Confetti

International  Premiere | In Competition | White Mulberry Award Candidate

 

Guest star:

FUJITA Naoya, director

 

Fujita Naoya’s feature debut, Confetti is a fresh, sweet-spirited take on the venerable seishun eiga (youth film) genre. The setup of a boy transferring to a Tokyo middle school is a genre staple, but almost everything else about the film, based on an original script by Kaneko Suzuyuki, is not. The protagonist, Yuki (Matsufuji Shion), plays female roles for his father’s traveling taishu engeki (popular theater) troupe. At first, he conceals this fact from his new classmates, not out of shame or embarrassment but because he will only be with them a month before moving on. “I don’t need friends,” he says.

But he soon acquires two new pals – the top academic stars in his math class. One, Ken (Saito Jun), has stopped coming to school out of boredom, while the other, Maya (Hayama Sara), was once Ken’s girlfriend, but still worries about his welfare. At the behest of the math teacher, Yuki goes to Ken’s house to deliver his homework and is welcomed by his friendly single mom (Saeki Hinako). He soon becomes friends with Ken, who is a fervent fan of a struggling idol-pop trio. Then the group disbands and Ken’s favorite member, Asaka (Murata Hirona), joins the troupe as an apprentice with the encouragement of her mother (Takashima Reiko), a taishu engeki devotee. Meanwhile, with Yuki serving as a bridge, Maya reconnects with Ken and falls under the spell of the all-male troupe’s performances, a populist mix that includes kabuki-like melodrama and dance numbers performed to J-pop tunes in a Nihon-buyo (Japanese classical dance) style.

The emotional turbulence standard in Japanese coming-of-age films is conspicuous by its absence. Despite his yearning for teenage normalcy and doubts about his actorly vocation, Yuki is serious about his art and respectful of his father (Kizu Toru), a tolerant type who directs his young actors with a firm but gentle hand. Also, though Yuki thoroughly inhabits his female characters on stage, when he is out of costume he reverts to being a normal middle school boy, if one with a keen awareness of his difference from the herd. And his friendship with Ken never edges over into romance or the sort of affection for a gay friend found in the 2000 drama Billy Elliot. The question of Yuki and Ken’s sexuality is left for the audience to answer.

This may make the film seem rather tame, but its focus is less on challenging heteronormative prejudice than showing the transformative power of theater. Once on stage, Yuki becomes not just a boy in a kimono but a character who can dance with an effortless flow and grace and bring the audience to tears. Playing Yuki, Matsufuji recalls the young kabuki actors who are born to kabuki families and have the art in their DNA. Actually, he is a taishu engeki newcomer, though he has a long list of acting credits and his experience shows in his layered, unselfconscious performance.

Reflecting director Fujita’s extensive research, Confetti is an informed and sympathetic look at a theatrical genre that doesn’t get a lot of critical respect, but still moves and amuses Japanese audiences in ways that seem little changed since Tokyo was Edo. So give Fujita, Matsufuji and company a well-deserved confetti shower.<

Mark Schilling
Film director: FUJITA Naoya
Year: 2024
Running time: 80'
Country: Japan
28/04 - 10:45 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
28-04-2024 10:45 28-04-2024 12:05Europe/Rome Confetti Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

Photogallery