Don’t mistake this for just another hipster “my wacky friend is crying on the inside” dramedy – Yoshihiro Nakamura’s THE FOREIGN DUCK, THE NATIVE DUCK, AND GOD IN A COIN LOCKER is a slow burning thriller with a Lynchian twist.
It begins on a light note, joining a jolly young freshman, Shiina, as he moves into a new apartment in Sendai and meets his new neighbours: a mysterious kook known as Kawasaki (Eita), and a grumpy guy from Bhutan. As the simpleton Shiina, the understated talents of actor Gaku Hamada are easily upstaged by his curiously charismatic co-stars: not only Eita, but the scene-stealing Megumi Seki (who plays Kawasaki’s resentful ex-girlfriend Kotomi) and Otsuka Nene as a magnetically world-weary pet shop owner. Kawasaki proves to be a most unreliable narrator, whose womanising and whimsy come from a very dark place. Grainy monochrome flashbacks illustrate Shiina’s visualisation of each anecdote as Kawasaki’s madcap capers and hip homilies slowly take on a deeper resonance.
…a bittersweet meditation on mortality and lost love in the vein of MULHOLLAND DRIVE or VERTIGO…
Shiina is pretty naive for a law student, but his nice-but-dim philosophy will surely be welcomed by the legal system in Sendai, whose police officers are portrayed as cold, incompetent and racist. Not the kind of cop Kotomi feels she can turn to when a gang of animal killers start sending her death threats. Kawasaki takes the law into his own hands, adding jeopardy to mystery as the layers of narrative peel apart. A key revelation triggers a re-run through the story so far, during which we learn at leisure the true story behind Kawasaki. The conventional handling for such a switcheroo is to bombard the audience with a concise OMG montage, and Nakamura’s lingering re-examination of the narrative has a very different effect. It satisfies curiosity and lays all mysteries to rest, blossoming as a bittersweet meditation on mortality and lost love in the vein of MULHOLLAND DRIVE or VERTIGO. But once we’re up to speed, and have grown fond of the two central characters, the story gracefully cuts short without revealing what might happen next.
THE FOREIGN DUCK, THE NATIVE DUCK, AND GOD IN A COIN LOCKER is now available on DVD