Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Breathless Lovers [Short Film] - 2017

Toshiyuki, the breathless lover.
Director: Shumpei Shimizu

Notable Cast: Kaito Yoshimura, Fusako Urabe, Daisuke Kuroda, Atsushi Shinohara


Toshiyuki is a young man who recently lost his boyfriend, Tatsuya, during a motorcycle the two were involved in. While Tatsuya left him behind, Toshiyuki becomes obsessed in trying to connect with his lover in the afterlife. He has developed a phobia of riding motorcycles or vehicles in general since the tragic crash, and instead treks on foot wherever he must venture. He shouldn't be traversing in this manner however, as he suffers from severe asthma. Furthermore, whilst trying to bond with Tatsuya pathologically, he sets out to do the training regimen that involves running for long periods and extensive boxing training at the gym in which he once trained. Struggling to catch his breath, Toshiyuki continues to struggle to connect with his long lost love.

Breathless Lovers is simply one of the finest short works I've ever seen. It's a quick watch, very impacting, and will leave you questioning its ambiguous ending and many themes that it manages to explore in such a short time, nineteen minutes and some change to be exact. I think choosing to do this work as a short film versus a feature length narrative really works to its advantage. It sticks in your mind and is surely one to haunt you for a while. It's dark and chilling in its effectively brooding atmosphere. The cinematography is in high-contrast and emphasizes the shadowy corners of Tokyo, from alleyways to bridges, every inch of the screen is filled with a sense of dread and is beneficial to the overall experience. The sound design, and in a sense acting as the score of the piece, consists of clinking of metal by the tools of workers in the construction surrounding our lead, and the sound of non-stop traffic passing by on the busy streets. It's extremely claustrophobic to the senses, and further adds to the thematic suffocation of Toshiyuki's mourning.

Absolutely stunning and atmospheric cinematography.
Kaito Yoshimura delivers a perfect performance, both physically and emotionally as the man in mourning. His character is only a mere 23 years of age, and while age doesn't entirely factor in to traumatic loss, for the most part, his youth is stripped away from him in an instant as his life spirals into to total bleakness and gives him a sense of misdirection. He has not a clue with what to do with himself, as one would, and I think he encapsulates the mind of a broken person who has just gone through such a horrible experience. Things go in a bold direction at a certain point, but Kaito Yoshimura handles it with ease and makes the scene believable no matter how odd or hard to watch the scene at hand is. With his wonderful and fun performance in Eiji Uchida's Love & Other Cults, coupled with this phenomenal and strong turnout, I believe he will be an actor to keep an eye on in Japan. As for the director, seeing this short film, and being completely taken aback by it has me immediately desiring to seek out his potential works in the future. I believe he made a film before this, but unfortunately I cannot find any information there, but regardless, with this much gravitas and perfection the execution of this short feature, I must keep an eye out on the filmmaker as I believe he will go on to do extraordinary things.

I didn't think a short film, with no disregard to the format in any manner, would effect me so greatly and leave a lasting impression on so many levels. As I said before, it is made with complete confidence in not only its style, but in its thematic exploration of subject matter and bravely goes into the direction which it does, which is to be commended. Breathless Lovers isn't a feelgood film by any means, but it strikes deep and gets you thinking when it's all said and done, and every praise for this little slice of cinema is more than well warranted. There's a lot to appreciate and take in here for a work of such short duration. Alas, it isn't the about the length of a film, but the value of the contents therein and with Shumpei Shimizu's haunting tale, it doesn't get much more valuable than this. Most certainly a cinematic highlight of 2017. If ever given the opportunity, seek this one out!

Written by Josh Parmer

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