Parallel (2022) review

Introduction

Not often it happens that a university graduation project succeeds in impressing audiences and is given a prestigious award, like the FILMINATION Award at the Yubari Film Festival. Yet, for Daiki Tanaka it is a reality. With his first feature film, a genre blending romance narrative, he grants us a taste of his talent.

[If you are in Tokyo, be sure to head to Theatre Shinjuku where Parallel is screening till the 29th September.]

Review

Mai (Yuhi Nakamura) has been physically and sexually abused by her parents for a long time. One day, the abuse abruptly comes to end when a cross-dressing man enters their apartment to murder her mother (Haruka Suzuki) and father (Yudai Tsuruta). Upon finding the little girl in the closet, he asks her name and introduces himself as Shinji (Sho Mineo).

Seven years later, a cosplay serial killer terrorizes Tokyo. For an unknown reason, one of his murder-videos features the picture of Shinji, the cross-dressing man who saved Mai but met his dead by the hands of the police after he resisted his arrest. There are no leads to who the cosplay killer is nor to what his motives are. One day, the murderer (Sojiro Yoshimura) approaches Mai (Momona Naraha).

Parallel (2022) by Daiki Tanaka

Parallel does not merely succeeds in blending the thriller and romance genre, but delivers an stylish experience that is as bloody as it touching. In his own peculiar way, Tanaka echoes that true revolution is not to be found in the act of murder, but in the dynamic of love.

As a child, Mai’s body was exploited by her parents for their own enjoyment and satisfaction (manzoku). By manipulating the dynamic of parental love – i.e. you can only show your love for us by obeying our sadistic desire, they force her to reduce herself to a bodily object to inflict pain on and extract enjoyment from.

Shinji’s murderous act raises two questions. The first question concerns his aim: what does he attempt to gain with committing murder? Is he merely seeking an injection of enjoyment as his burst of laughter after drenching the room with blood indicates? The second question concerns the need for him to murder dressed as woman. Why does he need to assume a female image to be able to murder?

Parallel (2022) by Daiki Tanaka

Yet, these questions are not important for Mai at all. All that matters for her is that his act, beyond its goal and logic, set her free from the destructive parental dynamic she was imprisoned in. Of course, Mai’s parental abuse still marks her subject years later on. She does not only suffer from subjective fractures – sudden bursts of emotionality – but her search for heartfelt confessions has to be understood as attempt to temporarily erase the ‘traumatic nothingness’ she is by persuading the male Other to experience her as a pristine object-of-desire (Narra-note 1). Her job, for that matter, changes the traumatic dynamic of abuse she was passively subjected to into a dynamic where she can, by offering herself as object-to-hug, actively try to gain mastery over her traumatic past.   

Yet, for the spectator, the above-mentioned questions remain relevant as the mystery concerning Shinji shifts to the cosplay serial killer, the male protagonist of the narrative. In fact, the continued relevance of these questions keep the spectator engaged with the narrative.

Parallel (2022) by Daiki Tanaka

As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that his aim is to clean up the world like a vacuum cleaner eating pieces of trash or like a washing machine cleansing clothes from dirt. His violence is, in a certain sense, a protest against the injustice in the world, against the exploitative objectification of the subject in the neoliberal economic dynamic, against the manipulative intentions that fester our social dynamics, against the Other that is out to enjoy his fellow man. Yet, why did he feel the need to assume the role of a violent washing machine?

Eventually, the spectator is confronted with a third question. Why does the murderer become interested in Mai after seeing her kick the ass of Takeru (Atsuya Fujio) who forced himself upon her? This question quickly transforms into another question: Why does he not choose the path of love and desire instead of self-destruction and jouissance?Love would not only allow him to establish a social (romantic) bond that binds him to the societal field, but would also enable to give his existence a different positive meaning (Narra-note 2).

Parallel (2022) by Daiki Tanaka

The composition of Parallel stands outdue to its dynamic flavour – a dynamism not only dictated by Tanaka’s reliance on dynamic shots, but also due to fluidly utilizes a variety of different kind of shots (e.g. close-ups, … etc.). Tanaka also make great use of cinematographical decorations, like slow-motion and jump-cuts. These decorations are not merely fluidly integrated into the composition, but also help making it visually enticing.

Tanaka’s composition also has a pleasant rhythm – a rhythm that does not fail to engage the spectator – due to the way he lets diverse musical pieces support his visual flow. While such union makes the composition a bit too music-video-like for some, this style fits the narrative Tanaka aims to tell and allows him to keep the tension present within his narrative (Colour-note 1).

Parallel is a fabulous narrative that does not only delivers a thrilling slasher-like experience, but offers a touching romance between two people that are, in their own particular way, deeply marked by their traumatic past. With his narrative, Tanaka does not merely deliver a societal critique of the exploitation that festers the social bonds, but reveal that what is truly able to instigate change is the magic of love.

Notes

Narra-note 1: Yet, as the narrative shows, Mai’s search for honest confessions also make her an easy victim for male subjects who merely want to enjoy her body and who, like her parents, want to use her merely as an object to enjoy themselves. Luckily, Mai has learned some tricks to deal with such horny trash.

Narra-note 2: The spectator needs to pay attention to the shift that takes place at the level of the source that fuels the bloody violence – from a desire to destroy to a desire to desire.

Colour-note 1: The music-video-like flavour of the composition is, moreover, function of the distinct colour-design.

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