Monday, May 22, 2006

Kamikaze Girls (Nakashima, 2004)

Based on the manga by Nobara Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls lives up to the promise of its title, but that’s not necessarily a compliment. Indeed, the film ploughs ahead with a reckless abandon that is certainly admirable in its sense of commitment; however, little consideration is given to the film’s eventual impact on the viewer beyond making the occasional explosion. Like a kamikaze, the film may impress as it hurtles by, but ultimately it ends in little more than a chaotic mess. Fortunately, it is still intermittently fun along the way. In fact, for the first fifteen minutes, the film looks to be shaping up to be a cult classic, a sort of Japanese Amelie if you will. Director Tetsuya Nakashima grabs our attention with a wonderfully staged traffic accident and an attractive protagonist who wishes that she had been born in the French Rococo period, a time known for its obsession with ornate fashion. In the early part of the film, we are quickly introduced to the young girl and see a recap of the critical moments in her life that have made her what she is. These include several delightfully comic moments, such as pregnant woman canoodling with her gynecologist … during labor. Like Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Nakashima uses quick edits, extreme close-ups, dazzling colors and cartoonish performances to immerse the viewer in sugary sweet delight. However, once it slows down and settles into a more conventional mode of storytelling, the film’s insubstantial nature begins to show and quickly our attention wanes. The supremely lackluster plot involves the frilly protagonist developing a friendship with a spittin’ head-buttin’ motorcycle ridin’ member of a local female gang. There’s talk about uniting all the female gangs, but you probably won’t care much about that. Nor will you really care much about the young girl’s attempt to achieve success as a seamstress for her favorite fashion designer. Mostly you will await the flashes of style and occasional inspired sight gag that hint that the director may be capable of producing a much more compelling film in the future.



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