While not many fans of Japanese cinema and culture will know the name of experimental film and performance artist Yoshimasa Ishibashi, many fans will know or heard about his most famous creation, the Fuccons, a sketch-program about a family of American expatriates (mannequins) living in Japan. In 2011, after leaving his most famous creation behind, Yoshimasa Ishibashi created his second real feature film: Milocrorze: A Love Story.
Ovreneli Vreneligare (Takayuki Yamada) leads a peaceful (dull) life together with his (rather scary) cat Verandola Gongonzola. One day, his life is turned upside down when he encounters the Great Milocrorze (Maiko), a godlike beauty, on a bench next to him. To make the Great Milocrorze his, he starts working multiple jobs day and night and buys a big house beyond his means.
Even though Ovreneli seemingly succeeds in romancing the Great Milocrorze, it does not take long for her to disappear from his life. One day, instead of going to work, he spies on her and learns that she is going out with another man: Saramadala Quorenzolich (-).
Milocrorze: A Love Story is a remarkable piece of Japanese absurd cinematic surrealism. Ishibashi has gone all out with his genre-blender narrative, mixing romance, action – violent funky dance-action as well as swift, precise bloody sword-action, film-noir, period-film, and cowboy film into a ridiculous but highly amusing whole. But Milocrorze: A Love Story is not merely an eccentric genre-blender, but also a narrative that has, as it aims to explore the role the imaginary plays within human functioning, a certain thematic depth.
In the first narrative of Milocrorze: A Love Story, the story of Ovreneli Vreneligare,the dimension of the imaginary is explored in two different ways. The role of the imaginary is, firstly, shown by the very way Ovreneli becomes ‘duped’ by Milocrorze’s beauty. Her beauty – visualized as a moment of Iki – moves him to tears and, by forcing his desire to lash out, imprisons his desire.
His choice to work hard and to buy a big house for her implies that he assumes to know what Milocrorze wants. But such assumption is a radical mistake. His act of being a big house to seduce her is based on his own imaginary ideas about what women want and not on what Milocrorze, as subject, wants. Even though he does everythingfor Milocrorze – to ensure that her beauty stays near him, he does it without taking the subjective position of the Great Milocrorze into account. In short, he does not know her at all. His happiness is solely function of being near Milocrorze’s mesmerizing beauty, solely function of the agalmatic object of desire that Ovreneli himself perceived in her body.
The second narrative of Milocrorze: A Love Story concerns the Youth counselor and (Austin-Powers-like) alpha male Mr. Besson Kumagai (Takayuki Yamada), who can solve any ‘female’ problem young men in love might have – just call him and he will give you the tips and tricks to finally conquer, just like in the commercials, the woman of your dreams.
It is not difficult to see that Besson’s story is also structured around thedimension ofimaginary. Not only does he assume that every woman desires an alpha male, he also pretends to be able to read the woman’s mind and thinks – mistakenly – that a perfect “rational” plan to solve any kind of romantic problem and fully conquer the female subject’s heart is possible. Sadly, his step-by-step plans all come down to asserting oneself with confidence as an alpha male and subject the woman to one’s phallic rule.
The third narrative is about Tamon (Takayuki Yamada), who is desperately trying to get his kidnapped beloved Yuri (Anna Ishibashi) back. He will do anything for her, even if it means becoming a ferocious samurai who will, without second-guessing, cut anyone who stands between him and his beloved down.
The very superficiality of imaginary love is also touched upon in the Tamon’s narrative. In a flashback, it is revealed that the act of enamoring a woman, e.g. by regularly giving her flowers and sending her love letters every day like Tamon, is only imaginary in nature. The act of enamoring is only a manipulation of images and emotions. But Tamon’s story also touches upon the power of the imaginary. What propels Tamon in his search for his beloved is not so much love as such – the relationship, in fact, never evolved beyond the imaginary stages, but his desire for her exterior beauty, his desire for that supposed object-postiche of her beauty that made life worth living.
Is Milocrorze: A Love Story a celebration of the imaginary? Yes and no. Ishibashi’s narrative lightheartedly confronts us with the dangers of the imaginary – its capability to imprisoning the subject’s desire and, under the name of love or romantic conquest, effacing the subjectivity of the other sex, as well as celebrating, in a heartwarming way, the power of the imaginary to motivate the subject to perform extra-ordinary acts in the name of love. The fact that Ishibashi succeeds in providing such a thematic depth with his genre-bender narrative is not only highly unusual for a comedy film, but also makes Milocrorze: A Love Story so much more satisfying.
As it is near impossible to describe the characteristics of cinematographical composition of Milocrorze in a decent manner, we will content ourselves with offering just a vague approximation. Imagine having an empty canvas in front of you. You throw all kinds of paint, i.e. cinematographical techniques (stop-motion, collage-film, animation, slow-motion, fast-forwards, … etc.), colourful set designs, … etc., on the canvas and, much to your surprise, the eclectic stylish composition you crafted is not only fluid and dynamic, but also coherent and, even more importantly, visually appealing. One of the most pleasing visual moment in the narrative is Tamon’s sword-fighting sequence – a visual spectacle shot with one temporally long tracking-shot decorated with lots of slow-motion moments (Cine-note 1, Acting-note 1).
Milocrorze: A Love Story is an extraordinary narrative, but not because of the eclectic cinematographical composition or the fluid mixing of diverse genres into an absurd whole. No, what makes Milocrorze: A Love Story truly wonderful is that Ishibashi, beyond offering a highly absurd narrative and a rich visual ride, also delivers an exquisite commentary on the imaginary dimension in subjective functioning.
Cine-note 1: This sequence also includes a visual reference to Kabuki.
Acting-note 1: With his performance (as Ovreneli, Besson, and Tamon),Takayuki Yamada delivers one of his most enjoyable performances as an actor till date. His performance, in fact, plays an important role in keeping the spectator entertained and engaged throughout the narrative.