t.l. Senza colore
猿楽町で会いましょう (Sarugakucho de Aimasho)
Japan, 2019, 122’, Japanese
Directed by: Koyama Takashi
Script: Koyama Takashi, Shibuya Yu
Photography (color): Matsuishi Kosuke
Editing: Kakihara Mina
Art Direction: Mitsumatsu Keiko
Music: Hashimoto Tatsuki
Producer: Toshimitsu Sawako
Executive Producer: Jin Yasuyuki
Cast: Kaneko Daichi, Ishikawa Ruka, Maeno Kenta, Yanagi Shuntaro, Konishi Sakurako
Date of First Release in Territory: June 5th, 2020
Premiere status: European Premiere
Lovers lie. When they say “I love you,” they can really mean “You’ll do for the moment, but I still have feelings for this other person,” typically an ex who hasn’t yet exited. This situation, common in real life, doesn’t drive a lot of Japanese romantic dramas, which have a default “pure love” setting.
But it is central to colorless, a first feature by Koyama Takashi based on a prize-winning submission to a contest for trailers of yet-to-be-made films. The film, however, is not an exercise in black-comic cynicism.
Instead the two principals – a photographer (Kaneko Daichi) and an actress (Ishikawa Ruka) – begin as types common in Japan or anywhere: Both have vague aspirations but little in way of a personal vision or mission. They go with the shifting social and cultural tides and take on whatever protective coloration they need to survive.
When the cameraman, Shu, shows his grab bag of portfolio to a jaded editor (Maeno Kenta), he gets a quick, brutal rejection. “What do you want to shoot?” the editor asks, accusingly. Shu can only answer with a shrug.
Soon after, he lands a gig shooting profile photos for Yuka (Ishikawa), a beginning model with a hard-to-pin down eroticism and mystery. For Shu something clicks both artistically and personally. A photo of Yuka gazing enigmatically at the camera wins praise and then a contest. Meanwhile, the cute, flirty Yuka wins his heart. But when Shu proclaims his love, she tells him that since love doesn’t last there’s no point to it. “You forget all that stuff,” she says.
Nonetheless, Shu perseveres and they become lovers. But when he visits Yuka’s building, he sees another man going into her apartment and a stranger’s name on her door. Yuka tells Shu the guy, Kitamura (Yanagi Shuntaro), is just a platonic roommate. Shu loudly orders her to move out that day and Yuka complies. But what is really going on with this woman, so eager to please, so hard to figure out?
Koyama, who co-wrote the script, tells this story out of chronological order to show Yuka and Shu at various stages in their turbulent relationship, as well as Yuka’s jobs and identities, friends and lovers. The object is to peel away her mysteries with maximum impact, but the film takes a distanced, non-judgmental stance to its revelations.
After his early struggles, Shu becomes an in-demand fashion photographer, while Yuka’s one-time friend and fellow model Hisako (Konishi Sakurako) reappears in her life as a popular actress, now named Yoshioka Ai. But the talent, focus and luck that are the keys to their success elude Yuka – and her story indirectly serves a warning against the lures of the big city to innocents, like Yuka, from the countryside.
But instead of a moralistic parable, the film is an unsparing, multi-faceted character study – of a woman with little in the way of a definable character. Colorless indeed.
Born in 1979 in Osaka, Koyama Takashi apprenticed as an assistant director under Hayashi Kaizo after graduating from college. He went independent in 2015 and is currently working primarily as a director of commercials. The opening of his first feature film as a director, colorless, has been postponed from its June release date due to the coronavirus crisis.
2019 – colorless