Spotlight on Japan: Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers!

Once in a while I come across a film that takes me completely by surprise. Sometimes I might have been hyped up for it, sometimes not. For example, I truly had no clue about All About Lily Chou-Chou in advance even though I knew it was loved by those few who had seen it. Daihachi Yoshida’s Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers! is a film I had read positive reviews of, but had never understood what the film was like before I actually saw it. It’s a film that really puts “dysfunctional” into a dysfunctional family. What at first seems like a slightly irritating combination of drama and comedy turns out to be an honest production that both cares about its characters and observes them with much needed objectivity.

Funuke has a long, scary and weird-sounding title. In fact, I still don’t know who “Funuke” is supposed to be, but do not let the title turn you off. Essentially Funuke is about two drastically different sisters who do not get along. Sumika is an actress with no talent who tries to make a living in Tokyo, but ends up coming back to her small hometown. She lives completely by begging money from her already-poor family. Kiyomi is her shy little sister who is constantly teased and pushed around by Sumika – to the point of being mentally scarred. Once their parents die they are both forced to live under the same roof with their protective older stepbrother and his kind but clueless wife.

The family was already drowning in their own problems before the parents died and as everyone is forced to live together the conflict escalates. None of the characters is completely innocent – with the possible exclusion of the hapless wife – and they are constantly developed through smoothly included flashbacks and subplots. Yoshida doesn’t tackle healing and family problems in the usual way that are full of escapes and false choices. The twisted build-up creates strong emotions that are not released until the very end – in a climax unlike any other. It reminds you that you shouldn’t live in your comfort zone. Instead the best in you can only be found when you’re at odds with the world and people around you.

Yoshida employs a vast number of subtle motifs and metaphors that kick into full gear by the end. Cats are present in the key scenes. Writing and drawing are the ways for obsessive self-expression and stress relief. A broken fan delivers a surprisingly emotional and funny end to the development of one side character. With all these techniques and more, Yoshida manages to tick off all sorts of emotions in preparation for the climax which is more cathartic than anything else Japanese cinema has had to offer in the past few years.

There is a cruel irony in casting Sumika’s role. Eriko Sato is best known as a swimsuit model and the star of the campy Cutie Honey movie – she really has no talent and doesn’t even try to be better. However, her performance is surprisingly one of the highlights of the entire film. I keep wondering how Yoshida pulled that sort of performance out of her. It’s a combination of cruelty and kindness as she reveals more of her inner side. But do not underestimate Aimi Satsukawa’s performance as the suppressed Kiyomi because her restraint is already wonderful during the build-up, but she literally steals the show completely to herself during the last scenes. She is a force to be reckoned with. Masatoshi Nagase continues his line of weird but serious roles admirably and Hiromi Nagasaku provides comic relief with perfect timing and glee.

While the screenplay is captivating and complex, the same can’t be said of its form. It’s not bad, but it’s not exactly memorable. Most of the time it tries not to be in the writing’s way and is used rather subtly to build the story. Occasionally the compositions are rather beautiful and the lighting marvellous, but Yoshida certainly keeps everything down to the standard and lets the cast and characters steal the attention. Maybe it’s only for the better with a film like Funuke, but it certainly keeps it away from becoming a complete masterpiece. There is one particular moment that does stand out and it did bewilder me at first, but after some thinking I realized that it was fitting for the scene. However, as the single formal moment of wonder it’s not as effective as Yoshida probably wanted it to be. The sound design is quite standard as well although the use of a song by Chatmonchy in the ending credits was a nice touch.

Funuke isn’t free of problems. Apart from the lack of ambition in execution, there are a few scenes that could have been handled more smoothly and possibly with more poignancy. However, both of these are honestly speaking quite excusable when the film is clearly greater than the sum of its parts. I thank Yoshida for providing me with a genuine surprise and a great journey that I would gladly take again.

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About Oz
A Finnish film buff who has taken a huge interest in language and Japanese cinema. Can be contacted via email (johlauri@hotmail.com), Twitter (@OzymandiasJL) and a Private Message on EvaGeeks (Oz).

2 Responses to Spotlight on Japan: Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers!

  1. tikitiyo says:

    I just watched this movie today the ending was so bizarre I didn’t know what to feel! but all in all I really enjoyed the movie. Just out of curiosity which scene were you refering to here?: ‘There is one particular moment that does stand out and it did bewilder me at first, but after some thinking I realized that it was fitting for the scene.’

    • In all honesty, it has been so long since I reviewed the movie that I’m not sure which scene I was thinking about back then. I have seen the film only once (but I need to rewatch it) so my memory might fail me here. I *think* I meant the scene in which the whole film culminates: the “fake murder” scene near the end of the film that plays a bit too much with the audience’s minds (along with the obnoxious manga aesthetic).

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