Melancholic - Melancholic( Blu Ray & DVD) [Thrid Window Films - 2020]Shot in 2018, Melancholic is the directorial debut of Seiji Tanaka- it's an award-winning comic crime drama starring Yoji Minagawa, who also produced the film, alongside Yoshitomo Isozaki and Mebuki Yoshida. Tanaka managed to scoop both the Japanese Cinema Splash Best Director Award at the 31st Tokyo International Film Awards and the White Mulberry Award for First Time Director at the 21st Far East Film Awards, and the film continues to find favourable comments from critics across the world.
The story of Melancholic follows Tokyo university graduate Kazuhiko (Yoji Minagawa) who after graduation has returned home to live with his parents and doesn’t have a job. After meeting up with some old high school classmates at a party, Soejima Yuri (Mebuki Yoshida) recommends that he apply for a job at the local bathhouse where they bumped into one another at the beginning of the film. Kazuhiko is interviewed alongside Matsumoto (Yoshitomo Isozaki) and the two begin working together. Before long Kazuhiko begins to notice strange things start happening after hours and decides to investigate. Kazuhiko is shocked to find that the bathhouse is being used by the Yakuza as an execution space and subsequently finds himself dragged into cleaning up the bathhouse after them. It becomes evident that Matsumoto is himself a hitman who was hired with that purpose in mind, and when a hit goes wrong and the hitman Mr Kodera (Yazuyuki Hamaya) ends up dead kazuhiko begins to learn more about his colleagues and subsequently himself.
Melancholic is quite an achievement for a first-time director. A hyper-violent, funny and at times tender film that is part crime drama, part comedy and part romance. The performances are great, Yoji Minagawa is especially good as Kazuhiko and Mebuki Yoshida as the infectious Soejima Yuri, and the direction is smart and belies the group’s lack of previous experience. The different aspects of the story work well together and the whole thing feels like the work of a seasoned team of filmmakers.
The dual Blu Ray & DVD set contains some interesting bonus materials, there’s a behind the scenes featurette, a trailer and a Q and A with director Tanaka, producer/protagonist Minagawa and choreographer/actor Isozaki, but most intriguing of all is the short film that represents the genesis of Melancholic, one can see why it was greenlit as the short shows all the same qualities associated with the longer form piece.
Overall, I can’t recommend Melancholic highly enough and look forward to seeing what this young cast and crew do in the future.Darren Charles