A tiny bit of the Japanese film festival, Zipangu Fest, has come to Bristol so I'm making the effort to go and see a couple. The first I saw was Annyong Yumika ("Farewell Yumika") which is a documentary about the AV idol Hayashi Yumika who died at 35 years old. The film follows the director Tetsuaki Matsue’s attempts at finding out about one particular film she made, Junko, which was a Korean-Japanese co-production and has been largely forgotten.
The story that the film tells is interesting, but in truth, it's not really about Yumiko but rather about those she worked with. No friends or family appear in the film and anyone wanting to know more about Yumiko the person will come away unhappy. It's mostly about the porn industry, really, and there's a lot of reminiscing about how great the old days were and how pink films aren’t that good any more.
This is one of those films that you'll only get to see at a festival. I can't see it getting a wider release at all, and while it's not a bad film it's not particularly outstanding either. Best moments include the interview with the translator who worked on the film, who was bemused that anyone would care enough to interview him seven years later and who hadn't even seen the finished film, and the reunion of cast and crew to shoot the final scene of Junko which was in the script but never shot.
At two hours long it sags in places, but there's no denying the director's geeky enthusiasm for the subject matter. It works fine as a kind of cinematic love-letter to a woman he's never going to meet, but as a documentary about the woman herself, it falls short.