Japan Cuts 2011: THE SEASIDE MOTEL Review [Charles' Take]
I'll warn you advance: I have almost nothing positive to say about The Seaside Motel, the jumbled chronology anthology from director Kentaro Moriya, based on the manga by Yukio Okada. It's not an offensively bad movie in any real way--instead it's more of a bland soup of its influences, most notably Guy Ritchie's Snatch, even matching a couple of shots and, if I recall, at least one music cue. I can't build up anything in the way of vitriol or any emotion stronger than mild boredom for a movie that didn't really arrive on-screen with anything in the way of a real vision.
The promise of a movie of this type is a collection of disparate, strange stories tied together by cuts, locations, characters or what have you. We've seen this done elsewhere and better, but let me avoid digressions. The Seaside Motel links all of its plots around the titular roadside inn which is not, in fact located near the sea, instead dropped in the middle of the mountainous countryside. Every character comments on this and I think by the third time it gets mentioned we're supposed to take this point to be a funny one through repetition.
No one who's at the motel wants to be there. We can see why: the water's always being shut off, the decor is random and kitschy, the exterior is run-down and dilapidated, and it's out of the way. We have a young traveling salesman inexplicably out in the boonies to sell cheap skin cream, a gangster on the run with his dim girlfriend after stealing some Yakuza cash, a married man plotting his first infidelity to his wife of ten years, and a sleaze bag looking to lure a sexy hostess into a night of sex.
Most of these plots stubbornly go nowhere interesting slowly and the only intrigue they raise is through the jumbled timeline which yields a couple of cause and effect surprises, but mostly just serves to break up the monotony of being stuck in a shabby room with characters who have very little to say in situations that don't move beyond their one sentence descriptions.
I think the movie makes some stab at profundity in its final scenes as it draws focus on a couple of characters who've decided to make an unlikely road trip. I'm not being dismissive, I literally don't know what the movie was trying to do here. It elicited not a single, solitary emotion or illumination from me during its running time except for a sort of dull familiarity and ultimately protracted boredom.
The Seaside Motel will be screening as part of Japan Cuts 2011 on Saturday, July 16th. You can find out more information about the screening at the Japan Society site.