Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yaji & Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims

... or... Mayonaka no Yaji-san Kita-san

Another Japanese gem we have watched last night! It's brilliant, surreal, absurd and hilarious. The plot revolves around a couple of gay samurai in the Edo era (1603 to 1868). Kita-san is a drug addict and Yaji-san, his married lover. Since Kita-san can make "no heads or tails of reality", Yaji-san decides to bring him in a pilgrimage to Ise Sanctuary, after picking up an ad about the place. Ise-san is said to be the solution for all problems, the cure for anything, thus ideal for a junkie such as Kita-san.

I have scanned the ad for your delight (up above!) - now if you can imagine a samurai getting such a leaflet in the Edo era, you can have an idea of the wacky stuff awaiting for you in these 2 hours +.

To arrive to Ise-san they have to follow the old Tokaido road and, on their way, they stop at several inns and meet a bunch of really funny and bizarre characters. The Laughter Inn (where to be accepted you simply must present the funniest stand-in comedy routine, for example), a green tea plantation in Shizuoka where they meet a drag queen with a daughter who cannot sing to save her own life (thus causing Mt. Fuji to be hazed all the time), a group of cute school girls that are die-hard fans of a famous local Yakuza boss, a guy who impersonates King Arthur in a tribute/reference to Monty Python (or so it seemed), the Souls Inn, and an undead bartender in the middle of the forest, whose drinks are made from magic mushrooms etc... Well, think about Alice in Wonderland meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert... Or something along these lines.

But that's not all. Yaji-san is actually being wanted for the murder of his wife Ohatsu (did he, did he not?), and Kita-san believes to have fallen in love with the singing-challenged Shizuoka girl who, by her turn, has fallen in love with no one else than Yaji-san! Not to mention that they also manage to record a CD and become famous as a result.

Some more hilarious characters here are the Police investigators (Kin-kin and assistant Non-no), the she-demon Datsueba, the bearded courtesans, and what have you...

Photography, soundtrack and costumes are all brilliant and colourful, and the film is loaded with puns and jokes, some of which are much probably lost in translation, but still quite enjoyable. I absolutely love when they arrive to what they think is Ise-san, but in fact is the department store Isetan, in the middle of Tokyo's Shibuya. Surreal, and straightforward hilarious.

Note that the beginning of the film is in black-and-white, until Yaji-san shows the leaflet to Kita-san and then everything seems to come to life and the colours appear - as if their lives now have gotten a meaning and aim (a quest in search of redemption/healing at Ise-san, that is). There is even a fantastic dream scene where corpses floating in the river become pieces of a supernatural Tetris game, and that's certainly one of my favourites.

Now I just need to find myself the soundtrack!

(Directed by Kudo Kankuro, dated 2005, starring as Yaji-san and Kita-san: Nagase Tomoya and Nakamura Shichinosuke II, respectively).

(Pictures scanned by me, from the DVD inse
rt, by Asmik Ace Entertainment Inc., DVD ACBD-10302).

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