Aside from the comic shorts at the beginning of Pixar films, most people rarely see short films. Movies under a half hour or so are often used by directors as calling cards, or by film students as practice runs. Major feature films have grown from ideas explored in shorts. But as an art form, the short is generally treated as the quail's egg of the film world: diminutive, often delicious, and rarely experienced except by connoisseurs.
Lately, short film anthologies have started showing up in cinemas regularly—and oddly, many take as their central theme a major city. Think of New York Stories; Paris, je t'aime; and the upcoming New York, I Love You, all of which boast a number of pieces (some shorter than others) by celebrated directors, writers, and actors which tell a story or illuminate an aspect of life in a particular city. The short film, as it turns out, is a great way to represent the fragmented, yet intensely personal nature of the modern city, with its vast array of neighborhoods and ethnic cultures compressed into a small space.
Tokyo! is another entry into this genre. Nothing if not innovative, the three short films that comprise Tokyo! boast well-known art-house writer/directors: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Leos Carax (Lovers on the Bridge), and Joon-ho Bong (The Host, a truly delightful monster movie). What distinguishes Tokyo! from some of its predecessors is that all three pieces have an extended narrative, and each is distinctly surrealist. Each starts out plausibly, but reaches absurdity by the end—at its own pace. Each deals with the themes of loneliness and disenfranchisement from society, and the ways that people cope, to varying degrees of success.
The triptych opens ...1
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