Omni Bus movies are not always the easiest thing to watch (and make). People think of it as three (typically) short films under a coherent umbrella. They bounce off each other, they are use against each other, and they balance each other. “Tokyo” and “Tickets” can be described as well made films, as expected of the prolific directors invited to take part in the projects.
“Tokyo” is a three segment omni bus by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-Ho. Coming into the movie, Ive only known the works of Michel (Music Videos, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science of Sleep) and Bong (Memoirs of a Murder, The Host). The umbrella that covered the three segments is obvious – Tokyo; how three foreign directors interprete the city. More than just the physical city, I find “Tokyo” very specific about the kind of psychological state of the people, which I will talk more when it comes to the specific segments.
Another observation is how the three segments can be shot with different formats. Michel used regular 35mm, Leos used video (HD, SD and handphone), while Bong uses 35mm cinemascope. Knowing the content of each segment, I kind of understand why each directors chose their specific format.
Part One is “Interior Design” by Michel Gondry. The story is about a young couple coming to live and work in Tokyo. The man is an artist/filmmaker while the woman is a supportive girlfriend who is gradually getting disillusioned by her lack of ambition and purpose. As they impose in their high school friend’s cramp little apartment, things start to get a little spicy, and strangely magical.
One have come to expect the kind of things that Michel Gondry does. The first 20 mins of the film is just regular drama, building up expectations for the kind of crazy wonders that is to come. I must admit that it is skillfully done. The dramatic parts are extremely important in building up the kind of tension in the mind of the woman that causes her to snap into the wonderous magical being in the 2nd half. One can catch a scent of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, yet more than just a magical conclusion to a tragic life, Michel had invited questions about what does it mean to be a human? Perhaps one can also revisit Osamu Dazai’s “No longer Human”, but of course the film is way more light-hearted than that.
Leos Carax’s “Merde” is truely a dark comedy. A strange man in a green cloak emerges from the Tokyo sewers and start terrorizing the city, from the initial seeming harmless irritations to an eventual massacre in the streets. The strange being which speaks a different language and behaves in an absurdly disgusting manner was trialed and defended by a lawyer who speaks the same tongue. He was sentenced to death, but mysteriously disappeared after being declared dead. (Sounds familiar huh?) The movie ends with a declaration of a part two “Merde in Newyork”.
What truely makes this film powerful is how far and how close it is to reality. People may say, you kidding me? Our world don’t look like that. But seriously considering the atmosphere of fear in the world today, with the air of death constant lingering around. The dark and the ugly may actually be the good guys, and how the protagonists of today’s political world may one day become the next Hitler. And finally, this semi-christ like figure that “resurrects” from the dead. Our world is really, in actual fact darker than it seems, so is the hearts of man.
Bong’s “Shaking Tokyo” is quite unlike the films he had made before. A Hikkikomori who never stepped out of his house for the past ten years finally took the leap of faith – when a Pizza girl played by the gorgeous Aoi Yu, fainted at his doorstep.
I like how the director internalized the state of being a “Hikkikomori” that it is not just people who stayed at home all their life and are afraid to leave home. It is not just being physical stranded in a location. But mentally, how people in the world today put up this protective wall around them. When the protagonist see the empty and deserted Tokyo (I wonder how much money is spent to make this happen), and realized that everyone had became like himself, I think it is a perfect metaphor of how he can never get out of this state, even when he is in the streets.
The mysterious Aoi with buttons painted on her skin that activate different states of being and emotions, further add to the alienation of the people today. How close are we with each other, yet how distant we really are.
“Ticket” by Abbas Kiarostami, Ermanno Olmi and Ken Loach. This Omni Bus movie is graced by a trio of veteran directors who went off and display their power. I specifically love Olmi’s segment, although out of the three, I have never watched his movie before. “Ticket” is way tighter than “Tokyo”, the segments flow very well into each other as the three directors put together a three segments that take place in the same train travelling in Italy.
Olmi’s segment is my favorite. An old professor had this dream about a new love, its relationship with this girl he met when he was a boy. It beautifully tied past, present and future in an editing style that is truely based on “emotions” to quote from Walter Murch’s “In the Blink of an Eye”.
Kiarostami’s segment is very “Kiarostami”. An obnoxious old lady is travelling to another city to attend a funeral, while being attended by a young man who is serving his “community service”. At the same time, the young man met two teenage girls from his hometown.
The story is almost non existent. It is basically a series of meetings, and happenings. How these very different people can all come together in the same place, and the underlying tension between these human relations.
Ken Loach’s segment is by all means the most funny and the most heart warming. The three scottish boys travel to Rome to watch the Champion’s league and support their Celtic soccer club. One boy’s train ticket is stolen by a refugee from the same train, as the trio broke off into this rowdy confrontation that is at times tense and at time sweet and moral.
I especially love the ending, of how other Celtic fans disrupt the way of the policemen chasing after the three boys. Wow. that is cool. haha.