Feeling down? Need to get out of that rut? Do not do this….

Melancholic

Directed by: Seiji Tanaka

Written by: Seiji Tanaka

Featuring: Yoji Minagawa, Yoshida Isozaki, Mebuki Yoshisda, Makato Hada, Masanobu Yada, Yasuyuki Hamaya, Stefanie Arianne

Kazuhiko graduated from Tokyo University a few years ago but since then has not settled into a job or indeed life. Taking easy mundane jobs and living with his parents his live is the very epitome of mundane. Then, almost by accident, he gets a job in his local bathhouse where he accidentally learns it is a safe place for the murder and body disposal of the local Yakuza’s victims. From this point on Kazuhiko’s life changes but perhaps not in the way he was expecting.

Melancholic is an odd film, even within the pantheon of odd Japanese films, the subject matter would seem to point to a dire, violent, depressing story, and in all honesty it should be. Somehow it is not, the violence is there, bloody and visceral but not an unnecessary gore-fest, and the death is very real but Melancholic is definitely infused with a sense of humour and a slow, soft, calmness as much as any film covering this type of topic could be.

Yoji Minagawa as Kazuhiko plays his role in perhaps a slight too much over-the-top way a bit to ‘on the nose’ making me think throughout that no one would really shine to him and particularly not a vivacious and fun young girl, Yuri, his mood is more ‘permamiserable’ which for me skewed the whole story without necessarily detracting from it. Therein lies the problem with the film, the tone is hard to decipher, as the director, and the dialogue, seems to point to fun and light-heartedness but the topic, much like Kazuhiko, is not that.

The change that is needed in Kazuhiko’s life is brought about by outside influences and his acceptance of circumstances, this seems to be the message, although due to the characters and how they behave it seems to get lost.  The meekness of our lead somehow translates that he will accept anything that happens stoically and just get on with it. A social comment of some sort but a little heavy-handed?

The events at the bathhouse even after the late-night extras are revealed are not quite what they seem and the entire story, message relies on how much you buy into our hero just drifting into some fairly unusual and absurd situations.

Whilst we are given a good outline of Kazuhiko’s character and background, he’s not fully fleshed out, this seems to have little in development for some important supporting characters other than what their role in the story is.

All in all the story builds up well and the cinematography and filming locations give off a realistic vibe and you can enjoy yourself as the story builds up and whips along. The ending is a little pat and does not follow the film’s playbook to my mind, but it does not detract hugely.

I could not help feeling that some elements of Melancholic were rushed, particularly the ending and that with more budget and some fine polishing this could have been a proper gem. It is a fun and interesting story and theme, but not quite ‘there’.

 Seiji Tanaka’s future output is definitely something worth looking out for.

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