I’ve Died a Lot Lately (2021) review [JFFH 2022]

Introduction

After graduating, Shingo Kanemoto proudly joined a program production company. Six months later, he proudly left the company to make indie movies and establish a cinema production group called GAGAGA FILM. It is this trajectory that Kanemoto echoes in his latest work, yet not without adding a pinch of absurdity to spice his narrative up.  

Review

Ever since her grandmother died of corona, 32 year-old Satoko Satou (Sari Tachibana) has withdrawn herself from the social game, wiling away most of her time in her colourful room. Her mother Akemi (Haruka Umino), who does not accept her lazing around, tries to use Satoko’s love for her grandmother to force her to pull herself together and either find a job or get married, yet she remains unsuccessful.

Her father (Takakazu Okui), eventually, succeeds in persuading her to meet Mr. Sakakibara by subtly exploiting her fantasy about the easy life housewives have. Yet, the meeting quickly goes awry. Not that much later, she finally succumbs to the societal pressure and decides to visit Happy Company, an Employment Service Center, but accidently wanders into a fortune-teller’s room. The encounter affects Satoko, but in a rather unexpected way.

I've died a lot lately (2022) by Shingo Kanemoto

I’ve Died A Lot Lately offers a light-hearted and somewhat absurd exploration of the need for the subject to inscribe himself into the societal Other, the demand of the Other, in his own way. The tension between subject and the Other, as Kanemoto clearly implies, compels certain individuals to escape the societal field by becoming NEET’s (i.e. unemployed people who are not receiving any kind of training.

This is the case for Satoko Satou. The tension between her, as subject, and the Other is underlined by the contrast between her colourful room and the mundane colours that mark the other rooms of her parent’s apartment. This contrast clearly underlines that Satoko’s room has turned into a place where she can regress to a child-like state, where she can avoid the reality of her grandmother’s death and hide from the societal demands, demands of which she is reminded of by her parents.  

I've died a lot lately (2022) by Shingo Kanemoto

Once outside her room, forced into the greyish colours of the societal reality, she tries to utilize her grandmother’s death and lingering presence of the corona virus to ward off the Other’s demands. Her father, who functions as the beaming voice of the societal Other, fails to change her ongoing rebellion. Her subtle transgressions (e.g. taking the hairdryer into her room, eating creampuffs during dinner, …etc.) do not aim to confront the representatives of the societal Other (i.e. her parents, her friend Maki (Aoi Yoshihiro)) with their impotence, but also tries to deflate the weight of the demands they aim to subject her to.

The encounter with the fortune-teller allows Satoko, for some reason, to find a signifier, i.e. ‘artist’, by which she tries to inscribe herself and her rebellion within the societal fabric. She aims, with this signifier, to anchor her refusal of the traditional Other and give her Otherness its right to exist within the societal fabric.

I've died a lot lately (2022) by Shingo Kanemoto

At first, this signifier gives her the ability to venture freely in the societal field and do whatever she wants – it is by granting herself creative freedom that she tries to assert her position as artist. Yet, something does not work. The signifier ‘artist’ fails because it is not noticed nor validated by the Other. There is, in short, no audience for her performance.

This failure underpins Satoko’s decision to name her rebellious position within the societal field with a different signifier, i.e. youtuber. Luckily for her, this time the Other responds – a positive comment is posted in response to one of her videos, motivating her to make a playing-dead prank series. Yet, will the comments of the Other remains positive? Can she make the Other (parental and societal) validate her position as youtuber? Are there any other signifier she can utilize to either keep herself on the sidelines of the societal field or inscribe herself, on her own way, into the demands of the Other?

I've died a lot lately (2022) by Shingo Kanemoto

The composition of I’ve Died a Lot Lately stands out due to its rich dynamism – fluidly mixing static and dynamic moments together. The dynamic feel of Kanemoto’s composition is mainly function of Kanemoto’s cutting, which is often fast-paced, and his rich use of visual decorations (Cine-note 1). By playing with colour-schemes, integrating decorative illustrations to accompany vocalized signifiers, animated sequences, handy-cam footage, colourful title cards, … etc., Kanemoto creates a pleasant light-hearted compositional fabric, that despite its low-budget nature, is able to keep the spectator engaged. The light-hearted mood of the narrative is, further, enhances by the decorative musical accompaniment.

I’ve Died A Lot Lately is a pleasant light-hearted narrative that does not only highlight the irresolvable tension between the subject and the societal system he wanders in, but the very need for the subject to find a signifier to inscribe himself, in his own way, into the fabric of society. Kanemoto proves that he has the talent to create, with a limited budget, a narrative that is not only creative but able to give the spectator a good time.   

Notes

Cine-note 1: The thoughtful way Kanemoto uses the cut also helps him integrate funny punch-line moments into his narrative.

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