“In Tokyo, a young man Tomo, dogged by misfortune, sets out to beat his existence to its next punchline, together with Hiroko who obsesses over a stranger’s old scrapbook. They agree to head into all the encounters that come their way, on a plan to decipher the parts of the whole and outwit this joke before it plays out. Their trip through signs, sounds and situations dives them into another side of the city – a maze of subcultures and surreal lingerings in the air. Setting off events far beyond his imagination, Tomo winds up finding his answers at the bottom of something entirely bizarre. A gonzo tale of being in the world, the individual will and the deciphering of signs.”
“Revolution Launderette” is set to be a divisive experience for viewers, thanks to its focus on various beliefs that are loosely strung together through Tomo’s journey. On one hand, the dialogue can be insightful, and shows a reflective mentality looking to determine the meaning of their culture and place in it. Unfortunately, the flip side is a narrative that can come across as both preachy and pretentious in its over analytical approach to the mundane. With the film relying heavily on the audience to actively internalize the narrative, there is not much middle ground to draw in a general audience.
The delivery gives the impression of the project being an ‘insider film’ through Tomo’s various interactions with opinionated or admired personalities. This is best exemplified in a segment presented in English where a man conveys his thoughts on Japanese philosophy versus American, and the film tries to develop instant respect and admiration for this individual. However, whether he is a mouthpiece for the directors’ own opinion or a respected individual within a certain field, to your average audience he comes across as someone who quotes philosophers to give an air of intellectualism while not really proving anything. The feeling of overindulgence also rears its head in an extended segment, with the only audio coming from a bongo. Admittedly, the visuals within this particular scene are both playful and fun, but the scene greatly overstays its welcome, becoming nothing but an annoyance. Throughout the production there are scenes that can be exemplified to show bad pacing or overindulgence on a particular concept. Unfortunately, the entire production is atonal in flow and any engaging moments become muddled in the poor delivery.
On the other hand, where the film really shines is within the technical production, particularly in its exploration of the culture. Even if it is arguable that a lot of these scenes overstay their welcome, the concert footage and performance art is captured in a lively and intimate way, which gives the experience of being immersed within the counterculture. Looking at the movie as a celebration of the artists and thinkers that inhabit the area, it feels sincere and passionate in its representation. However, this also easily isolates the audience who has no reference towards the various performers and personas. Experimental art, music etc. is best experienced in person to feel that sense of connection with others who see the world from an alternative perspective. Unfortunately, seeing these interactions out of context or with no invested interest feels more like celebrating friends and less like trying to convey the message of the original intent of the art.
It is easy to see an audience for “Revolution Launderette”, in those that appreciate a film that relies on heavy philosophical introspection to convey intelligence, or those within the inner circle of the cast and crew. Unfortunately, I found myself on the other side of the argument, finding the film indulgent, dull and pretentious. The production had no appeal to me and if anything left me frustrated and feeling cheated of time. Given the film will establish fascination or repulsion within the first ten minutes, audiences owe it to themselves to see if the material resonates with them. However, If you are a cynic like me who hates being told what should be considered ‘profound’, you should avoid the production at all costs.