Hou is weirdly good at capturing technology in transition. Lead character Yoko has a cellphone in this, but there are pay phones around, and you could still call a bar and ask to speak with a customer. There’s also a minidisc recorder, which is very exciting to me. The story, not so much though – Hou thought it would be interesting and Ozu-like to follow a Japanese girl around. His follow-up Three Times was slowly sensuous, while this is just uneventful.
a womb of trains:
She visits her parents, tells mom she’s pregnant over a late night snack. She won’t marry the baby daddy, who lives in Thailand and works at an umbrella factory, bringing her umbrellas when they visit. She researches a dream she had about a goblin stealing a child, and interviews locals to locate a cafe which a Taiwanese author used to frequent. Her book store friend records train sounds on minidisc, and people murmur to each other about art and memories and technology.
Rosenbaum called it “a provocative and haunting look at Tokyo and the overall drift of the world that’s slow to reveal its secrets and beauties,” and I was disappointed not to agree. Yoko’s parents are stars – Kimiko Yo of Yumeji and Hiruko the Goblin, and Nenji Kobayashi of Twilight Samurai and a bunch of Obayashis – and the minidisc guy is Ichi the Killer star Tadanobu Asano.