Fantasia 2021: WONDERFUL PARADISE is Just That

I love Japanese films which sound like a slice of life type scenario gone horribly wrong and Masashi Yamamoto’s Wonderful Paradise fit that bill to a T. The film is the story of the debt-ridden Sasayas who are moving out of their mansion in the burbs of Tokyo thanks to their father’s gambling debts to the Yakuza. When he offhandedly mentions having better times before departing their home, the daughter posts an open invitation on Twitter for a farewell party. When the invite goes viral, more and more fellow outsiders begin to show up at the house looking for somewhere to belong as the film morphs into this absurdist deconstruction on family, with everything from ghosts, impromptu Bollywood Dance sequences, talking cats and even a monstrous man eating coffee bean.

The film Directed by Punk iconoclast Masashi Yamamoto, felt like a more wholesome R100. While that film was one man’s personal struggle with his fetishism and sexuality, this film has a family estranged, who through this night of insanity rediscover what family means to them. It’s not lost on me that Yamamoto also features various groups considered outsiders to Japanese society and not just the Yakuza. We have foreigners (Chinese/Indian), drug dealers, transsexuals and homosexuals, it’s probably one of the most inclusive stories/casts I’ve seen in Japanese cinema since Survive Style 5+. My only regret is not knowing enough of the nuances embedded here to fully appreciate the film’s overflowing cultural subtext.

When I say the film is wholesome, I mean purely in the thematic sense. The film still has sex, drugs, potty mouth kids and the trademark Japanese blood geysers. But ultimately when the credits roll you’re left with a warm feeling of hope for both our dysfunctional family and oddly enough society in general. Unlike some of these films Yamamoto has chosen a more linear narrative that is punctuated by these moments of insanity that don’t distract from the overall story arc and instead work to add even more layers that only make the film even more impactful as the night and the film come to an end. Wonderful Paradise is just that for the discerning cinephile. It’s a film you can get lost in for a little while and leave feeling better about everything.

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