Kyô no Dekigoto (A Day on the Planet) Review
From the early morning to the evening before and back again, Kyô no Dekigoto (A Day on the Planet) opens with a stop to pick up snacks on the way home from a party. Inside the car, his girlfriend Maki (Rena Tanaka) lies sleeping while Nakazawa (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and Kate (Ayumi Ito) look through the food on offer to keep their hunger at bay. It's been a long night and despite eating earlier, they're hungry once again. Back in the car and as she wakes up, Maki complains about Nakazawa's refusing to buy a skirt that she wanted, his attention is elsewhere, concerned both with his appetite as well as the party he's driving home from, a housewarming party hosted by his good friend Masamichi (Shuuji Kashiwabara).
On arriving and getting in out of the cold night air, the party plays out over a meal and drinks. Afterwards, the girls sit in the kitchen drinking, dragging Nishiyama (Masaki Miura) out onto the balcony to drunkenly cut his hair whilst the boys retreat to the living room to play Romance of the Three Kingdoms. With China unified, the boys catch up on the events of the day, including a guy trapped in the space between two buildings and a whale that has been beached. As the media and crowds of onlookers move from one to the other, the nation's interest follows them. As the party dies down, so too is the guy left alone with a rescue team. And on the beach, so the whale is left alone with a young schoolgirl, the one who first found it and who has remained by its side all night, wishing that it would return to the sea.
Kyô no Dekigoto is defined by its title, taking in three separate stories around the city of Kyoto. The first, that of the housewarming party in Masamichi's new flat carries most of the action and out of it is threaded the other two via stories caught on the television. Or rather, despite mention of action, there's awfully little of it in Kyô no Dekigoto. Even when, on a bicycle ride in search of beer, Masamichi is struck by a car in a hit-and-run, the camera watches him impassively, only moving when Masamichi's mobile phone rings and he answers it. That the telephone call lasts for a few minutes, is concerned with Masamichi's whereabouts and that of his girlfriend and passes by as Masamichi sips from a bottle of beer says much about the nature of Kyô no Dekigoto and how it largely passes by without incident.
Told with a mix of flashbacks and in standard form, Kyô no Dekigoto hops and skips through its three stories without much regard for plotting. Some proof of this is in how it doesn't much care for drawing the three strands of the film together, with a news reader and her filmed reports drawing some connection but not a good deal beyond the obvious. Otherwise, there is very little common ground between the three stories and even between the characters in the main piece, that of the housewarming party. Taken as one, Masamichi and his friends are something of a disparate bunch. There are what you might call the geeks, being a quieter and more studious crowd, as well as Nishiyama, who, by way of having his character defined by writer/director Isao Yukisada and co-writer Shôichi Masuko, wears a Metallica T-shirt and sports long hair. Despite the thrill when it arrives, it's not unexpected when a drunk Nishiyama lashes out at the quieter Kawachi (Toshinobu Matsuo) but one can't help but think that the moment is less a reflection of reality than the need to add tension to a film that's often much in need of it.
But there is humour in the film, which is probably its saving grace. Kawachi's inoffensiveness actually grates so it's something of a treat when his girlfriend Chiyo (Chizuru Ikewaki) castigates him for being so. Indeed, she's often as rude as he is nice, which provokes some argument in favour of karmic balance, but which is otherwise just an amusing construct in the film. The manner in which the young waiter became trapped between the two buildings is also quite funny and there's a decent story centred around a failing relationship and the videogame Romance of the Three Kingdoms but these are but minor moments in a film that's, in the main, short of such moments. Even as we might think of the beached whale or a guy trapped between two buildings as events worthy of a few moments out of our day, Kyô no Dekigoto places them in its world as mere diversions to the very ordinary story of friendships and love affairs between a small group of friends. Actually, one might call it dull but perhaps that was the intention of the piece, showing that life, or a day on the planet as it's described here, is less the stuff that we may expect of the movies but is, instead, quite dreary but always precious.
It's probably unfair to say that Kyô no Dekigoto is an average looking release but on first look, that's pretty much what it is. And yet as the film goes on, what becomes clear is that it's drab visuals and muted colours, contrary to what one might expect of a Japanese film, are perfectly in keeping with the manner in which the film plays down what little action there is as well as placing its cast within some dreadfully-decorated apartments and clothing. At times, the dull browns threaten to muddy one's appreciation of the film but given how it tells a couple of extraordinary tales in a very ordinary fashion, it seems right that the film looks the way that it does.
The quality of the transfer isn't bad but the picture isn't as sharp as it could have been with some of the fault laid at the poor quality of the night shoots, which aren't as clear as the daylight shots seen during flashbacks. There is a slight shake to the picture, which is most obvious when looking at the subtitles, but isn't so apparent in the picture and is not noticeable during the watching of the film. The audio track, being a Japanese DD5.1 with English subtitles, is equally muted with little coming from the rear speakers. This is, however, what one might expect given that Kyô no Dekigoto is a talky film short on action but it is mixed well and the dialogue is clear about the background noise. The subtitles, at least to my untrained ear, look to be accurate and make decent attempts at slang and the chatter of teenagers with there being only a couple of obvious mistakes.
As well as a Teasers and Trailers (43s, 2m32s, 17s, 62s, 62s) on the first disc, there is a second disc of extras but which offers little to those unable to understand the Japanese dialogue or the Korean subtitles. First up is a series of eight Interviews and Rare Clips (Play All, 46m22s) that mixes behind-the-scenes footage with shots of the cast talking directly to camera. There are yet more interviews with the cast and crew - eight of one, five of the other - in the next section on the disc but which are presented more formally, likely to be during a press tour in support of the film. Once again, these are presented in Japanese with Korean subtitles and offer nothing outside of an audience fluent in either language.
Carrying on the efforts of the cast during a press tour is the next section, which offers glimpses of the young and very attractive cast as they arrive at and host press conferences and photo opportunities prior to showings of the film (5m07s, 6m16s and 3m03s). Finally, there is a Cast Diary consisting of pages of Japanese text for each of the main eight members of the cast. There are no English subtitles or alternative printings for this section.
Not bad but never really working as a series of interlocking stories, this skews heavily towards the housewarming party but which is often the least interesting part of Kyô no Dekigoto. When done right, such as in Daiteiden no Yoru ni, it can be marvellous but this doesn't quite work, never finding a common ground between the three. It ends well, though, capturing that early-morning, been-up-all-night feeling that often follows a party and with a smart final line, one wishes that we'd seen more of Chiyo, perhaps the only character who explained, within the limits of the story, just how important every hour of each day is.