Tuesday, August 25, 2015

MWFF ’15: Kimi Kabuki (short)

Fandom can be creepy. Just ask Madeline. She was rather surprised to learn her husband is quite the admirer of a well-known porn performer. In fact, he will be attending an adult entertainment convention to meet her. Madeline will follow him there. Her intentions are unclear, but there is a good chance a scene will ensue in Yoko Okumura’s short film Kimi Kabuki (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Montreal World Film Festival.

Yes, Madeline found the stash on Robert’s computer and has been absolutely beside herself ever since. When she makes her way onto the exhibit floor, the sheer volume of the assembled naughtiness nearly overwhelms her. However, as she mills about looking for her about-to-be-busted husband, she kind of-sort of starts to enjoy herself. Unfortunately, there will still be the anticipated scene, but at least she gets to meet his favorite porn actress, Kimi Kabuki, who turns out to be way cooler than she expects.

It is hard to judge whether Okumura’s film is pro or con when it comes to pornography, but it is safe to say it advocates more open communication. In fact, the climatic dialogue shared by Madeline and her unattainable rival stands out so distinctively, because it cuts both ways. Arguably, the film is forgiving of human weakness and foibles, but it is not a push-over.

Given the context of the film, it might sound a little awkward to say we’re big fans of Jo Mei, so let’s argue she deserves wider recognition for her work in J.P. Chan’s excellent short films (such as Digital Antiquities and Beijing Haze) as well as his feature, A Picture of You. In fact, she might be one of the best and most prolific screen thesps appearing in serious short form dramas on a regular basis. You could program a super retrospective of her short film appearances, most definitely including Kabuki.

Once again, Mei delivers a tough, smart performance that contrasts nicely with Teresa Hegji’s naïve Madeline. While it is a more emotional role, Hegji keeps it grounded, avoiding cheap histrionics or any sort of phoniness.

Like many AFI supported films, Kabuki was produced by a lot of talent on both sides of the camera (see the recent Fandor spotlight for more examples). One can only imagine the coordination required to recreate the look and vibe of the adult trade show. (All you Roberts out there should take note, industry professional Alexa Aimes plays herself.) It is a perceptively written film, brought to life by an equally sensitive cast. Recommended for mature audiences (in the best sense of the term), Kimi Kabuki screens this Saturday (8/29) as part of the 2015 Montreal World Film Festival.