13 February 2011
Before I get into this, I need to say: unfortunately, the version that the Portland International Film Festival is showing of this has some egregious, prohibitively distracting problems with its interlacing. Maybe every copy that went out looks like this, I don't know -- but it's definitely a fixable error. Specifically, I'm pretty sure it's a shift-field issue, and the truth is it tainted the experience of watching what was already an extreme-low-budget Japanese film that appears to have been shot on a ten-year-old DV camera. And so:
It depends on how you want to view this. Is it a deconstructionist anti-narrative, with one part coming-of-age road movie and one-part inside-out detective story? Or is it an amateur's meandering story with no center and no linear direction? Either way, along the way are some interesting parts and some clearly padded-out-for-no-reason parts, but it's difficult for me to say if the intent here is artsy and high-brow or simplistic and low-brow.
The film starts strong, with a kind of high-schooler version of Mersault accidentally causing (or having nothing to do with) a homeless man's death and getting his classmate in trouble with a strict teacher, resulting in enough social pressure to practically force him to skip class. All that's interesting, as pieces start to crumble and pressures start to build all around this stoic, sheltered, lonely boy. And as he begins a journey to return the bag he's stolen, or at least do some right by the man who died and inform his loved ones, the story should have become more engaging as his focus sharpened and the trail of chaos broadened, but those things don't happen. Instead we get a lifeless series of vignettes, what looks like an episodic trek through the rural outskirts of Japan in a film that might have cost as little as $200 to shoot (depending on how much hot air balloon rentals run).
So basically, it starts with dull promise and collapses quickly. But I have read this is a first (?) film by a 23-year-old student, and while it doesn't save the film to know this, I'd say this shows promise both in understated storytelling and economical filmmaking. I'd be interested to see future works by Satoru Hirohara, but I don't think there's enough in Good Morning to the World to revisit it, or to recommend it to others.
And Jen absolutely hated it.
Seen at the Broadway Metroplex as part of the Portland International Film Festival.