I had the director-screenwriter of “Anonymous gods” as a film student in Cape Town many years ago. His written reviews were extraordinary in their depth and sophistication.
His name is Steve Martin. He is credited as Steven J. Martin to avoid being confused with you-know-who. Now he shoots movies in Japan. I saw two, “Unplayed Lullaby” and “Anonymous Gods”, this year. Both are the work of a true auteur, a filmmaker with his own style and vision. He found top notch actresses – four in the case of “Anonymous Gods” – who allowed him to explore his ambitious themes on the big screen with great success.
The Hyannis Film Festival screened “Unplayed Lullaby” in July to enthusiastic audiences. The festival will present the U.S. premiere of “Anonymous Gods” at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 15, at the event space at 529 Main St., Hyannis. Martin and some of his stars will be on hand to present the film, as well as excerpts from a new film they shot in Cape Town. (Tickets, $15, are available at Eventbrite.com.)
For moviegoers who crave art with substance, this is a special opportunity.
“Anonymous Gods” centers on two couples — Sarasa (Nona Akuzawa) and Noa (Chika Kinoshita), and Kasumi (Kozue Ito) and Aoi (Ikumi Tsuchiya) — who struggle with relationship challenges while facing many big life issues. life.
While Aoi, who is expecting a child with Kasumi, has found safety and apparent contentment in pursuing a more commercial path, the other three struggle in different ways for their art: Kasumi, as a relatively unknown photographer; Noa, as a tattoo artist whose business fails; and Sarasa, as a former ballet dancer who considers herself a has-been at 35.
They talk – a lot. It’s typical of Martin’s work. Like Ingmar Bergman, he is concerned with taking deep dives into…well, everything. Every word counts, like beautiful poetry that takes your breath away as it considers what it means to be human. For example, Kasumi says to Aoi as a sort of confession of her desires, “When I get lost in the dark, let me find your hand. When I’m alone, kiss me on the lips. Hold me close when I’m old. And when I can’t find the words to share my dreams, whisper “I understand” softly in my ear.
The film questions what makes an artist, which raises several questions, posed directly or implicitly: are you an artist if you have no audience? Are you a singer if your performance is limited to the shower? Where do you draw the line? Should “getting known” be essential to artistic success? What is the interest, the endgame for the artist?
The film examines the impact of social media on modern life. So many things are superficial and ridiculous. How do we stop it from ruining our lives? Kasumi has this advice for Aoi: “Stop looking.”
Are wishes always selfish? Is love – or what we call love – always selfish? Maybe not always, but most often?
A climax comes when Aoi explains why she is attracted to women, what they offer that men, in her opinion, do not. It’s fascinating. Like everything in this film, it transcends the superficial.
Akuzawa, Kinoshita, Ito, and Tsuchiya are notable as characters with distinctly different thoughts and personalities. Each convincingly conveys complex and intense emotions. (Akuzawa and Ito are also notable in “Unplayed Lullaby.”)
Photographer Kasumi once said, “The lens is my soul.” I don’t know if the target is Martin’s soul. I believe he puts his heart and soul into his work, through what he captures through his camera lens and shares on screen. So my best guess is yes, the target is his soul. And, for that, I am grateful. **** (out of four)
**Click here for Tim Miller’s previous film reviews for Cape Cod Wave**
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Tim Miller is a Cape Town-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore it completely.