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Archive for October 28th, 2012

Teenager Momo Yuki is at the last chance saloon. A talented violinist but also a loner rebel, she’s been expelled from various insitutions and arrives at a prestigious girls only school thanks to the connections of her parents. Momo isn’t that interested in what’s goes on at the place especially in the fawning idol worship of the school high jumper Aoi. The class representative Mayuko Akaboshi doesn’t like Momo’s attitude and tells her that it will disrupt the whole class. One day she becomes curious at the old school buildings which is due to be demolished. Skipping class and deciding to have a nosey around the buildings she finds an old drama class room which is full of costumes and a copy of a play called ‘The Cherry Orchard’ by Anton Chekov. It was played annually at the school as a tradition but a scandal broke out 11 years previously which resulted in a tragic incident and it has never been played since. Momo sets out to revive the play and recruits her classmates including Akaboshi and Aoi. She also hires out a hall to stage it. The rehearsals for the play is in total disarray with Momo never having directed anything like this before. When the school’s principal finds out about the play she forbids Momo to continue. Her associates in the play will also suffer if they carry on. What will Momo do? Will she quit like she’s done with everything else in her life or fight back?

This is a remake of a movie which first came out in 1990 with the same director coming back to shoot it again. The story is hardly original and you’ll notice similarities to other Japanese high school movies of a bunch of people setting out to do something but coming up against trouble of some sort which threatens to derail what they’re attempting to achieve before adversity is conquered and everyone is all smiles again. It’s got a likeable cast of characters and you’ll root for them to triumph in staging the play. I had a problem with how the movie ended rather abruptly. We see the girls all dressed up in their costumes on their way to perform and suddenly the movie is over. I wanted to see the play being staged in front of everbody but the viewer is denied that. I was a little bit peeved with that! Whilst the males watching the movie might be wondering why this play is so appealing to the girls, you need to understand a little bit about the famed all-female and popular Takarazuka Revue group in Japan. This movie is a little bit like one of their productions in that the girls take on both male and female roles and even perform romantic scenes. There’s a hint of lesbian overtones in the story such as the various crushes on Aoi especially by Akaboshi who gets to play a role that enables her to get close to Aoi. Being tall, attractive and athletic, Aoi has a small dedicated bunch of cheerleaders who worship her. The movie is well directed by Shun Nakahara and there are plenty of beautiful scenes of sakura (cherry blossoms) trees in all their glory. If you haven’t been to Japan during the short sakura season you won’t know the significance of what the trees mean to the Japanese people.

I did like the performances of the young cast who were all starting out in their acting careers at the time. Emi Takei, Saki Fukada, Anne Watanabe (daughter of Ken) and AKB48 member Yuko Oshima perform solidly in their roles. All of them have since moved on to become quite famous in their fields. There’s even a very small cameo by Aya Ueto as the singer of a group.

This movie might seem to be one best enjoyed by teenage girls and that was probably the intended target audience by the director but as a male there was plenty for me to like in the story as well. It’s worth checking out.

I can’t find a trailer for this movie but I did find one for the 1990 version:

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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