A Blue Automobile (Aoi kuruma) [2004] • Japan

This film has three things going for it: Aoi Miyazaki, Kumiko Aso, and a great soundtrack. Miyazaki and Aso are two of Japan's most talented and popular young actresses, and I'm always happy when a director shows good taste in music and uses it well—although the hip and evocative soundtrack used here sometimes seems a bit at odds with the slow paced art-house stylings of the film.

A Blue Automobile is a good looking film, very bleak, all stark and concrete, and there are a number of creative and interesting directorial choices made by Okuhara but the overall vision of the film left me wanting. That isn't always a problem but this film plays like it wants to be a film with a vision to talk about, an exploration of a heavy theme: pain, as a game changer. Indie actor cool dude Arata does a fine job as a young man who doesn't think much of living because of an accident as a child that has left him scarred around the eyes. He plays an introverted danger-punk guy, and we all know that fetching, young, good-hearted women are attracted to the type, so that's what plays out.

I was intrigued, fascinated even, by the characters as discreet units but wasn't able to engage or be moved by the exposition of the characters' motivations toward one another. It's basically another story about a guy who gets two women. And this time they are sisters, which adds to the oh-so-intense nature of the angst. That there's a big theme of immense suffering lurking in the background all the time doesn't make it much more than that, except it does make it "alternative".

The film has many bright moments and solid acting. It's not mainstream fare by a long shot, but fans of any of the three leads should enjoy watching them do their stuff. The film wants to be more than it is but it really doesn't matter. I enjoyed the experience of the film. It's one of those where you give more points to journey than goal.

Director: Hiroshi Okuhara
Starring: Arata, Aoi Miyazaki, Kumiko Aso, Tomorowo Taguchi, Kenji Mizuhashi

Japan Times

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