ASIAN FILM - Review
15:00 - 28th June 2015, by David West

Fuku-Chan Of Fukufuku Flats

Fukuda (Miyuki Oshima), who works at painting buildings, is great at solving problems for his friends and at keeping the peace between the oddballs who live in his apartment complex. However, he has always been single despite the well intentioned efforts of his pal Shimachi (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) to fix him up with a date. Fukuda’s fear of women dates back to his school years, when he was the subject of a cruel prank that shattered his self-confidence. One of the principal players in Fukuda’s teenage torment, Chiho (Asami Mizukawa), is now an aspiring photographer and wants to make amends for her past deeds. She also wants to photograph Fukuda as she says his face is inspiring. So he reluctantly agrees to be her subject.

Fuku-Chan is the latest outing from Yosuke Fujita, the director of Quirky Guys And Gals and Fine, Totally Fine and it is cut from a similar cloth, relying on a cast of mildly eccentric characters for comic effect. It takes a long time for the script to get going, and the reunion between Chiho and Fukuda only happens at the halfway mark. It is a long road to reach that point in the plot, with a lot of fart and penis jokes along the way, and one scene of blatant misogyny when a creepy photographer called Nakamura punches his girlfriend unconscious for interrupting him.

In the title role, comedienne Miyuki Oshima passes convincingly as a man and presumably the parade of remarks about the size of Fukuda’s penis are supposed to be a knowing wink to the audience about Oshima’s gender-bending performance. The actress brings plenty of pathos to the character, suggesting vulnerability beneath the rather burly exterior. He may paint industrial buildings for a living, but at home, Fukuda paints beautiful handcrafted kites, which reveals more about the character than any amount of dialogue could hope to. As Chiho, Asami Mizukawa is one of the few characters without some odd quirk to define her personality, so she can look a little bland next to the guy performing a pilgrimage to atone for stealing women’s panties and Fukuda’s lonely neighbour who keeps a pet snake for company.

In the past, Fujita’s work has been compared to Finland’s master of deadpan Aki Kaurismaki. In truth, this is quite unfair: he lacks Kaurismaki’s ability to effectively contrast the surreal and the mundane, not to mention his lack of solid comic timing. The screenplay to this, his latest effort, takes too long to bring the two leads together, and set pieces often feel forced and inject some unneeded absurdity into the situations, rather than letting the humour spring from the characters’ own actions. With this said, Fujita has never been a filmmaker to deliver belly laughs; his style and tone are more subdued than that. The sense of humour here is low-key – so anyone averse to self-conscious ‘quirkiness’ should stay clear.

The script needs trimming and the plot is predictable, but Miyuki Oshima carries Fuku-Chan Of Fukufuku Flats with her hound dog expression and delivers an impressive performance.
SCORE: 3/5
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