Quirky Guys and Gals is a production from New Cinema Workshop where students learning to be producers handle making movies. With this production they give four directors a story outline to work with which results in four entirely different comic vignettes peeking at dark topics and celebrating the overcoming of accepted social boundaries through the unlocking of a quirky side. It could have been painfully unfunny but succeeds at being very amusing and original in most sections.
Quirky Guys and Gals (Sabi Otoko, Sabi Onna) ties together four stories of people searching for a spark in their lives. Yosuke Fujita (Fine, Totally Fine) leads off with “Cheer Girls,” an entertaining tale of a woman (Nanami Sakuraba) whose passion is to lead cheers—though not for sports teams. Rather, she finds common people and creates anthems to encourage them in everyday life. Tomoko Matsunashi’s “Boy? Meets Girl,” is a Tootsie remake in a high-school setting. Mipo O’s “Claim Night” sees the 30-something Mayuko (Tomochika) return home to find the electricity in her apartment turned off, yet when she finally gets a repairman to come over, their over-the-top confrontation gives rise to a wildly comedic situation. Lastly, Gen Sekiguchi (Survive Style 5+) offers up “The House Full of ‘Abandoned’ Businessmen” a quaint tale of a housewife who collects out-of-work salarymen to try and give them a fresh start.
The first segment is written and directed by Yosuke Fujita. At the centre of this story are the cheer girls, three university students named Mamiko (Kumiko Shiratori), Sanae (Emiko Kawamura) and Chiharu (Nanami Sakuraba), the psychotically driven leader. They cheer people on to overcome everyday adversities like tying shoe laces and opening jars and are looked after by a local restraunter (YosiYosi Arakawa). Like the videogame Elite Beat Agents only more hilarious, the performances are finely tuned to deadpan with deliberately wooden acting and stolid direction making the increasingly absurd situations even more hilarious as they escalate into the ridiculous. With lashings of random violence and hilarious cheerleading routines this section works the best as it goes in completely different directions and has a winning performance from Sakuraba.
Boy? Meets Girl
Next comes the far more conventional Boy? Meets Girl, written and directed by Tomoko Matsunashi. Konosuke Muratsubaki (Aoi Nakamura) is a shy quiet person who is considered unnoticeable and has a crush on Kaori Shiroyama (Misako Renbutsu) the most beautiful girl in the school and moderator of photo club. Muratsubaki gains confidence when he starts dressing as a girl named Miyu and pursues Kaori. The film is far more conventional because it uses the genre framework of high school romance movie, all soft focus romance and longing, but then subverts them with cross-dressing, a situation far more familiar from manga. Nakamura gamely plays his role and there are many amusing situations but it is the friend Kato (Ini Kusani) who steals the show as a make-up artist perv.
Of the four, Mipo O’s Claim Night is the one I found weakest as it only raised a chuckle. Starting off sedately, staying in one location with two actors it relies on humour that a Japanese audience would probably instantly get and love but failed to tickle me. It wasn’t until the end when the film totally jumped off the map and headed towards a neat twist that I actually found myself enjoying it. Cultural differences aside there are nice performances from Tenkyu Fukuda as the electric company rep trying to maintain equilibrium and Tomochika as a frustrated, hypocritical single lady with a sharp tongue and a knack for seduction games.
The House Full of Abandoned Businessmen
This is what Tokyo Sonata might have been if the husband’s had been honest from the start. Kyoko Koizumi is a cheerful housewife named Mayumi Okada who encounters a businessman named Hirata (Yoshiyuki Morishita) and finds out that he is unemployed. She takes him home to give him a place to rest for the day and soon finds that she is collecting unemployed salary-men. Soon they are collecting like wet leaves. Written and directed by Gen Sekiguchi this segment sees his visual flair toned down but retains his delight in quirk as the story ventures into generally amusing and satirical ground as we see what unemployed salary-men reduced to. Nice observational humour and amusing sequences make the final segment highly enjoyable.
Overall a nice collection of films that raise anything from a smile to uproarious laughter depending on how much you get the jokes. For me the first section was the best due to the brilliantly bizarre nature with the last coming a very close second. An easy collection to recommend.
DVD BONUS FEATURES:
Anamorphic widescreen transfer with optional English subtitles
Special messages from all four directors
Exclusive interviews with all four directors
The first thing to say is that the picture and sound quality are excellent. The second thing to say is that the viewer is presented with a very stylish yet simple main menu that actually sements each of the four sections so you can watch your favourite parts. Third thing is that the main extras are the interviews with all four directors which are pretty generous and illuminate the making of the film the film. Some of these interviews are so candid that you get an excellent idea of the thought processes of the director, the production processes of the film and the wider Japanese film industry.
The film is available to pre-order from Amazon and goes on sale from the 3rd of October.
SABI♂SABI♀ – Quirky Guys and Gals
Romaji: Sabi Otoko Sabi Onna
Release Date: January 15th, 2011 (Japan)
Running Time: 91 mins.
Director: Yosuke Fujita (Cheering Girls), Mipo O (Claim Night), Tomoko Matsunashi (Boy? Meets Girl), Gen Sekiguchi (Sebiro Yashiki),
Writer: Yosuke Fujita, Mipo O, Masaya Kakehi, Tomoko Matsunashi, Gen Sekiguchi, Nami Yoshikawa, (Screenplay),
Cheering Girls Starring: Nanami Sakuraba, Emiko Kawamura, Kumiko Shiratori, YosiYosi Arakawa
Boy? Meets Girl Starring: Aoi Nakamura, Misako Renbutsu, Ini Kusano,
Claim Night Starring: Tomochika, Tenkyu Fukuda,
Sebiro Yashiki Starring: Kyoko Koizumi, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Keisuke Horibe, Tetsushi Tanaka,