Monday, August 02, 2021

Fantasia ’21: Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes

You can find the Droste Effect in the paintings of M.C. Escher and the packaging of Morton Salt, Land O’Lakes Butter, and the eponymous Droste cocoa. You can also find it in the Kato’s laid-back hipster café. In addition to a vintage Droste cocoa tin, his friends have used the Droste Effect to extend a two-minute time loop Junta Yamaguchi’s wildly clever Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, which screens as an on-demand selection of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

After a hard day of work at the café, Kato retires to his upstairs apartment, where to his surprise, he starts talking to himself on his computer monitor. According to his other self, he is speaking from the café’s closed-circuit TV, from two minutes in the future. Apparently, a very limited time-loop has opened up, which his scheming slacker friends find far more interesting than he does. Eventually, they bring together the monitor and the CC-TV to face each other, creating a Droste Effect. Of course, all Heck will break lose when they start giving themselves actionable tips from the future.

Makoto Ueda’s utterly original screenplay will make your head spin if you try to break down the internal logic, but the breakneck energy of Yamaguchi’s execution will keep you deliriously distracted. It is hard to say whether, strictly speaking, this is a time travel movie or a time loop movie, but it hardly matters. Largely shot on iPhones (probably partly out of necessity, due to the tight spaces of the upstairs rooms),
Infinite Two Minutes is easily the most inventive science fiction movie, since maybe the films of Melies.

Yamaguchi’s film has been likened to
One Cut of the Dead, not just for its scrappy resourcefulness but also its one-continuous take structure. Yet, Infinite Two Minutes is particularly impressive in that respect, because it features scenes of cast-members playing opposite themselves. Frankly, it required a nearly superhuman feat of traffic-directing.

Yet, at the center of the chaos, Kazunari Tosa is wonderfully Charlie Brown-like as the shy, awkward Kato. Aki Asakura also brings a lot energy and refreshingly down-to-earth attitude playing Megumi, the daughter of the next-door barber, whom Kato carries a torch for—and inadvertently drags into his friends’ Droste-time madness.

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
is a joyous example of how much you can accomplish on film with a cool idea and a handful of like-minded collaborators. If you enjoy DIY science fiction and high-concept time-trickery, you will love this film. Very highly recommended, it screens as an on-demand selection of this year’s Fantasia.