Monday, July 12, 2010

Live Action Movie Review: Topless

Yay, first live movie review here! ^^ Ever since I read this Tokyo Wrestling piece, I've been interested in seeing this movie. (Even though I was wary about that "modern youth" description. To me, it usually means, "This will be a boring 'message' story that talks down to you and doesn't capture your perspective in the slightest.")

Topless was...okay.... (See the TW article for the director's reason for choosing "Topless" as a title. It's surprisingly innocent.)

Natsuko is a university student renting an apartment in Tokyo with her roommate Koji, who is in love with her. She learns that her old girlfriend from high school, who she still loves (and who loves her back, even if she denies it), Tomomi, is getting married. Natsuko also runs into Kana, a high school student who traveled to Tokyo to search for her mom, who left her 12 years ago to live with her female lover.

The acting was good- especially Shimizu Mina as Natsuko, Sakamoto So as Koji, and Ōmasa Aya as Kana, but I didn't care much for the story. It's the sort of movie that I could see being screened at a college class on queer studies to spark discussion, but it isn't something that I would sit down to re-watch for leisurely entertainment.

Topless might portray self-identified lesbians in Japan in a way rarely found in media (at all, esp in live movies), but it unintentionally makes the odds of living a happy, fulfilled life as a lesbian look pretty freaking slim. (With the exception of Kana's briefly-seen mother towards the end.) It's frustrating because that wasn't the intention of this movie- it's almost hilarious how dreary and angst-ridden this story is (although it does make stabs at humor) when it's supposed to be inspirational. For example: the women in the lesbian circle at Natsuko's university are all humorless and pinchy-faced, and the circle starts dissolving by the end. What the hell was the point of including the circle in the movie? In the end, Tomomi winds up unwillingly married, with a kid, and Natsuko slouches away to write down their sad story as a novel. There was a funny part in that final scene, though, when Tomomi told her daughter that Natsuko was her "special friend." (Special, eh.... I have a terrible sense of humor, don't I?)

Every character's plot thread is resolved by the end, although Koji and Kana's final outcomes are described via Natsuko's voice-over narration instead of being shown. This made the movie feel like a bit of a rush job at the end. Kana's story also didn't feel very well-integrated with the other two (Tomomi and Koji's), although it was probably the most original. The ultimate feeling left by the movie was bittersweet- albeit more bitter than sweet as a whole.

Overall: C

Next review will be more positive....


Anonymous said...

I tend to stay away from stories that do not have a happy ending between two women. For some reason it's almost as if there was no happy ending between two women in love, it trounces on the hope many women out there have about same-sex relationships actually working out in real life. That's not to say that people believe that in reality, but the more tragic endings there are within that genre the more it feels as if society is waving a sign about same-sex relationships being wrong. That only tragedy will come about being with someone else of the same sex-difficult almost impossible life to lead and a taboo.

Pertaining to this movie. I only skimmed it for the dodgy parts and the interaction between the two women. I only do that for most tragedies unless the reviews convince me it's worth more of my time.

Thanks for the review! ^_^

Duskren said...

Saving Face is a really good movie to watch about a lesbian relation in the heart of New York. It takes place in the Chinese community and... hold on, I'm gonna cheat for a bit... *looks around for a damn synopsis...* ahh here we go!

"In Manhattan, the brilliant Chinese-American lesbian surgeon Wil is surprised by the arrival of her forty-eight years old widow mother to her apartment. Ma was banished from Flushing, Queens, when her father discovered that she was pregnant. The presence of Ma affects the personal life of Wil, who is in love with the daughter of her boss in the hospital, the dancer Vivian Shing. Once her grandfather has promised that her mother would only return to Flushing remarried or proving that it was an immaculate conception, Wil tries to find a bachelor Chinese to marry Ma. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I think the movie has alot of character in it and heart to. It's definitely one of my personal favorites that I can repeat when I'm bored on a Sunday with my girlfriend. Kat, check this one out sometime! You too, Asuto! ( ^^)

Katherine said...

@ asutoreanooka- Haha, I should have watched this movie the way you did. I don't think that a yuri (or in Topless's case, lesbian) story that doesn't end with two women in love is necessarily negative- it might make sense given the circumstances of the story, the rest of the story might be entertaining enough that it doesn't matter, the protagonist might just be happy single, or a host of other possible reasons, depending on the story/characters. But Topless...ehh. (I get what this movie was trying to do, but other stories have done a better job of acknowledging the difficulties of being a woman who likes women in Japan, without being so...meh. Like Love My Life, Honey & Honey, Love Vibes, Plica-chan, Strawberrry Shake Sweet, etc, etc.)

@ Duskren- I like Saving Face also. :-) (It's funny and it has a super-cute ending- and Vivian is hawt.) You have good taste! *salute*