We are living in a superficial world. People get judged by their looks and appearances. Especially in the entertainment industry, this credo is held up high. In “Bad Poetry Tokyo” by Indian director Anshul Chauhan, Jun wants to become part of this industry as an actress. Working as a hostess, she is dreaming of Hollywood. But when her boyfriend betrays and abuses her, Jun’s plans fall apart. Threatened, broke and traumatized she leaves Tokyo, to her hometown Nagano. It seems like her last way out, but little does she know when she arrives at her parent’s house. (The article contains spoilers)
“Bad Poetry Tokyo” begins as a drama about two people, who are drifting further away from each other. The beginning of the end of a relationship. The open liaison between Jun and her boyfriend, Taka, is already doomed. A story leading to betrayal and mistrust. To this point, the film already poses a lot of metaphorical questions about deep inner conflicts, trust issues and about the mechanisms of society.
The second, darker part of the movie begins with the break-up and Jun’s departure to Nagano. She seems strong, but also confused and lost. After an attack ordered by Taka, her face is disfigured and all her savings have been stolen. Having no contact with her parents for five years, she nevertheless decides to return home. From now on, she is being dragged deeper into a spiral of male violence caused by her abusive father. At home, she finds no hope and no help. Jun’s desperation is increasing and so is her anger.
At this point the film reaches a level, that is barely to endure. Jun’s martyrdom and a looming incestuous rape build up a disturbing atmosphere. The only light in the dark appears to be Yuki. He is Jun’s childhood friend and soon after her arrival, they are hooking up. Yuki protects her, but sacrifices his innocence when he kills Taka, who comes to Nagano to find Jun. The murder scene is cold and thoughtful. It shows that love can be wild and hateful.
Anshul Chauhan, who portrays personal experiences within this movie, uses long sequences to give room to the intense actions of the cast. The character development is excellent. By showing Taka (Orson Mochizuki), a soft and emotional “criminal” getting killed by the good-hearted farmer Yuki (Takashi Kawaguchi) Chauhan is switching up the roles. Their motives revolve around the outstanding Shuna Iijima, who delivers a strong physical and energetic performance as Jun. The trio shows authentic acting that is transformed in a rather poetic framework.
Playing with metaphorical symbols, one may also notice the differentiating use of liquids. Rain, showers, baths, and rivers tend to wash away the emotional dirt that the plot lays upon the characters. Besides the urge to clean oneself, the protagonists try to dull and forget the pain with alcohol. This adds up to the poetic concept of the movie.
Shoot in two weeks, “Bad Poetry Tokyo”, is an impressive piece of art. Of course, it has its lengthy moments caused by the sparse usage of cutting. Anshul Chauhan is, therefore, playing along with the rules of Japanese Drama, but spicing it up by creating a dark and shaking upside down fairytale.