Some Japanese people leave their home country to settle somewhere else. While they take their culture with them, the new environment, structured by a different language, is not without effect on the subject. One of these people is Tetsuki Ijichi, who settled in the United Sates and became an Asian film distributor. Yet, now, he takes the directorial leap and presents his first short Laundromat on the Corner, a product of both cultures, to the world.
Josh (Eric Slodysko) has been struggling to get his life back on the rails. Yet, due to a friend’s help, he gets a job at a home help agency. When a ‘puking’ incident happens with his first patient Mary-Beth (-) – a verbally abusive elderly woman, he is forced to visit the local laundromat to wash his clothes. At the laundromat, he is approached by a young Chinese woman called Ming (Stephanie Pham) who offers him help.
As the same ‘accident’ happens again the next day, he returns to the laundromat. This time, he musters up his courage and invites the young woman to have dinner with him. She accepts. Yet, soon strange things start to happen. And then, Ming disappears.
Laundromat on the Corner is a short that utilizes horror-motives to create a strange romance narrative. Yet, more than being a straight-forward romance, Ijichi’s shows how the subject’s thirst for romance is often motivated from a schism between the subject and his societal environment. In other words, Ijichi stages, with his short, that some subjects are so convinced that reality is against them that they readily throw themselves in whatever hope they encounter, a hope of flesh and bones or from other(worldly) material.
Yet, Laundromat On The Corner leaves some questions unanswered for the spectator. What is Ming’s ultimate desire? Why does she approach Josh? What compelled her to do what she did? It would be wrong to view the fact that these questions remain unanswered in the story as a negative point. Rather, these questions, so elegantly evoked by the unfolding of the narrative, should invite the director to develop his vision on the interaction between the mundane with the otherworldly deeper in future narratives.
Laundromat on the Corner is composed with a thoughtful blend of static and dynamic moments. Rather than simply offering a composition full of empty variety, Ijichi proves, by elegantly using spatial movement to highlight the presence of the otherworldly and refined editing to create , for example, fluid transitions between dream and reality, that his composition is well-thought out. Yet, he does fall victim in adding some decorative touches (e.g. fade-outs) that have no added value. Luckily, these decorative touches do not hinder the spectator’s enjoyment with his ghostly narrative.
Yet, Ijichi does not only echo the yet-unseen presence of the other dimension by subtle playing with spatial movement, but also by visually emphasizing certain imagery (i.e. the Christian cross, the circular shape of the laundry machine, … ) and by decorating his composition with eerie musical accompaniment. The musical highlights, in fact, forbid the spectator to feel at ease while also underlining how the otherworldly fluidly intersects with the mundane fabric of human life.
Laundromat on the Corner is a very pleasant horror-romance narrative. In fact, Ijichi proves with his short that one can still offer fresh perspectives in the romance genre. While the narrative does not answer all the questions it raises, we hope that Ijichi explores these questions in his next ghostly filmic narratives.