Film: Mitsuko Delivers (Hara Ga Kore Nande / ハラがコレなんで)
Director (& Writer): Yûya Ishii
Venue: ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts), London
Running time: 109 minutes
Special Preview on March 11th, 2012
A snippet of info from the press release of this evening:
“On March 11th, 2011 the largest earthquake in recorded history struck off the coast of Japan, sending shockwaves across the nation and a tsunami which engulfed much of the eastern seaboard of Japan. The earthquake triggered an explosion at Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Plant which caused a plume of nuclear dust to be spread across the surrounding area, breaking apart families and daily life, but with an aftermath whose true effect may take years to fully comprehend.
A year on and Japan still lies in a state of destruction and confusion. In Fukushima, with the ‘unseen’ damage of the nuclear situation, the emotional scars of the people still living there are unimaginable. There is a certain stigma arising about both Fukushima and its people with the topic itself becoming ‘off-limits’. People are feeling isolated and this can’t be made to happen. Japan is one nation and to recover from this awful tragedy we need to help give voice to the people of Fukushima and keep them strong.”
2011 (33rd) Pia Film Festival (World Premiere)
2011 (30th) Vancouver International Film Festival – (International Premiere)
2011 (16th) Busan International Film Festival
2011 (55th) BFI London Film Festival
2011 (24th) Tokyo International Film Festival
2012 (36th) Hong Kong International Film Festival
2012 (14th) Udine Far East Film – (Italian Premiere)
This charity and preview event was introduced by Adam Torel, of Third Window Films.
First up though was a 6 minute film of a school in Fukushima which has an aspect set up for teaching hands-on filmmaking. This is one example of what the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund are doing to restore value, values and the rebuilding of hope. A pleasant viewing, featuring ‘elevator music’ as Adam put it.
It was now time for our Special Delivery…
The start of the film shows what appears to be a TV film. Film within a film, if you will. A guy, down on his luck, jobless and admitting also that he’s hiding all these things from his wife.
It’s this opening snippet and the movie’s transition to a girl, Mitsuko (played by Riisa Naka) which makes some viewers think she indeed is the unfortunate & unknowing wife that man on TV is referring to. You see, Mitsukio is upset by what she’s hearing. If this were the case then she could have double her already owned life problems, especially if one of those were her being pregnant! Well… She is. That’s hardly shocking though, considering the film’s title, synopsis and posters.
[Although, like many I’m sure who perhaps went in to the film based on the poster alone, we didn’t know if this story would be one of her life and it’s sole leading up to her ultimate state of ‘with-baby’. That is not to say, of course that we don’t find out about Mitsuko’s past – it’s almost essential to the story].
Either way, Mitsuko is soon seen on the phone to her hard working parents, whose vocation is in a pachinko parlour no less. Is this girl really in the USA as she says? She certainly knows a little of the US – or should I say UK?! – lingo.
Mitsuko attends the doctors and is told words to the ‘opposite effect’ of her baby being soon due – Yes, it would seem that the due day may have passed some time ago. She also is advised that it won’t be easy. To this, her response is less than expected and all the more comical for it.
You see, Mitusko has that kind of drifter approach to life – similar to the heroine in Sawako Decides, director Yûya Ishii’s previous film – but with it she has confidence too.
The character and film similarities end there though. Indeed, Yûya Ishii could have thought ‘When the wind blows your way just go with it’, just like our pregnant hero in his film but I feel he didn’t and instead came up with yet another stance on a female-driven movie. Don’t be mistaken, this is no chick-flick. I’d say it’s a comedy for all genders and walks of life.
Mitsuko’s life is very much connected to clouds … If they drift, so will she. (Things like the latter mentioned ‘When the wind blows your way just go with it’ or even ‘Ask the sky’ are almost constantly said, or indeed “Go Ask The Wind”).
In the first looking-to-the-clouds scene it’s also my first notice of the slow, heavyness of Mitsuko’s eyelids and blinking. This really enhances that pregnant ‘look’ and goes with the naturally plodding walk she’s understandably got. These eyes say tiredness and I like to think, in a few different ways. Tired perhaps from the baby, life and her relaxed nature. Riisa Naka sure does a sterling job at portraying such a real being.
Mitsuko is down on luck, money-wise, home-wise and seemingly being-loved-wise, what with being a lone parent. We do feel for this girl.
Perhaps this girl is both eternally and internally happy-go-unlucky!
But, not happy enough that she smiles at her own amusing doings. For example, nonchalantly chomping on her food like a rabbit might makes us chuckle, even if her offering food to her current neighbour doesn’t make that person smile. Read on.
What’s Pleasing about these Parental and Part-Poignant opening scenes? Perhaps I’d Pronounce that they Pertain to Pregnancy whilst full of Pastel or Pasty** colours and… errr… Pickles. Pickles? Yep… and her Persistency with Pickles on to a new neighbour brings a few Perfect laughs. I Promise.
[**That’s as in the style of colourisation and not the Cornish kind…]
Almost penniless and without a home she is in no way clueless. At least she doesn’t give off that vibe. What is (intentionally) obvious is her helping of other human beings, no matter how bad things are for her. This could have something to do with her childhood. Insert guy down on his luck… Perhaps the same gentleman from the start of this picture. She’s moved and affected by his situation & perhaps slightly by her own one too. Mitsuko then makes an expression to which we’re not sure if to laugh or cry, and in fact we’re unsure if she is making a sympathy sniffle, a natural one or a little weeping.
Soon, Mitsuko has – upon asking a taxi to take her almost ‘anywhere’ [think a line like “follow that taxi”, except replace taxi with ‘cloud’] – returned to an area she recalls from years ago.
We arrive with Mitsuko at this destination. It’s a slum-bered, run down area… or so it would appear from the outset.
It’s clear something good came from this town-lost-in-time area, whether this be her home when younger and therefore her roots or whether a love from her past. Perhaps living in such a community when younger shaped her and how she is.
Maybe the reason she drifts or follows the movements of clouds in her life is partly due to the fact that things are often described as good natured or ‘cool’. I’ll explain more about ‘cool’ in a few paragraphs from here. It could even be described as a faith of sorts and what has stood her in good stead over the years.
Quiet she may be and indeed her ‘dumbness’ (in both ways?) could be thought of resembling Hikari Mitsushima’s Sawako character, although Mitsuko is more confident. Look out for one of the main older character’s constant exclaiming that the girl is dumb.. “god, you’re dumb” to be precise.
In fact, that older character, named Kiyoshi (and played superbly by Miyoko Inagawa) seems to ‘run this town’ or ‘run this run-down town’ and it seems more like a cult, regime or perhaps mini dictatorship which is on show.
As well as Kiyoshi, we meet a young lad named Yoichi (played by Aoi Nakamura), who works in an eatery [“Yoichi’s Restaurant”] with his dad, Jiro (Ryo Ishibashi).
[I thought to myself… If there was a spin-off series from this film, the restaurant characters and their establishment would become something else and keeping with the times it’d perhaps be a takeaway outlet, called… wait for it… “Yoichi Delivers”!]
Incidentally, I certainly like the brownness colourisation of these scenes of our little run down town. Or at least the ones set in this time – we are soon to be faced with a flashback.
Flashback we certainly do and to Mitsuko and her parents. Young Mitsuko is played by Momoka Oono. The colours seem to change again and this time a lighter – but still of a pastel kind – browny beige. I guess for all these colour changes we have cinematographer Yukihiro Okimura to thank.
These scenes of history are so intertwined with the older Mitsuko and her goings on that at times we feel just as good watching her younger self as we do her current one. This could be because such scenes do last quite a while, but each are necessary in the storytelling. Never boring and, of course we must learn of the younger Mitsuko’s plights, or indeed delights.
A few paragraphs back I placed inverted commas around the word ‘cool’? You see, we hear that word a lot once in this new area. Everything is classed as “cool” or uncool in this community, or at least often [and once or twice, ‘fine’ and ‘totally fine’*]. We can’t quite work out if the woman leading this semi-dictatorship is for or against the labelling of cool or whether the word has just become a staple, and almost like one would bless an action… By stating it’s uncool or cool. Either way, Mitsuko quietly picks up on the ‘cool’ words.
Speaking of which, the average Joe would think it uncool for one to have an affair but the way such a thing is revealed in this picture is a little ‘cool’ & almost a classic. A classic it may be but to these sheltered [in more ways than one] townsfolk it could be that in everyday life such a way a scandal is exposed is the norm. Defences for such an affair are exclaimed in such ways as “It was dark!” – Fabulous comedy. Some folk may say that life for these smalltown-folk seems a little smallminded and chaotic. One thing’s for sure, a certain ‘small mind’ watching all these goings-on is our young Mitsuko. She stares out of a window inanely and in wonder at the same time. Is this what the future holds for her? Probably… knowing how her later life turned out and due to her admirable accepting of all things new, bad or mad.
The very fact though, that we already know Mitsuko wasn’t residing in this area when we first met her tells us that she must of, at some point ‘escaped’. Escaped could be even more apt considering the reasons why this place is a little behind compared to other parts of the city. It somehow escaped being one of the neighbourhoods redeveloped following the war.
These flashback scenes involve her family and humour & emotions co-exist. Mitsuko’s mother (Miyako Takeuchi) and father (Shiro Namiki) give fantastic facial expressions at the right comedic moments.
Upon witnessing this picture, you may think that young Mitsuko has a great resemblance to Riisa Haka. I did. Even if not in her appearance then most definitely the resemblance is there in her subtle, dramatic and particularly comical expressions. I think she’s an extraordinary child actress, and I dare say will also be a non-ordinary adult one if she continues in the profession.
It’s worth noting [for little ol’ Mini Mini Moi anyway] that in a scene around this time a girl in class reminded me of the one in Sawako Decides (Kira Aihara). We very slightly witness her face, you see. It’s not necessary for the film and story so I guess that’s why her face isn’t relevant. But I’m sure it’s her.
From that young briefly glimpsed girl back to ‘young Mitsuko’ herself. Momoka Oono’s expressional acting is not witnessed more so than in a beautiful love affair between her and a certain boy back from these ‘flashback years’. Could the boy be Yoichi? Either way, in one such scene when Mitsuko and him must part company their faces – and the acting within those faces – reminded me of the grown-up-ness of “Bugsy Malone”. Its not simply a scene of Boy meeting Girl but perhaps Shy meeting Coy.
It’s scenes like the latter which give this film it’s endearing quality, as well as the characters in the story.
Another scene, or in fact a recurring one is that of one involving Jiro, from the restaurant. He seems to have sort of crush [is there more than one type?] on a cafe or coffee shop owner, played by Keiko Saito. Has this passion been burning for much of his life? Possibly. Keiko Saito’s character is referred to as Mama-San on at least one occasion – Is that the correct terminology for this woman? Yes she runs an establishment… But a Coffee one. But from what I have heard Mama-San can mean quite the opposite. Perhaps this venue is is not all it seems.
Either way, Jiro’s desperate attempts and almost non-attempts have one or two of the characters screaming as if to say “Wake up .. And smell the coffee”… Literally?
Mitsuko is perhaps one of the least concerned but she does ‘smell the coffee’ on him – a great play on that example when perfume – or even alcohol – is smelt upon one’s person and normally regarding that of an affair or of course alcoholic situation.
These coffee-and-will-he-or-won’t-he scenes raise one of the biggest laughs. Look out for one concerning packing crockery away.
Crockery, Coffee or Cafe, it’s all Charmingly told. Of Course, Mitsuko is the most Charming and as she introduces her own Calm, Carefreeness but also Caringness to this Community, we must remember that she’s still very much (over)pregnant!
One of Mitsuko’s comedic turns which contains true charm is her constant napping… So much so that she has various peeps who she meets along the way whom end up doing the same. This is even at times of great troubles. It’s almost like they’re all becoming mother of this forthcoming baby.
I feel the film changes around half way, and although has less charm it’s still contains enough to keep us fixed. A race against time, an dramatic and almost earth-shattering explosion**, that Jori-and-cafe-owner-will-they-or-won’t they story, the half-forgotten father to Mitsuko’s impending baby, the faltering restaurant business & more. It’s all here.
This film is wonderful to look at, smile at and relax with. It’s subdued and subtle comedy is a delight and should be no matter how old or young you are (or more aptly, mature, immature or ‘premature’). Such a comedy is surely well ‘overdue’.
Yes. If you’re after both charm and laughs, on both accounts Mitsuki Delivers really… Delivers.
“Mini Mini Mitsuko”…:
Find this Trailer and other Mini-er Movies here at:
* Fine and Totally Fine were mentioned a few times in “Mitsuko Delivers” – I thought this a tad ironic, seeing that another title available through Third Window Films is one called “Fine, Totally Fine”.
** The aforementioned explosion is done very well and in a half-comic slowed down way. It is, however the second seemingly poignant reference to the recent disaster in Japan. One being the place in which this film is part set [Fukushima] and the other being this explosion. Although this blast is caused by something else in this movie, I did for a moment think that this was something more horrific. Again, perhaps due to the long-lasting visuals and expressions of the characters we’re watching at this part.
Ironic too that weather drives this girl and always has. Whether towards Fukushima or away from, it’s still related to natures ways… Be these clouds or giant storms.
Touching on the same events for which this charity event was being held, it’s worth mentioning to look out for “Himizu” and “The Land Of Hope”, both from Third Window Films. Mini Mini was fortunate enough to attend the UK Premiere of “Himizu” and was astounded again – and a review will be up soon of that Sion Sono film.
You can find an interview with Denden, who stars in both the latter two films here:
Plus a review of Sion Sono’s “Cold Fish”, here:
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.