REVIEW: DVD Release: Instant Swamp

Film: Instant Swamp
Release date: 24th May 2010
Certificate: 12
Running time: 120 mins
Director: Miki Satoshi
Starring: Kumiko Aso, Ryo Kase, Morio Kazama, Eri Fuse, Kankuro Kudo, Keiko Matsuzaka
Genre: Comedy
Studio: Third Window
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

Director of Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers, Satoshi Miki is an established name in Japan with an unmistakable style that doesn't shy away from the ludicrous – you’ve been warned!

Haname Jinchoge (Kumiko Aso) is a young professional working as an executive for a fashion magazine in Japan. But under the exterior of a successful business woman lies the frustration, desires and imagination of a young girl trying to make sense of the world around her, amidst the stories of magic and superstitions from her friends and family.

When Haname's mother falls ill, she discovers the identity of her father, taking it upon herself to find him and discover the man he really is. Her discoveries take her through any number of small adventures, making new friends and discovering more about her past and her beliefs...

The film starts with Haname working as a high level executive for a fashion magazine, with aspirations of starting her own magazine in Europe in order to be closer to the man she believes to be her soul mate - Shunsuke. Shunsuke is a photographer for the magazine and is the only man with whom Haname doesn't suffer a large static electric shock every time they touch. Hitting straight to the heart of the problem, this aligns the film to an episode of Ally McBeal or Sex And The City.

From here, Instant Swamp moves in an incredibly erratically episodic way, skipping from vignette to vignette with very little sense of underlying chronology. Rather than a cinematic experience, this is like watching a set of clippings from one of the aforementioned sit-coms. With its few bright, easily identifiable characters and locations, it is one very small step away from mindless catch-phrases that spark off a surge of canned laughter and audience applause.

Instant Swamp aims for the heady heights of Chan-wook Parks I'm A Cyborg But That's OK and Jean-Pierre Jeunets Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain – two wonderfully imaginative productions. Where these films succeed - with genius characterisation and central charm and colour - is to pull you into an unconventional world created by the lead characters’ personalities. Without these elements, Instant Swamp merely annoys, with Haname's continuous high-pitched and over excited yelps to the smallest details making the whole experience a true challenge.

As the film progresses through its many mini adventures, the story loses itself - forgetting its original purpose and drive. It starts with the story of a woman’s discoveries of her family, and coming to terms with personal identity - all the time dealing with her beliefs in the superstitions and magic she is always being told is surrounding her but she cannot see – but midway through the film this gets forgotten. The end finds itself somewhere between an episode of Scrubs and children's TV show, with full decibel dialogue between one dimensional characters.

Instant Swamp is a very confused film. It is lost in its sense of purpose and identity, and lacks any real substance. As the story jumps around in a dismissive and unstructured pattern - the acting is so incredibly over played for the intention of comedy that watching the action on screen is an effort in itself.

Instant Swamp feels like a journey through the mind of an 11-year-old girl with A.D.H.D. who has just sank a whole undiluted bottle of Ribena. JP

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