Review of Ritual (2000)

Moving picture, 128 minutes

Anno Hideaki (director).

Seen in 2018.

I saw it untranslated.

An animation director seeking to escape from fantasy into reality meets a bizarre-looking woman headed in the opposite direction.

Arthouse drama. Optimistically, you could say this film interrogates the outré dream girl stereotype in the same way that Love & Pop (1998) interrogated the racy schoolgirl. Realistically, it is just a way for Anno to get past one of his creative blocks, and it is self-obsessed: The character played by his friend Iwai is clearly a stand-in for Anno. Like Iwai’s character, Anno himself does not want to be filmed.

In a 2009-01-16 review, Dennis Grunes makes the obligatory WW2 symbolist interpretation: Fujitani Ayako, who wrote the original novel—wherein the man is not a director—and plays the lead, is Steven Seagal’s daughter, therefore half-Japanese. Her character loves bright red objects on white backdrops, yet the Japanese flag is conspicuous in its absence. In the final scene, we learn the character was born on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

I do not buy into Grunes’s conclusion that Fujitani’s mix of races corresponds to the general indeterminacy of the narrative, with its unnamed setting and characters. That indeterminacy is more parsimoniously attributable to Anno’s pretentiousness. The poor sound design of this cheap production made it difficult to hear what people were saying at times, but never more so than in pseudo-Anno’s sound-stage monologues, just because the vocabulary there is obscure, while Hayashibara’s sound-stage script is simpler and her Rei-like delivery excellent as always.

The WW2/nationalist aspect is probably incidental to the larger theme of alienation, but it is clearly baiting a Mishima Yukio interpretation of the artist (Anno) turning to the far right.

There are fewer camera games than in Love & Pop, but lots of fish-eye lens work, and all the animation is crappy. The complex industrial backdrops are beautiful but the interior set design is implausible and boring.

References here: All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001), Shin Godzilla (2016).

moving picture Japanese production fiction