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Bare-Assed Japan
Bare-Assed Japan

It's cool to be crude: the stars of Bare-Assed Japan.
Japanese: 剥き出しにっぽん
Year: 2005  

Yuya Ishii


Yuya Ishii


Yuichi Toyone, Rumi Ninomiya, Shuya Nishizono, Emi Makino, Tombo Katsura, Meigyoku Kin, Noriyuki Isonishi, Satoshi Takahara, Shinya Yokoyama

  The Skinny: The other major winner at the 2007 Pia Festival. This feature debut by Edward Yang New Talent Award winner Yuya Ishii is a crude deadpan comedy that compensates for its lacking production values with absurd humor, and does so without losing sight of its message.
Kevin Ma:

At a Takashi Miike-like pace, director Yuya Ishii has made four films in the last two years, all of which were screened at film festivals in Rotterdam and Hong Kong. The films also earned Ishii the inaugural Edward Yang New Talent Award at the 2008 Asian Film Awards, though only two of his films were given limited engagements in a Tokyo arthouse. One of the two films, and the one that started it all, is Bare-Assed Japan, a low-budget 16mm deadpan comedy that he made as a graduation film at the Osaka University of Arts. At the 2007 Pia Film Festival, it managed to beat out other amateur works, including Ryo Nakajima's A World of Ours (a personal favorite in these parts), to win the Grand Prix Award. On the surface, the crude and sometimes nonsensical humor makes the film an unlikely award winner (especially against Nakajima's powerful debut film), but it's still a successful comedy on its own terms.

Bare-Assed Japan sets its crude terms from the very first scene, in which young Taro is seen masturbating on his floor. During the process, his grandfather enters the room for some impromptu encouragement on his graduation day, and Taro tries not very successfully to hide the act. Over-obsessed with sex and equally frustrated with his lack of it, he moves out of the house immediately after high school graduation to make it on his own. Somehow, Taro manages to get Yoko, a sweets-selling girl that he's infatuated with, to move into his newly-rented house with him. However, Taro's plan is ruined when his slacker of a father loses his job and decides to follow Taro to his house while remaining blissfully ignorant of his son's intentions with Yoko (he literally lays his futon right between Taro's and Yoko's). As the three try to make something out of their run-down country house, Taro learns the hard way that the road to maturity, independence, and sex is not so easy to travel.

Bare-Assed Japan's lack of budget definitely shows - it wasn't even shot with widescreen in mind. But instead of better production values, Ishii relies on his absurd humor and comic timing to carry the film for its 90-minute length. The film is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, as the writer/director prefers the type of deadpan comedy that doesn't require breakneck pacing or manic energy to make people laugh. The jokes are presented with real-life pacing, and you either get the absurdity or you don't. However, there are moments of sheer comic genius (including one of the most intentionally hilarious subtitles in recent years) that show that Ishii knows perfectly what he's doing. As a result, even though the characters are not particularly likeable they are strong enough for the audience to care for. Ironically, the father, with his developmentally-arrested persona and almost juvenile attempts to bond with his young adult son, becomes the most likeable character in the film despite the obstacles he creates for Taro. On the other hand, Taro, who the audience initially identifies with as the sex-starved, immature protagonist, grows increasingly unlikable with his destructive tantrums.

As is expected from a film with its humble roots, the acting in Bare-Assed Japan is of non-professional quality. Still, it's fairly competent, and an even stronger testament to Ishii's comedic skill as a director. Comedies often rely on the actors' performances to deliver the humor, but Ishii's ability to bring laughs without strong acting from his cast shows that this is a director with great comic timing for the screen. His screenplay is also masterful in its ability to blend timely allegory about modern Japanese society with lowbrow humor. One may not expect any type of relevant message in a film with a graphic shots of men masturbating frenetically, but Ishii is able to keep that type of absurd humor throughout the film without losing his message.

Bare-Assed Japan is not a film deserving of deep analysis, and it doesn't aspire to be one. But Ishii's ability to retain his message while also allowing for the audience to enjoy the film is a skill that's difficult to come by, and the most likely reason for the film's victory at the Pia Awards. While Bare-Assed Japan is not as cinematically successful or emotionally powerful as This World of Ours, both Ryo Nakajima and Yuya Ishii have arrived to show us that there's more to Japanese cinema than television directors and overlong drama adaptations. (Kevin Ma, viewed at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, 2008)

  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen