a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Bare Essence of Life/Ultra Miracle Love Story

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With Bare Essence of Life/Ultra Miracle Love Story, Satoko Yokohama reaches for sublimity, just missing it. Not that it’s a bad movie – in fact it’s full of wonderful images and ideas. It’s not that Yokohama is exceeding her grasp, it’s more like she’s gone into deep water, and though treading water well, she’s still not quite swimming with unsullied confidence. But she’s going places where few filmmakers even attempt to go.

The story takes place in Aomori, the northernmost province of Honshu, a backwater known for it’s distinct and impenetrable dialect and a certain hardheadedness of it’s denizens. In this case, the main character, Akito Mizuki is a bit soft-headed. Or as described by his doctor, “wired a bit differently.” Played with tight insanity by Ken’ichi Matsuyama (who made Detroit Metal City an exciting diversion), he channels a more benign and likable Geoffrey Rush, creating an autistic whirlwind of crazy, destructive and empathetic energy as he spirals downward. Awaking to several clocks, making obsessive schedules that her will never keep, though helped by his small community, we witness him becoming the bane of all who support and love him. Plot goes into overdrive when potential love object, Machiko (played by Kumiko Asou) comes to town, escaping a sad and tragic love affair – in which her paramour had died in a car accident with another woman, decapitated and his head lost. The crazy advances of Akito rightfully frighten her.

And then… Akito discovers he becomes normal by regular dousings of pesticide. Despite a lapse in the internal logic of the movie that motivates his discovery, Bare Essence of Life/Ultra Miracle Love Story goes into an amazing leap of movie-making and wonder in which he dies not just once, but twice. Short of giving away all the plot twists, suffice it to say that the last 30 minutes of the film take the viewer to all manner of unexpected places while wrapping up and expanding on the metaphors and ideas that were carefully laid through the long exposition.

Wonder, magic, and an enchanting exploration of very human souls trying to understand and reconnect with the randomness of life and where our love and being lie lie at the very deep heart of Bare Essence of Life/Ultra Miracle Love Story.


Written by Nicholas Vroman

February 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

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