Zone Out

Zone OutKindergarten teacher, Chinatsu is always in a state of stress. And it is at this moment that a pupil of her class is murdered. Totally distraught, Chinatsu begins to sink into a world of illusion that she can not control. (FFM)

I don’t know what they have put in the water of that city but all the characters in this movie offer a whole catalog of mental illness: Chinatsu, a kindergarten teacher, cracks under the pressure brought by all those helicopter parents and develops schizophrenia; her acupuncture doctor, Yuichi, suffers from Capgras syndrome; Naoto, a salesman bullied by his seniors, has nomophobia; Akamatsu, the convenience store clerk, suffers from Asperger; Mitsuki, Haruka’s mother, suffer from Munchausen syndrome, etc. I guess it was the purpose of the director to show with this docudrama-style movie what it is to have such illness and how difficult it can be for the families.

It is a very dark movie and the end result is, unfortunately, barely average. The storytelling is awkward and not particularly skillful, the photography feels amateurish and the acting is so-so — although, the main actress is very charming and switching the actors who plays the two Yuichi toward the end of the movie in order to unexpectedly show the schizophrenia of Chinatsu is, I must say, quite brilliant. Also, the movie is really not well served by the poor translation (in the subtitles). When I noticed two typos in the very first sentence of the movie, I knew that this would spell trouble! (unless they made it on purpose to make us feel crazy!) If it was not already obvious with the production quality, the horrible translation really smelled of tiny budget…

Finally, to really give a last pathetic impression, the absence of a translator for the Q&A at the end of the presentation (due to the minimalistic ressources of the festival this year — what? they couldn’t even find a volunteer to take up the task?) left the poor director and main actress at the mercy of their basic English language skills and made for such a laughable exchange that you could only feel sorry for them. 

However, undertaking such a difficult and serious subject requires some strength. I understand what the director was trying to achieve and I greatly appreciate his efforts (for that I give him extra points!). In a society that was repressed for so long, where you find a real epidemic of bullying (both at school and at the work place, including sexual harassment) and where an aging population is plagued by various forms of dementia, it is really not surprising to find that mental illness has become a great challenge in Japan today. Kudos to the director for trying to bring attention to this problem.

Zone Out / Regarder dans le vide (アウトゾーン / Out Zone): Japan, 2017, 115 mins; Dir.: Hiroshi Kanno; Scr.: Mari Takanashi; Phot.: Makoto Hayashi; Ed.: Aya Mitsuaka; Light.: Sousuke Yoshikado; Sound: Kazuyuki Tutiya; Mus.: Magumi Masui; Cast: Minami Matsunaka (Chinatsu), Masato Oki (Yuichi Akino), Kyoko Toyama (Kyoko), Gen Kuwayama (Naoto), Yusuke Ueda (Akamatsu), Yusuke Sugiyama (Yuichi Kagawa), Ben Hori (Hisashi Aoyama).

Screened at the Cinema Imperial (Sat. 8/25 at 16:30) as part of the “World Great” program (out of competition) of the 42nd Montreal World Film Festival. stars-2-0

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

GuernseyLiteraryAndPotatoPeelPieSocietyNot long after the end of WW2, Juliet (Lily James) receives a letter from a pig farmer in Guernsey (who’s a member of a local literary club) asking her for the address a good bookstore in London. He got her address from inside a used book she sold before the war and which somehow had made its way to this island near the coast of France. She send him one book for free at the condition that he answers three questions to explain the name of their literary club and the circumstances of its creation. The tale of their ordeal under German occupation intrigues her, therefore, being a writer herself, she invites herself for a reading at their club to make some research in preparation for a newspaper article she was asked to write. Upon arrival she notices that the founder of the club, Elisabeth (Jessica Brown Findlay), is mysteriously absent and the club members seem very secretive about her circumstances. She starts asking questions around and her enquiry will unravel a painful past and make her fall in love with the island. It’s interesting how books can touch people and change their lives forever!

Of course, it is not a perfect movie as you find, for example, many stereotypical characters (like the self-centred and possessive American, the nationalist mean informer, the nosy and religious lodger, etc.). However, it remains a very beautiful movie, that offers a well-written and touching story about the hardship of war — a time when friendship and compassionate sentiments can be quite dangerous! It’s based on the novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Interestingly, since nowadays Guernsey is too touristy, the movie was shot in North Devon with a cast in good part made of actors from Downton Abbey (Lily James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode, Penelope Wilton)! It is also noteworthy that the movie is distributed by Netflix as one of its original films (that’s where I watched it). All in all, it’s quite entertaining (critical response of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes) and an excellent movie experience. stars-4-0

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