Movie Review – Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops (Nippon Connection 18)

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EXPECTATIONS: An interesting filmmaking experiment as well as an entertaining exploration on the vigor of youth.

REVIEW: Japanese director Daigo Matsui is an acclaimed filmmaker who has always specialized in the youth of Japan. Whether it is about the lure and folly of social media like in the music-video motif film Wonderful World End, the enthusiasm and passion of youth in the road comedy Our Huff and Puff Journey and as something as innocuous as puberty in the seemingly comical Sweet Poolside, Matsui knows his way around.

After his anarchic and ambitious comedy/drama Japanese Girls Never Die, we now have his latest film, Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops, an ambitious piece that gained certain buzz due to being filmed entirely in a single take. Does the film succeed above its gimmick and become more of a substantial entry in Matsui’s filmography?

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Based on a true story, six boys and girls (the entire cast play themselves) are chosen through auditions to act in a play of “Morning” by Simon Stephens. Through the course of a month, the cast and crew try really hard to prepare for the scheduled play.

Unfortunately, one of the producers informs them that the play is cancelled due to lack of interest, which shocks the group, making them blame each other for the failure. But one of them declares to the group to continue on rehearsing, regardless of the cancellation.

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Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops is an interesting experiment, as it showcases Matsui’s stellar direction whilst playing around with the artifices of filmmaking in a mischievous way.

One amusing example is the fact that the film has a musical score and yet the music is played live by MOROHA, throughout. Not only is it quite funny, due to some very funny and yet truthful lyrics, but it does convincingly delve deep into the character’s emotions convincingly.

Since the film involves rehearsals as well as real-life events, Matsui plays with the aspect ratio, changing from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1 from time to time to differentiate the difference, although in the later stages of the film, it does become quite disorienting, which was Matsui’s intent.

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While it does showcase the many conflicting emotions that today’s youth go through (the play itself involves a murder due to jealousy and resentment), it also provides an ample showcase for the thespian skills of the cast, who all give great performances.

Kokoro Morita, in particular, fills the many facets of her character, whether it’s giving an intentionally bad performance to showing heartfelt emotions but most important of all, switching those emotions on and off convincingly and seamlessly, Morita does a great job.

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Speaking of being seamless, major props must go to director Daigo Matsui and cinematographer Hiroki Shioya. The sheer meticulousness both the camera choreography and the blocking create a thrilling experience that makes it easy for the audience to immerse themselves into the story. When the film ends, you can just see and feel the exhaustion from everyone involved and when the credits come up, don’t feel surprised if you end up having the urge to cheer.

As for its flaws, the shifts between reality and rehearsal can be quite jarring. Since it clocks in at 74 minutes, it is safe to assume that the film can be seen as slight (like this review). But as an experience in both filmmaking as well as whom the characters represent, Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops is a film worth running out for.

“We are the cosmos made conscious!”

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Quickie Review

PROS

The camerawork and performances synchronize together so well

Cast give great performances

Matsui’s direction lends credibility to themes about youth in Japan

CONS

Shifts between fantasy and reality can be quite jarring

May be seen as slight or insubstantial

SCORE: 7.5/10

Cast: Kokoro MORITA, Reiko TANAKA, Taketo TANAKA, Yuzu AOKI, Guama
Director: Daigo Matsui
Screenwriters: Daigo Matsui

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