The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck & God in a Coin Locker
Romaji: Ahiro to Kamo no Koin Rokka
Release Date: June 23rd, 2007 (Japan)
UK DVD Release Date: January 14th, 2013
UK DVD Distributor: Third Window Films
Running Time: 110 mins.
Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Writer: Yoshihiro Nakamura (Screenplay), Kotaro Isaka (Novel)
Starring: Gaku Hamada, Eita, Megumi Seki, Nene Otsuka, Ryuei Matsuda, Kei Tamura, Kaoru Hirata, Midoriko Kimura, Masaki Okada
The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck & God in a Coin Locker is such a strange title that I expected a low-key indie comedy but got a lot more.
Shiina (Gaku Hamada) is moving from the shoe shop his parents run to his new apartment in Sendai as he joins Aoba University to study law. On his first day he tries introducing himself to his neighbours but they are too pre-occupied with their own lives to care. As Shiina regroups after rejection he sings the Dylan song “Blowin’ in the Wind” which attracts the attention of one of his new neighbours, a tall and handsome chap named Kawasaki (Eita). Kawasaki is a complete contrast to the short and mild-mannered Shiina but share a mutual interest in Bob Dylan and strike up a friendship. Kawasaki does seem a bit of an odd duck, but in an irresistibly cool and charming kind of way, and Shiina can’t help but be drawn into his more exciting, if slightly loony world. Kawasaki’s head is full of unpredictable ideas, like his absurd warnings about pet shop owner Reiko (Nene Otsuka) or his even more absurd plan to steal a dictionary for their Bhutanese neighbour. Next thing Shiina knows, he’s standing watch with a toy gun outside the bookstore, on the beginning of their bizarre, existential adventure…
The film is based on a 2003 novel by mystery writer Kotaro Isaka (his book Remote Control is available through Amazon UK and sounds so good I may purchase a copy). This is not the first book of his to be adapted. Indeed, director Yoshihiro Nakamura adapted another called Fish Story to great acclaim (also available through Third Window Films). Finding out all of this came after viewing the film and so I had no idea this was a mystery. If I did I think my expectations would have been staggered because it never feels like one. Indeed after watching twenty minutes I had tagged it as a light comedy with goofball characters doing a lot of talking but the film manages to switch genre and mood with ease.
It starts with Shiina in what seemed like a play on a coming of age tale. We witness his first explorations of Sendai, a place famous for its BBQed tongue which his parents constantly remind him of. He is like anybody who finds themselves in a new environment, plagued by doubt and indecision and adhering to social codes to try and fit in. These moments are wryly observed and provide gentle comedy as we see him bewildered by his situation and swallowed up by crowds. His lost at sea is somewhat mirrored in that of an Indian woman who finds herself on the receiving end of suspicion and derision just for being an outsider. Ah, I said to myself, this is clearly a light comedy examining Japanese attitudes to foreigners! Foreign and native ducks! Case closed!
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