If Tom Tykwer and Jean-Pierre Jeunet dropped acid in Tokyo, the resulting movie might be something like "Kamikaze Girls."
At heart, this movie is just a story about an unlikely friendship between two unusual, lonely young girls. But it's also wrapped up in quirky characters, astoundingly stylized cinematography, and dabbed with magical realism and bright colour -- in other words, a made-to-order cult flick.
It opens with a shot of Momoko (Ky˘ko Fukada) being hit by a cabbage truck, and flung into the air from her moped. She bids farewell to all the things in her life... and decides to rewind so people can see a bit more of it.
The product of a short-lived shotgun marriage, Momoko is an oddity in her rural Japanese village -- she's enamoured of Rococo-era France, and dresses only in "Lolita" clothes. To fund her shopping sprees, she decides to use Ver*ace and Uni*ersal knockoffs her dad used to sell, and immediately gets a customer -- a "yanki" biker named Ichiko (Anna Tsuchiya), who's as punky and raw as Momoko is distant.
The girls soon form an odd friendship, based on embroider, pachinko, and Ichiko's short-lived first love. But their paths lead them in new directions -- Momoko is hired to embroider a new model of dress, and Ichiko finds herself dissatisfied with the new gang organizations. And when she decides to leave her gang, Momoko has no choice but to come to her aid.
When you strip it down to the bone, "Kamikaze Girls" is just a story about two odd girls -- one a "girl anachronism," one a punk biker -- who become friends, and how they come of age and gain their independence in their own unique ways. No more, no less.
Except it's also wrapped in Tetsuya Nakashima's colourful, magical style -- blooming embroidery, flying girls, cartoon interludes about legendary thugs, and rapid-paced camerawork. One particularly funny scene features various villagers posing and reciting prices of a Wal-Martish store's cheap clothing, as if they were in a TV commercial. "The people here are... completely TWISTED," Momoko ponders.
The flashbacks to Momoko's birth and childhood are particularly hilarious, especially since they're so exaggerated. And the dialogue is just funny enough without being obviously so ("It was like salivation!" "Did she mean 'salvation'?"). But Nakashima does insert some understatedly poignant scenes, such as when Ichiko cries on a hillside with Momoko watching her.
Ky˘ko Fukada does a nice job as Momoko, who can be haughty one minute and a raging dynamo the next -- depending on whether you dirtied her frilly dress or not. And Anna Tsuchiya is absolutely perfect as the lanky, sometimes violent girl with a sensitive heart underneath. The scene where she attacks a man, shouting, "You speak, she falls. Got a breath problem?" is priceless.
"Kamikaze Girls" is a delightful, hilarious little cult comedy, full of delightful little twists and hilarious dialogue. If only Tetsuya Nakashima would produce a few more of these.