Opening 14 Sep 2017
Mr. Long (Chang) from Taiwan is a smiley, sympathetic visitor in Japan. No! Not sympathetic at all, but a professional contract killer who stabs the victims on his list, picks up his hard-earned money and signs in for the next job in Japan. Various circumstances come together to drop him onto the street of a poor neighborhood far from Tokyo. He recognizes nothing, has no money and has no contact to reality except for a subconscious idea that he must leave the country for Taiwan in five days. A small boy named Jun (Bai) gives Mr. Long a Perfume t-shirt since he has no clean clothes, housing or food or anything else for that matter. (Perfume is the name of a Japanese girl band, which pops up more often in the story.) Jun’s irresponsible mother Lily (Yao), also from Taiwan, was a former bar dancer. In flashbacks we learn that she was punished for having fallen in love with Kenji (Aoyaji); hard circumstances led to her becoming a drug addict and prostitute. Long and Lily (via Jun) help each other, not always willingly, but at least both speak Chinese. Mr. Long’s other talent allows for communication without words: he is a masterful cook. The Japanese neighbors are so impressed with his beef noodle soup that they provide him with a cart and set him up with his own portable street kitchen. Is this his new life, far from the criminal world?
Although only 53 years old, Japanese director SABU has had a successful film career. This is his second film, after Chasuke’s Journey, to show in competition at the Berlin Film Festival; two more films have also shown in other Berlinale sections. He began as an actor, then wrote scripts and finally took on directing. Chasuke’s Journey was based on his first book. Mr. Long excels in opposites. The two main characters adjust to living in a strange country, which entails interaction between two languages, in this case: Chinese and Japanese. There is the violence of destroying life opposite the support of life through preparing delicious meals. We have desperate loneliness with no way out opposed to overwhelming support with solutions. Perhaps the music could be less boring, less plunk, plunk, but this is easily forgotten through the excellent acting, especially young Runjin Bai, who plays the small boy. (Becky Tan)