Yalta Conference Online
ヤルタ会談 “オンライン化“! 「Yaruta Kaidan “Onrainka”!」
Release Date: June 01st, 2020
Running Time: 38 mins.
Director: Koji Fukada
Writer: Koji Fukada (Screenplay)
Starring: Hiroko Matsuda, Yozo Shimada, Fumie Midorikawa
The Yalta Conference Online is, like the title suggests, a re-imagination of the famous meeting that happened on February 04th, 1945, between Stalin (Hiroko Matsuda), Roosevelt (Fumie Midorikawa) and Churchill (Yozo Shimada). There is none of the pomp and ceremony given to these grand old men, this is a Zoom meeting and so they all get online to chat about the post-war world. Pleasantries turn into negotiations over how to finish the fighting, and who occupies where but the writing and performances are done with the flippancy and awkwardness of an online talk and the humour is shadowed with the audience’s understanding of how their plans turned out.
It is based on a Hirata Oriza stage-play which was made expressly for the We Are One Global Film Festival and it works well within the limitations. The historical figures are all played as caricatures with our manner and social mores. The fact that they wear silly costumes and that the gender of the actors doesn’t matter should be a good indication of this being a comedy and the performances ply absurd and ironic laughs from what is a cheeky adaptation of history.
The dialogue comes thick and fast with grandstanding mixed with gossiping and through their talk we see their overblown pride and prejudice and inaccurate readings of the future. Particularly biting is the casual anti-semitism, orientalism and prejudice as well as the sense of western supremacy and superiority which still exists to this day. What steers this from being offensive is that the characters are clearly parodies of the real people and the film allows audiences to critique their ideas so it is able to be viewed as mordantly funny when they are dismissively talking about liquidating a group of officers or their treatment of refugees. Also, having Japanese play these people helps in lessening any offence and adds some interesting subtext in the mocking of the imperial mindset of Japan at the time which adds an interesting dimension of self-awareness.
There are some inconsistencies in the area of dialogue such as a mention of James Bond which Ian Flemyng created after the war and the constant reference to England rather than Britain, but the dialogue is delivered with witty repartee as the actors, all part of the same acting company, have whizz-bang chemistry that gives them brilliant line delivery. Of particular note is Hiroko Matsuda who has worked with director Koji Fukada on Human Comedy Tokyo, Hospitalite, and Au revoir l’ete, I believe. Everyone has perfect timing but she goes up and down the scales of hysteria at different times for added comic oomph.
This is based on a stageplay from Hirata Oriza and the actors all belong to his Seinendan group (some of whom are in The Woman of the Photographs) and they are all pitch-perfect in their parody and are fairly physical despite the limitations of online chats. Ensuring that this isn’t a visually uninteresting talkpocalypse, each person has a prop and costume that fits in with the national stereotype and they move around to fiddle with their computer’s camera, green screens, and Zoom backgrounds for some quick gags. The screens change position and size depending upon who joins the chat and text is used. The way tech is display and characters behave accurately captures the new way we communicate in this era of Covid-19 and that makes the film even funnier.