さまよう 小指 Samayou Koyubi
Release Date: September 14th, 2014 (Japan)
Duration: 63 mins.
Director: Lisa Takeba
Writer: Lisa Takeba (Screenplay),
Starring: Ryota Ozawa, Miwako Wagatsuma, Haruka Suenaga, Kanji Tsuda,
When I first saw this film I fell in love with it and hyped the director up. Lisa Takeba is one of those multi-hyphenate talents whose imagination covers writing, directing and more. She has a background in advertising and writing videogames for the likes of Nintendo so she’s got a lot of experience with different styles to work with, something which shows in this fun and insane mash-up of genres where rom-com meets offbeat sci-fi and yakuza thrills in a story that firmly places love at the centre of everything.
The story is about love as experienced by four people but it starts with two.
Since they were both five, Ryosuke (Ryota Ozawa) has been stalked by Momoko (Miwako Wagatsuma) – the ugliest girl in the village. Momoko’s love for Ryosuke is so boundless that she has her face surgically altered to suit his taste – but still, he wants nothing to do with her. Ryosuke is a louche NEET who is in love with the girlfriend of a yakuza boss, a slippery dame named Manami (Haruka Suenaga), but when the boss finds out about their affair he has Ryosuke’s little finger hacked off and chases him off. Magically, the finger falls into Momoko’s hands and she uses it to clone Ryosuke so she can finally have him (or almost him) for herself – and that’s the first five minutes of this deranged tale of pure-hearted love.
With the duration of an hour, The Pinkie has one gear: go. It breathlessly runs through plot points with a cheery smile and a wink for the audience as Takeba melds a melange of influences together with nods to Noburu Iguchi and Kinji Fukusaku stylisations, the physical effects, CG and goofiness reminiscent of the former’s splatter style and the action scenes, their camera angles and on-screen text having the rebel energy of the latter. There’s even a reference to the training sequence in Rocky and the unstoppable killing prowess of a T-800 from Terminator which act as the basis for funny comedy sequences.
These are just references that I saw but there’s so much more original life and energy and creativity in the cinematic language deployed on screen to indicate Takeba knows how to craft a film and is a unique talent and not just derivative like so many other directors.
She knows how to frame a shot, how to light it, move a camera, what effects to use and how to get excellent blocking to milk the most of the emotions and make them radiate on screen. Close-ups on something often cut to a wider shot to reveal a punchline. For instance, Takeba’s taste for delightful physical effects is seen so often and framed perfectly such as a scene where ocean waves crafted from cardboard are shot in a close-up with a character on a rocky shore which we realise ingeniously substitutes for being on a fishing boat upon a wider shot. The camera during a POV shot swings and cuts to a medium close-up after a Ryosuke receives a slap to show him drunkenly gallivanting around town. Momoko is often captured with soft lighting as she fixates on her beloved, selling the romance, and a red string ties their pinkies together, a nice DIY physical touch that shows the naivete and force of passion Momoko has.
There’s a lot of humour and verve on display – plus a Full Metal Alchemist action figure in the cloning scene – and it makes the film so much fun but the real effect comes in the enduring sense of love the characters exude thanks to the committed acting.
I mentioned violence and action earlier but these are just the other side of all the love on display and it’s most prominent because of the exaggerated performances.
In the lead role is Miwako Wagatsuma who, as an actress, rose from bit-parts in films like The Drudgery Train and Guilty of Romance, to taking the lead in indies like The End of Puberty, Sentimental Yasuko, Kuro and Shin Shin Shin and even big budget movies with Heroine Shikkaku (2015) before going on hiatus to have a child. Here, she plays her character slightly cartoonishly with heightened movements and reactions that accentuate the emotions so that they feel so pure and fun. She is a joyful presence on screen. She tones it down towards the end as her romance doesn’t quite go the way expected and she shows maturity and the purity of her love with a sacrifice in an ending that had me emotional. I honestly fell in love with her. Meanwhile, Ryota Ozawa does a convincing job playing the filthy Ryosuke and the pure-hearted clone, his demeanour (and hairstyle) changing for each character to convince us he is a different person.
When the credits role, what is certain is that the film captures how transformative love is and how powerful a motivator it can be and does so in a fun way. Takeba’s style and her actors sell it with joy and then some. The film is a low-budget indie title that has more character than many films from Japan because of the talents of the people involved and Takeba’s playful vision and I hope Takeba gets more support in the years ahead.