Three stories revolving around love: a child falling in love with a much older woman, an obnoxious, disco-loving counselor, and a one-eyed vengeful ronin looking for his kidnapped wife.
JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL: A colourfully expressionistic and child-like take on the overly designed cinematic worlds of Wes Anderson and other adult tinkerers, Milocrorze: A Love Story is the feature film debut of installation artist turned sketch comedy creator Yoshimasa Ishibashi, a Japanese provocateur – a recurring television sketch was about the misadventures of an American family in Japan; the family was played by creepy mannequins – who delights in fables matched to cartoonish primacy and the deconstruction of genres.
Each step in Ishibashi’s carefully wound up narrative is confronted by the previous; the opening credits are summoned by a fierce tribal drum track, but when they peak the camera pulls back to reveal a child’s tiny room, where red-haired seven-year-old Ovreneli Vreneliagne is revealed as the boy inside men writ small. Sitting at home, commuting to work amidst salary men, eventually falling in love, Ovreneli is literally a child acting like a grown up, living in a bright world where he makes all the mistakes – overspending, obsession – that grown-ups do once he falls in love with the suitably stunning Milocrurze (Maiko).
When she kisses another Ovreneli gets a hole in his chest (a saucepan lid covers it), and the film literally represents emotional turmoil with physical manifestation. Satirising the melancholy of independent romances – 'our hero developed the habit of sighing uncontrollably," declares the bright narration – the story moves on to a variety show that introduces Besson Kumagi (Takayuki Yamada), a surly provider of advice to forlorn young men in love who berates his subjects and suggests unlikely remedies ('tweak her nipples," he orders one supplicant).
Besson’s act literally goes on the road, with back-up dancers in tow (there’s a whiff of Austin Powers to him), and he’s an enjoyable diversion until he drives off into the distance, leaving three hit and run samurai combatants in his wake. One of them is Tamon (Yamada), who has spent four years pursuing the men who kidnapped the love of his life, Yuri (Anna Ishibashi), and sold her into prostitution. In flashback the star-crossed couple are seen in a colourful everyday, but as Tamon has grown bitter and obsessed in searching for Yuri, he and the landscape around him has become feudal, a telling reference to the timelessness of certain male emotions and how the advances of the modern world can fall away without warning.
Tamon eventually tracks Yuri to an imposing edifice, home to brothels and gaming houses, where a Kill Bill-style stand-off – Tamon can’t afford Yuri – ensures, leading to an eight minute long assemblage of slow-motion fight scenes, as the unstoppable suitor fights his way towards his love. Women are worshipped, but never explained, in Milocrorze, and it’s easy amidst the extravagant design – it’s not common that you cut from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Akira – and breathless energy that the men are seen as stoically serving their capricious nature, an idea that extends right to final segment, where a grown Ovreneli (now also played by Yamada) once again encounters Mirokuroze. As spectacle Milocrorze is unstoppable, and the trio of roles played by Takayuki Yamada constitutes a grand performance, but the emotion beneath the excess is patchy.
Milocrorze: A Love Story
Sun 10 Nov, 12:25AM on SBS VICELAND (streaming at SBS On Demand after broadcast)
Director: Yoshimasa Ishibashi
Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Anna Ishibashi, Sayaka Fukita
What's it about?
Three separate stories are interspersed with a series of irreverent sketches based on the anxieties of young men in love: Ovreneli Vreneligare’s young world is rocked by a mysterious woman; Kumagai Besson is an unorthodox youth counselor who offers idiosyncratic advice to young men about romance; and Tamon is a one-eyed ronin who falls in love with a florist and is drawn into a quest to recover her when she is kidnapped.