|Tenten 2008 Japan Adrift in Tokyo|
Those are the first words of the film as spoken by Fumiya (Jô Odagiri) just before debt collector Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura) bursts into his apartment, removing his shoes at the front door as is Japanese custom, and roughs him up. The next day the debt collector offers Fumiya an opportunity to erase his debt: walk with him around Tokyo. What we get is a road movie, a very funny road movie, where the unlikely duo walk instead of drive. There's eventual male bonding, marvelous footage of Tokyo, and a smorgasbord of odd characters and situations along the way.
Writer/Director Satoshi Miki has a stable of comedic actors who work with him often and who fill out this film playing the side characters. They remind me of the North American group that came out of Second City Television we now associate with Christopher Guest movies. They share that sense of humor too, where each of the characters seem to exist in their own orbit but since they all do, they get along fine. Dialog is somewhere between non sequiturs and honest answers when you don't anticipate them. And it's all about timing and delivery. Funny people.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the hairstyles of the two main characters. Jô Odagiri, famous Average Joe Japanese actor, sports a Dylanesque jew-fro, while famous Big Bad Guy actor Tomokazu Miura's cut seems to suffer from some sort of mullet imbalance. They're an odd pair perfectly suited to this low-key oddball comedy.
A thrill for me is the appearance of Yuriko Yoshitaka as Fufumi, the niece of the debt collector's fake wife. She co-starred, at age seventeen, in one of my favorite films of all time, Noriko's Dinner Table, as the younger sister, Yuka. While that Sion Sono film was no where near a comedy, Yuriko Yoshitaka's character possessed a bit of the same surreal comportment that works for her in this film. She's tasked here with playing a loud, extremely happy, self-orientor who likes to put mayonnaise on everything, and pulls it off without being overly obnoxious. Your mileage may vary but I think she's got a bright future. She seems comfortable acting.
Quite a bit of this film can be viewed at YouTube in ten minute chunks.
Summary: A simply structured tale of a thug who asks a law student burdened with gambling debts to accompany him on a walk across town, “Adrift in Tokyo” initially ambles in typical indie style, but actually ends up going somewhere. Low-key Japanese dramedy opened to brisk biz in Tokyo last November and, thanks to lead actor Joe Odigiri’s pan-Asian popularity, could stroll to success in other Asian markets. International fests should pursue this droll charmer.