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In the Pool
In the Pool

Suzuki Matsuo (left) and Maiko (right) check out Joe Odagiri's "problem" in In the Pool.
  Japanese: イン・ザ・プール
Year: 2005  
Director: Satoshi Miki  
  Writer: Satoshi Miki, Hideo Okuda (original novel)

Suzuki Matsuo, Joe Odagiri, Miwako Ichikawa, Seiichi Tanabe, Eri Fuse, Ryo Iwamatsu, Maiko, Noboru Mitani, Leo Morimoto

  The Skinny:

This quirky comedy from Satoshi Miki is all about people with problems, and could be be comforting - or perhaps alarming - to those who experience stress in their daily lives. An odd, hilarious, and sometimes warm little movie.

by Kozo:

Satoshi Miki's In the Pool features a collection of weirdoes with hilarious psychological disorders, and there's something comforting and familiar about all of them. I've got hang-ups, and I'll bet you've got them too. That identification with unique quirks and strange little obsessions is what makes the film a minor little joy - though hopefully, nobody you know is as weird as the oddballs you'll find on display here. And if you do know somebody this odd, then send him or her to get some professional help. Quick.

However, you may not wish to send them to Dr. Ichiro Irabu (Suzuki Matsuo). The resident psychiatrist of In the Pool, Irabu wears leopard-print shirts beneath his doctor's coat, and generally acts obnoxious, intolerable, and not like any sound health practitioner should. Matsuo dials the jocular irreverence up to eleven as the completely over-the-top doc, but his performance is remarkably funny, and perfectly in keeping with Miki's bizarre sense of humor and exaggerated take on real-life neuroses.

One of Irabu's patients is Tetsuya Taguchi (Joe Odagiri), a mellow salary man who can't bring it down - and by "it", we're talking about his manhood. The guy has a perpetual erection, which isn't so hot for hanging around the office or riding the train. Taguchi goes to Irabu for help, but before he can find the source of his stiffness (it has something to do with his ex-wife), he's forced to endure comic embarrassment from the doc and his sexually intimidating nurse (Maiko). No stranger to odd roles, Odagiri conveys comic discomfort exceptionally well, and easily does more than his stiff, buttoned-up character allows.

Also on the doc's patient list is Suzumi Iwamura (Miwako Ichikawa), a local reporter whose Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is hysterically debilitating. Every day she worries if she left on the air conditioner, iron, gas, etc., and usually she runs back home fearing some sort of explosion, thereby wasting time and screwing up her day job. The doc tries to help her by making her realize the chances of actual accident are small - usually by messing with her, naturally - but the journey towards that realization is given to plenty of shtick and a few surprises. Ichikawa has the timing and the quirks of her character down, and her therapeutic field trips with Irabu are the hilarious highlights of the film.

The last compulsive is Kazuo Ohmori (Seiichi Tanabe), an executive who reduces stress through a regular swimming routine at the pool. However, his life begins an amusing downward spiral when circumstances prevent him from getting in his daily laps. Not exactly a likeable character (he cheats on his wife and is a bit of a prick), Ohmori is nonetheless easy to empathize with because his hang-ups are simply exaggerated versions of every man's. We've all got bones to pick and itches to scratch, and In the Pool makes fodder out of everyday stress and circumstance, exaggerating it to the point where it becomes bizarre, giggle-worthy situation comedy.

Satoshi Miki gives every character and every issue some pause for reflection, but nothing approaching a hard-hitting message ever occurs. The pace of the film is never given to excitement or action, seeming to reflect the humdrum banality of modern Japanese life, which is skewered here affectionately - most especially when dealing with Taguchi's pitiable penis problem. However, the film is mostly droll screwball silliness from start-to-finish, and never seems to imply much beyond its very minor status. Miki seems content with delivering a strange, small comedy with occasional moments of warmth. He succeeds handily. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2008)

  Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1

image courtesy of Udine Far East Film Festival Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen