Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers! Review
When the parents of the Wago family die in a freak double-whammy accident, the youngest child Kiyomi (Aimi Satsukawa), her bother Kazuko (Masatoshi Nagase) and his 2nd wife Machiko (Hiromi Nagasaku) are forced into having to pay off their father’s debt. Kiyomi holds down a part-time job, while Kazuko cuts wood and coal and his wife happily tends to the home and creates strange little wool people for her own amusement. Their lives are about to be shaken up with the return of big sis Sumika (Eriko Sato), herself having incurred massive debt in Tokyo during the four years she spent trying to make it as an actress, thus demanding her due inheritance from her parent’s passing.
It turns out that Sumika is incredibly bitter toward Kyomi, who at the age of 14 won a newcomer’s prize for a horror manga she wrote about her mean sister’s selfish acts, spurred on by some serious family issues when Sumika’s father refused to let her pursue her dream in Tokyo. She believes that her younger sister sullied her reputation, which in turn sparked much local gossip across the little rural town. Sumika continues to bully Kyomi at every given opportunity, while her presence takes its toll on her brother, who distances himself from Machiko even further. However, one day Sumika reads a magazine article about a director looking for an unknown actress to star in his upcoming film which follows the theme of communication. She decides to write him a letter and when she receives a response she seems all too ready to let bygones be bygones.
At just 30 years of age, Yukiko Motoya has enjoyed astonishing success as a performer, playwright and director, establishing her Gekidan theatre company as early as 2000 and subsequently winning shiny accolades and huge critical appraisal for her satirically wayward views. She’s hosted radio shows, fronted magazines and written several popular books; no surprise then that one such novel of hers, Funukedomo, Kanashimi no Ai wo Misero (which in turn followed the stage play of the same name) would be selected for a big-screen re-imaging. Lead duties fell onto commercial director Daihachi Yoshida, who personally adapted the novel into screenplay in what’s wound up a surreal and fascinating study on sibling rivalries.
Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers! is a darkly comic tale which embraces a somewhat formulaic set-up, but exceeds itself by eschewing heavy melodrama and familiar genre clichés. Another in a long line-up of films featuring dysfunctional families that we can point fingers at, Funuke doesn’t readily paint itself as a comedy nor drama feature, preferring to sit on the fence and juggle itself in as seditiously a manner as possible. The overall tone, then, is disruptive at best; for every serious turn of events there’s a bizarre and often jarring comic reaction, effective in its depiction of human fallibility. This lends a certain amount of awkwardness to the picture and there’s no denying that director Yoshida savours such moments in order to turn the tale on its head. He understands every character to a tee, and even if the wry humour might not generate huge guffaws of laughter, nor the drama resonate greatly on an emotional level, these are well realised individuals driving some poignant events.
And they have to be really, what with the director needing to find some counter for the more serious taboo-laced undercurrents involving the likes of incest, abuse and prostitution amidst strong family values. Yoshida’s script is filled with many eccentricities, from Sumika’s pig-headedness, to Kiyomi’s satirical manga creations and Machiko’s infectious good nature and penchant for making unusual dolls. Each character serves to show how little it can take to make or destroy family bonds, and they do it with odd abandonment. Aimi Satsukawa’s performance is about as understated as the cast gets, next to Masatoshi Nagase’s pitiable elder brother, yet there’s a gauged nuance to her delivery which pays off big-style toward the end of the picture. But it’s a complete toss-up between Eriko Sato’s dastardly turn as the wicked sister and Hiromi Nagasaku’s simply adorable portrayal of an innocent bystander of a wife as to who steals the show. Eriko Sato has moved forward in leaps and bounds since her ditzy and sexy turn in Hideaki Anno’s Cutie Honey, establishing herself as a classy talent, whose range goes far beyond that of what her Gravure days might have suggested. Here she’s loosely terrifying as she unleashes her bottled frustrations; an unpredictable and delusional force, willing to do anything it takes to make it big, which in turn makes her the perfect foil for Yukiko Motoya’s satirical commentary. On the other end of the scale by sheer contrast, Nagasaku’s delightfully innocent and quirky Machiko masterfully earns our sympathy, and more importantly holds our attention for every single second she’s on screen in trying so damn hard to earn the affection of her distant husband and the acceptance of her new sisters; a face so instantly loveable it’s impossible not to feel for the abuse she bravely endures.
All the while Yoshida maintains a steadied approach, his set-ups rarely waver, choosing to keep many scenes fairly static and intimate. On occasion, however, he does throw in some totally leftfield gestures which enliven some of the comic proceedings in true comic fashion, in as much as one particular outcome reveals itself through manga stylization. Such small transitions show the director as a keen craftsman, whose precise timing with his quirky interludes make the film just that little more special.
The one I thing I don’t understand is the film’s westernised title. It retains the word “Funuke” for some strange reason; Funuke meaning cowardly/weak-kneed, which leaves the overall title effectively using the same word twice. Anyway enough about that.
Third Window’s non-anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer sees the company back on shaky ground. An NTSC to PAL conversion it freely exhibit’s the usual hallmarks that will undoubtedly upset some buyers. With that said, however, the image is rather nice. Clarity is strong and colours are magnificently reproduced; the lush green environment especially grabbing attention. Flesh tones appear natural and contrast is also nicely balanced. The disc is also free from compression artefacts, so it’s not too far off from being top grade.
Likewise the Japanese DD2.0 track (which is incorrectly flagged as Korean) presents a solid soundtrack and clear dialogue. There are no noticeable defects, with my main complaint going once again to the hard-matted English subtitles, which at the very least offer a fine translation free from grammatical error.
Unpredictable, unusual and unflinching in its depiction of a self-destructive family, Funuke is something of a distant, yet strangely compelling and clever debut feature from a director well worth keeping an eye on.