TORONTO JAPANESE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL tonight (Thursday) to Sunday (November 8-11). Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex). Rating: NNN
The Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary with four nights of screenings, many in the weird-playful mode so popular with Japanese artists.
This year's theme is "Life is short, work hard!" That opens up opportunities to look at the salaryman ethic. But it also leads to the dead-serious cute satire of Anti Sex. Director Ryotaro Muramatsu conjures up a young woman, Ai, who inherits a "love hotel" from her father. Ai, a virgin uninterested in sex, finds the constant monitoring and cleaning up after couples having quickies the worst kind of drudgery. And yet Muramatsu plays Anti Sex as quirky comedy, surrounding Ai with bright pop baubles, offering the shtick of her trying to clean up spilled lube and even throwing in the cocaine joke from Annie Hall. It's all a bit overplayed, but at least it's pro-sex fun.
Two shorts by Namikibashi push the festival's taste for absurdity even further. The Japanese Tradition - Dogeza instructs foreigners how to perform the prostrating apology known as "dogeza," while The Japanese Tradition - Sushi gives highly bizarre lessons in raw fish lore. Those wooden platters make great shoes! Both shorts slip between fact and insanity, playing brilliantly with the non-Japanese craving to have Japan explained.