Title: Tentsuki (aka Tenshi Tsukinuke 6-Chome)
Director: Masafumi Yamada
Starring: Taku Manabe, Natsumi Seto, Ryuzaburo Hattori, Akira Emoto, Akaji Maro
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 96 min.
After escaping from some yakuza guys who want to collect from his now-bankrupt employer, Igarashi manages to make it to an apartment complex managed by a friend, somewhere in an unmapped section of Kyoto, and his friend gives him a room. Igarashi mentions finding it oddly difficult to find the place, and how he gets lost every time he tries to get back to the complex. That’s not the only weird thing about it, either – the widow landlady often seems to appear out of nowhere, the bathroom has a bizarre recurring drainage problem, the hallways sometimes seem to tilt, and, oh yeah, there’s a girl living there who believes she’s sprouting wings.
Most of these things are treated rather matter-of-factly, leaving the film teetering on the edge of becoming a fantasy, but they’re also potentially explained by simply being a confusingly laid-out neighborhood, or a simple case of bad drains, or a strange psychosis. The pull of the surreal and fantastic remains strong, though, and the place itself seems to have a stronger-than-average tie to the uncanny. All that Miyuki (that is, wing-girl) wants is to get out of there, but she apparently can’t. Even Igarashi’s friend, who doesn’t mind living there, mentions that the town might need to have a screw tightened or something.
And Igarashi isn’t done meeting strange people yet, either. He takes a construction job alongside an older man who takes his job very seriously, and also happens to collect fossils – one of which he claims contains an angel’s wing. When he’s transferred to a day shift, his new coworkers ridicule the old man. Who to believe? Where is the reality, or is in fact the fantasy the reality?
There are a lot of powerful metaphors going on in Tentsuki that give rise to a lot of interest potential ways the story could go, from the idea of being able to listen to the dead through the fossils (will this be a ghost story) to Igarashi’s shock at a certain event turning him into a mannequin just when his young neighbor needs his help the most. There’s also a circular pattern, with a scene from the beginning repeated at the end that either indicates we’re seeing the story out of order, or that Igarashi is caught in some kind of cyclical dream-nightmare. The problem is, none of these ideas quite come together, and even though the cyclical possibility intrigued me, it’s too unclear to mean very much, and despite having some interesting ideas and visuals, the film struggles a bit to earn enough connection to its characters for us to care very much what happens to them.
Tentsuki screens at the Shinsedai Cinema Festival @ The Revue Cinema on Sunday, July 15, at 8:00pm.