"All in all, a hilarious film, and one of my favorite films from last year, not to mention being one of the visually coolest films that I've ever seen."
Stereo Future (2001)
Director: Hiroyuki Nakano
Cast: Masatoshi Nagase, Kumiko Asou, Naoto Takenaka, Akiko Monou, Tamaki Ayakawa, Daniel Ezralow
Running Time: 88 min.
PLOT: See Len's review below.
LEN'S REVIEW: When this movie started, I didn't know what to expect really. There's this hideously ugly man overacting some horrific dialogue in a samurai costume. He then proceeds to kill hundred or so guys in a horrendously choreographed fight scene. One of the victims is Keisuke, the hero of the story, and it's revealed that they are infact shooting a samurai film in the style of "Lone Wolf and the Cub" series, with alot of blood. After the shoot ends due to an hilarious accident with the "special effects", I realized that this movie might actually be really funny.
I wasn't disappointed, but I was surprised to find out that instead of being a full-on comedy like the opening scene would suggest, this is actually one of the cleverest films I've seen in a while. Much like many other modern films, Stereo Future has few stories about different people whose lives are somehow connected. However, the style in which they are told is something I hadn't seen in awhile. Not only is Hiroyuki Nakano (the director), genius when it comes to creating amazing visuals, he's got a very unique way of the telling the story too. And while Stereo Future is the second part of Nakano's SF-trilogy (the first was Samurai Fiction), it's not a sequel at all but instead just shares some of the themes. Infact, as Samurai Fiction suggested with it's unique approach to the source material, I think Nakano is the only person who could pull of some of a film like this.
At first glance, this is a fairly ordinary romantic comedy about young people who aren't sure what they want with their lives. Keisuke has a gorgeous girlfriend, Eri, but is drawn to a relationship with the female lead in the samurai film he's involved in. A relative of Keisuke gets released from jail and starts selling illegal goods. Eri's sister is producing documentaries about nature in a futuristic tv-station and Eri gets involved with a foreign scientist/photographer who's obsessed about trees. All these stories are somehow connected to each other, and told in a seemingly random order, with the director rewinding and skipping thru time in a very unique fashion.
Not content with confusing the audience just with the strange storytelling, Nakano throws in a array of unique visuals, including the weirdest use of Matrix-style bullettime that I've ever seen. Still, although confusing at first, I started appreciating Nakano's visual style pretty quickly, and it lends itself well to some stunning shots. The actors were fit their roles perfectly, from Keisuke's rockstar cool to the stunning beauty of Eri (honestly, she is the cutest asian girl I've ever seen onscreen and did very well in a challenging role) and the pompous overacting of Naoto Takenaka as the ugly samurai hero. Even the standard role of a foreigner was well played by Daniel Ezralow, as the treehugging scientist who falls in love with Eri. Although I have to admit that while there was nothing wrong with Ezralow's performance, the character had some pretty awful dialogue that made his character seem a bit awkward. The music deserves a mention too, with some really nice songs from some of the more interesting contemporary Japanese artists like Fantastic Plastic Machine and Towa Tei.
I recently rewatched this film on DVD, and I was pleased to notice I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time I watched it. The story has loads of clever ideas and the visual innovations worked even on the small screen. Definately worth seeing. And Eri still looks cute as hell.
LEN'S RATING: 9.5/10