Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dokushin Kizoku (2013)

Dokushin Kizoku is a romantic comedy series that is more like an homage to classical Hollywood films than an earnest depiction of contemporary single life. It has elements of the quiet, pristine romances prevalent in the Golden Age of cinema, at times, being out of touch with present day reality, often caught up in scenarios that would have otherwise been tolerable if this were made in a different century.  It starts off with three single people with individual reasons to detest marriage and steamrolls its way to the rigors of the movie-making business and yet, it does not really make strides to push that particular subplot. At best, it's about how one self-proclaimed bachelor for life meets his one true love and reconsiders his view on marriage....but to say that's all there is would be myopic. The series is predictable to a fault and though it is peppered with sweet moments and lots of movie references, such timid intimations of love between the lead characters may not be enough to tide die-hard romantics through eleven episodes of near misses and forced endearments.

Hoshino Mamoru (Kusanagi Tsuyoshi) is the head of a film production company who relishes his time alone. He goes out on dates but pays the women no mind, firm in his opinion that matrimony and sharing his life with someone would be nothing but bothersome. Temporarily living in his apartment is his brother, Susumu (Ito Hideaki), who continues to carry on a dalliance with a revolving door of women even though he's about to be taken to the cleaners by his ex-wife. Though different in demeanor and attitude towards work and women, the Hoshino brothers agree on one thing---there's nothing more precious than being free and unhampered, for nothing beats living the single life.

Trouble brews on the horizon when the screenwriter they contracted fails to produce a script for their latest venture. With the company's investors ready to pull out at any moment and their aunt (Dewi Sukarno) imposing Mamoru's engagement to aristocrat, Genouzono Reika (Hiraiwa Kami) as a condition to providing financial support, the brothers scramble to salvage the impending movie project.

Susumu decides to pass off a screenplay written by aspiring writer, Haruno Yuki (Kitagawa Keiko) to the investors as a quick fix, but Mamoru objects to the said plan as a matter of principle. To keep the company afloat, he acquiesces to the arranged marriage and offers Haruno an internship to familiarize herself with the movie business while working on her screenplay.

Matters of the heart and work soon collide as Haruno attracts the attention of the Hoshino brothers. She gets swept off her feet by the younger and personable Susumu; slow to realize how the older and introverted Mamoru would be a better match for her creative sensibility and reticent personality. Though alike in many ways, these two inert individuals take a rather long and awkward path to finding each other, and not without the intervention of meddling bystanders and concerned well-wishers.

Contrary to its title, Dokushin Kizoku is not really about the swinging single life. Yes, it's a love story that takes root during the course of a movie production but, in its own way, it's also a circumspect tribute to cinematic endeavors in general. It has protagonists who are certified cinephiles who share a strong belief in film, not only as a form of artistic expression but also as a medium that captures the imagination and opens up worlds that would otherwise have been out of reach.

On the business side of things, each episode takes audiences through common problems encountered in putting together a movie project such as working with divas, hosting premieres, soliciting advertisers, casting choices and securing location permits. The series also manages to present the veritable conflict between the commercial and creative demands of the industry, including the existence of the proverbial casting couch. However, it often falls back on clichés, as if totally oblivious to the consequences of a breach in contract, the threat of a sexual harassment suit or the oft-discussed complications of having a workplace romance.

Dokushin Kizoku more or less tries to mesh what would have been a 50's prototypical romance with the supposed cutthroat film industry but is unable to adeptly present or explore each storyline from a fresh, unfiltered perspective. It remains pleasant and wholesome, which is part of its old school charm.

Characters would often speak about romantic love and destiny, citing lines in verbatim from stock movies such as Sleepless in Seattle and While You Were Sleeping and even serendipity comes at play, but the material's too chaste approach and often languorous pacing somehow tamps the magic of its so-called meguri aetera. With inspiration culled right out of celluloid dreams and music invoking a myriad love stories, it's a wonder how the romantic scenes allotted to its one true pairing  were so few and far between.

There's just not enough of either the love story or the workplace drama---with symbolic tokens conveniently forgotten and professional impediments easily brushed aside. But while it may lack originality, it does manage to recreate the type of story where love and intimacy can develop without physical contact and where the gravitational pull between soulmates is so apparent that third parties have no choice but to nobly step aside.

As a side note, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi's performance at the end of episode seven deserves mention for what comes across as a sincere and heartfelt admission, while Hiraiwa Kami gets major props for playing an initially annoying side character, who ends up saving the day by boldly proclaiming, "there's no such thing as fate". Now if only she lost the birdcage headbands...



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