11th Japanese Film Festival Day One: Maiko Haaaan!

That’s right, folks, it’s my fifth Japanese Film Festival! Why, it seems like only a year ago that I was seeing a similar amount of Japanese films, many of which had exactly the same actors as those on display this year! Seriously, this opening movie showcased several of the stars of last year’s festival. I’m coming to see the Japanese Film Festival as a means of seeing friends I haven’t seen for a year.

Maiko Haaaan! is one of those very strange movies that jumps all over the place and at the end you’ve got no idea what’s just happened, except you’ve seen people from Go, A Cheerful Gang Turns the Earth and La Maison De Himiko, so it surely can’t all be bad. And it’s far from all bad, but it’s nowhere near all good. The changes in tone and story are so frequent that, despite being only about two hours, the movie is interminable.

Onizuka Kimihiko, after a traumatic experience in his childhood, is obsessed with maiko, apprentice geisha. He gets demoted to the Kyoto branch of his cup ramen company, but sees it as a blessing because he gets to live in the land of geisha! After managing to worm his way into the okiya, Onizuka enters a fierce competition with Naito Kiichiro – who used to flame Onizuka on his maiko blog.

Yeah, uh … what? I really don’t know what to say to you, because Onizuka goes on a long and winding journey to … nowhere? There’s a lot of funny jokes, and the characters are nice – and the inevitably happy ending and redemptions are indeed happy and redeeming – but it’s too scattershot. Onizuka realises an insane amount of latent potential and develops relationships and … I don’t know. Basically you end up siding with Naito because he doesn’t look as weird and, come on, he’s Tstusumi Shinichi.

So am I recommending this movie? Well, I’m not exactly rejecting it. The beauty of film festival movies is that, unless you go to this particular movie next Saturday, you’re not really in any danger of seeing it. Were it not for featuring all of my old friends, I doubt I’d remember Maiko Haaaan! next year.

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