Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:25 pm 
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CHIHIRO AMANO: MRS. NOISY ミセス・ノイズィ (Misesu Noizi) (2019)



An annnoying neighbor inspires - eventually - a successful book

Writer-director Chihiro Amano's dramady partly from a news story is her fifth feature; several others were based on manga. The result, full of material about the dangers of social media and the fickleness of the reading public, is interesting for its female Japanese angle these matters.

Maki Yoshioka (Yukiko Shinohara) is trying to juggle the roles of writer, wife, and mother. Under the pen name of Rei Mizusawa, she published a much admired and award-winning novel some time before her now six-year-old daughter Nako (Chise Niitsu) was born. Not surprisingly, perhaps, motherhood has derailed rather than inspired the writing, and her publisher rejects her latest stuff, saying the characters lack depth. Moving into a new apartment in a large block of drab flats (or "danchi") with her husband and Nako, Maki tries again. But she has just as much trouble, Nako is still demanding, and there is a new obstacle, the soon-to-be eponymous Mrs. Noisy.

This is Miwako Wakata (Yoko Ootaka),the neighbor who starts one day very early beating violently and long on a futon draped over the balcony, a procedure that soon becomes a habit. Later she also sings, or when challenged on her singing by Maki, cranks up a ghetto blaster. And there's another provocation. One day Nako, who says her mother is "always working" wanders off and is rescued by Miwako and her husband, and when they return her hours later Maki hits the roof. (Maki's husband is a rather shadowy figure in the story, away at work, present mostly to try to calm Maki down, memorable chiefly for drinking directly from a wine bottle when they first move and and have no glasses unpacked.)

The resulting fracas between the two women neighbors causes such hostility that the futon-beating and over-the-balcony tussling gets on social media, and eventually TV. A replay of events from the nighbors' POV, however, shows Miwako beats the futon to soothe her husband, who suffers from delusions. Replaying the time they spent with Nako we learn they rescued her, and cleaned up the mess she had made of her face with lipstick; a bath is required. It is telegraphed to us that this couple have lost a young son, hence the toys they entertain Nako with, and the need to play with her. They were late returning her because all fell asleep. It was all very innocent, sweet, and sad.

The film follows Miwako's life sorting cucumbers for a farm, as well as Maki's dealings with publishers. It's Maki's cousin, a mophead busybody a skateboard, who gets Maki's work going again, simply by urging her to write about the noisy neighbor. This leads to a new contract for Maki to do a serial for a magazine. It's so successful there's soon also a contract promised with a more prestigious publisher. But a young woman who knows more about books than the cousin tells him these serial articles are just as superficial as Maki's recent, unsuccessful work.

What is needed is more turmoil. And Amano gives us that, with the drama of threatened lawsuits, uneasy manageresses, and so much scandal and violence that contracts are canceled or not offered after all. There is an attempted suicide, a reconciliation, and very quickly - you can't show writers writing; it's not entertaining - Maki comes up with a book version of all this that achieves depth in the characters, has people laughing and crying, and makes her a hit writer again.

I'm not sure I really believed the older couple, though Yoko Ootaka, as the futon-beater, who seems to be without previous film acting experience, has a solid, weathered authenticity the others lack. It was also hard to see the hilarity of the squabbling women depicted in multiple media stories. Maybe you needed to read all the type flashing across the screen as the Japanese like to have, or to be familiar with the hazards of "danchi" living. If you know of lots of problems of this kind, an example that goes a little over the top might be fun for rioutous collective laughs. And perhaps for the right audience, this movie works the same way.

Mrs. Noisy / ミセス・ノイズィ, 106 mins., was screened for this review as part of the July 17-30 all-virtual 2020 Japan cuts.

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