Phantom (2013)


Heads that talk.

Heads that talk.

(2013) Drama (Ganko) Yuki Fujita, Masato Tsujioka. Directed by Jonathan Soler

We are used to movies being a certain way, telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. However, there are no laws when it comes to making a movie. A filmmaker of sufficient imagination and courage can choose to make a movie in any state they want. While we generally call these Art Films and they appeal to a very limited audience here in the United States, some of the world’s most beloved and acclaimed movies fall under this characterization.

Phantom is a movie shot by a French filmmaker in Tokyo over a six month period. The dialogue consists of a man and a woman talking. Both of them are young people, recently out of college. They are boyfriend and girlfriend and are very worried about their immediate future – the woman is essentially unemployed, picking up menial one day jobs (such as holding up a cardboard sign inviting patrons to come into a restaurant or arcade) and her rent is coming do. She has no idea how she’s going to pay it.

The man is comforting and has a job of his own but there isn’t much left over to help her pay her rent. They spend an evening talking about things that concern young people – what does the future hold? Who am I? What is my place in the world? Do I even have one?

And that’s essentially it. Oh, one more thing – rather than just filming the two people talking, Soler superimposes images of the couple doing things around Tokyo as well as images he captured randomly while walking around the Japanese capital. Some of the images are beautiful, others less so but there is often an oblique connection with what is being said in the dialogue.

This is a movie that isn’t going to appeal to audiences that think that the Twilight series is the height of filmmaking, or any movie that doesn’t have a superhero in it is not worth their time. It takes some work and patience. It requires some listening skills. While having a bit of focus and concentration is useful, one can also choose to watch it with their minds wide open and let the images take their imagination wherever it takes them.

In other words, there isn’t just one way to watch this film. There also isn’t just one way to take this film. For my own part, I found it a useful way to get at least a modicum of understanding of the mindset of young people; as a middle aged film critic that can be very useful indeed, reminding me that the things that face the generation currently making their way into adulthood are far more challenging than what faced my generation, or at least challenging in a different way.

The movie is in Japanese with English subtitles. One of the things that I really like about the movie is the way its set up; we see the woman come home to her shabby apartment after her day’s work. She makes herself a package of instant ramen noodles, has a shower and goes to sleep. Then the conversation with the boyfriend begins. The way the dialogue works, we aren’t 100% certain whether the boyfriend came to her apartment late and the conversation is taking place after his arrival or whether she is dreaming the conversation. Maybe her whole life is a dream. That’s really up to your own interpretation.

It should be noted that the movie hasn’t received a North American release as of yet. The filmmakers are reportedly hoping to secure a North American DVD release but at this time the film has only seen release in France and on French home video. Go to their website by clicking on the photo above if you would like more information about the movie and any news about future availability in North America – my understanding is that the current DVD release is in Japanese with English subtitles and can be purchased from Amazon’s French website so it may be a pricey proposition to get it sent to an American address. Perhaps as an alternative it may be available for online streaming at some point.

This is very much a movie in which what you get out of it depends on what you’re willing to put into it. Again, not everyone is going to appreciate that. However, if you are willing to put in some time, some thought and some imagination, you may well find this to be a rewarding experience. Even if you don’t like the movie, I suspect you may well respect what Soler is trying to accomplish. While I can’t recommend it to my general readership, more adventurous film buffs may want to give this one a whirl.

REASONS TO GO: Dream-like atmosphere. Some really nifty cinematography. Thought-provoking.

REASONS TO STAY: You’re essentially listening in on an hour and 20 minute conversation. Requires a certain amount of patience and z

FAMILY VALUES:  There is some sensuality.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Much of the movie was shot in the streets of Tokyo with a hand-held DSLR Canon EOS SD Mark II.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/2/14: The movie hasn’t received an American release as of yet and as such has not yet been reviewed on either Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: My Dinner with Andre

FINAL RATING: 5.5/10

NEXT: Pompeii

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New Releases for the Week of March 1, 2013


Jack the Giant Slayer

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

(New Line) Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor, Eddie Marsan, Ewen Bremner, Warwick Davis. Directed by Bryan Singer

Take a brave and handsome farmboy, a rebellious princess, a pompous knight, a slimy sycophant looking to oil his way into ruling a kingdom, a concerned father and a kingdom full of giants looking to right an ancient wrong and you have Bryan Singer’s latest extravaganza. Hopefully writer Christopher McQuarrie and Singer along with a solid cast will elevate this above the tepid fantasy fare we’ve suffered through of late.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: PG-13 (for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language)

21 and Over

(Relativity) Miles Teller, Justin Chon, Skylar Astin, Sarah Wright. A straight-edge college student turns 21 on the eve of an important med school interview. His hardass dad wants him to stay home and get some rest before the big day but his dumbass friends want to go out and par-tay. Guess which side is the most persuasive.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Teen Coming of Age Comedy

Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking)

The Attacks of 26/11

(Eros International) Nana Patekar, Atul Kulkarni, Sanjeev Jaiswal, Ganesh Yadav. The coordinated attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 in which at 164 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded drew global condemnation. This movie shows how those attacks were carried out.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: NR

The Last Exorcism Part II

(CBS) Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, Joe Chrest. A trio of childhood friends decide to unite to start their own business – a cricket training academy. In India where cricket is like hockey for Canadians, it seems like a slam dunk of an idea – but the hurdles facing them are large and not so easily surmounted.

See the trailer, a promo and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for horror violence, terror and brief language)

Phantom

(RCR) Ed Harris, David Duchovny, William Fichtner, Lance Henriksen. During the height of the Cold War, the captain of a Soviet nuclear submarine is rushed into a classified mission. He’s been hiding that he has been suffering seizures that have altered his perception of reality, leading him to hallucinate to the point where he’s never quite sure what is real and what isn’t. With a rogue group off KGB agents on the ship bent on gaining control of the missiles, there may be darker things happening aboard this vessel which might just precipitate nuclear annihilation.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action Thriller

Rating: R (for violence)