Three Points (Japan, 2011)

Three Points is somewhat of a hybrid movie. The title refers to three locals reflecting different aspects of Japanese Society: Kyoto, Okinawa and Tokyo. In Kyoto, the focus is on several Japanese rappers. Apollo has been released after serving five years, and berates his long-suffering girlfriend Jun. Shoot recently got out of jail and is met by his friend and former rap partner Jey. Snorting coke in Jey’s car results in a blackmail situation, but was it all really just a set-up? Finally there’s Mention, who will be “leaving” for three years and whose cranky mouthed girlfriend Risa announces she will not be there waiting for him when he gets out.

The segments set in Okinawa, which are interspersed between those in Kyoto, are more like a documentary travelogue. The director and film crew visit and interview various personages. Tetchan recently moved to Onna (“Woman”) Village from Kadena. In an outdoor segment marked with somewhat jerky hand-held camera movement, he demonstrates his ability to dig for crabs. Higa-san shows a “Uganjo,” a place that is visited to perform a ceremony to wish for a good crop. There are also interviews with an old timer who recalls the heyday of U.S. presence on the island during the Vietnam war and with several U.S. military personnel currently stationed there. While native sentiment against the U.S. military is evident, these interviews generally approach the young Americans as human beings, not monsters.

The final segment, set in Tokyo, is uninterrupted and basically constitutes the last half of the film. Saki Kuwashima (actress Sora Aoi, whose first name is sometimes spelled “Sola”) is a lovely, young female office worker and quite a free spirit. We first meet her when she is out with an older, married man, and the two are accosted by a group of punks. A good-looking street-drifter named Iga (Jun Murakami) comes to their rescue. After her “date” leaves, Saki returns to find the man bleeding from a knife wound. He refuses her offer to call for an ambulance, but agrees to go to her apartment and allow her to clean his wound. Once settled in there, he decides to stay, even passing himself off as her “uncle” to one of her dates, a young man who works at a grocery/convenience store she frequents.  A strange and uneasy relationship develops between Saki, who claims that her promiscuity may stem from her mother’s many husbands and lovers, and Iga, who reveals that he was married, but that his wife and daughter died in an accident. Saki begins to role play as Iga’s wife, and a sensual and psychological drama begins to unfold that brings into question the things they have told one another.

For me, the Tokyo Chapter was the finest of the three “points” of the film. It was well developed and intriguing, and both Murakami and Aoi were very good in their roles. Aoi is a former A.V. (adult video) actress who has been moving into more legitimate film fare. Billed as “Sola” Aoi, she previously starred in Yamamoto’s man woman and the Wall (2006), in which she played the new neighbor of a young man who, not surprisingly, listens through their adjoining wall to what goes on in her apartment. That film, a surprisingly smart consideration of audio “voyeurism” is available from Ricochet Releasing in fine DVD that includes a quite good Making-Of Featurette.  Aoi  (again billed as “Sola” also starred in Big Tits Zombie (a.k.a. The Big Tits Dragon, 2010), a delightful cult film with a  terrible and misleading English title. While she is amply endowed up top, Aoi plays an exotic dancer and zombie killer, not a zombie.

While in her portion of Three Points, as well as in the two other films I’ve mentioned, Aoi does spend some time displaying her physical charms, it’s clear that she is well-suited for the transition she’s begun. She’s charming and unaffected, a real natural. While she certainly isn’t ready for heavy drama — at least not yet — she is much more than capable of handling the age-appropriate roles she has begun undertaking. Nowhere is this more evident than in Three Points, a fragmented film worth still  seeing on the whole, but particularly for the Tokyo-based short film segment.

Three Points screens Friday, July 15th at 8:30 PM at Japan Society, NYC. This screening, part of Japan Cuts 2011: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema, will feature an Introduction and Q&A with director Masashi Yamamoto and actress Sora Aoi. Following the screening there will be a “1, 2…3 Points” After Party! For tickets, click here.