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Review: Tokyo Ride


- Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine present a clumsy movie that feels more like a filmed Lonely Planet entry

Review: Tokyo Ride

If there is one thing that becomes clear after watching Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine’s documentary Tokyo Ride, presented in Docaviv’s Depth of Field Competition, it’s that no one will ever invite them anywhere again, at least not before making sure they won’t show up with a camera. As they finally make it to their long-delayed meeting with acclaimed Japanese architect Ryūe Nishizawa in Tokyo – “It took more than ten years to decide on a date, but finally, we made it,” an insert informs us – he proves to be a good enough sport about it, although after a whole day, even he can’t help but ask: “Even during lunchtime you will film?” It’s a wonder he has lasted that long, to be frank.

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This tiny little thing, filmed in black and white and feeling more like a Lonely Planet entry than an actual narrative of any kind, really commits to its “road movie” concept – right down to watching someone setting up a GPS or fighting with the windows as they constantly fog up. Nishizawa, who invites these two for a ride “with his Giulia”, really means his vintage Alfa Romeo: his clearly beloved, if slightly temperamental, car. But it’s the only rainy day in the whole season, and Giulia is feeling grumpy – “Terrified by the weather, Giulia refuses to start,” goes another insert, at this point already quite tiring. Still, they embark on their journey, discovering the city’s hidden corners and listening to Nishizawa talk about everything from his love of houses to family, or even an old interview claiming that he doesn’t, in fact, have a fridge. And architecture, of course, which in itself could score it some specialised festival showings.

While it’s easy to see why, after waiting ten years for that date, they would want to have at least some kind of a reminder, Tokyo Ride is a tricky one to share with other people – it’s a bit like watching someone’s overly long holiday video, with the proud creators repeating: “I guess you just had to be there.” Despite his claims that Japanese people are “naked” in social situations (“They don’t know the way to say ‘hello’”), Nishizawa is, frankly, a stellar host and an engaging presence, and although he seems to be a tad too optimistic as far as Europe’s approach to diversity is concerned, one can only imagine how exciting hearing him talk would be for architecture aficionados everywhere in the world. But, although they do film his consent, the whole thing feels a bit exploitative and forced, not to mention terribly clumsy, with exchanges about the weather followed by Bêka’s questions about the size of his guide’s wallet. Some things are best enjoyed in private.

Tokyo Ride, a French production, was directed, produced and edited by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine.

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