Directed in three parts by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho, Tokyo! doesn't expose the city so much as its citizens, sometimes quite literally. In the opener, Gondry's "Interior Design," an aspiring filmmaker's girlfriend finds herself so useless in cosmopolitan Toyko that she morphs into furniture. Carax's "Merde" creates monster-movie terror via the bloody antics of a homeless gnome, who puts the city on edge with random killings and confounds the courtroom with leprechaun gibberish. The finale, Bong's "Shaking Tokyo," follows a recluse (hikikomori, in the vernacular) with a Monk-like penchant for stacking empty pizza boxes just so, who finally exits his house after 10 years only to find everyone else in the metropolis has shut themselves in. Odder than Japan itself, thanks to its decidedly non-Japanese directors, this cinematic triptych transforms Tokyo's surreality into a nearly inexplicable study of disconnect in an ultra-urban world.
March 20-26, 2009