Sunday, July 19, 2020

Labyrinth of Cinema (2020) and Seijo Story - 60 Years of Making Films (2020) Japan Cuts 2020

Nobuhiko Obayashi's final film is a film that only he could have made. Wild and crazy but with a very serious point, the film forces us to ponder the natures of war and cinema as well as our own existence.

The simple plot outline has three people at a movie marathon launched into the on screen world of Japan at war.  They experience the horrors of war in a cinematic and not so cinematic ways as the time line gets closer and closer to Hiroshima.

If you saw Obayahi's Hanagatami you may have some idea what this is like, but even so this film gets even more crazier (fish in space). Like the earlier film which had some people I know scratching their heads, Labyrinth of Cinema pushes the envelope as to what a serious movie is. Nothing is too out there for a director who is looking to make his point. Assuming you are like me the journey can take any form so long as the payoff is worth it. Here the pay off was worth it as I was left pondering what I had just seen and why it made me feel like I had been hit with a large club. It also made me want to take another 3 hours and watch the film again so that I could truly appreciate the film on it's own terms.

While I know most people know Obayashi for his cult favorite Hausu, I've always been of the opinion that while that film is good, his other films are better. I say that because more than any other director Obayashi truly understood cinema. He knew  that in cinema there are no rules nor limits. If you can dream it and if you can sell anything is game. Yes, not all his films work, but when they do they not only tell us great stories and make us think and feel in ways that a conventional telling could never manage.(and even when his films failed they were pretty damn interesting)

Labyrinth of Cinema tells us a great story and makes us feel. It does so in a way that not everyone will accept, but that is perfectly fine since Obayashi made the film he wanted to  which is enough. It is one last singular work from a master director whose body of work was wonderfully and uniquely his own.

Highly recommended to Obayashi fans as well as anyone who want a film that is unlike any other.

And if you are seeing LABYRINTH OF CINEMA you must also SEIJO STORY about Nobuhiko Obayashi and Kyoko Hanyu meeting in college 60 years ago and what came after. A wonderful portrait of a partnership, the film also goes into the making of LABYRINTH and explains Obayashi's ways of working. It is an absolute must see for anyone who loved the man and his films and is highly recommended.

For information on how to screen the film at Japan Cut's virtual festival go here.

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