1 - 7, 2018
ORGANISED BY THE AUSTRIAN-JAPANESE SOCIETY (ÖJG)
MARGARETENSTRASSE 78, 1050 VIENNA
Wednesday, October 4, 6:00 p.m
Japan 2017, 95 min.
Atsuko HIRAYANAGI, Boris FRUMIN
In this film which premiered in Cannes earlier this year, we can again admire the great Koji Yakusho, since Tampopo (1985) one of Japan's most prolific and versatile actors. 17 times nominated by the Japanese Academy, he has already one twice the trophy as Best Actor.
Setsuko is not quite sure what to think when she receives an invitation for a trial lesson for an English course from her niece. She seems surprisingly preoccupied with her austere life as an office lady somewhere in central Tokyo. Her work colleagues are her only social contacts, and after work she withdraws to her tiny and messy apartment with a permanently smouldering cigarette as her only companion. True happiness may look different, but Setsuko has lowered all her standards to the point where she doesn’t even attempt to escape her dreary daily routine.
The English lesson, with its hyper-motivated, authentically American teacher, eventually thrusts Setsuko into a totally new reality and lays bare long since buried desires. The rather unusual teaching methods transform the reluctant Setsuko into the curious Lucy, who wears a curly blonde wig haphazardly placed on top of her dark hair. And then there are the ‘hugs’, long and heartfelt embraces that remind Lucy of all the things missing in her life.
But shortly afterward, her niece Mika suddenly disappears in the direction of California along with the good teacher, John. He is someone Setsuko/Lucy will not let go of easily, so she takes Mika’s mother on a trip across the globe in pursuit of the two. When these four finally cross paths in sunny San Diego, not only old wounds are torn wide open but cultural differences also rear their ugly heads. The hitherto cheerful mood of the film becomes considerably darker, desires become obsessions, and gentle hopes give way to bitter regrets.
Oh Lucy! originally began in 2014 as a much appreciated and award winning short film, which director Atsuko Hirayanagi has now enhanced in several ways and converted into a multi-layered feature film. Lucy is the kind of character you sometimes want to grab by the shoulders and shake some sense into, or at other times just hug. The nuances in Shinobu Terajima’s performance as Setsuko/Lucy allow the film to walk the fine line between cheerful comedy and darker drama.