Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 24th, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 2014
Director: Yosuke Fujita
Writer: Yosuke Fujita
Cast: Miyuki Oshima, Asami Mizukawa, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Tateto Serizawa, Asato Iida, Kanji Furutachi, Toshiyuki Kitami
DVD released: July 13th, 2015
Approximate running time: 111 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English, Italian, German
DVD Release: Third Window Films
Region Coding: Region 2 NTSC (UK)
Retail Price: £14.85 (UK)
Synopsis: In the fourteen years since Tatsuo Fukuda moved to Tokyo, he has lived in the same rundown apartment. Also since his move to Tokyo he has worked as a painter and he is well-liked by those who work with him, they gave him the nickname “Fuku-chan”. After years of struggling with an incident from then he was a teen, he in content with where life has taken him. Then one day out of the blue his life is turned upside down, when someone from his traumatic past reenters his life.
It is has been almost eight years since Yosuke Fujita made his directorial debut with Fine, Totally Fine. And though his output as a filmmaker has been very limited. With his only project being since then, a segment that he directed for the film Quirky Guys and Gals titled ‘Cheer Girls’. Anticipation for his next feature has never wavered over the years, at least as far as this reviewer is concerned. So naturally when Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats was brought to my attention, I leaped at the chance to see where Yosuke Fujita next feature film would take me.
Content wise, Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats delves into familiar subject matter bullying. And in the case of this film, it is the protagonist who was bullied as a teenager. And though the aforementioned bullying serves as the foundation that anchors this film foundation. Ultimately it is the characters which populate and their growth which drive this story.
Narrative wise if ever there was a film that lead you believe that is was going to go one way, then abruptly go the other way. Then look no further then Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats. When we are first introduced to this film’s protagonist, he lives a carefree existence where even the simplest things in life bring him joy. Along the way and at first on a separate story line is secondary character Chiho, a young woman with great job who lives a financial secure life. Unlike the protagonist she lives an empty life and it is not until she embraces her more artistic side that she finds her own happiness. Unfortunately for her finding what she is looking for is not that easy, since part of her sorrow is linked to the pain that she previous inflicted on the protagonist. Eventually these two characters’ lives intersect when Chiho seeks out the protagonist and asks him to forgive her. From there they slowly reconnect and Chiho convinces the protagonist to let her take pictures of him that will be collected for a book. There is a clear shift in tone once these characters start spending time together which is in direct contrast to the film’s opening act and to give away much more about the plot would spoil this film’s exceptional ending.
From a production stand point Yosuke Fujita direction lets his characters roam without boundaries within the world he has created. Also all the characters are well defined and their motivations are always clear? And when it comes to pacing things move along quickly from one moment to the next. And though the majority of what occurs in this film could easily fall into the melodrama category. It is the use of humor where this film often excels to delirious heights. A few standout moments include, a scene she Chiho is at the photo studio of her mentor an eccentric and well known photographer. Wanting to learn more about photography she becomes more and more frustrated as her mentor has only sex on his mind. Her breaking point in this scene comes when he finally throws his naked body on her after she continually refuses to take off her close. Fortunately she wakes away from scene intact, while she leaves her mentor with a nasty cut from the camera she smashed on his head. Another standout moment is scene where Chiho and the protagonist decided to eat curry for the first time. Chiho takes a big bite first and quickly discovers how spicy curry is and when she asks for water the owner of the establishment refuses to give her said water because curry is like fire and you should extinguish fire with water. As this scene evolves things become more and more absurd as the man continually refuse to give her anything to drink. And when the protagonist takes her into the restaurants’ kitchen and gets her water, this then enrages the owner of the place who then chases them with a sword through the streets.
When discussing the performances in this film everything begins with Miyuki Oshima’s remarkable performance in the role of this film’s protagonist Fuku-chan. And if you hadn’t guessed by now, she is an actress portraying a male character. Her transforming into the character she is portraying is utterly convincing. Other standout performances include Asami Mizukawa (Dark Water) in the role of Chiho. Range wise it is her character that gets to show the most growth. Other notable cast members include Yoshiyoshi Arakawa (Kamikaze Girls, Memories of Matsuko) he has been in everything that Yosuke Fujita has directed to date and Toshiyuki Kitami (Another Lonely Hitman) in the role of Numakura, the sleazy photographer that tries to take advantage of Chiho.
Third Window Films presents Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This a well authored disc as colors and flesh tones look accurate, shadow detail and image clarity looks consistently strong throughout. There are no issues with compression, edge enhancement is kept in check and the image remains stable throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese. Dialog is always, everything sounds balanced and when it comes to the more ambient aspects of this film’s soundtrack things sound very good. Also included with this release are three subtitles options, English, Italian and German.
Extras for this release include, an intro to before the film with screenwriter / director Yosuke Fujita, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 7 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English, Italian and German subtitles), an interview with Yosuke Fujita (16 minutes 36 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English, Italian and German subtitles) and a discussion with Yosuke Fujita, actress Miyuki Oshima and Adam Torel, the man behind Third Window Films (18 minutes 57 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in English / Japanese with with English, Italian and German subtitles).
Topics discussed in the interview with Yosuke Fujita include, why there was such a long between his debut feature film, Fine, Totally Fine and Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats, who he came up with the idea for Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats, casting and working with Miyuki Oshima, his initial feelings about Miyuki Oshima portraying a male character and his thoughts on her performance now that the film is completed and audience / critical reaction to the film.
The other main extra is titled a ‘discussion’ and topics discussed in this extra include, where the inspiration for the lead character came from, securing financing and the difficulty in making films from original ideas in Japan, the origins of the project and how Miyuki Oshima portraying a man was part of this original idea and Miyuki Oshima’s thoughts on her performance. Overall Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats gets an exceptional release from Third Window Films, highly recommended.