Title: Tokyo Elegy

Also known as:
Shabondama Elegy (Original title)

Year: 1999

Genre: Romance / Drama / Adult / Experimental

Language: Dutch / Japanese / English

Runtime: 85 min

Director: Aryan Kaganof

Writer: Aryan Kaganof

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0197870/

An escaped criminal and a young girl build a relationship when he seeks shelter at her place. A romance begins to grow between them, but it's a very obsessive romance.

Our thoughts:
I came home from work and found a package from Cape Town, South Africa (which alone is odd since I couldn't think of any filmmakers frm there). And on the package there was an AK47 printed on it. The writing was also looking a bit off, very spiky and unusual. I must say it was a few interesting seconds of opening that package since I had no idea what movie would be in there. And when I pulled it out I was none the wiser. "Tokyo Elegy?" I thought to myself. I had no idea what it was. I decided to Google it and that didn't help me very much either. But then I searched through my old e-mails and found that almost exactly a year ago I e-mail Aryan Kaganof to see if he had any films that he could send me. It was some time after I had seen his crazy short film "Dead Man II: Return Of The Dead Man" on Cinéma Abattoir's collection "À Rebours" that I had e-mailed him. Now that I knew who this guy was I couldn't be more excited about the screener I had just received. I was totally down for something weird and dirty!

An actual story isn't really apparent through the movie except for the bit at the beginning where a guy escapes the cops and meets a girl in a bar. He then has a romance with her. The rest of the movie consists of them having plenty of sex, her working with pornography, and some strangely filtered experimental scenes. Basicly we follow this obsessive couple up until the man is shot to death. Not a spoiler: it's shown in sequences early in the film.

"Dead Man II: Return Of The Dead Man" is a much more stylistic and visually stimulating film than this one is, but instead this one reminds me of the old 80's punk style of filmmaking that the Cinema of Transgression movement had (it's perfectly appropriate that Richard Kern's "Fingered" is on screen in this movie, I suppose). It feels very raw and in your face. The filtering is all over the place and it often jumps into slow-motion. What I didn't like was that the experimental aspect (the filtering and editing) wasn't handled very well and didn't have any smooth transitions between them. Now, I don't mean transitions like fades, but if a movie is gonna go crazy with the editing, I want it to move fluently in a way that makes it feel like a complete work that ties together perfectly. Not just randomly picked filters on top of unusual cuts.

It's features very graphic sex scenes, and this cut didn't feature any of the typical Japanese censoring (some reviewer said his was censored in his review). It's safe to say that this is a movie you should watch alone or with like-minded people because it has explicit sex scenes with graphic penetration and blow-jobs.

Aryan Kaganof is quite the provocateur and has no shame in showing whatever the hell he wants in his films. And his films aren't injured because of it, no, they give them that little extra edge that make them unique and refreshing. It's easy to just throw in graphic stuff into a movie and say that it's a bold move, but frankly, that alone doesn't do shit to a movie. If it's done in the wrong movie it could just feel as attention-seeking, but in the right movie it can create a great atmosphere.

"Tokyo Elegy" (or "Shabondama Elegy", as it seems to be more known as) isn't a great movie. It lacks a lot of focus to the story, and maybe that was Aryan's intention but to me it harms the movie. It's not a bad movie either, though. It has a lot of moments that are worthwhile, and Aryan Kaganof is working in his own little world. I think the closest director I can compare him to is Carlos Atanes and some of the Cinema of Transgression people. Neither of them are to be watched by just anyone. There's a certain taste needed, or maybe sometimes a lack of taste needed. "Tokyo Elegy" is a movie about a troubled relationship that doesn't shy away from the most intimate moments they share.

Positive things:
- Aryan Kaganof is in a league with filmmakers such as Richard Kern and Carlos Atanes.
- A very unusual movie. Sometimes it feels like standard pinku, something very surreal.
- Graphic scenes that only add to the atmosphere of the movie.
- Never gets boring.
Negative things:
- Weird aspect ratio. Or rather, it had a big black bar on the lower end so that the subtitles could be seen easier. It made the screen much smaller.
- Even if it's meant to be a scattered story that is hard to really follow, I think it hurt the movie.
- The editing and filtering wasn't handled all too well and felt a bit lazy at times.

Gore: 1.5/5
Nudity: 4.5/5
Story: 2/5
Effects: 2/5
Comedy: 0/5

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