It might think it’s strange to delve into Momoka Fukada’s short-movie oeuvre after the release of her successful feature-film, My Father, The Bride (2019), but such thought would deny the importance of short-movie as such. While short-movies can be taken as indicators of the talent of the directors, short-movies are, first and foremost, creative laboratories where directors can conduct creative experiments.
Earlier, we reviewed Fukada’s segment, sexless sex-friends, featured in Yamato’s 21th century Girl (2018) and now, we review, one of her latest short-movie experiments, Yukkuri, which was screened at last year’s OAFF.
On their way to Aeon Mall, close to love-hotel Otoboke beaver, Kotaro Takahashi (Jyonmyon Pe) and Yoko Kushida (Ai Bitou), who met earlier that day at their high-school reunion, are suddenly confronted with a stair-like obstacle on the road (Cine-note 1). After removing it, they suddenly hear a guy running towards them screaming apologies. Takahashi recognizes him as Igarashi (Takeshi Donguri), one of his former students at the cram-school he worked for.
Igarashi, who is not the brightest light, invites them to help him carry the chair-like thing (an umpire chair) to the tennis center nearby. Takahashi is not eager to help, but Kushida enthusiastically offers her help. As they carry the umpire seat, it becomes clear that Igarashi does not really know the way.
Yukkuri might baffle some spectators as the narrative, at first glance, does not deal with anything in particular. But those who are apt at reading between the lines will notice that between Takahashi and Kushida things remain unsaid. Why did Kushida accept Takahashi’s invitation to Aeon Mall? Why does Kushida evade to answer Takahashi’s question about Otoboke Beaver? Why did she return to Japan?
What can explain Kushida’s and Takahashi’s behaviour? Why are things unable to be said? It is Fukada who subtly gives us the key to this riddle by letting Igarashi find the explanatory signifier on a building. The signifier is love: ラヴ. This signifier seem to suggests that unrecruited love lies at the basis of the unsaid that marks Kushida’s and Takahashi’s relationship.
Yukkuri impresses with its very opening shot. This shot, a temporal long shot, fluidly mixes shaky framing, moments of fixity, and fluid following movement all into one. While such a mixing is not uncommon in cinema, this particular shot stands out because of its natural refinedness. After this impressive opening-shot, the composition of the narrative, as can be expected, becomes more ordinary – i.e. shots become less temporally long. But Fukada’s careful use of the cut ensures that the overall composition, a dynamic mix of fixity and cinematographical movement, has the same unhurried pace as Yukkuri’s first shot. Fukada’s composition furthermore boasts some beautiful artful shots and some shots that, due to their composition, are comical (Cine-note 2, music-note 1).
Cinematographical impurities, like jerky camera movement, are present. But because these unwanted impurities are only minor – some spectators won’t even see them, they are not detrimental to the overall feel and fluidity of the cinematographical composition.
Yukkuri is a creative experiment that successfully plays with the notion of the unsaid and affirms her visual sensitivity and her compositional strength. Fukada subtly shows how the unsaid, an unsaid of a romantic nature, puts a brake on the subject, forces him to go slowly. While this romantic unsaid often functions as a subtle motivator – urging the subject to share time with the other subject, this unsaid, for better or worse, also suppresses any true act that might reveal one’s romantic interest.
Cine-note 1: Attentive spectators will easily discern a continuity problem in the shot-composition. When Kushida wonders what the obstacle is, she looks forward. Takahashi drives on for a while but eventually, due to the obstacle, needs to stop. The shot that follows, the shot where Takahashi and Kushida exit the car, shows the car on a road with, in the background, a highway that blocks the view. It is, in other words, impossible for Kushida to have seen this obstacle as the shot-composition implies.
Cine-note 2: In other words, the composition of the shot empowers the subtle absurdity of the situation.
Music-note 1: Fukada’s Yukkuri also boasts funky musical accompaniment, ensuring the lighthearted mood of the narrative.