MONTHLY CLASSICS: PARADISE VIEW (PARADAISU BYU) (Gō Takamine, 1985)
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Friday, October 2, $12, 7:00
Japan Society has picked a real gem for its October Monthly Classics presentation, writer-director Gō Takamine’s rarely shown wry black comedy, Paradise View. The thirtieth anniversary screening is also part of Japan Society’s three-month multidisciplinary program “Okinawan Vibes,” which takes a look at the southern island that was occupied by the American military from 1945 to 1972 and, in many ways, is not exactly Japan’s favorite relation; Okinawans, who have their own heritage of language, culture, and religion, have faced longtime discrimination as Japan’s largest minority group. The film opens with a gorgeous shot (the cinematographer is Takao Toshioka) of ant lover Reishu (yakuza actor Kaoru Kobayashi, not the executed child murderer) on a vast beach, collecting sea salt to make him feel better about life, which is rather bleak for everyone on Okinawa, especially now that the occupation is over. The married Reishu has apparently knocked up local simpleton Chiru (Japanese pop star Jun Togawa); island girl Nabee is breaking tradition by marrying a Japanese teacher, Ito; Bindalay (Yoko Taniyama) is quitting her music group, the Tropical Sisters, to go solo, while being stalked by a former boyfriend who dresses as a samurai; a blind man returns home after losing his second family in the Philippines; blue chickens and rainbow pigs roam the land; Reishu’s dog has developed a liking for goat balls, which make the mutt horny; and poisonous snakes are everywhere, from coffins to amphibious trucks. The wacky cast also includes Shinzoku Ogimi, Tomi Taira, and composer and musician Haruomi Hosono as the dude with the great porn stache. “The Japanese are strange creatures,” one ne’er-do-well says. An elderly woman soon laments, “We’ll all be Japanese soon,” after which the man adds, “I wonder if we’ll just end up as a backwater province.” There’s plenty of backwater strangeness in Okinawa, as short vignettes sweetly portray a collection of oddballs doing very odd things while also remaining intensely concerned about holding on to their souls. “I had a dream that a dog ate Reishu’s spirit, then threw it up. He’s lost his spirit! He’s been spirited away!” a deadpan Chiru says, capturing the essence of Okinawan native Takamine’s (Okinawan Dream Show, Untamagiru) brilliant love letter to his homeland. The Japan Society screening will be followed by a reception with Okinawan beer and snacks. The Monthly Classics film series continues on November 6 with Yoji Yamada’s The Yellow Handkerchief, in tribute to star Ken Takakura, who passed away last November at the age of eighty-three.