Friday, 29 April 2011

Recommended: The Magic Hour

This film from 2008, written by Mitani Kouki, tells an unlikely story of a man who gets in trouble with the local yakuza. To get himself out of this fix, he hires an actor to pretend to be a top assassin and uses that to gain favour with the gang again. But he doesn’t tell the actor the real situation. Instead, the actor thinks he’s ad libbing a film that uses hidden cameras and all-natural lighting.

The setting is almost as confusing as the storyline. In a Japanese city there is a little neighbourhood of 1930’s style buildings where everyone dresses and acts according to that same period. It’s a bit of a stretch that this little island of pre-war Japan should remain untouched, but once you accept it, the film works fine.

At least it allows Mitani Kouki to work in this period that he seems to adore. And it gives the story a less-threatening feel. Each time the actor (played by Koichi Sato) unwittingly gets into more life-threatening situations, he impresses the other yakuza with his bravery. Except, of course, he doesn’t know he’s in any real danger. And it’s very funny when he slips out of character and talks to the other mobsters about "the biz". He’s talking about showbusiness, while they think he’s talking about organised crime.

It stars Tsumabuki Satoshi and Sato Koichi in the two lead roles. Sato Koichi is especially good as the actor who unwittingly puts his life at risk for what he thinks may be his big break. Also noteworthy is Fukatsu Eri (Kabachitare, Akunin) who really suits the 1930's style of the film. This is a great old-fashioned screwball comedy and definitely more gold from Mitani Kouki.

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