From time to time, one always has the need to watch one of those strange stories that end up impressing the viewer with his personality. Japan is a country that knows well how to tell this kind of stories thanks to well-known talents such as Takashi Miike and Sion Sono, of whom you can see a lot of similarity in this film. Ikki Katashima narrates The Dog Bridegroom, a 4 hour runtime epic tale about a woman who decides to leave everything behind in search of a new destination that knocked at her door.
Azusa is a primary school teacher who does not know what to do with her life. She feels lost and most importantly, she does not feel fulfilled, but one day she hears a voice from the sky that says: “If you go to Imore Island, you will get what you want.” She decides to leave immediately, finding herself on the road with a lot of eccentric and strange people who will help and make her trip difficult at the same time. There is much more about the plot, but it is better to discover it for yourself and experience the journey knowing the very least. “The Dog Bridegroom” is one of those films that does not leave you indifferent, for better or for worse. There is also a story inside the film told at the beginning, about a princess’s dog that brings the head of the enemy leader to her and then both of them go in exile, living happily the rest of their days on an island. A strange story, but with a sense inside the film from beginning to end.
The story is told through a long 4 hour runtime that initially is fun and entertaining, but on its last hour it starts to become dense and a bit tedious to watch. It is also worth mentioning the change of tone from the first half to the second half of the film. The first one is fun, colorful and extravagant, while the second half happens to be the opposite: Serious, gray and sometimes slow. It makes sense that there is a tonal change, but the abrupt change of pacing and tonality at a point in the story feels a bit shocking. Even so, the script written by Ikki Katashima himself and Futoshi Nakano is worthy of praise for having managed to tell this story successfully with a low budget.
In addition, Ikki Katashima’s good direction is what makes this film special, giving it a unique style. Visually, it is admirable what is achieved here with so little, building well-crafted shots and sequences thanks to the remarkable work of the cinematographer Masaki Tamura. Musical selection also helps the experience, with Ravel’s Bolero playing from beginning to end, giving it a narrative meaning.
Another strength is its huge cast of actors, starting with the protagonist Narimi Arimori, giving a credible performance within this ambitious project, although the ones that stand out here are undoubtedly the supporting roles. Shohei Muto, Akira Emoto and Noriko Eguchi are some of the most outstanding, but the one who takes the cake is Renji Ishibashi, giving life to the character of Sawamura. A character as eccentric as fun that will make you smile every time you see him appear.
In the end, although The Dog Bridegroom is sometimes closer to the B series genre rather than the author’s art-house style, it is an ambitious film with very good intentions that stands out thanks to the creativity of its director, and to the enormous talent of the whole crew and the cast. With a strong political background on the meaning of war and revolutions, the film has powerful messages and symbolism as well. If you want to have a good time, a good laugh and feel strong emotions at the end of the film, then give “The Dog Bridegroom” a try.