North American Premiere
68 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Starring: Gaku Hamada, Fumino Kimura, Nao Omori, Eri Ishida, Ryohei Abe
No one makes movies like Yoshihiro Nakamura. Whether it’s the exhilarating Fish Story, about a punk rock single that saves the world, the complex conspiracy thriller, Golden Slumbers, or the NYAFF 2011 Audience Award winner, A Boy and his Samurai, his movies are like Rubik’s Cubes whose solutions, as all the pieces snap into place, not only deliver an intellectual orgasm but usually reduce the audience to helpless tears. We’re closing the NYAFF 2012 with his latest movie, POTECHI (CHIPS), about petty thieves, potato chips, and baseball stars. A mere hour and eight minutes long, the reviewer for The Japan Times says that even though it’s “smaller in scope and less showy in effect, its climactic epiphany left me in tears. I won’t spoil it by saying why, just that this crazy world made more sense as the credits rolled.”
Based on a story by Kotaro Isaka, who also wrote Fish Story and Golden Slumbers, POTECHI (CHIPS) begins with two men sitting in the park. They look like they’re whiling away another lazy afternoon, until it dawns on the audience that they’re professional thieves. The younger of the two, Tadashi (Gaku Hamada from Fish Story) is trying to enlist the more seasoned veteran (played by Nao Omori) in his next job. Tadashi is obsessed with Ozaki, a pro baseball player who bats for the Sendai Kings and whose career is hitting the skids. These two things seem entirely unrelated, but over the course of the next hour, potato chips, baseball, high school memories, stalkers, and the theory of relativity will all smash together like electrons in a particle accelerator, and the Big Bang that results is the crack of a bat connecting with a ball, as Director Nakamura delivers another perfect home run.
The key to this film is that it’s set in Sendai, which was the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake that devastated the city, destroyed its port, and left hundreds of people dead. Nakamura’s film is an attempt to bandage this wound. It’s his way of reminding us that no matter what happens, we can’t fall too far. It may feel lonely sometimes, like we’re each isolated on a trapeze in the dark, working without a net. But when we lose our grip – there will always be someone to catch us.