for the vegetable be, the use of it is sheer brilliance. This is a Pink [‘pinku’] movie after all.
From pink to the visually stunning opening scene of many a green lotus leaf… but whats that creature set into the middle of them? Why… it’s the character I fleetingly mentioned briefly… It’s a kappa. A what? Indeed, I don’t expect everyone to know. It’s crunching on a courgette… No wait, a cucumber… obviously. It’s just not the large (innuendoable) kind which we know and love in the UK. The kappa’s crunching causes a crisp sound, just like the colours – and it’s Mr Christopher Doyle we have to thank for such visual colourings. For the acting of the kappa, we have to thank a Mr Yoshiro Umezawa… as unrecognisable as he is as that sea creature.
We must, though not just admire the colours of the watery plantlife but also the movement of our kappa. The mechanical movement of him eating his green vegetable seems almost jerky, as if not human-like at all – Intentional? To look fake? This is what I thought… Perhaps therefore taking us back to the early Pink movies or maybe to look a little like those old Japanese sexploitation-movie effects.
All change. Yes, soon we’re into a song in a factory. Wow! And how it’s choreographed so beautifully… And all in one take, I’ll have you know. Spot-on syncing to a tune by Stereo Total and complete with a random & chaotically looking almost impromptu moment – Yep, look for a guy, apparently clueless as he’s pushed in front of the camera.
The latter scene is essentially to introduce our main female love interest, Asuka (actress Sawa Masaki) and to set the general feel for this whacky movie.
Not much after this we have a brillantly funny scene where our heroine sets eyes on the kappa. It’s hardly love at first sight but more a shock to her system. But, what does a girl do in such a shocked & surprised state? Perhaps she must run in to her factory and tell her work-mates. Maybe, but who would believe her?
One man who does want to believe Asuka is her boyfriend or fiancé. Although as much as Asuka tries to tell him it’s clear he’s a non-believer, probably of both the legendary kappa and of this recent happening.
Her colleagues soon run out of the factory, and all they see is Asuka and her lover. At this point I thought they were going to say “is he the kappa?” or “he doesn’t look much like a kappa”.
Time for the title card, accompanied by some lovely dreamy incidental and instrumental music.
Of course, we all know that the above meeting with the kappa was not going to be the last. Indeed no. Soon, our heroine was to meet Mr K again and somewhat randomly. You have to hand it to the kappa for trying and being persistent.
It is by this meeting that I hope you too are affected by kappa’s nonchalant, brief & human responses. Very matter-of-fact-ly. They sure made me chuckle. Great juxtaposition of creature and human emotions.
After half-being rejected [I mean ‘half-being’ as he is kinda rejected but also as he’s a HALF-Human-Being!] he sings a song I’d call “Ode to Oneself”. I believe this is the 3rd real piece of music in the picture. The kappa dances to his own woefulness.
I wondered to myself… How was this kappa, aka Aoki [character name] and double-aka Yoshiro Umezawa advised to dance? Randomly? Frustatedly? Stupidly?
In a bizarre twist of fate, the kappa is introduced to the factory staff. Strangely though, as far from being human-like he would not be not be far from fitting in with this factory-working bunch. Indeed, if they all wore mouth-masks his would stick out only a little more than theirs. His beak, mouth, whatever looks no bigger than anyone’s face & would fit in perfectly – Fitting in both such a mask and a crowd of similarly dressed factory-workers.
Now, it wouldn’t be a ‘Pink’ movie without there being some sex. So… soon…
…Sex, sex and more sex.
If sex wasn’t enough, it’s not long before a sexed up female character is introduced, played by Ai Narita. Sexed up, yes. But… Is she a hooker? Would she be interested in a kappa… Maybe we’d call this girl a hookappa?! Am I saying that we have a multi-being sex scene? I won’t lie. After all, it’s this scene and the build up to it which provided some of the biggest laughs on this Premiere night. Music accompanies the climacticness of their actions. It’s music of the erotic kind, or is that electro? Both.
Incidentally, the way we meet this very sexual & seemingly well-meaning intruder of the kappa’s life is by way of the aforementioned fish factory – this factory plays a pivotal part as far as where all the characters seem to semi-dwell. We also meet her via a gratuitous-but-attention-grabbing shot or two.
Back to our main heroine and another of the film’s bizarre, yet exquisite songs – courtesy of the eclectic two-piece, Stereo Total. This particular one is set to no throw away piece of film, even if – like the whole movie – it was shot in one take. No, just look at the moon and moonlit sky when she’s dancing. Perfection.
Talking of perfection, some may say that Mini Mini is a stickler for detail. I can’t necessarily agree, but I will say that about 47 minutes in (!), as a rather depressed Aoki the kappa walks down a pathway we hear the musical resemblence of the opening chords to that 80’s song, “What A Feeling”. No offence Stereo Total, it’s just one’s attention to nuances. [Also… I know, I know, should I be apologising for knowing a tad too much about that Irene Cara song, or indeed the film “Flashdance’? I’ll leave it there…]
Trying my best to not reveal too much of the story I am compelled to mention the possible fate of one of the central characters. I must hint at it though as it’s pretty important for the remainder of the film to be understood. That’s if you’ve understood any of it so far. A mixed up and almost bizarre review was intentional, however for a film just as strange & eclectic as this one.
The predicted fate of Asuka is brought to the attention of the kappa by another larger than life character. This character being one resembling a new age, hippy-ish, fortune-telling dude.
Asuka needs to know about her fate and the way this is done is (again) matter-of-factly by our non-tactful kappa. Aoki the kappa may not be the subtleist soul but you can see his honesty, even beneath his facial covers. I hope you notice, like I did that whenever Aoki is being honest – although I think this is in his character – he displays his extra-caring ness by bringing his hands up horizontally. Although, at first I was thinking “What’s with all the Kapp-a Flapp-ing?”… Anyway, this revelation Crazily Culminates in a Comical Confrontation involving Cinque  Central Characters – I use the French word for Five as a nod to the Female in the Fabulous bad Stereo Total, Françoise Cactus. The confrontation may not be so comical to others, but to this humble reviewer it is. Just look at Ai Narita’s character as she puts up her feeble-like fists.
To prevent this unwanted fate, a solution is at hand. That is not to say that it will work but it’s worth a try at this point. Aoki and Asuka must head of to a certain green location to at least try – this is a matter of life and death. It’s interesting to note that Asuka is wearing a green-leaved dress, maybe to (subconsciously) match the lotus leaves AND the colouring of Aoki, the kappa.
REVIEW INTERVAL: Like a typical Pink movie and its certain rules – essentially that there should be nudity or sex every 7 minutes – I feel like mentioning it every 7 paragraphs or so. Yep. And this example, comparison or nuance I’d like to make is one of a certain sex scene being almost film noir-like in it’s colouring. Fitting if one were to compare this movie to such a Pink film of the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s perhaps.
Back to the review and story at hand. We soon have the mention of perhaps the two funniest words used together on film, ever. I hope this is not thought of as a spoiler, but… ANAL PEARL?!
We also have perhaps a new meaning to the phrase ‘a man keeps his brain in his pants’, as a certain mini purple brain-like object is pulled out from a character’s lower garment. Talking of a lower garment, we see the briefs of the new age, hippy-ish, fortune-telling dude mentioned previously. Yes, he returns. The briefs are on full display as he and another character attempt a go at sumo. Why sumo? This could have something to do with sumo being a kappa’s favourite sport, or so I believe. I say ‘I believe’ and the more I think about this crazy movie, the more this mythical sea creature becomes a reality it my life. Strange, huh? Anyhow, it’s sumo. Amusing sumo… or if you like, Asumo.
What follows could be compared to the tale “The Frog Prince”. In fact, so could the whole movie, in some ways. However, it wouldn’t be a Pink film if a female just kissed the ‘prince’… Oh no, they do a bit more than kiss! Very much more. You see, the kappa must soon be awoken from a seemingly dead state. Asuka, you could say, even becomes a human defribulator or resusitator!
Yes, not quite 7 paragraphs on but sex is upon us again. Or rather, upon Aoki the ‘dead’ kappa. Is he awoken from the dead? Well, maybe he is… but if he is it’s not quite long enough to enjoy fully… never quite reaching a ‘climax’.
The film is not quite over though. There is again demonstration of the brilliant natural colours of the landscape, sky and characters. I’m particularly referring to a scene where Asuka is reading some kind of note. She ultimately throws the note from her hands, whilst giving out a small moan [think of the old lady of James Cameron’s “Titanic”, when throwing that damn pendant].
That’s almost it, except to say… Look out for laughs abound – too many snigger-inducing moments to mention – including Aoki, the kappa (not very) subtly poking our heroine from a washing machine. I said it’s hard to describe this film. A slightly easier to understand description could be this one… A certain sex scene with a light coming from a window, causing a blurry feel and therefore a ‘steamy’ look to it. Apt I thought.
There are a couple of endings which seem to last, enjoyably, for quite a while… Dances included. Like other dances throughout the picture I could imagine the moves become cult ones, and appearing in discos over the world. Christopher Doyle certainly took great pleasure in demonstrating the kappa stance at the after party.
Complete with Mr Doyle dancing, speaking and mingling & Stereo Total getting the crowd moving immensely, this night was truly amazing. Stereo Total’s Brezel Göring impromptu playing a ladder as an instrument and then crowd-surfing were amongst the further highlights, as was producer Stephan Holl’s dancing with the audience. Madness. Good madness.
Mini Mini’s interview with Stephan Holl from “Rapid Eye Movies” can be found here:
Mini Mini’s interview with Brezel from Stereo Total follows NEXT WEEK! Watch this space.
This concludes Mini Mini’s review. That just leaves me to summarise with the words, only one other thing could be more outrageous & enjoyable than “Underwater Love: A Pink Musical” and that was this unique and eclectic night itself.
Here’s a glimpse of the film and the UK Premiere night itself. By the way, anyone who knows yours truly personally may spot me here… [cringe cringe]…:
And… Not forgetting…:
Mini Mini Movie (i.e. Trailer)
Find this Trailer and other Mini-er Movies here at:
“Mini Mini Musical”:
Film Footnote – “Virally Vended”
Further details of Third Window Films and another Asian film favourite, Terracotta Distribution are below. However, before you rush to clickety-click-away I’d like to use this space to mention the recent mindless riots experienced here in the UK. Did you know that these riots caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages and loss to our favourite independent film distributors? These are, essentially… Arrow Films, Artifical Eye, The BFI, Crabtree Films, Cine-Asia, Dogwoof Films, Exposure Cinema, Eureka, Kaleidoscope Films, Left Films, Masters of Cinema, Metrodome Films, New Wave Films, Peccadillo Pictures, Revolver Entertainment, Showbox Home Entertainment, Terracotta, Third Window Films and Warp Films.
So, with the latter in mind it is even more important to spread the word virally about these unfortunate vendors. On that note I leave you with these links… all which will, in some way assist in keeping such films to be distributed here in the so-called land of milk & honey.
Thanks for your support… in every way.