Groper Train: Wedding Capriccio Review
This movie is a work of fiction…maybe. So goes the cursory opening reel as it loosely establishes a form of context by acknowledging a growing epidemic of phantom fondlers - who prey on their victims on crowded trains - while nevertheless preparing to take us once more on a trip into the greater realms of fantasy.
Following on from Groper Train: Search for the Black Pearl in the same year, Groper Train: Wedding Capriccio (or Departure Whistle known domestically) continues the investigative adventures of private eye Ippei Kuroda (Yukijiro Hotaru) and his lovely assistant Hamako (Yuka Takemura). When Hiromi receives a letter informing her that her arranged fiancé, Kuma (Yutaka Ikejima), is to leave the countryside in order to visit her in Tokyo, she hurriedly hatches a plan to find herself a temporary husband, with the hopes that Kuma will accept her happiness and never bother her again. Kuroda certainly won’t do it, which leaves her to scout out a man who would laugh in the face of scruples. That man just happens to be composer Gin “Napoleon Gin” Ono - the son of Kuroda’s most recent client. Kuroda has been busy with his latest case, having recently been in contact with billionaire government official Daikichi “Mr. Big” Ono. The former arms dealing patriot informs Kuroda that he has just days to live, and wishes for the detective to track down his runaway daughter, Hiromi, who has managed to hook up with an ex-con. Kuroda is going to have to get unorthodox once more if he’s to find the missing girl, but he’s about to uncover quite the conspiracy when it comes to finding out who is to be the heir of Ono’s fortune.
By the time that Yojiro Takita got behind the lens for his seventh picture in the Groper Train series, it seemed that the specifically geared tales of Kuroda and Hamako had well run its course. Granted he’d go on to direct further instalments with some of the franchise’s existing actors, but the general formatting here no doubt served little to surprise those who already knew what to expect of the characters and their placement within a story of taboo-laced sex and suspense. Perhaps that explains why he chose to do what all good series involving quirky, seemingly plutonic partnerships do: pair together its leads and bid everyone a fond farewell. The idea of using a wedding to threaten the cosy existence of our two likeable protagonists is a sound idea, and indeed it even serves to provide the director with an opportunity to make light of Japanese miai tradition. It’s especially fun once Hamako’s fiancé Kuma arrives on the scene and turns out to be a hopeless, though oddly loveable, country bumpkin, who finds himself totally alienated within the big wide city of technological advancements (we’re talking elevators here). That, coupled with Hamako’s pretentious screwhead of a husband makes for some highly entertaining moments that do well to build upon the film’s schizophrenic nature and allow it to enjoy a steadier pace over its predecessor. It’s only somewhat of a shame that Takita doesn’t afford Kuroda and Hamako a little bit more of meaningful build up, rather than simply uniting them come the closing reel.
But then that’s not entirely surprising given what he’s actually working with here. Keeping true to its tried and tested formula, Takita does splendidly well in juggling his comedic love triangle, whilst imbuing the tale with an entertaining - albeit conventional - mystery and of course throwing in oodles of sex, which sees him continue to push the envelope in terms of what he can get away with. The consensual offerings are a fair bit racier than in Search for the Black Pearl, although most lack some of its more stylistic flourishes, while the obligatory kazoo-themed train groping/investigation scenario proves just as ridiculous in crossing the boundaries of bad taste. But what makes Wedding Capriccio that much more fun is in its unusual embracing of noir thrillers and Spielberg science fiction. The final act is a delightfully absurd homage to classic Hollywood cinema; a wonderfully executed gag involving Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s iconic ditty stemming from a pocket calculator gives rise to a glowing phallus that would make a Jedi blush; a dreamy neon-lit rooftop encounter, and a culmination of mock E.T. imagery. There’s a lot here that needs to be seen to be believed, but one thing is for certain - that Yojiro Takita lets these characters go out with a bang, and it’s quite an unforgettable thing to witness.
The folk over at Pink Eiga have put in a nice amount of effort in restoring GP: Wedding Capriccio to the best of their capabilities. While the transfer retains the usual problems of being non-progressive and non-anamorphic, I have to say it looks very nice given its poor quality source material. I had been informed directly by co-founder Nadav Streett that the film arrived in such a terrible state that certain scenes were practically impossible to discern, particularly the train groping sequences, which as a result needed to be re-timed and colour corrected. Thankfully Pink Eiga has shown fair restraint and as such the transfer comes across natural throughout. Colour is well balanced and contrast and black levels also have a natural air - far better than the muddier look of the previous release. Detail is also surprisingly good, a tad soft naturally, but with strong clarity in close-ups. The only other downside is spots of mosquito noise, which is more evident on the opening titles and hard-matted English subtitles.
The 2.0 Japanese audio is fine. It’s a fairly low-end offering which tends to perform better during the sex scenes and moments of raised scoring. Dialogue is clear and there are no noticeable faults by way of drop outs etc. Likewise the hard English subtitles exhibit no grammatical errors, though on occasion the translation takes a few liberties with dialogue for extra comic effect.
Riding the Groper Train - Part 2: The Rise and Fall of Groper Train continues the interview with director/actor Yutaka Ikejima from the previous DVD release, who discusses in this instalment the more immediate decline of groper train related movies. As expected, the reasons correlate with recent shifts in Japanese prevention laws, and while it’s a short piece it certainly makes a good primer for those unfamiliar with this particular oddity.
We also have mini biographies for Yojiro Takita, Yuka Takemura, Yukijiro Hotaru and Yutaka Ikejima; a photo gallery; a look at the theatrical poster, and finally trailers for the main feature and other Pink Eiga releases.