Saturday, June 27, 2015

NYAFF ’15: Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers

It has been a rough couple of years for cartoonists. Although young Kiyomi Wago does not have a fatwah hanging over her head, her family banned her from drawing horror manga, scapegoating her gory images for all their problems. Yet, they constantly provide fresh inspiration with their ghastly behavior. Frankly, they need another dose of manga humiliation as comeuppance for all their acting-out in Daihachi Yoshida’s Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 New York Asian Film Festival.

Wago’s parents recently perished in a fatal car crash, involving an adorable kitten. Her spoiled older sister Sumika will not offer much consolation when she finally makes it home. The family had been supporting her dubious acting career, but she only has debts and burned bridges to show for her efforts. She expects to continue dominating their half-brother Shinji, because of the incestuous control she exerts over him, even though he is now married to his naïve internet bride, Machiko. Unfortunately, Sumika still blames Kiyomi for scandalizing the family when she won an amateur contest with the story of her irrational attempt to murder their now late father. Needless to say, Sumika is not ready to forgive and forget.

By the way, Funuke is a comedy, more or less. Yes, you could say it is a somewhat dark one in terms of tone. In fact, Yoshida maintains an almost unclassifiable vibe, like Ozu mixed with Sirk and a dash of John Waters and then launched on a grain alcohol bender.

You may not fully understand the term “hot mess” until you have seen Eriko Sato as Sumika Wago. She is a force, which makes it so rewarding to watch Aimi Satsukawa’s Kiyomi learn to assert her inner Daria. It is subtle, yet substantial arc of character development that she carries off quite well. However, Hiromi Nagasaku might actually be too good as earnest Machiko. She just makes you want to slap everyone around her. As a result, poor Masatoshi Nagase and his character Shinji never stand a chance. They just get buried by the stronger personas surrounding them.

In a way, Funuke is an ode to the cathartic power of artistic expression—specifically through manga in this case. Fortunately, it features a good deal of art by Noroi Michiru that is striking in its own right and absolutely perfect in the dramatic context of the film. At times, Yoshida’s adaptation of Yukiko Motoya’s novel feels excessively mean towards Machiko, but its edge is impressive. Recommended for manga fans who think the last good comedy to play at Sundance was The House of Yes, Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers! screens this coming Monday (6/29) at the Walter Reade, as part of NYAFF’s mini-focus on Yoshida.