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The story is set on the campus of a university in Tokyo. Students from the literature department's "film workshop" are about to start shooting their movie The Bored Murderer, part of their course curriculum. Everyone is in a rush to prepare for the shoot, but the lead actor drops out suddenly, and the team is forced to search for a replacement at the last minute. Matsukawa, the director, and Hisada, the first assistant, and other members of the team have their own personal problems with life and love, and the story unfolds "just like in the movies". Matsukawa's shallow attitude to his girlfriend, Yukari, and the behavior of the mysterious Ikeda, who is to play the lead role of the schoolboy murderer, add to the confusion of the whole situation. As for the one-time director, now lecturer, professor Nakajo, he is also harboring desires for the female student Rei, whilst hiding behind his calm, supportive exterior. Rei, in turn, has a completely different agenda. Everything comes to a head in an unexpected and tumultuous climax.
Director and Cast
Biographies of Director and Actors
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Format: DVD (NTSC)
Encoding: Region 1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, Full Frame
Screen Format: 16x9 Widescreen (Anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Closed Captioned: Yes
By Ed Gonzalez
One of the great discoveries of this year's New York Film Festival is Who's Camus Anyway, a captivatingly detailed ode to community and the movies; it's the rare Altmanesque tapestry that deserves mention in the same sentence as great films like Short Cuts and The Player. The film's stunning opener—a long shot that surveys the campus surrounding an arts school where a group of film students are about to shoot a project that echoes the essence of Albert Camus' The Stranger—even makes reference to the infamous long shot that opens The Player, and though it's scarcely a technical wonder, it still takes your breath way. With this one visionary shot, director Mitsuo Yanagimachi introduces every character in this film for film lovers, charting the rituals of school life and offering glimpses of the personal dramas that will unveil throughout the story.
On the surface, the film is something of a totem to the insular experience of film school, and much of its virtuosity and hilarity is how remarkably it coveys the complicated ways individuals interact with one another within such a setting. This is a film that demands to be filtered through and looked at in relation to our very personal relationship with movies, and as such it's impossible for me not to see a reflection of my own experiences at film school in the story's narrative, from these characters' obsessive love for movies to their shared ritual of making images and watching them flicker across the screen. This is a remarkable narrative of intertwined dramas, and the ease with which Yanagimachi leaves one character and latches onto another is truly something to behold. But Who's Camus Anyway doesn't simply reflect our love for the movies, it responds to it as well.
Yanagimachi addresses the way people live through movies—the way they see life as an imitation of art, and not the other way around. As Matsukawa (Shuji Kashiwabara) anxiously prepares his movie, his girlfriend Yukari (Hinano Yoshikawa) monitors his every move, pestering him about their looming marriage, threatening to kill him if he catches him with another woman, and asking to put his sperm in storage (he agrees to the latter, but only on the condition that she gives him money for software he needs to edit his film). She may be nuts, but she isn't seen as a real person by Matsukawa's crewmates so much as a facsimile of Isabelle Adjani's crazed character from Truffaut's The Story of Adele H. Likewise, the frustrated professor Nakajo (Hirotaro Honda), a former filmmaker who's fascination with a pretty young woman not only stirs memory's floodgates but seems to trigger a midlife crisis, is seen as a mirror reflection of Dirk Bogarde's character from Visconti's Death in Venice.
Who's Camus Anyway recognizes the danger of living vicariously through performance, like an actor so gripped by the emotional toll of a role that they risk losing all sense of reality, which is what happens to Ikeda (Hideo Nakaizumi) when his Meursault-like character in Matsukawa's film begins to torture him. The Stranger is of great significance to Yanagimachi, who brilliantly reflects the existentialist philosophies of Camus' famous novel in a stunning swirl of meta violence. What it all means I won't pretend to know, but if Yanagimachi's characters are anything like Meursault in the sense that they gauge reality only by what they can experience physically, then the surreal bloodshed that closes the film—which echoes the ending of Argento's Deep Red—could be seen as an emphatic expression of our self-important movie dreams and the deeper truths they disguise.
--Ed Gonzalez/ Slant Magazine - Review
By Chris Cabin
In my many years of writing about film, I've only really tried to make a movie once. Foreseeing any big changes, that will be the last time I will be trying to become a director. It's hell: The actors are always on budgeted time, the crew is lazy, and the writer tends to be pretentious to the point of excruciating, likening what you're doing to his work to an anal rape from which he will never recover. I've never had a higher regard for good directors than I did during that week-long shoot. But strangely, the director in Mitsuo Yanagimachi's sublime Who's Camus Anyway? is the character that you hold in low regard.
The 10 years since we've seen Yanagimachi here in the states will make for a rude awakening; where 1985's Fire Festival was brutal and brooding and Shadow of China was just plain, old bad, Who's Camus Anyway? is ferociously witty and hypnotically alert. The film depicts a collegian film crew preparing to film The Bored Murderer, a true story of a high school student who kills an elderly woman for seemingly no reason. The story's main character is said to have a close relation to Mersault, the main character in Camus' classic The Stranger. During the eight days that the film exists in, the crew prepares and shoots the film with help from their teacher, Professor Nakajo (Hirotaro Honda). The film immerses itself in every crew person, giving special attention to the director, Naoki (Shuji Kashiwabara), who must deal with an overbearing yet generous girlfriend (Hinano Yoshikawa), and his assistant director, Kiyoki (Ai Maeda), who seems to become the object of everyone's affection by the end of the eight days. There's also Ikeda (Hideo Nakaizumi), the effeminate and strange lead actor who is the catalyst for the film's chilling finale.
Beyond the uncountable but controlled cinema references in the film (Truffaut and Godard homages rival Bertolucci's The Dreamers), the true influence of this film is obviously Robert Altman, whose branded style of layered narratives and nuanced character studies drives the film. However, Yanagimachi is riffing off of Altman's style rather than copying it. The brushes of sexual obsession and intoxicating longing are mixed so delicately that you almost can't tell the difference. Also, every performance has its own rewards under attentive viewing. Hirotaro Honda makes the professor's obsession with a young grad student such a haunting and tumultuous affair; we feel sorry for him but are frightened by what capacity he might act on his emotions. Maeda and Kashiwabara conjure up emotions and manipulation with grace and subtlety unheard of before.
Camus' existential literature has always been bundled with the so-called hipster crowd, wrongly. Yanagimachi touches on what Camus was really after: the mystery of everyday things and why we do what we do. To call Who's Camus Anyway? an existentialist film would be degrading simply because of the pretentious connotation that inevitably follows. Consider it more as a section of life, with dramatics, emotions, and all the trimmings laid bare. And if your life doesn't have many of those things in it, think about becoming a filmmaker.
--Chris Cabin/ Filmcritic.com - Review
May 19, 2005
By Kirk Honeycutt
Energy and comedy are in large supply in writer-director Mitsuo Yanagimachi's "Who's Camus Anyway?," yet another riff on the levels of reality that occur when a cast and crew make a movie. The twist here is that the filmmakers are a group of university students, who must juggle classes and complicated love lives while under the pressure of making their first movie.
After establishing a light-hearted mood, Yanagimachi tries a subtle tone change that edges the movie into serious matters, creating a kind of movie within a movie that is only partially successful. But by focusing on amateur filmmakers who clearly love movies, Yanagimachi conveys the passion that motivates nearly everyone who gets into such a crazy business.
A bright, young cast of actors and models well known in Japan and other Asian markets assures the film successful theatrical run there. And the universal situations of a college campus and film set make exposure elsewhere a strong possibility. Another big plus is that Yanagimachi, who has taught film production at a university, was given access to a Tokyo campus for his main location.
"Camus" is actually a film more about pre-production. Five days before shooting is to begin on "The Bored Murderer," things are in turmoil. The lead actor has dropped out, forcing director Matsukawa (Shuji Kashiwabara) to go with his "second choice," the strange and strangely effeminate Ikeda (Hideo Nakaizumi).
Meanwhile, Matsukawa is being stalked by his passive/aggressive girlfriend Yukari (Hinano Yoshikawa). So persistent is her shadowing of him that the crew refers to her as Adele, after "The Story of Adele H.," Truffaut's masterpiece about Victor Hugo's daughter's increasingly psychotic obsession with a British army officer.
Similarly, the campus' resident film director, Professor Nakajo (Hirotaro Honda), carries the nickname of Aschenbech, after the Dirk Bogarde character in Visconte's "Death in Venice." Sure enough, he does have a romantic obsession with a young person, a willowy and exotic coed named Rei (Meisa Kuroki).
The students' movie, "The Bored Murderer," based loosely on Albert Camus' novel "The Stranger," concerns a student who as an "experiment" kills an old woman. As Ikeda struggles with such a motive, others in the crew debate the mindset of such a character when he commits his crime. The filmmaker then contrives to have "real life" bring about a near tragedy that better acquaints them with such a mindset.
This means that the subplots involving the two "stalkers" must take serious turns. The tonal shift here is not completely smooth. The bright naivety of the student filmmakers and their subsequent encounter with sobering events both feel a bit forced.
Junichi Fujisawa's hand-held camera follows characters around the campus and surrounding area with frantic nervousness. This includes an opening tracking shot lasting many minutes, in which characters discuss the upcoming film and filmmaking in general including long tracking shots lasting many minutes. (This is acknowledged as a repeat of the joke that opened Robert Altman's "The Player.")
The cast is a sheer delight. The actors clearly enjoy the chance to play characters who, unlike many people in Japan, cannot hide feelings by withdrawing into a socially correct shell.
Bottom line: An engaging and mostly comical tale about student filmmakers in Japan.
--Kirk Honeycutt/ Variety - Review