I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing on a Friday night than checking out a new movie from Katsuhito Ishii (one of my favorite directors — Japanese or otherwise), so it was pretty sweet that NEW PEOPLE in San Francisco offered anyone who made it out that plus a Q&A with the man himself, his co-directors, Yuuuka Ooosumi and Shunichiro Miki, and the actors Atsushi Yoshioka and Kanako Kawaguchi.
Ishii described Sorasoi as “very much our precious baby” and I feel like it’s not just the independent, money out of the pocket part (his company is Nice Rainbow); there is a lot of easy-going passion in this cute story that they “…just wanted to make right now,” even as Coach Tabe is telling the students to add more of it to their dancing.
The plot is a slice of college modern dance club life bordering on romantic or comedy, but certainly not a “romantic comedy” of the type you would expect if you put those two words together like that. Dance Team Potente is taking a rehearsal vacation at an unlisted hostel, and when they are not practicing with their coaches on the beach they’re busy stealing each other’s laundry for dubious purposes (watching one of the girls roleplaying in her room with their coaches jumpsuit is hilarious), throwing a BBQ (complete with drunken commiseration time), and… falling in love? Ryu is arguably the main character, since he becomes stuck on Yuri, a girl who shows up alone at the hostel for reasons that would surely count as spoilers.
The soundtrack does a great job of both evoking emotion and emphasizing the comedic aspects. Swooning Hawaiian guitar sounds melt us into Ryu’s puddle of love at first sight, but sharp little stop-and-go percussion tidbits crack us up almost as much as watching him nearly fall in a lake while trying to stalk his way over to Yuri to ask her out.
Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of the dialogue was ad-libbed, as Ishii revealed in the Q&A after the movie. In fact, Atsushi Yoshioka (who played Atsushi — most of the actors kept their names) explained that he was just another Ishii fan, working at a chemical factory, actually, until he went to the director’s improvisation workshops and decided to pursue an acting career. Ten days of shooting on location (in Matsuzaki in the Izu province — the same spot as Funky Forest) was all it took to collect the charming performances represented in the final cut.
When asked if he would go indie again, Ishii replied that he probably would, although first he is releasing REDLINE, the anime movie he’s working on with MADHOUSE. Director Miki has another indie movie with the same actors, only science fiction this time, while Ooosumi recently released a comedy. As for Sorasoi, if you are in the Bay Area, it is still playing through the first of October and is ever so highly recommended.
Sorasoi production still photo via Nippon Cinema