Movie Magazine International

Village of Dreams

Japan - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

You gotta love a film that includes the line "Get dressed or the Thunder God will steal your penis." For the twin stars of "Village of Dreams," it's not a threat to be taken lightly. The time is postwar Japan, the life is hard, the village is boring to children from the city, and imaginations tend to run wild.

The boys, played with unaffected elan by Keigo and Shogo Matsuyama, have an artistic temperament. This means that they draw well and get bored in very creative, very destructive ways. It also means that they have a different take on life. And that's where the real charm of this film kicks in. It captures how for the twins, the mundane is just as magical as the supernatural. For them, a forest demon is not quite as scary as a pediatrician in full medical regalia is. Their landlord may be a cranky misanthrope, but it's his underwear that's dangerous. It's capable of erupting into an actual assault on the unwary. And none of that is a confusing as first love.

Their often-absent father is a stern school administrator who gave up his dreams of being an artist. He's not happy when his sons show promise. Mom's different. Beneath her composed exterior is a high-spirited kid dying to get out. When her twins, exhibiting their own high spirits, tear up a taro field, Mom's perfectly contrite with the hapless farmer, but when the time comes to discipline the boys, well, she confides that she not only understands why they did it, she wishes she could have, too.

She has an odd approach to sex education, too. Why use pictures to explain the salient bits when the communal bathhouse is so handy?

"Village of Dreams" is a leisurely, sometimes poignant, visit to the inside of a kid's head. Life is odd, adults are even odder. It's a place where sometimes a carp is just a carp, and sometimes it's a mystical foe to be outwitted. And those old ladies sitting in the flowering trees, or kicking up a supernatural dust storms are just part of the scenery.

© 1997 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 11/26/97

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