Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Saturday, April 22, time 3.00 PM


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The City Of Betrayal

“What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” wrote Sir Walter Scott in his 1808 epic poem Marmion. He was referring to his romantically unfaithful title hero. How tangled that web can become is also the theme of The City of Betrayal, Miura Daisuke’s adaptation of his own 2010 play.

Going back to Scott’s time and farther, cheating lovers have often come to bad fictional ends. (The mistress of Scott’s hero, a fallen nun, paid for her sins by being walled in alive in her convent.) Miura, however, opts for realism about male-female relationships in contemporary Japan: No one dies horrifically, for one thing. But there are also twists that surprise, home truths that pierce.
Miura, whose revenge-of-the-nerd comedy Boys on the Run screened at Udine FEFF in 2010, is not another theater director who films his play statically or with exterior shots that add little to the drama. Instead he has shot his story cinematically, with images that evocatively suggest rather than baldly explain. And there is nothing stagey about the performances he draws from his uniformly excellent cast, beginning with Ikematsu Sosuke and Terajima Shinobu as his central couple. 

They are Yuichi (Ikematsu), a feckless layabout, and Tomoko (Terajima), a bored housewife. Connecting on a site for casual sex, they lie about everything from their single status (Tomoko has a husband, Yuichi a live-in girlfriend) to their cool-sounding jobs (in both cases, non-existent). Their first meeting, near a suburban train station in Tokyo, almost ends in disaster, but they rescue it with a halting and ice-breaking honesty. Tomoko confesses that she is nearly forty, while Yuichi admits to living off his gainfully employed girlfriend.
But they both share an interest in TV variety shows featuring manzai (comic duo) acts – and their back-and-forth starts to resemble an awkward comedy routine. By their third date, they are in a ‘love hotel’ – and manage to laugh at their first uninspiring attempt at sex.

Are they meant for each other? The film’s answer is ambiguous. Tomoko lies to her husband Koji (Hirata Mitsuru), Yuichi to his girlfriend Satomi (Nakamura Eriko), but neither feels good about it. Koji is considerate and uncomplaining, though he spends many evenings boozing with his pal Tamura. Meanwhile, Satomi is forbearing and patient, giving Yuichi a daily allowance week after week, though he makes no attempt, save with empty promises, to pay her back.
The sex improves and the mutual confessions continue, though Yuichi and Tomoko are not, in any usual movie sense, crazy for each other. Comfortable is more like it. Then their partners, not being idiots, begin to sense the truth. And Tomoko makes a life-changing discovery of her own.
The film does not become moralistic or melodramatic when these narrative gears shift. As Koji says at one crucial point: “There is not just one truth” and that, we see, refers specifically to the characters’ complex love lives, which do not fit easily into boxes labeled ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – or ‘life’ and ‘death’ for that matter.
Mark Schilling
Film director: 
Miura Daisuke
Running time: 




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