There has been a flourishing of quarantine-produced short films lately, and a profusion of zoom-call ensembles of musicians, stunts, dancers and jugglers has invaded the social media, all free to be watched and enjoyed. Suppressed creativity pushing to burst out? A way to process this upsetting time? Nostalgia for a human connections? Boredom? All the above, probably. One sure thing is that the public has been gifted with lots of gems, where tech points are replaced with sympathy and smart planning. Few of these quarantine works are in our AMP Cinema for Free section.
One of the latest additions to this rich and imaginative lineup is Shinichiro Ueda’s “One Cut of the Dead Mission: Remote”. An introduction to Ueda and his 2018, low budget, incredibly successful and incredibly clever debut film “One Cut of the Dead” is almost unnecessary. Suffice to say that it made box office history by earning over a thousand times its budget. And the film was good too! This new work is a divertissement – for him and for us – in which the director reunites the cast of “One Cut of the Dead” for a little coda or sequel to the unforgettable capers of the ramshackle, yet resourceful film crew of the previous movie.
Director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) is summoned – on a video call, of course – by producers Shinichiro and Yoshiko (Shinichiro Osawa and Yoshiko Takehara) as the two have another of their impossible missions to dump on Higurashi. This time they have been asked to make a docudrama under the umbrella title “True Story! Curious Crime Files” for an online channel, with the hope to be the first of a series, and they want Higurashi to direct it. In accordance with the lockdown dictates, it will have to be made completely by “remote”, a neologism that they struggle even to pronounce!
As before, after a moment of despair but encouraged by his wannabe filmmaker daughter Mao (Mao) and his wife Harumi (Harumi Shuhama), director Higurashi instructs his actors on how to self-video the individual pieces of this jigsaw-movie that is going to tell the story of a serial tickler. Short of victims (the tickler tickled more that 100 innocents victims) Mao suggests turning to the social media to find virtual extras.
Ueda, who’s made inventiveness and ability in making wonders out of nothing his (and his character’s) trademark, must have felt quite comfortable with this coarse material and once again he succeedes in writing, directing and editing a little smile-inducing roughly-cut gem.
Despite being a very simple story, devoid of all the trickery that characterised “One Cut of the Dead”, “Mission: Remote” finds its strength in the unashamed roughness of the chosen media, this nowness we are rapidly getting used to, that confines us into little boxes. Cheesy rhetoric aside, Ueda embraces the low-tech and have fun. And so do we. The beloved cast and crew is as helpless as ever; the overly eager protagonist (Hiroshi Ichihara), the lead actress (Yuzuki Akiyama) worried about her complexion, the handsome actor (Kazuaki Nagaya) with his own agenda and Hosoda (Manabu Hosoi), still drunk all the time, with hilarious outcomes. Ridiculously basic effects, bad framing, unappealing bedrooms backgrounds and falling cell phones are all included in the familiar realm of videocalls.
We all strive to go back to the cinema, to a concert, to a play; we are all waiting. In the meantime, lots of us reach out in every possible way. Ueda has chosen to spend some of his quarantine time paying a tribute to his audience and sending a symbolic tickling hand across the computer screen with the clear intent of making us giggle.