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CANNES 2009 Competition / Spain

Sex, sushi and lies in Coixet’s Tokyo

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Sex, sushi and lies in Coixet’s Tokyo

An original love story between a Japanese hitwoman and a Spanish wine seller in Tokyo marks the Competition debut of Spain’s Isabel Coixet at the Cannes Film Festival. The setting and subject of Map of the Sounds of Tokyo [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
should come as no surprise given that the eclectic Catalan filmmaker’s previous two centred on a Bosnian nurse tending to a wounded man on an oil rig (The Secret Life of Words [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Isabel Coixet
film profile
]
, 2005) and a young, terminally ill mother of two living in a camper in Vancouver (My Life Without Me [+see also:
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]
, 2003).

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The sushi-tinged melodrama produced by Javier Mendez is narrated off-camera by an older Japanese man, who by trade records the city’s noises and sounds for TV and cinema (remember Rüdiger Vogler in Wim Wenders’ Lisbon Story?). The narrator has a friend, Ryu (Rinko Kikuchi, Babel), who by night works at a fish market, a job that helps her “not think”.

On the other side of the city, the young daughter of a businessman kills herself and the desperate father blames the girl’s Spanish boyfriend David (Sergi López, Pan’s Labyrinth [+see also:
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]
). A mysterious killer is called to off the Spaniard, who owns a wine shop in Tokyo. The hired gun is Ryu, who naturally falls in love with the charming European.

A few torrid sex scenes – which pay tribute to classic Japanese erotic cinema – help move along a screenplay that holds few surprises, although here Coixet was surpassed by the porno-gynaecological approach of another Competition title set in Tokyo, Enter the Void [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Gaspar Noè.

Yet this story, which came to the director during a visit to the Tsukiji fish market, is composed of restrained, never-revealed emotions, of tender but wounded hearts, loneliness and resignation. The influence of contemporary Japanese culture and in particular the books of Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto is conveyed in images lit by the city’s neon lights and through an original soundtrack made up of songs by Misora Hibari (the traditional Japanese Genka song), Max Richter, Dutch duo Kraak & Smaak and Antony & the Johnsons.

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(Translated from Italian)

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