OUT OF COMPETITION
コンビニエンス ストーリー (Konbiniensu sutori)
Japan, 2022, 97’, Japanese
Directed by: Miki Satoshi
Screenplay: Miki Satoshi; from an original story by Mark Schilling
Photography (color): Takada Haruyuki
Editing: Tominaga Takashi
Production Design: Shintani Tomokazu
Music: Ueno Koji
Producer: Morishige Akira
Cast: Narita Ryo (Kato), Maeda Atsuko (Keiko), Rokkaku Seiji (Nagumo), Katayama Yuki (Zigzag), Fuse Eri (Kunikida), Shibukawa Kiyohiko (director)
Date of First Release in Territory: August 5th, 2022
Aspiring screenwriter Kato is struggling to get along with his female producer, who’s convinced he’s a misogynist. Kato lives with his girlfriend Zigzag, an aspiring actress, and her dog, Cerberus. At an audition, Zigzag is chosen to star in a splatter film after the way she cries when she falls to the ground, her face covered with blood, convinces the director of her talent. Back at home meanwhile, Kato is having to deal with the capricious Cerberus who, like Marlowe’s cat in Altman’s The Long Goodbye, will only eat his favourite brand of food. But when Kato goes to the convenience store to buy some for him, strange things start to happen, and upon his return he discovers that the mischievous dog has been playing with his laptop and has deleted the script he was working on: all that's left is a string of the hiragana symbol う(u), like The Shining’s “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Seized by a fit of rage, he abandons Cerberus in the middle of the countryside – but when he goes back to look for him, he finds himself in a fantasy world, where there is a strange convenience store in the middle of an empty plain. The shop is run by Keiko, whose eccentric husband loves to pretend he's conducting an orchestra in the middle of the woods in front of an audience of empty chairs equipped with umbrellas and with loudspeakers playing Ride of the Valkyries.
From an original story by Mark Schilling comes Convenience Story, the latest film by Miki Satoshi, a director well known to audiences at the FEFF where he has presented movies including In the Pool, Adrift in Tokyo, Instant Swamp and last year’s What to Do with the Dead Kaiju? This time it’s konbini which are in the director’s manic sights – convenience stores which are very common in Japan and are designed to satisfy any need at any time of the day or night. In the film, the konbini become magical, dreamlike places like the one in the middle of nowhere, with which Satoshi attempts to recreate the atmosphere of Bagdad Café. A sort of afterlife suspended out of time, with which the director combines elements of Japanese and Greek folklore and mythology, like Jizo statues, the dog Cerberus, Kitsune foxes and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. But Convenience Story also gives Satoshi the opportunity to take a satirical look at the world of cinema. As a screenwriter – Satoshi writes all his own films – he introduces a theoretical doubt: is it better to start a screenplay from reality or from an ideal world? The first of Kato’s screenplays that we see is titled Convenience Story and could be the script of the very film we are watching. His female producer says that this fling with a beautiful married woman is pure male escape fantasy: exactly what happens to Kato with Keiko. The second screenplay, ironically, is a fictionalised version of a real event, the Ebado affair.
Kato is played by young Narita Ryo, best supporting actor in 2019 according to prestigious Kinema Junpo magazine, while Keiko’s ethereal beauty belongs to the delightful Maeda Atsuko (The Complex, Seventh Code and Moratoriamu Tamako) and the producer is played by Fuse Eri, wife of Miki Satoshi, who stars in all of his films. Another noteworthy member of the cast is the director, played by Shibukawa Kiyohiko, a familiar face in Japanese genre cinema.
Born in Yokohama in 1961, Miki Satoshi began his career in TV directing variety shows. After his debut as director with 68 Films (2004), his first film as director and screenwriter was In the Pool (2005). Over the course of the following years he continued to make comedies including Turtles Swim Faster than Expected (2005), Deathfix (2007), Adrift in Tokyo (2007), Instant Swamp (2009) and It’s Me, It’s Me (2013), all presented at the FEFF, and notable for their surreal take on Japanese society. He released two films in Japan in 2022: What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?, his take on monster movies, and Convenience Story.
2004 – 68 Films
2005 – In the Pool
2005 – Turtles Swim Faster than Expected
2006 – Damejin
2007 – Deathfix: Die and Let Live 2007 – Adrift in Tokyo
2009 – Instant Swamp
2013 – It’s Me, It’s Me
2018 – LOUDER! Can’t Hear What You’re Singin’, Wimp!
2022 – What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?
2022 – Convenience Story