Koki Mitani's THE MAGIC HOUR Opens Strong
I've said in these pages before now how incredibly baffled I am that nobody outside of Japan seems to much care about the films of Koki Mitani. The hugely talented writer-director puts out some of the smartest, most distinctive comedies in the world, tapping into a strange fusion of Golden Age Hollywood and more typically Japanese influences. His script for University of Laughs was pure gold, as was his directorial effort The Uchouten Hotel (also known as Suite Dreams) but despite financial success at home and praise from those few who see his films outside of Japan he remains woefully absent from the major festival circuit and his films are generally unavailable outside of Japan. Seriously, people, the guy's really really good - somebody bring his films into the English speaking world.
Anyway ... Mitani has a new film, a gangster comedy titled The Magic Hour. I had the chance to sit in on a private screening of this in Cannes and came away more convinced than ever of Mitani's unique talents. A comedy of errors revolving around a low level yakuza who hires a two bit actor to impersonate a hitman for his boss, it is a sharp, clever bit of film making loaded with a careful eye to detail and a surprising sense of play - a movie for people who love the movies, which Mitani clearly does. And while the west may very well end up missing out on this one the people of Japan clearly are not, the film pulling in just a shade under five million dollars on only 379 screens on its opening weekend in Japan.
I don't normally talk a lot about box office here. I don't believe that financial success necessarily equates to quality. But in this case it does. IF you have the opportunity to check it out, don't let The Magic Hour pass you by.