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Map of the Sounds of Tokyo


Rod Lott January 14th, 2011

Its plot may be grim, but "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" is a feast for the eyes — beautifully, exquisitely, sumptuously shot by cinematographer Jean Claude Larrieu and director/writer Isabel Coixet.

As the title hints, the work is something of a tone poem rendered in big, bold visuals.

In Tokyo, Ryu (Rinko Kikuchi of "Babel") has a dirty day job working in a fish market, and a dirtier one at night as a freelance assassin. She's hired to off David (Sergi López, "Pan's Labyrinth"), who runs a snazzy wine shop in town. He's grieving over the suicide of his Japanese girlfriend, and although he had nothing to do with it, the dead girl's corrupt businessman father thinks David responsible and, therefore, marked for death.

Ryu approaches David, noodles are slurped, and she easily seduces him in a room decked out to resemble a subway train car. As he basks in a post-coital nap, she pulls her gun — was the sex that bad? —  but can't bring herself to pull the trigger. Instead, she continues their romance, and the two legitimately fall for one another.

Their encounters in that room are intimate, in more way than one, shot without the hyper-editing and fancy angles of Hollywood fare. They feel real enough and are quite explicit (although still, I presume, simulated).

For a thriller, "Map" certainly isn't in a rush to get anywhere. It takes its time, on purpose, as if on a semi-leisurely stroll. That's fine by me, because Coixet gives viewers' eyes so much of Tokyo architecture and ambience at which to gaze. Like an early overhead shot of suited men eating sushi from the body of a nude woman in recline, the film invites and demands staring.

I got a serious "Chungking Express" vibe off this one, minus that picture's bouncy optimism. —Rod Lott


 
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