Following the great success of “Yamato (California) , Miyazaki takes a different turn with his new film, which is kind of an experimental production that was first presented as part of the “Specters and Tourists” exhibition by the ArtScience Museum and Singapore International Film Festival at the ArtScience Museum, Singapore from 11 Nov to 17 Dec in 2017.
The story revolves around two very hip friends, Nina and Su, who share an apartment with another man in a small town in Japan. The three of them have part time jobs and live an uneventful life, shared between their work, and hanging out with friends and spending time at malls. Eventually, Nina wins two tickets to travel wherever in the world she wants with a friend, and after some “tribulations” and much geographical insight from their male roommate, the two girls decide to visit Singapore. The film then transforms into a road-movie, as the story follows the two girls on their trip, starting from Narita airport and continuing to Singapore and its many attractions. In the sole script twist of the film, the two friends lose each other in Chinatown, and Nina, after losing her smartphone, ends up roaming the city alone, discovering much more than a regular tourist would, and particularly the multiracial aspect of the country.
Miyazaki presents a production that lingers between the film and the clip, with an initial, obvious purpose to highlight the beauties of Singapore, in a goal that was fulfilled to the fullest (at least I want to go there after watching the movie). Miyazaki accomplishes that by highlighting both the attractions of the island (in the tourist part like the Merlion and the huge malls) and the kindness of its people (in the urban part, the one seldom seen by tourists), and the differences between the Japanese town the girls reside and Singapore, with the latter presented in complete contrast to the uneventful, “grey” setting of the former.
In that fashion, Yasutaka Watanabe’s cinematography is impressive, particularly in the depiction of Singapore, with a number of long shots that highlight the setting, where the protagonists appear in the frame after a while. On another level, some talks about ghosts and the eerie music by The Are and Lil’Yukichi that dominates the film, offer a kind of an uncanny atmosphere to the production, that also fits the film quite nicely.
Two scenes stand out, particularly for entertainment reasons. The first one takes place in the roof of a building where a band is performing in a “guerilla” live, and the second when the two girls are dancing, having the skyscrapers and the gulf in the background, in a rather unexpected but delightful sequence.
Nina Endo and Sumire perform quite fittingly with the film’s natural aesthetics (they may play themselves as far as I know), having an obvious chemistry that highlights their acting.
“Tourism” is an entertaining film that functions as both a road trip movie and a tour guide and succeeds in both aspects.