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A Day on the Planet
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Region 3 NTSC
Cinema Service
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean subtitles
Various extras

Year: 2004
Director: Isao Yukisada
Cast: Rena Tanaka, Ayumi Ito, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Shuuji Kashiwabara, Atsushi Ishino, Toshinobu Matsuo, Chizuru Ikewaki
The Skinny: Despite a few interesting characters and quirky situations, this exercise in minimalist filmmaking isn't for everyone - even though director Isao Yukisada went on to make the biggest Japanese film of 2004 a few months later.
Kevin Ma:
     Isao Yukisada started out as an assistant director under Shunji Iwai (Love Letter, All About Lily Chou-Chou) and went on to become one of Japan's most prolific working directors. In the past year, he directed one of Japan's biggest hits Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World, and is following that up less than a year later with the historical epic Year One in the North, starring Ken Watanabe of The Last Samurai. A Day on the Planet is one of his lesser-known works, and was released quietly in theaters a few months before Crying Out Love. Unlike Yukisada's more commercial works, A Day on the Planet recalls his old Iwai days with a much more minimalist approach that sacrifices plot for character quirks and atmosphere. In other words, it's like a Seinfeld episode with prettier people.
     As the title suggests, A Day on the Planet takes place over the course of roughly 24 hours with several interweaving plotlines. The movie opens on a cold winter night with three college students - Nakazawa (Satoshi Tsumabuki), his girlfriend Maki (Rena Tanaka), and Kate (Ayumi Ito) - on a road trip back home from a housewarming party for newly admitted graduate student Masamichi (Shuuji Kashiwabara) in Kyoto (a location not often seen in Japanese movies). Meanwhile, a thug finds himself trapped in a narrow gap between two buildings with a rescue team who is waiting for approval from the authorities to get him out. Finally, a schoolgirl stays behind at the beach to look after a beached whale after residents and the media give up on it. At that point, the movie flashes back to show the events of the entire day, how characters (including the whale) came to be where they are, and goes off on a few tangents along the way to tie it all together.
     At one point during A Day on the Planet, a character says, "So much happens in other places we don't know about." That line pretty much sums up what the entire movie is about. While a lot of things do happen, they are - just as in real life - not very exciting. The most serious thing that happens in the movie is when a character gets hit by car. Even then, he manages to get up and engage in a 3 minute-long conversation on the cell phone while drinking a can of beer. Whenever drama begins to rear its ugly head, reality comes back and knocks it back in. This can make or break A Day on the Planet for some people; if you expect mind-blowing entertainment for two hours, this movie's not for you.
     Nevertheless, A Day on the Planet does contain some interesting moments. For example, the basic premise behind "thug trapped in building gap" is so silly that viewers want to see how it all turns out. However, Yukisada spends a majority of the film focusing on the housewarming party and the individual subplots of the present characters. Some of them are worth investing in, as Yukisada allows the viewers to feel like they can relate to these characters in real life. However, Yukisada failed to realize that sometimes real people can be pretty boring.
     There's no real standout performance in the A Day on the Planet, as the ensemble cast is fairly solid, especially Rena Tanaka, who brings enough spunk to make her character somewhat interesting to watch. The ensemble cast s made up of some of Japan's more notable young talents (including Shunji Iwai favorite Ayumi Ito), but overall the material they're given isn't very challenging. After all, this is really Yukisada's film, and it's all about how he pulls off the subject matter more than anything else.
     A Day on the Planet is a hard film to review; I could describe every single plot point, but even if I did it wouldn't affect a viewer's enjoyment very much. While it's nice that Yukisada can show off his artistic sensibility once in a while when not indulging in commercial cinema, the result isn't really much better than his mainstream works. When working with a plot for a mainstream film, Yukisada has proven himself to be a unique director who can take a more artistic approach to tired genres and overused clichés. But when it comes to a low-budget production like A Day on the Planet, the minimalist approach is something that has to be used with caution. If done right, the film can be a simplistic masterpiece (think Korea's Christmas in August). But if done wrong, the film can become a deadly bore (think Flowers of Shanghai). Luckily, A Day on the Planet doesn't fall too far into the bad side of the spectrum. But unfortunately, it's not very close to the good side either. (Kevin Ma 2005) Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen