NYAFF '11 REVIEW: Milocrorze: A Love Story


Takayuki Yamada is a rising star, although that’s weird to say for someone who’s been in so many high-profile movies in recent years as he has. Still, he’s a young actor with talent who’s about to hit his stride. He’s starred in six films since last year, and all six are playing at the Japan Cuts film festival. Being co-presented by—and opening—the New York Asian Film Festival this year is the storybook/samurai/comedy/action/musical/anthology/psychadelia called Milocrorze: A Love Story.

It’s not the best film out of those six, nor is it the most popular, but it is the one that showcases Yamada’s versatility the most. He plays three vastly different characters in three different segments that make up the movie, and slam dunks every one.

If it wasn’t for Yamada, Milocrorze would be another style-over-substance exercise in incongruity; the kind of film that shows potential to be a cult film but ends up being remembered more for what it did than how well it did it. After all, the segments that make up the film are tied together only by the very broad theme of “love story”—and one of them isn’t even really a love story. Milocrorze kicks the whole toolbox and uses everything that falls out, even when one doesn’t seem to follow the last. It starts off in a Burtonian cartoon land where a 7-year-old office worker named Ovreneli Vreneligare (it’s that kind of movie) falls in love with an idealized woman named Milocrorze. Acting as a solemn bookend, we pick back up with this story at the end of the movie, where Yamada now plays a thirty years older Ovreneli Vreneligare as a timid, brokenhearted child in a man’s body, still pining for Milocrorze.

But the first time we see Yamada, he plays a thuggish “youth counsellor” who would bully his romance hotline customers with insane pick-up advices—before breaking into rowdy dance numbers with scantily-clad women. This is the funniest stretch of the film, just back-to-back dating ideas and not much else, and Yamada’s turn as the counsellor is hysterically crass; a mix between a late night TV charlatan and a low-rank yakuza.

Finally, the Yamada character that’s closest to an actual human being is Tamon, a guy who pursues his love in a quest that crosses over several genres. It’s an old school warrior’s love story: it starts with a kitschy romance right out of a whimsical French film that has Tamon chivalrously defending his flower shop damsel from her abusive boyfriend, which turns into a bigger fight when she’s kidnapped by what appears to be a gang of Tusken Raiders. This sends Tamon on a search, from Western saloons to urban cities to feudal Japan. The film gets a little tedious at this point, as Tamon’s search, inventive as it all is, doesn’t offer much variety in terms of storytelling. It is the longest segment of the three, and feels padded out just because it can. I don’t know if a shorter running time would be beneficial, but a fourth story certainly would not be unwelcome. It’s to director Yoshimasa Ishibashi’s credit that he keeps nearly every turn wild enough that we don’t check out of the film completely.

The film’s high point can be found in this segment, too. Tamon-as-samurai’s fight scene against dozens of henchmen throughout a brothel is depicted in a side-scrolling mix of slow and fast motion, giving Zack Snyder a run for his money. Despite the manga-like fashion sense and music video interior design, the heart of the sequence recalls time-honored declarations of love: the bodily sacrifice to satisfy the heart. Ishibashi acknowledges this by having Yamada mimic the poses of classic figures from traditional Japanese scroll illustrations in between his slashings, while time stops around him. All set to a big band jazz song that makes the sequence an impressive visual mix even on its own.

Milocrorze’s depictions of love is certainly varied. It goes from shattering the naive, to mocking the hopeless, to romanticizing the brave, and finally, by revisiting the naive, it reassures those who are loveless. None of these ideas tie together neatly to one another, but somehow, schizophrenic styles be damned, they do form a big picture that wears its heart on its sleeve, even if what that heart wants is incoherent.

"MIlocrorze: A Love Story" is playing Friday, July 1 at NYAFF and again on Sunday, July 10 at Japan Cuts.


Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.


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