Now for something completely different. Milocrorze: A Love Story (ミロクローゼ) comes to us with a reputation preceding it. That is made its debut at the aptly named Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions should be indicative that Milocrorze is not your average bear, but that it also took out Best Director, Audience Award – Best Asian Feature (Silver), Most Innovative Feature and the Guru Prize for the Most Energetic Feature (Silver) at the Fantasia Film Festival this year makes it harder to dismiss as just another flash in the pan work of a commercial director. Indeed, director Ishibashi Yoshimasa’s work on television variety shows and commercial work could have scarcely prepared the world for the onslaught of this feature, easily one of the most original creations of the last decade.
Milocrorze is, as the extended title would imply, a story about love. Actually, it is three stories about love that all intersect and intertwine in a visual feast of dance, storybook charm, samurai violence and just plain eye-candy. Yamada Takayuki (13 Assassins) plays three different characters, each who doggedly pursue love. The first of these, Ovreneli Vreneligare, is a seven-year old boy who lives with his cat Verandola Gorgonzola, before falling in love with Milocrorze (Maiko, Space Battleship Yamato). They live together, until one day she disappears. Then there’s Kumagai Besson (Yamada Takayuki), a celebrity counsellor for young men who is just as likely to insult his clients before engaging a dance routine than actually help them. One day, he runs over three men in his limousine. This brings us to the third story, where one of those men Tamon (Takayuki), seeks his kidnapped wife, gradually turning from a flower seller to a ronin. Finally, we return to the adult Ovreneli Vreneligare, who now wears a saucepan lit on his chest to cover the hole in his heart.
It may be going for aesthetic appeal over substance, but that doesn’t stop anything in this bat-shit crazy film from being undeniably cool. From the storybook styling of the opening and closing sequences, through to the bloodbath that surrounds Tamon, everything is playing on the hyper-kinetic cinema that has proven to be a winner for Japanese film-goers over the last few decades. The strongest of the sections is undoubtedly around Kumagai Besson, who has the uncanny ability to summon a spontaneous synchronised dance sequence. It distills everything that is terrific about Milocrorze: it is short, sharp, irreverent and completely off the wall. If Sion Sono makes a musical, it will probably look like this.
Not all of the sections are as consistently strong, although the problem is not necessarily one of quality as too much of a good thing. Case in point is Tamon’s ronin-like journey, while being incredibly cool and full of the kinds of samurai bloodletting that would make any jidai-geki fan squeal with delight, it goes on for a little too long, perhaps losing sight of the fact that this is, after all, a love story. However, the fact that we can switch from a musical to a bit of decent swordplay within a few scenes is a phenomenal achievement, especially given that Yoshimasa manages to maintain a cohesive feel throughout the film. By the time we return to the story of an adult Ovreneli Vreneligare, and a seemingly ageless Milocrorze, you will have completely bought into the world or be desperately looking for water to help you get down off the trip you’ve found yourself on. Both are valid responses in this one-of-a-kind work of a twisted genius, who will hopefully have many more of these in the bag.
Milocrorze: A Love Story is playing at the Japanese Film Festival on 25 November (Sydney) and 5 December (Melbourne) 2011 at the 15th Japanese Film Festival in Australia.