“Potechi (Chips)” – 2012 NYAFF & Japan Cuts Review

Note: Meniscus Magazine is proud to co-present “Potechi (Chips)” (ポテチ) at the 2012 San Diego Asian Film Festival on Fri., Nov. 2, at 6:45 p.m.  It screens a second time on Tues., Nov. 6, at 5:45 p.m. For ticket information, go to festival.sdaff.org.

It’s difficult to explain how all the various pieces of “Potechi (Chips)” (ポテチ) come together.  Yet with topics as diverse as house burglary, suicide, mother-son relationships, baseball fandom and, of course, potato chips peppered across a brisk 68-minute work, director Yoshihiro Nakamura somehow connects the dots to deliver a knockout revelation right in the closing seconds.

Gaku Hamada plays the eccentric young adult Imamura, who is shown in the beginning of the film talking to colleague Kurosawa (Nao Omori) in a park.  The subject is a potential job, and not the type that you would want others to listen in on.  Imamura’s girlfriend Wakaba puts up with his idiosyncrasies, even accompanying him on a break-in job.  However, it just so turns out that this particular apartment belongs to Imamura’s favorite baseball player, a local hero named Ozaki, which makes one ponder if his obsession has gone a bit too far.  These circumstances catalyze a series of seemingly unrelated revelations that, if revealed here, would completely spoil the end of the movie.

The filming of “Chips” took place in Sendai, at the heart of the Tohoku region in Japan, mere months after the 2011 earthquake.  This setting exists as a subtle layer beneath the unfolding plot, eventually rising to the surface to receive a huge heart wrapped in a gigantic bow in the form of this film.  As he did in last year’s New York Asian Film Festival favorite “A Boy and His Samurai,” Nakamura deftly mixes imperfect personalities and life-altering situations to create a satisfying feel-good lesson about life.  In this day and age of Hollywood happy endings, this is no small feat.

“Potechi (Chips)” is the closing film of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival, co-presented by Japan Cuts.  It screens at the Japan Society on Sun., July 15, at 8 p.m. For ticket information, go to japansociety.org.