"Tonan Kadobeya Nikai no Onna" (The Woman in the Second-Floor Apartment in the Southeast Corner) director Ikeda Chihiro is an alumni of The Film School of Tokyo whose short graduation piece was nominated for the Cinefondation program of the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. After working as an assistant director on several films, she joined Tokyo University of the Arts' graduate film course where she studied under Kurosawa Kiyoshi and Kitano Takeshi. That's quite a pedigree.
Then there's the film's wealth of talent behind the camera, including cinematographer Tamura Masaki ("Lady Snowblood", "Tampopo", "Eureka" and "Sad Vacation"), editor Ohshige Yuji ("2/Duo", "The Mourning Forest", "Then Summer Came"), composer Nagashima Hiroyuki ("Angel Dust", "Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani") and producer Isomi Toshihiro ("Blood and Bone", "Nobody Knows", "Adrift in Tokyo").
September 20th is the date set for opening day at Shibuya's Eurospace with the Kawasaki Art Center in Kanagawa to follow, but amazingly those are the only two screening venues that have been announced so far. Although I can't vouch for the film's actual quality as I haven't seen it and there's no trailer on its homepage yet, I feel confident enough to venture that in a utopian society, this would be playing on more screens than "Boys Over Flowers".
This is what it's all about:
After his father dies leaving behind a mountain of debt, Nogami (Nishijima) comes up with a plan to redevelop and sell off land owned by his grandfather Yujiro (Takahashi Masaya) on which stands an old apartment building. Convinced that it's the only way to rebuild his life, he resigns from his job. However, Yujiro won't even so much as nod his head. He says nothing. As if fearing the damage he could do if he did speak, he remains stubbornly silent...
Nogami's former colleague Misaki (Kase) decides he can't take any more of dealing with his clients' outrageous complaints and suddenly quits his job, simultaneously losing his girlfriend.
Neither life nor work is going well for freelance food coordinator Kyoko (Takebana Azusa). Consequently she can't pay the renewal charge on her apartment, and seeing marriage as the only solution she registers herself with a matchmaking service. The man she is introduced to is the virtually unemployed, debt-laden Nogami.
Lives falling apart, all lacking something, all unfulfilled...
The trio find themselves drawn to Musashino Womens' Apartments, managed by pub Fumito owner Fujiko (Kagawa Kyoko) and standing on Yujiro's land. In the block, there is one apartment for which a key can't be found and thus no-one can enter. Kyoko moves in next door and discovers a hole in the closet wall that divides the two apartments, on which is written: "wishes granted". Skeptically, all three drop their wishes into the hole's vast pitch blackness.
Apartment owner Fujiko has visited widower Yujiro for years in order to care for him. It makes her beam with girlish joy.
Then she learns of Nogami's debt.
Several days later, Fujiko invites Yujiro to go on vacation with her for the first time. Fumito regular and tatami mat maker Roku (Shiomi Sansei) is pleased for them. While Nogami, Misaki and Kyoko look after the pub in Fujiko's absence, he gets pleasantly drunk and raves on about a journey to Africa in his youth and the history of human evolution, lost dreams, and that which he gained from them. The three find themselves entranced by Roku as he cherishingly recounts his many experiences.
The next day, a fierce typhoon moves in as if trying to blow away the old apartment building. In the powerful winds, the storm shutters of the never-opened apartment are blown away. Sneaking in through the window, the trio enter the sodden room and make an unexpected discovery.