Japan, 2011, colour, 16:9, 92 mins.
Director: Lin Jiawei 林家威 [Lim Kah Wai].
Character drama about a Beijing woman’s eventful first 24 hours in Osaka is modest but okay.
Beijing, Dec 2010. After hearing interesting things about Osaka, Japan, Coco (Shi Ke) tells her businessman boyfriend Jimmy (Liu Dunlin) that she wants to spend Christmas there. After a row with him, she ends up going on her own. She’s met at the airport by Chinese friend Ivy (Miyawaki Yan) who’s arranged a room for her at a family-run guesthouse, in the seedy downtown area of Shinsekai, run by the Fukuda family and their son Masanobu (Ogawa Takeru). After seeing her room, Coco refuses to stay there and storms off; Ivy later tracks her down and invites her to stay at her tiny flat. That evening Ivy takes her along to a bar where she works evenings, and Coco re-meets Fukuda Masanobu, a regular there. The two patch things up, and spend time together, along with Komei (Tomonaga Komei), the young son of the bar’s owner, Eri (Tomonaga Eri), who has fled after borrowing heavily from gangsters. Later that night Ivy gets a call from some Chinese in Osaka who demand ¥5 million within three days if she wants to see Eri alive. Meanwhile, Coco and Komei have bumped into Jun (Jun), a local fixer whom Jimmy has asked to take care of her while in Osaka.
After two false starts, Malaysian Chinese film-maker Lin Jiawei 林家威 [Lim Kah Wai] finally gets into gear with his third indie feature New World 新世界の夜明け. A straightforward story about an eventful 24 hours spent by a solo Beijing tourist in Osaka during the run-up to Christmas, the film is still archly written in places; but Lin has thrown off the alienating artiness that dogged his static After All These Years 其后 (2010) and some of his two-women mood piece Magic & Loss マジック＆ロス (2011, see poster, left). There’s a visible line of development in his three films to date that shows him moving towards a style that speaks to an audience.
Like the name of his now Japan-registered company, Cinema Drifters, Kuala Lumpur-born Lin, 38, [who studied electrical engineering at Osaka University and then directing at Beijing Film Academy,] has so far proved a genuinely pan-Asian film-maker: Years was set in China, Magic (with Japanese and South Korean actors) in scenic Meiwo [Mui Wo] on Hong Kong’s Dayushan [Lan Tau] island, and World in Beijing and the untouristy downtown area of Shinsekai in Osaka. It’s the last location, with its side streets, denizens and night life, that provides a strong sense of place for a film that’s about a young Chinese woman from glitzy but unsatisfying Beijing finding a new “home” in a culturally foreign city. The film’s Japanese title means both “Dawn of a New World” and “Dawn in Shinsekai”, and Lin ends the movie with the intertitle “to be continued…”
[Not to be confused with the identically named older Mainland actress,] Mainland actress Shi Ke 史可, 32 – in real life, married to Chinese-Japanese actor Abe Tsuyoshi 阿部力 (aka Li Zhendong 李振冬), whom she met when both worked on rom-com Stand in Love 不完全恋人 (2007) – carries the central role of Coco, the wilful Beijinger, surprisingly well, establishing a prickly, then warmer chemistry with the laidback guesthouse worker played by Ogawa Takeru 小川尊 despite neither character speaking the other’s language. Tomonaga Komei 友长光明, as a young boy Coco spends time with, and (in a later scene) Tomonaga Eri 友长エリ as his mum-on-the-run are also fine. Miyawaki Yan 宫胁ヤン, playing Coco’s Chinese friend in Osaka, makes less impression, partly because she’s saddled with too much expository/factual dialogue that doesn’t sound natural.
Lin’s script keeps the all-through-one-night story developing in an unforced way, though the curious character of a Japanese tramp who spouts Maoist slogans strikes a jarring note.
Presented by Cinema Drifters (JP).
Script: Lin Jiawei [Lim Kah Wai]. Photography: Kato Tetsuhiro. Editing: Lin Jiawei [Lim Kah Wai]. Music: Albert Yu. Art direction: Shiokawa Setsuko, Peng Suo. Costumes: Matsumoto Issei, Jin Wenyu. Sound: Miyai Noboru, Yamashita Aya.
Cast: Shi Ke (Coco), Ogawa Takeru (Fukuda Masanobu), Miyawaki Yan (Ivy, Coco’s Chinese friend), Tomonaga Komei (Komei, Eri’s son), Jun (Jun), Tomonaga Eri (Eri, bar owner), Lin Xiaojing (Xiaojing), Myotsu Fumitaka (tramp), Ando Tadafumi (Watanabe), Suzuta Nozomu (Hanako), Miyamato Kajitsu (Emi, bargirl), Hamabe Kanna (Yumi, bargirl), Tomonaga Yoshiko (middle-aged lady), Liu Dunlin (Jimmy, Coco’s boyfriend), Niimi Hiroyuki (Oyaji).
Premiere: Hong Kong Film Festival (Indie Power), 22 Mar 2011.
Release: Japan, 29 Oct 2011.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 16 Sep 2011.)