Friday, November 11, 2016

Ithaca Fantastik ’16: Return of Mizuno (short)

Isn’t it convenient to have all your favorite 1980s plot points collected in one handy digital twenty-teens-friendly format? Hikaru Tsukuda has performed this public service, wackily mashing up Scanners, The Empire Strikes Back, Akira, Blade Runner, and obviously, Tampopo. It is time to hit the mean streets and noodle shops of Tokyo with a disillusioned psychic killer in Tsukuda’s Return of Mizuno (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Ithaca Fantastik film festival.

Instead of withdrawing to a convent or spiritual retreat, Mami, the retired and retiring former government assassin now delivers ramen for a noodle shop. However, when her last great nemesis Mizuno resurfaces in Tokyo, leaving a trail of exploded heads in his wake, her dodgy former boss tries to lure her back into service. However, it will be Mizuno himself who forces her hand when he kills a colleague at the ramen shop.

That makes it personal, but it will get even more personal. When the psychic battle is joined, Mami learns Mizuno’s Darth Vader secret. Then things really start to go bonkers.

Return has a deliberately low-fi, grungy aesthetic that matches its goofball sense of humor and sentimental nostalgia for 1980s science fiction and ramen films. Its defiant lunacy is reminiscent of Noboru Iguchi, but without the leering naughtiness (we’ll have you know Mami always maintains a dignified sense of decorum, thank you very much.)—or Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Beautiful New Bay Area Project, with its tongue more firmly planted in its cheek.

Frankly, we’d probably hate Return if it were an American film, but we rather like it, since its Japanese. It starts with Naoko Matsuda, who makes one of the most endearing hard-bitten killers you are ever likely to meet. She also displays strong action chops and a healthy sense of humor is probably implied simply by her participation.

Return unleashes plenty of madness, but it never gets slapsticky, because Tsukuda always stays true to his inspirations. It is definitely the sort of film that is best seen with an “in the spirit” audience, so Ithaca Fantastik is a perfect venue for it. Likely to bring down the house, it screens this Sunday (11/13), as part of the Long Form Short Films showcase.