World cinema retro-review: Love my life (Japan, 2006) (after a trip to central London)

canary-wharf So I took some time off from my frenzied reviewing to enjoy a day out in central London. Since the sun in London is equivalent to a UFO sighting, people rush like mad to any available surface where sunlight can  shine through. I was no exception. As a person from the tropics, where the weather is always either hot, or hotter, inordinate amounts of sunlight is the norm not the exception – unlike here in London. Anyway, so  I went to Trafalgar Square, then Leicester Square where China town was, for some much needed Chinese food, then by a series of train changes found my way  to Canary Wharf, a very posh, expensive area of London near the River Thames, famous for its buildings as it is for its yuppies and other wealthy folk. Unfortunately, the weather, being British, started to turn all awry, and it started raining when I got to the riverside. Thus I had to abandon what could have been a nice day out for the comfort and shelter of the ubiquitous mall. Anyway, some really bad, expensive vanilla chai tea from Pret A Manger helped me clear my head and so I am now able to proceed to the job of reviewing films, separating the wheat from the chaff so you won’t have to watch the bad ones. ^^

Anyway, I have devised a new rating system for the review of anything in popular culture. Someone once said, “Whenever I hear of culture,I reach for my gun”. I say, whenever I encounter a bad film (be it gay or otherwise), all I can think of as a fitting ending is for the writer to get a gun, shoot the director, the cast, the producer then finally shoot himself/herself, then we would be spared from a bad film. As such, I would rate a movie based on guns. The more guns, the worse the film is.No guns means the film is really good.

Another rating system I have come up with is the “nail” factor rating system, which rates how accurate the depiction of lesbian reality in the film is. The more nails, the less accurate the depiction to the point of stereotypes. The less nails the better.

Hence, let the ratings begin!

Love My Life

So the other reason why I started this blog is because I have some straight female friends who are, strangely and inexplicably fascinated with lesbian films (and Shane McCutcheon from the L-Word and the L-Word) and I thought it would be nice to keep each other informed of and entertained by, lesbian films (and other things queer).

During one of those pre-blog days when they used to chat with me so they could get the lowdown on lesbian films, I recommended this film, “Love my Life”. Now, having been, at one point in our lives or other, been ESL teachers lml22to sustain ourselves, we have become quite good at geeking out over the importance of the preposition in the sentence (although the split infinitive is still the bane of my existence), differentiating between the present, present perfect and present, present, (really) present tense, sentence constructions and so on. Anyway, when I recommended “Love my life” – my friend, Ame, did not know how to make of what I just said. She asked me, “Dude, are you changing the subject? Are you telling me you love your life? Or is that the title of the film?” I answered that it was the latter.

If I had the chance, I’d think I’d tell the director, former soft-core porn director, Koji Kawano, “Dude, you forgot your pronoun in the beginning of your movie title!”

That title, which seems an incomplete, haphazard, poorly thought out title, probably sums up and gives one an idea how this movie will pan out.

Of the Asian movies I’ve reviewed thus far (except “Memento Mori”), this is the one that I was the most disappointed with.

Now, I shouldn’t really be reviewing this at all because when I watched it, it was all in Japanese, with Chinese language subtitles. My knowledge of Nihonggo is pathetic and my knowledge of Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien or any of the other Chinese dialects is nil, so I was basically relying on my own storytelling skills, the facial expressions of the characters, the angle, lighting, seasons, weather, music, and so on to figure out what the story was.I find myself saying, “Oh, that pretty character’s voice has gone up, she has knitted her brows, she slaps her girlfriend – they must be fighting…” or “Oh, they’re making out – they must be making out“, or “Oh, they’re in the bathtub…they must be taking a bath”, or “Oh…they’re naked…they must have made out earlier”.

I wasn’t too worried about my next to zero knowledge of the Japanese or any of the Chinese dialects – my experience of watching Japanese films tell me that you don’t really need the English subtitles to figure out what the story is all about. A few years ago, I saw renowed director Kinji Fukasaku’s “Battle Royale” on the Wowow channel, in Japanese and that certainly as hell didn’t need any translation, as you will see from the following clip (warning: don’t watch this if you are eating, or have kids near you or if you don’t like violent, blood and gore films like “Kill Bill”. Ok…you’ve been warned.):

I rest my case.

Anyway, “Love my Life” is no exception.

It is actually the universal, classic, cliched, tried and tested so much it has become blase rom-com formula, based on the “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back” story. Except in this case, it’s “girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl wins girl back” story.

Rei Yoshii plays Ichiko, a lesbian college student working part-time at a record store. She is perpetually excruciatingly perky, happy-go-lucky  and chipper, which is a contrast to her brooding, sensitive, serious, driven (but really hot!) girlfriend, law student Eri (Japanese model Asami Imajuku). Note to self: lesbians seem to attract their opposites (please see previous reviews for this. Either writers are talking to each other or this is the lesbian nature order of things).

Anyway, what follows is basically a slice of life in the lives of our young Japanese lesbian lovers, as each character navigates through familial, socio-cultural, platonic, romantic and personal waters. Rei’s father surprises her one day with the revelation that he and her late mother were gay and lesbian (respectively, not at the same time) and that they had married for convenience to shield themselves from social ostracism. Rei’s gay friend and classmate is going through a crisis of his own and Rei helps him come to terms with it. Rei makes out with an older lesbian, a punk rocker who frequents her record store, and guiltily confesses to Eri afterwards. Eri forgives her. Eri has a row with her brother and father, mostly about her future and we see her struggling to prove that even though she’s a woman she can make it as a lawyer. The climax of the story is when they fight during Christmas eve, a turning point in the story when Rei decides to grow up and find a job, and Eri decides to…well…write a book called, “Love my Life”. They get back together. They make out. End of story.

My one beef with this story is that as I was watching it, after I watched it, I felt that all these characters, especially the main ones, Rei and Eri, were already self-contained, despite their character flaws. They didn’t seem to have any real crisis or flaw that would merit a movie being made about them. While it is nice to find a Japanese film that’s positive and light, I felt a bit like I’d only ate the appetizer and had not been served the main course. ^^ There was too much of an MTV-like, insubstantial, superficial, thing to it and it’s only saving grace is that Asami Imajuku (Eri) is easy on the eyes, and so that saves this film from being utter rubbish (note to self: If the story is bad, it’s alright. Just put in really pretty actors.)


Nail factor: long-nails-2

out of

long-nails(for the “ouch factor”. Points if you get what I mean).

Overall Rating:

small-gun-pic2 out of 5 guns, for making it look a bit soft-core porn, a bit like it was made for a male audience instead of the demographic it should be representing.

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