“Almost impossible to define – it has samurai fights, oddball fantasies and retro musical dance scenes.” – Mark Adams, SCREEN DAILY.
From visionary artist Yoshimasa Ishibashi comes Milocrorze: A Love Story, an epic collection of tales on obsessive love and the lengths men will go to for it. Three distinct tales of love gone wrong are offered, each featuring rising Japanese star Takayuki Yamada, moving between the candy-colored world of an innocent, lovelorn man-child to the uproarious realm of Japanese television and an overbearing relationship coach dispensing dubious advice to the cyberpunk-infused world of a vengeful samurai on a quest to reunite with his lost love. Amid its elaborate musical numbers and jaw-dropping slow-motion sword battle, Milocrorze provides a sincere vision of romantic love through a slightly warped lens, making this 2011 Fantastic Fest multiple award winner “one of the most uniquely structured and entertaining anthology pictures to come out in quite some time” (Adam Charles, FILM SCHOOL REJECTS).
- Interview with filmmaker Yoshimasa Ishibashi
- Interview with star Takayuki Yamada
- Making of featurette
- Theatrical trailer
- 24-page booklet of photos, production stills, and promotional materials, plus an interview with filmmaker Yoshimasa Ishibashi
Verandola Gorgonzola Edition – Package Includes:
- Milocrorze: A Love Story on Blu-ray or Standard DVD
- DRM-free Digital Download of the film in 1080p, 720p, and mobile/tablet formats
- 27″ x 40″ one sheet poster designed by Mondo Artist Matt Taylor
Much in the same vein as other visually excessive examples of Japanese pop eccentricity like Survive Style 5+ (Gen Sekiguchi, 2004), Funky Forest: The First Contact (Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine and Shunichiro Miki, 2005), and Symbol (Hitoshi Matsumoto, 2009), Yoshimasa Ishibashi’s Milocrorze: A Love Story is a wild, random review of the strange lengths men will go to in order to be with that special someone. Consistently surreal in its content and often unpredictable in its narrative progress, the film very much fits the mould of other Japanese Drafthouse Films titles like Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Sion Sono, 2013) and R100 (Hitoshi Matsumoto, 2013). It already carries with it a respectable paracinematic pedigree with awards at the 2011 Fantasia Film Festival for Best Director and Most Innovative Feature and silver prizes for Best Asian Feature (Audience Award) and Most Energetic Feature. There is a dedicated audience for Japanese weirdness in the West, and Milocrorze delivers throughout.
The film opens with a brief introduction to the dilemma faced by Ovreneli Vreneligare, the aftermath of which makes up Milocrorze‘s third and final tale of male romantic angst. Ovreneli is an orange-haired boy who lives independently in a small country home with his creepy CGI cat, Verandola Gorgonzola, commutes into the city to work an office job, and generally lives a contented but lonely life in a bright, colourful world seemingly designed to appear like a TV show for pre-schoolers. A high point in Ovreneli’s life are his visits to a park where he peacefully sits drinking yogurt. On one of these visits, he meets the titular Milocrorze (Maiko), a beautiful adult woman who he falls deeply in love with and strikes up a relationship. Much to the chagrin of Varandola Gorgonzola, Ovreneli devotes his life to keeping Milocrorze happy – sinking his old home, moving into a new home far beyond his means, working multiple jobs, and giving up yogurt for soda. Still, Milocrorze leaves him for another man (a douchey-looking adult man no less), and Ovreneli is crestfallen, left with a repetitive sigh and a hole in his heart (actually a hole in his chest) that he seals over with a pot lid. Ovreneli’s story and the film goes out of its way to tell us it ends here … except it doesn’t.
Before returning to Ovreneli’s story of love and loss, Milocrorze offers two more tales of grand gestures and doomed romance. First, we are presented with relationship consultant Besson Kumagai (Takayuki Yamada), whose mop-cut hairdo, white leisure suit, and yakuza-like bravado clearly declares him to be someone who knows what the ladies want (or better yet what they need). Besson answers a series of hotline calls from sheepish young men desperate to connect with crushes who barely know they’re alive. He berates his callers and then provides bizarre advice that includes unprovoked nipple-tweaking, riverside coffee-making, and loud demands for condoms in supermarkets, capping these exchanges off with a sudden dance number flanked by various scantily clad women. The Besson Kumagai portion of Milocrorze is a bounty of energy and comedy that most reviewers cite as the film’s high point and one for which they find themselves wanting more. It is often noted as a deviation of Milcrorze‘s mission statement of being about love stories, but that’s not actually the film’s intention. Milocrorze is more a consideration of the male pursuit of love, of its anxieties, and of its sometime wrongheadedness. Besson inflates that pursuit and the image of cool, sexually appealing virility to its most absurd limits, skewering both delusion and desperation with wild, comic delight.
Besson’s portion of Milocrorze literally smashes into its next tale when his pimped out ride crashes into a pair of assassins attempting to kill a swordsman named Tamon (Takayuki Yamada). Milocrorze then winds itself back to show Tamon as a young man in contemporary Japan courting a flower stall operator and falling in love with the young woman until she is kidnapped by what appear to be Japanese Sand People (à la Star Wars). Tamon then sets upon a four year search for his love depicted in a slow walk by Tamon that reveals his transition from yuppie to hard-bitten samurai. In a near-future Japan that resembles a cyberpunk version of its medieval period, Tamon tracks his love down to an elaborate brothel. After a sword fight in its gaming room, Tamon’s portion of Milocrorze is capped off with a lengthy battle through the brothel oscillating between slow motion and real time, panning from right to left to resemble a traditional scroll painting, and punctuated by near freeze frames of Tamon striking iconic poses from posters for Japanese Kabuki. This uninterrupted, 6-minute sword fight, shot on a 30 metre set and slowed down to a sixth the normal speed, is the film’s most ostentatious flourish and its most declaratory example of Ishibashi’s technical skills. Tamon ultimately sacrifices his life for his love to bring a close to this story, a bittersweet conclusion that modestly improves on the decidedly unhappy ends of the previous sections. Tamon’s tale cannot help but lose some of the momentum established by Besson Kumagai’s rollicking portion, but Tamon’s more traditionally recognizable story is arguably the most coherent of Milcrorze‘s sections and is punctuated by a number of wonderful set-pieces and some stunning action cinematography. Ishibashi’s father was a kimono designer, explaining the exquisite design and costuming of the brothel and its occupants, bringing to mind the sumptuous look of Mika Ninagawa’s Sakuran (2006).
Milocrorze concludes by revisiting Ovreneli Vreneligare, older (now played by Takayuki Yamada) but still wearing will pot lids over his chest. This sequence is rarely commented upon by reviewers who prefer to note the extravagant aspects of the previous sections and is a notable omission as it closes the film, providing us with our final images and thoughts. Here, Ovreneli is reunited with Milocrorze when he takes a small holiday and discovers that she and her more senior husband operate the inn at which he is staying. Old feelings quickly resurface in Ovreneli and lead to him being punched out by Milocrorze’s husband. Bruised and saddened, Ovreneli departs having received only Milocrorze’s platonic kindness, but his pot lids pop off and the hole in his heart/chest closes, allowing him to return to his original home and move on with a life of his own. It is a happy ending in keeping with the film’s vision of the challenged nature of male infatuation, love, and obsession. It offers closure without coupling and a confirmation of personal identity. Unlike Besson’s constructed personae of cool machismo and Tamon’s doomed co-dependency, Ovreneli eventually reclaims his own self and, in doing so, releases the harm inflicted upon him by Milocrorze. Ishibashi’s film is not nearly as random as some critics represent it and its concluding statement offers some synthesis to the vision of Milocrorze: A Love Story. While as dazzling in its aesthetics and spontaneous in its story-telling as many commentators hail it to be, Milocrorze is a thematically unified effort that encourages repeat viewings and more holistic appreciations. As such, it is a film that deserves to be more accessible to North American audiences. Milocrorze has the benefit of sharing some similarity to the other Japanese films released under the Drafthouse Films label, while remaining a distinct and singular film able to stand on its own. With its combination of action, music, dance, and a sweet brand of weirdness, Ishibashi has fashioned a cult film in waiting. Hopefully the Drafthouse Films could open that door and let Milocrorze: A Love Story step in and tweak all our cinematic nipples.
Milocrorze seems to have some variety of advertising art for Drafthouse to select between in choosing a cover treatment. We’re fond of this design for what we believe is the Japanese Blu-ray special edition. Featuring Besson’s snarl, his necktie made from hair, and the ribboning curls that adorn his car, it’s an usual image that is as provocative as Ishibashi’s film, even if its not entirely representative. Wild yet stylish, it nicely marries both high and low art, complimenting the mission statement of Drafthouse Films to destroy “the barriers between grindhouse and art-house.” Ishibashi’s film likewise resists convention to create something technically inspired, artfully presented, and sufficiently exploitive to make it an appealing and suitable addition to the Drafthouse catalogue. It’s a film deserving of better circulation in North America, and if Drafthouse doesn’t do it, then who will?
Credits: The cover summary is stitched together from so many reviews and synopses that I can’t even say which were used. Thanks to those that provided a turn of phrase and those that simply pointed a direction. The interviews and Making of featurette are apparently features on the Japanese Blu-ray, and so we’ve included them here. Ishibashi and Yamada have spoken quite a bit on the film – those interested on seeing them hold court can check out Ishibashi’s Q&A at Japan Cuts 2011 or watch both field questions at NYAFF 2011. We chose Matt Taylor for a potential poster artist given his rough style and colourful palette. His The Earl of Lemongrab poster was particularly convincing and was in keeping with a style we thought appropriate to Milocrorze.