LOVE LETTER
DIRECTOR: SHUNJI IWAI
JAPAN 1995
CINEMATOGRAPHY: NOBORU SHINODA
MUSIC: REMEDIOS
CAST: Miho Nakayama, Etsushi Toyokawa, Bunjaku Han, Katsuyuki Shinohara, Miki Sakai, Mariko Kaga, Takashi Kashiwabara, Keiichi Suzuki, Ranran Suzuki
ONE WORD: Wonderful Story


One always wonder why these stories exist. It seems such a hopeless thing, a romantic ideal that is often doomed to crash. But, in between, is often the story of a person, or two, that really tears our hearts apart, makes us cry, laugh, pay attention, and then some. But nice music all the way through helps us cope through a rather difficult situation.

This story of a double identity, is a magnificently original story, that might be only unsatisfying in the end, but then, this is forgivable, since the role is played by the same woman. The film fits, either way it decides to end, although I have to admit that I have become spoiled by the Hollywood stories... I wanted the two to meet, I really did.

The story centers around a girl whose fiancée just dies. She never really met his friends, and all of a sudden, is meeting a few of them. By chance, she comes across the guy's class yearbook, and she decides that she wants to write a letter to her ill fated fiancée. One gets the idea that she does not wish to let go of this one, and this is, of course, often dangerous.

But the film has an ironic twist right from the start. The girl sends off a letter, and it gets returned. And a correspondence starts.

And one comes to find out that this person, with the same name, is a woman, instead of her ex-fiancée. And, on top of it, this woman has been linked to him from the first day of school. And we learn of the whole story through these letters.

And the film keeps getting better and better, until it comes to an end. The two women did not meet, but at least the hopeful woman has regained a measure of caring and understanding for the fiancée she never had the chance to meet. Amidst these suggestions, is that both people with the same name, actually liked each other, but could not do much about it, as the other classmates were always teasing them, and playing tricks on them, which made any connection almost impossible. And on top of it, people were always
making fun of them by putting them together, and teachers mixed them up all the time.

There are a few things that stand out in this film, the major one being Miho Nakayama, in the double role, which is excellent, and really well designed and thought out. One does not really realize that it is the same woman that we are watching for a long time.

If there are a couple of things that are also interesting here, but at times a bit odd, and more spontaneous than otherwise, is that the camera has the habit of moving around a lot, and by virtue of its movements, it allows the actors to really get into it without stoppages, which is the nicest thing in the acting in this film. But there are times, when the camera is a bit off key, for example in a setting when the young man friend of Hiroko, who is trying really hard to pursue her. The camera is restless during that moment, which is ok for him, but not for her. She is totally still the whole time. But it creates a nice analogy for the film character and its doings. She is a bit stuck in her thinking, and will not let this go. And everything around her is moving along, even if it is not exactly what she was hoping for.

The film ends on what could be considered a less than positive note, but I think that we can tell that the young Hiroko is coming to grips with what she has faced, and will come out of it.

Along the way, the film keeps adding moments of psychic suggestions and connection, like when Itsuki is in the hospital in the end, and she can hear Hiroko's words. These touches suggest that there is a much larger connection between these two other than the young man, but the film never takes to it, and builds on it.... it could become a whole other film.

And like Kieslowski's film THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE, in this film the inner characters never really make the total connection with their doubles... but the possibility is now there, and right in front of the character's face... and this is where the film ends.

Really nice film, with some great touches all the way through. It has some lagging moments, but these come around as well. There are things that happen that do not seem to make sense, but come clear a bit later.

Worth seeing.

4 GIBLOONS

 

   

      

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