Seven million copies. 75 million dollar in revenue. Those two numbers are connected to Ken Ohara. As the cinematic director for “Resident Evil 6” (2012) and virtual camera supervisor for “Shin Godzilla” (2016), he was part of these two big blockbusters productions already. Now he teams up with his brother, Go, who also directed action sequences in more than one hundred movies (e.g. “Gothic & Lolita Psycho” 2010). “Carpe Diem” is their newest common short film project.
The plot evolves around Yuko, who spends her ordinary high school life in a country town. She is so sick of it and doesn’t have any passion for living, and she keeps thinking that she wants to die. One day, she runs into a beautiful girl, Aya who is 18 years old. Yuko is fascinated by her at first glance. Yuko follows her and heads for Shibuya. She gets involved with some gangsters in Shibuya where she is not used to be. She is taken to a hotel and tries to escape from Watanabe. Lots of traps waiting for her…. She feels the thrill and starts to realize the meaning of living. What is gonna happen to her?
“Carpe Diem” starts with a promising intro. Yuko is introduced as a broken character and catches our attention right from the beginning. When the mysterious Aya appears, the plot intensifies but does not reveal her real identity until the very end. Her psychopathic character reflects the very opposite of Yuko. Aya radiates adventure. This adventure turns into a real danger for Yuko. Through the clever storytelling, the arc of suspense maintains all the time. The Ohara Brothers present a good mixture of poetic pauses and energetic sequences, that blend into each other smoothly.
In terms of camera work, I was surprised. The cinematography of Tetsuro Imai seems to have an American influence. A fast-paced, very modern, contemporary and somewhat Western style. If you weren’t looking at the setting of Dogenzaka red light district in Shibuya, you would not believe that this is a current Japanese movie. That’s why, combined with an electronic soundtrack, “Carpe Diem” has a very international vibe to it.
Akari Kakimoto as Yuko and Aya Marsh as Aya both interact very natural on screen. Starting as total opposites, their opposed characters approach more and more, revealing unknown secrets and perspectives for the viewer. I also really liked the acting of the yakuza boss. Cold-hearted and absolutely cool, he is portrayed authentically and not cliché-ridden. Overall, a refreshing bad guy.
“Carpe Diem” wasn’t the first joint production of Ken and Go Ohara. In 2017, their short film “Last Stage” won Best Picture at the Omoigawa Cinema Festival. “Carpe Diem” seems to exceed this first success by winning already three awards at the Yamagata International Movie Festival (Best Director, Best Actor and Best Picture). Fusing their broad experience in the movie industry, they emerge and present their own style. Being successful at national Film Festivals may be the first step and I hope they will have the chance to go the next steps as well and finalize a full-length feature film in the future. “Carpe Diem” could be that door opener.