The Actor


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Actor
"Through it all Yasuda brings an excellent game."

We all know about the A-listers, with their gleaming smiles, private dining and personal assistants - but what about the ones who lie considerably further down the alphabet? Satoko Yokohama, adapting from the book by Akito Inui, show us as she considers the life of a journeyman actor in all its amiable, if ambling, (in)glorious detail.

Takuji Kameoka (Ken Yasuda) has one of those faces people recognise even though they aren't sure why. They probably wave at him, assuming he's a neighbour, only to realise, hours later, that they spotted him as a bit part thief in the made-for-TV drama they watched last week. From Cat Zombie Panic to Mouse In The Dark, his films have the ring of a DVD case hitting the bottom of a bargain bin. Interestingly, this is not because he is washed up - even if he does spend every minute of his off-hours in candy-coloured karaoke bars with names like The Carrot Club drinking himself into a stupor. He has a lot of respect from fellow extras and even directors who recognise the talent in being able to drop down dead on request - it's just he's been sidelined in favour of younger, less able actors, whose saving grace is cheekbones that could cut sashimi.

Yokohama hits the road with Kameoka - as he travels the country by train, often to the 'end of the line' - taking on a weird assortment of jobs, from a gangland heavy to a dying samurai and even an uncertain lover in an avant garde theatre play. Even when he isn't working, his imagination happily takes on overtime, as he pictures himself in roles for which he has and has not been cast. Somewhere along the way, he comes across a barmaid, Azumi Murota (Kumiko Aso), and though he begins by playing another 'role' for her, it's soon evident that he is thinking, for once, of just being himself in the here and now.

If you're looking for plot, it will be a long hunt, but many of the episodes we follow Kameoka through offer playful absurdity - or sudden thrills - in their own right. Examples include a single-handed re-enactment of a film festival winner involving some beautifully worked shadow play, and a noir-inflected detective day dream that ends up with Kameoka's nose in some very unexpected dirt. Through it all Yasuda brings an excellent game, no doubt able to draw on his own experiences as a TV and voice-over actor in Japan who is less well-known on an international stage. He treads a fine line well, borderline melancholic, but with enough of a sprightly sense of optimism to bounce back after a night on the booze.

Yokohama also gets terrific performances from all the female co-stars, from Aso, who glows with an inner sweetness, to Tsutomu Yamazaki as the avant garde play's director who fascinates and terrifies him in equal measure, and the actress - who's name I am still trying to hunt down - who plays a ditzy Filipino actress who can't read Japanese.

The overall arc may, like Kameoka's career, be something of a road to nowhere but there are plenty of unexpected pleasures along the way.

Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2016
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An actor falls for a woman in a bar where he is on location.

Director: Satoko Yokohama

Writer: Akito Inui, Satoko Yokohama

Starring: Ken Yasuda, Hirofumi Arai, Kôdai Asaka, Kumiko Asô, Yûki Kudô, Yoshiko Mita, Shôta Sometani, Kaoru Sugita, Shôhei Uno, Tsutomu Yamazaki

Year: 2015

Runtime: 123 minutes

Country: Japan


EIFF 2016

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