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2014年4月2日 星期三

Forma (重遇我, 你慌嗎?)

If ever there's a slow burner in the HKIFF so far, its' got to be my fifth film Forma by Ayumi Sakamoto.  It lasts a full 149 minutes. If a movie lasts that long, the director better be prepared to justify it to the audience. As far as I am concerned, no matter how sympathetic I try to be, I can't really find it.
                     
Umeno Nagisa as Kaneshiro Ayako thinking of her revenge upon her high school tennis captain Hosaka Yukari played by Matsuoka Emiko

Forma - H - 2014 

(left) Yukari and (right) Ayako having lunch after Yukari's first day of work under Ayako



It's a story shot with basically the camera affixed at a particular spot with characters moving in and out of the screen frame: scenes in the storeroom of a small office, its toilet, its pantry, part of the office,  the streets outside of it, a kitchen in a tiny Japanese home with a dining table in front and a big TV screen beside it, two bedrooms, the pantry and the toilet in a small Japanese office, a restaurant, a magazine and video store, a Japanese noodle fast food restaurant, the monitor and editing room for some video company, a neighborhood children's park, a tennis court, metro station, a view of the street with passing traffic. There is hardly any music to speak of. In all scenes, the predominant color is grey giving them a look of ordinariness, a complete lack of drama, even a certain dreariness. It's minimalist stage drama on celluloid.


When the film starts, we find Kaneshiro Ayako (Umeno Nagisa) alone in a storeroom, apparently looking for something and not finding anything she needs to give special attention to, puts a box over her head out of boredom. Then we find her walking alone in the dark after work, meeting by accident one of her old high school friends Hosaka Yukari (Matsuoka Emiko) at the corner of a street, working as a security guard and singing to herself out of boredom. They got talking and soon started playing tennis together after which Ayako asked Yukari how she felt about her life. Yukari doesn't really know what she wants but says that she would like to have a job in which she does not have to wear a helmet whilst Ayako says though she finds her own life not great but she was happy where she was working in a small company. She comments that Yukari was quite a play girl when she was young. Ayako suggests that Yukari works for her company which is in need of an office assistant. Yukari does so but on the first day, is surprised to find that her friend Ayako is in fact the manager of that place. Ayako tells Yukari that she would not be given any special treatment. They have lunch that day during which Yukari reveals that she is about to get married. The unmarried Ayako is interested and asks to see her fiancé Tamura Yohei (Nishihara Ryo), a minor TV artist introducing food. They did so at a restaurant shortly after which Ayako telephoned Yohei behind Yukari's back and asked to meet him so that she could tell him something about Yukari. When they did Ayako told him that 10 years ago they were in the high school tennis team together and that at that time, Yukari wanted to quit and that it was she who persuaded her to stick it out.

Then Ayako invites Yuraki to have dinner at her house with two other of their high school friends. But when the day came, Yukari told her father Toshitaka (Mitsuishi Ken) to come home earlier that afternoon and they went shopping for the food for the reunion and then stopped by at the neighborhood children park near to Ayako's home, played the rocking horse and the swing and then returned to Ayako's home. When there, none of the other friends came. It appears from what Ayako says, that one of the friends said she could not make it but that she asked Yukari to telephone the other but Yukari failed to do so, something which Yukari denied because she said that Ayako never asked her to do so. Then Yakuri said that she better not stay. When asked why, she claimed that Yohei had texted  her earlier at the park to say that he wanted to talk to her. Yukari said that even so, she could still eat something before she went but Yukari declined the offer. Just as she was leaving, Yukari's father came back. They crossed each other on the narrow entrance. They nodded at each other without saying anything. 

Next we are shown Yohei talking to Yukari at an estate agency about various houses they could consider as their matrimonial home but Yukari appeared not too enthusiastic. We are then shown Ayako in her bedroom expressing her suffering that her mother would never come back. We are then also shown Yohei talking to Yukari in her bedroom about their marriage plan but Yukari said she has some second thoughts about it, crying. In the middle of it, she got a call from Toshitaka. She told him that she would talk with him later. When Yukari was in the toilet, Yohei took Yukari's cell phone then lying on a bedside table and took a look who the previous caller was and then quickly put it back. 

After a month, Yukari told Ayako that she felt she was not really needed at her office and she felt she was being picked at by Ayako and wanted to quit and that Ayako was spreading some rumors about her to Yohei and that it was Ayako who wanted to quit the tennis team and that it was she who persuaded Ayako to persist and also said that she only wanted to give it a try on a part time basis. Yukari was angry and asked her to think it over. Shortly thereafter, whilst in the streets with Yohei on a Saturday afternoon, Ayako telephoned Yukari to meet her at the office storeroom later that night because she had something to talk to her about. That night, Nagata (Seiji Nozoe), a waiter at the restaurant which Yuriko frequents who fancies Yukari and who has been stalking her, went to that storeroom before Yukari because he sensed something wrong. He saw the waiting Ayako, alone in that storeroom but was told to go away because it had nothing to with him. He first refused and left but then changed his mind again and returned, insisting on staying because he said he had a gut feeling that his presence there would somehow be needed to protect Yukari. Then Yukari arrived, surprised. Ayako accused Yukari of having an affair with her father. Yukari denied. Ayako said she was texting her father, that her father bought her gifts and that she seduced his father and that was why her mother left. Yukari denied and said that it was her father who took the initiative and that Ayako had no grounds to blame her. Yohei did not know whom to believe and merely stood between the two arguing women. Then Ayako said that she would make sure that Yukari's marriage would never happen. Eventually the quarrl developed into a fight during which Yukari held Ayako's neck for longer than she thought Ayako could bear and they had a body to deal with. Everything was in the meanwhile filmed by the spy eye of the CCTV whom Ayako's father would be editing. We see him hesitating on whether to take the film away and put everything into an envelope. When the film ends, we see in the distance the back of what appears Toshitaka with a paper envolope under the sleeve of his overcoat. We see Yukari crying on his shoulders and then crouching at the side of the building in the narrow street alone with Toshitaka looking at her a few steps away. In the meantime, we see cars passing by two ways at the end of that narrow street.


The final long take of the storeroom scene lasting some 40 minutes in which the initial encounter between the restaurant waiter and the Ayako was played twice certainly seems a bit too long. Although something could be said in favor of Sakamoto's minimalist "cine verité" style and her simple static unvarnished shots in which little is added, I feel that some of the shots are too long, something which unnecessarily slows down the rhythm of the film and creates an unwanted drag upon the action. Cutting it back to about 110 minutes would have done little to take away from the impact of the final sequence.  The acting by two protagonists Umeno Nagisa and Matuoska Emiko and Mitsuichi Ken however are excellent. This first feature by Ayumi Sakamoto (32) won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival for this film and also Japanese Cinema Splash Best Picture Award at the 2013 Tokyo Film Festival.