Japan Cuts Festival of New Japanese Film (all virtual this year).
Kozo Haginoya is now semi-retired, so he has time for the extra work that comes his way through the Lark Agency. He mostly appears in Jidaigeki period productions filmed at the near-by Warp Station Edo, a model samurai-era town. Yet, his dream is to play a fireman, like Steve McQueen in Towering Inferno. Regardless, it will be touch-and-go for him just trying to make it through this episode of The Claws of Edo.
Unfortunately for Lark, Haginoya will not be Lark’s most embarrassing client. That’s when Extro takes a rather madcap turn. Murahashi definitely gives Japanese extras the Waiting for Guffman treatment, but he is so deadpan about it, the film’s zaniness totally sneaks up on the audience. For at least the first hour, viewers could be fooled into thinking they are watching a legit documentary, especially given the presence of real-life stars like Yuki Saito, Koji Yamamoto, and Riho Miaki (a.k.a. J-Pop star Riho Kotani), playing themselves.
Extro still makes a case for all the intangibles extras bring to a production. Fittingly, they start and end with legendary director Nobuhiko Obayashi rhapsodizing over the verisimilitude extras provide—and the events of the film ultimately bear him out. This is certainly a goofy comedy, but it still wears its love for movie-making magic on its sleeve.
So, with respects to Haginoya, a star might just be born in Extro—or perhaps not. In any event, he makes the most of his turn in the spotlight. Established stars like Saito and Yamamoto also deserve credit for being jolly good sports. Highly recommended for fans of Japanese cinema, Extro screens virtually through July 30th, as part of the 2020 Japan Cuts.