Photo courtesy of VIFF
DIR: Yumiba Aya | Dragons and Tigers | Japan | 2012 | 65 mins | Japanese w. English subtitles
Tuesday, October 2 9:15pm | Pacific Cinematheque
Wednesday October 3 4:00pm | Pacific Cinematheque
In a number of this year's Japanese screenplays, writers have gone to great lengths to dream up ways for two unlikely characters to cross paths (see: Key of Life, Dreams for Sale). In Riko, however, first-time writer-director Yumiba Aya foregoes the initial setup entirely. Without any pretext or explanation, the film opens with young Yuriko ("Riko," played by Yumiba herself) standing in the doorway of an older man's home. "Why are you in a daze?" he says. "Come in, come in."
Was he expecting her? Maybe. Her presence didn't seem to shock him. But he wasn't prepared for her either, as we find out when he must leave to procure an extra futon.
We spend the next hour witnessing scenes from their new life together, and trying desperately to make sense of the relationship. He gives her some money. He teaches her to fry noodles. One night, he brings a woman home while Riko lies awake in the next room, listening.
Another day, the two go for a very cordial visit with a homeless friend in the park - a scene that will be sure to intrigue North American viewers (and crush a few stereotypes along the way).
Slowly, the painfully shy and quiet Riko opens up to her new roommate. She also begins to reveal some of her demons. Then the man, seemingly oblivious to Riko's vulnerability, disappears one day and upsets the girl's newfound equilibrium entirely.
In Riko, some will see an enigmatic work of art by a first-time writer-director. Others will have no patience for the snail-paced scenes, negligible plot, poor subtitles and lack of visual stimuli. The film is also entirely void of music, opting instead for the over-amplified breathing, eating and rustling clothing of everyday life.
As tedious as Riko can be to watch, however, this girl will find a place in your mind. Her secretive back-story will haunt many post-film discussions, as will most of her uncomfortable interactions. She will bore you, anger you, and cause you to worry, all at the same time. As we follow this disoriented girl from the stranger's doorway to the homeless man's tent to the seaside and back again, we are increasingly confronted with the question: what is home?