REVOLUTION LAUNDERETTE 信念のメリーゴーランド Oozes With Style and Thrives In Its Gonzo Spirit
In Tokyo, a young man Tomo, dogged by misfortune, sets out to beat his existence to its next punchline, together with Hiroko who obsesses over a stranger’s old scrapbook. They agree to head into all the encounters that come their way, on a plan to decipher the parts of the whole and outwit this joke before it plays out.
Directors: Mark Chua, Lam Li Shuen
Cast: Keisuke Baba, Kiko Yorozu, Kazuya Murakami, Satoshi Ikeda, Wutami Matsuoka
Country: Singapore, Japan
Language: Japanese, English, Mandarin
Runtime: 71 minutes
With their debut docu-fiction feature Cannonball, Singaporean directors Mark Chua and Lam Li Shuen aren’t exactly known to be orthodox. Revolution Launderette follows the experimental spirit of their previous feature and succeeds – yet again – in the creation of something wildly unlike anything out of Singaporean cinema.
The film follows two youths Tomo (Keisuke Baba) and Hiroko (Kiko Yorozu) as they agree to go through with all the experiences that Tokyo’s denizens, sights and sounds throw at them. What and who they encounter on their journey aren’t too outlandish; where Revolution Launderette’s gonzo spirit reveals itself is in its off-kilter style.
The film’s cast mainly comprises of non-professional actors, particularly artists and musicians in Tokyo, Osaka and Toride. Baba and Yorozu are solid in their roles as the leads, while the supporting cast – and a brief cameo by Malaysian filmmaker Lim Kah Wai as himself – are suitably quirky in their performances. Their main task of pulling off the abstruse script convincingly and naturally also deserves commendation.
Its consistently vague dialogue is textbook arthouse. Characters engage in cryptic conversations about time, freedom, and “beating their existence to its next punchline” – their words teetering between philosophical and nonsensical. Perhaps the moment most emblematic of the film’s tone comes around its midway point, when it hones in on a monologue by philosopher and filmmaker Giovanbattista Tusa on the works of Heidegger, Kojève and Nishitani, while he aimlessly wanders around Singapore’s central business district.
Sure, even if the dialogue never feel like it is trying to be smarter-than-thou, it can still be frustrating especially coupled with the film’s eccentric visual style. For instance, in between its character-driven scenes are numerous snippets of Tokyo with its rumbling trains and bustling streets, patiently capturing the heartbeat of the city. These sequences can feel too drawn out when there’s not much for the audience to cling onto narrative wise – especially when they are unsure of what its characters are even talking about. Still, I feel there is enough variety and creativity in the film’s cinematography to keep the film intriguing, especially with its occasional integration of animation and stop motion.
I love the attention Revolution Launderette gives to Japan’s underground music and arts scene. Here, the film takes a detour and leans towards being a documentary – so much so that the audience is unsure that it is a part of the narrative when the leads are nowhere to be seen. It takes its time here, keenly capturing scenes of bands performing to crowded venues, bizarre performance art, and the buskers of the street. Their music – from math rock to unsettling organs – also doubles as the film’s soundtrack, reflecting the vibrancy of city life.
The film’s surrealist tone only ramps up throughout its runtime but there is definitely a method to the madness. What I got from Revolution Launderette was how it imagines the malaise of today’s millennials as akin to being tossed around in a washing machine – at least that’s what I felt from the disorientating dialogue and visuals.
While Tomo looks to break away from the monotonous cycle that adult life brings, the film suggests that his mini-revolution is all part of the cycle. It is exactly along this theme where the eccentricity of Revolution Launderette succeeds.
I found Revolution Launderette to be fascinatingly bleak. On one hand, the film embraces and celebrates the vibrant culture of young Japanese artists, yet comes to a rather nihilistic conclusion on the sustainability of the artistic aspirations of youth. While there are films abound discussing similar topics, hardly any brings its point across as vividly and in such an offbeat key as Revolution Launderette.
Watch trailer here:
Tickets to the world premiere of Revolution Launderette at the SGIFF but be on the lookout for any future screenings on their website.
Check out our review of their debut docu-fiction feature Cannonball here.
About the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF)
The 30th SGIFF, which runs from 21 November to 1 December 2019, will be hosted across multiple Festival venues, including Capitol Theatre, National Museum of Singapore, National Gallery Singapore, Oldham Theatre, The Projector, Filmgarde Bugis+, Golden Village Grand and Objectifs Centre for Photography & Filmmaking.
A leading international film festival in the region and part of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF), SGIFF will present a dynamic array of over 90 films by auteurs from 40 countries that take the pulse of Asian and international cinema.
Find out more about the festival here.