Saturday, August 1, 2009

BIG MAN JAPAN (Hitoshi Matsumoto, 2007, Japan) Daisato attempts to fulfill his grandfather’s grandiose legacy but they’re big shoes to fill…and pants. Daisato is a blue-collar bum who is the last of a dying breed of superhero: a man who is electrically charged into becoming an engorged flabby guardian armed only with an impotent baton, a clumsy giant who must fight absurd creatures amid a dioramic Japan. Director Hitoshi Matsumoto films this parody in a cinema verite style; ridiculing the subjects of Reality TV, the strange fetish for giant monsters (often more popular than the ‘hero”), and the cult of personality that fascinates our modern boorish culture. Matsumoto’s sublime documentary focuses upon the loser image of Daisato, his long hair often obscuring his face, living amid the refuse of a used-up life. Separated from his wife and scorned by his young daughter, his tattered life is reflected by the low television ratings of his battles (more Homer Simpson than Homer): as the ratings sink, his home becomes more cluttered and defaced by vandals. But he struggles ever onward to save his country from insane creatures like the middle-aged comb-over Slinky who pile drives skyscrapers, or the creatures whose genitalia and mating rituals disgust even our giant hero. When he accidentally drops a baby monster that was causing no harm, even his agent can’t sell advertising upon his torso any longer: and Daisato just won’t give up his hips for profane slogans! The story focuses upon the tiny life of our huge protagonist, his human faults and fallacies, and the impossibility of his attempts to live up to his family’s reputation. The monster battles are ludicrous and they’re meant to be, causing a narrative rift that make us question whether he is in reality a superhero…or just an actor playing one on an idiotic TV show. Daisato shows no physical prowess or codified martial arts tradition; he’s just a sloth who stumbles through his shtick: his most popular show is the one where he runs away from a devilish foe! Finally, the film blurs the line between his warped reality and fantasy, deconstructing itself into a typical costumed television show with Daisato and the cast obviously dressed in costumes, arguing amongst themselves about their latest exploit. Everyone loves an underdog and maybe our hero has finally found a home. (B)

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