Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Monday, April 24, time 10.50 AM


By date


By title


Over The Fence

Since his feature debut on 1999 with the black comedy Hazy Life Yamashita Nobuhiro has often found laughs in the lives of slackers and other types on the social and econom­ic fringes, though he resists the ‘comedy director’ label. His 2011 My Back Page was a dead-serious drama about the uneasy relationship, personal and professional, between a gonzo journalist and political activist in the turbulent Vietnam War era.
Over the Fence, which is based on the short fiction of Sato Yasushi, focuses on a guy who is alone and adrift – that is, a typical Yamashita hero – but there are hardly any laughs, black comic or otherwise. Two other recent films based on Sato’s work – O Mipo’s The Light Shines Only There (2014) and Kumakiri Kazuyoshi’s Sketches of Kaitan City – were similarly serious, as well as also set in the author’s native Hakodate, a gritty port city on the northern island of Hokkaido (though in Kaitan the name has been changed.).
But that hero, the recently divorced and currently unemployed Shiraiwa Yoshio, is played by Odagiri Joe, a natural comedian (see the 2007 Udine FEFF favorite Adrift in Tokyo for proof ) who even in his darker roles is impossible to dislike.
With his droopy eyes, half-grin and laid-back air, Shiraiwa looks to be lazing through his carpentry course at a Hakodate vocation school. But a more accurate descriptor, we soon see, is ‘drifting.’ Though his wife has divorced him and he has been cut off from all contact with their child, Shiraiwa still wears his wedding ring. And when a fellow apprentice carpenter and budding entrepreneur, Daijima (Matsuda Shota), offers him a partnership in a new club, with promises of big money and easy women, he hesitates.
What exactly is he looking for? Drinking at a club with Daijima, Shiraiwa encounters a hostess he earlier glimpsed arguing loudly with a man. Burdened by her parents with a man’s name, Satoshi (Aoi Yu) is a frank-talking, free-spirited woman who is also easy on the eyes. Shiraiwa finds her bewitching, but when she imitates swans greeting each other or ostriches courting – something she evidently picked up working part-time at a local park-cum-zoo – she throws herself into her performance with an abandon that hints of instability, volatility and, possibly, insanity.
Instead of recoiling, Shiraiwa smiles and keeps seeing Satoshi. But once they become lovers, in Satoshi’s dank rundown house, Satoshi wants explanations – for the ring, the divorce and much else – that Shiraiwa is slow to provide. And when he makes a disturb­ing confession about his marriage she explodes. “You drove your wife mad,” she screams – and throws him out of her house.
Working from a script by Takada Ryo, Yamashita films Shiraiwa’s seemingly self-immo­lating pursuit of Satoshi with a naturalism that persuasively reveals rather than blatantly tells. And in widening the story beyond his central pair he underlines its universality. Everyone, from Satoshi and Shiraiwa to the students at the vocational school, share a common human fate of struggle and pain, of which madness and violence is an extreme expression.
What does the title mean? “Over the fence” is a way of describing a home run – and the story culminates with a softball game between the school’s budding carpenters and me­chanics. But the focus is less on winning or losing than on whether Satoshi and Shiraiwa can overcome the forces keeping them apart, including their own demons.
The film itself connects squarely and solidly with its characters and themes. Is it a home run? Keep watching that fence...
Mark Schilling
Film director: 
Yamashita Nobuhiro
Running time: 




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