Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2023 7:23 pm 
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Trapped by himself and others

Young, handsome, successful realtor Shunsuke Kawamura (Yûto Nakajima) is getting married tomorrow to his five-year girlfriend, who happens to be the boss's daughter.  At the celebraton he drinks a bit too much, and, walking off by himself, falls down an open manhole, seriously ripping open his right leg.

So begins a film that offers many pleasures to the viewer greedy for excitement.  It works on various levels.  First there is the deliciously dark and slimy location, a small, sealed hole ringed in concrete with creepy crawlies along the walls.  A heavy rain starts to fall, flooding down through the open hole making the water rise and lifting with it insulation foam that seeps in, while there is a thin pipe leaking gas and the metal stair along the wall is broken and cracking away, and Shunsuke can't get to the top.  He has difficulty moving, and must seal the open wound to protect his leg from gangrene.

One thing that does work is his cellphone, which has a fully charged battery.  It better be very fully charged, given all the play he's going to get out of it. First he starts calling everyone he knows.  But only one answers:  an ex-girlfriend, Mai Kudô (Nao).  She has a residue of resentments, but she tries to come and find Shunsuke in the district his GPS tells him he's in - only he's not there.  The GPS isn't working, or was sabotaged.    She gives up and goes home, still however keeping in touch against her better judgment. And it does help that she's a nurse, though the method Shunsuke must use to seal his wound is a gruesome one.

He can take photos and videos of everything around him, and he sends them out and his plight, slightly altered as to gender, is all over the internet. But he's still stuck, and nobody really knows where he is.

Meanwhile  an old story of  murder and revenge emerges - when the trapped young man realizes where he really is. Along the way there is much comedy and sociological commentary introduced through Shunsuke's attempt to use a new social media account where he poses as - you may have guessed it - a beautiful woman, "#Manholegirl".  Ultimately this turns out to be what Jordan Mintzer in his Hollywood Reporter review calls an  "initially intriguing and increasingly outrageous Japanese horror flick," which he feels goes on a bit too long.  Yes; a bit.  And I'm not sure that once the cellphone and "Pecker" chatter got going I believed any of this was real.  But it still is intense and exciting, thanks to accomplished filmmaking and the dedicated performance of Yûto Nakajima.  He's on the spot, and he doesn't disappoint. Andwe have to thank the writer Michitaka Okada not only for keeping the ideas flowing throughout on many levels, but for delivering a truly dark, sardonic finale. ブラボー

#Manhole マンホール, 99 mins., debuted in Feb. 2023 at the Berlinale in the Panorama section, also showing at San Diego and Beijing and opening in Hong Kong and Russia. Screened for this review at the Jul. 14-30, 2023 New York Asian Film Festival at Lincoln Center where it showed on July 16.

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