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||IMDB Rating: 6.0/10 from N/A votes
||Release: N/A /
||Director: Shion Sono,
||Synopsis: Under-achievers Shiro and Keita manage to survive delivering newspapers. They are otherwise on their own since their peers had all left for university three years earlier. Passing the ...
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This is an early Sono Shion effort, both directed and acted by him,
that has not received enough attention despite the cult status the
director has achieved. Yet a lot of Sono's trademarks are already
present in 'Jidensha Toiki', from the disregard for conventional modes
of storytelling to the gripping imagery and maladapted cast.
This is something of a coming of age movie but told in a strange way as
is to be expected from Sono. While not quite a character study it is
the characters that propel the movie forward. Sono plays Shiro, one of
the leads, a young man who is somewhat stranded having failed to enter
college and who regresses into the pat by obsessing about a movie he
started with his high school friends; one of this is the other lead,
Keita, who is also in a limbo of sorts regarding his future. Then there
is Shiro's younger sister Katako who suffered from polio but recovered
due to a running routine that she retains and Keita's ex-girlfriend who
is studying in Tokyo.
The plot is simple enough, youths adrift in a small town in Japan cling
to movie making as they go through emotional breakdown but the way it
all transpires on screen is hardly conventional. There seems to be a
self referential element to 'Jidensha Toiki', not only is the main
played by Sono himself as he is driven to pursue movie making to the
exclusion of all else.
This movie-within-a-movie is interesting in itself. It features a
baseball game with invisible players, the first of all is a tall figure
wearing a Godzilla mask, then it spirals into a conspiracy with plenty
of cheesy B-movie techniques of shooting. Meanwhile this mysterious
masked person takes off with a line marker and goes on a journey that
later comes to play into the narrative proper.
A lot of this movie-within-a-movie is shot in a ruined playground that
morphs into the headquarters of the bad guys once the conspiracy
subplot kicks in. It results in one of the most impressive images as it
becomes all lit up. But in the reality of the movie in which Shiro,
Keita and the others exist this playground is a hangout place that
makes sense: they all fail to progress into the future, in Shiro's
words 'time stopped for me when high school ended', so it figures they
should haunt ruined hallmarks of childhood.
'Jidensha Toiki' seems to veer into Lynchian territory on occasion:
Keita's father who is pushing for him to succeed him as the head of the
family hospital and as such study medicine, only appears wearing an
animal suit and masks abound in unlikely situations. Perhaps to display
how alienated the characters are.
As the title implies (Bicycle Sighs) there is plenty of riding of
bicycles of also having a funeral for one and burning another.
Following lines starts out as a quirk in the movie they are shooting to
then gain a symbolic depth as the movie moves toward its ambiguous
What makes the movie difficult to follow is not so much the medium,
there is a lot of hand-held camera before such a method became popular,
as the characters' reactions. Everyone seems gradients of insanity with
bursts of self-affirmation that seem doomed to fail. These means of
making a stand are very Japanese: Katako write 'watashi' (a formal
unisex pronoun for 'I') on a flag, climbs on the house's roof and
shouts her name that she explains in its meaning ('Kata' meaning
'route' and 'Ko' meaning 'child') and Shiro writes 'ore' (informal male
pronoun for 'I') on a flag and runs around town waving it after having
a fallout with Keita.
Not a lot is explaining but the viewer can feel a shared history
between these characters and how much at a loss they are. The movie
moves from non-conventional to almost surreal as it progresses but it
remains solid throughout. Instead of the usual flashbacks we have the
movies they make: Keita's movie about his girlfriend is a short silent
piece that tells more than a lot of dialogue would have done.
The acting is good even if at times veers into overreacting. Overall,
'Jidensha Toiki' is a small movie with a lot to say that may not always
come across all that well. It is an indie production that knows how to
use its potential limitations to its advantage. While apparently
disjointed there is a lot of deliberate structure underneath it all and
recurring themes that tie it all together.
Fans of Sono's well known works should give this a go if only for the
sake of curiosity. Those not familiar with Sono should probably not
choose 'Jidensha Toiki' as their introduction to such a forceful and
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