Kinta and Ginji (Japan, 2019) [JAPAN CUTS 2020]

“No man is a failure who has friends”

Welcome to the friendship between Kinta and Ginji, the titular duo of an indie film written, edited, scored, performed, and co-directed by Takuya Dairiki and Takashi Miura. Friends since childhood, for their 12th film together these native sons of Osaka have concocted a warmhearted experience which bears the charms of a well-worn friendship.

Kinta and Ginji follows the daily lives of Kinta, a raccoon who wears a red cap, and Ginji, a boxy robot with a shiny silver sheen. They are played by the directors, in their simple self-made costumes. Living in an unremarkable forest, they spend their time chatting in the comedic patter of Kansai dialect which we hear in conversations as the two wind their way through the woods. This wryly funny buddy movie doesn’t really have any structure to it other than most scenes have circular conversations and some conversations are iterative as they get circled back to later.

The pair’s ability to talk is inexhaustible and covers some profound subjects but is mostly banal. The charm of polishing rocks and the difficulties in climbing trees are discussed with the same seriousness as the prospect of dying with the guys reassuring each other throughout it all. Amidst all of the chatter and cod philosophizing, the two occasionally introduce more characters, like family, through remembering off-screen interactions. Their relationship isn’t always sweet as sharp barbs and dagger-like critiques are sometimes traded, but their bond remains unbreakable and provides the film with its heart. The more we follow them, the more charming they become until we are fully keyed into their odd friendship.

Much of the easy interaction must come Dairiki and Miura’s years of shared experience with the laidback, observational camerawork and minimalist style denoting the rapport between the performers and their confidence with the material. A static camera catches the two meandering and lazing around the undergrowth in very long cuts with simple edits for scene transitions. There is no set decoration of any sort and the costumes are unashamedly DIY. The environment is plain but seeing the two in their incongruous outfits emerge from the undergrowth never fails to be amusing.

The audio is equally lo-fi. The ambient sound is rich with the sound of the woods so it is noticeable how the actors have recorded their lines and, in the case of voicing Ginji, run them through some sort of filter. Indeed, it is initially hard to discern between the two until you can pick out the slightly tinnier robotic sound of Ginji’s voice. After that, we can appreciate his slightly sharper tongue and attribute a downer attitude to him. Ginji can also control music with what sounds like an in-built cassette player (with the perfect snap of the button presses!) This leads to some funny gags and musical interludes scored by lo-fi rawk and synthesizer music that actually amps up the excitement.

This is a whimsical fantasy laced with lots of dry humour as the friend’s pick their way through the landscape and into the hearts of viewers. It’s unlikely that you’ll see anything like this outside of a festival. The audio, visuals and the performance of Kinta and Ginji’s friendship create a unique feel. Discovering this film is like stumbling across a rare concept album by an esoteric progressive folk rock band from a bygone age. On the big screen, this would have been transcendent, with an audience giggling and laughing causing you to laugh even more too. Regardless, this is a disarming film, however you experience it.

Kinta and Ginji is streaming as part of JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film from July 17-30.