Tokyo Trash Baby 東京ゴミ女 (Tokyo gomi onna) [2000] • Japan

Mami Nakamura's performance makes this one a big winner. She's engaging, endearing, amusing, and sympathetic from start to finish. That's what it takes for a small film like this to succeed, a film which says: "Here's an offbeat character, do you like her? Does she draw you into her life, entertain you, and invite you to wonder what will happen to her?" It takes a clever script and a good performance. Tokyo Trash Baby delivers on both accounts.

Miyuki (Nakamura) is a girl in love with her upstairs neighbor, a musician. Instead of trying to meet him she is content with stealing his garbage and foraging through it to find things that will give her insight into his personality. She collects many things, like empty cereal boxes, cigarette butts, love letters, discarded musical scores, and creates a shrine to her love in her apartment. She discards a used condom. The story falls a little flat after she does eventually meet him face to face, but Miyuki is still fun to spend time with. As are the few peripheral characters in the film.

Tomorowo Taguchi plays the manager at the cafe where Miyuki works and is typical Taguchi odd but doesn't have much impact on the story. Two other characters do, though: Kô Shibasaki plays co-worker, Kyoko, whose screen time is devoted almost exclusively to telling Miyuki stories of her sexual conquests, dreams, and dilemmas ... and bumming smokes. Masahiro Toda plays a customer trying desperately to get Miyuki to go out with him but he's too boring to make an impact on her. His attempts at realizing love are face to face but his loneliness prevents him from catching a clue. Both characters serve as juxtaposition to Miyuki and highlight my favorite theme of the film: loneliness. Kyoko has a very active social life but seems unfulfilled and lost. Miyuki (contrary to most observations on the film) doesn't seem lonely. She seems content and happy with her life. That's what makes her interesting. Director Hiroki gives her the respect she deserves.

Tokyo Trash Baby is part of the Love Cinema series of six straight-to-video releases which also includes Takashi Miike's Visitor Q. It's a low-budget affair shot on Digital Video. It's uses all natural lighting and sometimes the glare from an open window distracts but never gets in the way. It's testament to the strength of the story and performance that technical limitations do not derail the project at all.

Director: Ryuichi Hiroki
Starring: Mami Nakamura, Kazuma Suzuki, Kô Shibasaki, Sayuri Oyamada, Tomorowo Taguchi


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