by Jeff Niesel
Highlights for this weekend's Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque schedule include two cult classics. First, there's Tommy Wiseau's The Room, a tragic psyhodrama that's attained a grassroots following five years after is initial release. Then, there's Tokyo!, a strange collection of three short films by three different directors, each of whom set their films in Tokyo. Capsule reviews follow.
The Room (US, 2003) Among film hipsters on the West Coast, cult notoriety has been conferred upon writer-director-producer-star-mogul Tommy Wiseau’s tragic psychodrama as a prime example of cinematic bulldada — something that achieves greatness by not being aware of its ineptitude. Wiseau, who kinda seems (in more ways than one) like Fabio crossed with Ed Wood, plays the lead role (no surprise there) of Johnny, a nice-guy San Francisco banking exec whose idyllic life starts to fall apart a month before his planned nuptials. Fiancée Lisa secretly doesn’t love him anymore (we are told this about four or five times) and is carrying on an affair with Mark, Johnny’s “best friend” (we are told this about 400-500 times). With English-as-a-second-language dialogue, characters who awkwardly entrez and exeunt, laughable love interludes and from-hunger acting, the world may now be laughing at Mr. Wiseau, not with him. But grant The Room this much: It’s not an amateur Tarantino/Lucas/Spielberg/Romero genre clone, like so many turkeys, but bravely blazes its own way, à la Wood’s singular Glen or Glenda. You can bet that if David Lynch or (25 years ago) Rainer Werner Fassbinder had turned in this same movie, critics would be praising it as a masterpiece of camp irony. At 9:10 p.m. Saturday, May 23. ** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)
Tokyo! (France/Japan/Germany/S. Korea, 2008) The first long(ish)-form auteur-driven omnibus project since 2004’s Eros, this colorful anthology film mixes and matches the disparate helming styles of Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Leos Carax (Lovers on the Bridge) and Bong Joon-ho (The Host) to surprisingly complementary effect. Gondry’s Interior Design is the subtlest of the bunch, a typically idiosyncratic, über-Gondrian look at a young couple (Ryo Kase and Ayako Fujitani) whose move to the big city dooms their relationship. Merde, Carax’s raucously funny contribution, scores some major laughs thanks to its Wild Man of Borneo protagonist (Denis Lavant), a sewer-dwelling urban terrorist with a passing resemblance to Godzilla. Shaking Tokyo, Bong’s concluding episode, tells the quirkily charming story of a hermit-like shut-in (Teruyuki Kagawa) who ventures outside the house for the first time in 10 years to pursue a nubile pizza delivery girl (Yû Aoi). The most surprising and gratifying thing about Tokyo! is how remarkably consistent it is in terms of overall quality. Each segment is approximately 30 minutes, and while nobody really scores a home run, the conspicuous lack of clunkers — the bane of most works of this type — makes it a diverting showcase for three of the most original directors in cinema today. At 8:50 p.m. Friday, May 22, and 7 p.m. Sunday, May 24. *** (Milan Paurich)