Review: Stereo Future (2001)

Directed by:
Cast: , , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

Hiroyuki Nakano’s Stereo Future can quite confidently be described by something that might have seemed a bit of paradox had it been applied to just about any other film.

Fresh and funky.

And it even manages beautiful and charming too, but maybe it’s all due to the fact that the film doesn’t try too hard, somehow speaking without saying all that much. Hiroyuki Nakano paints with a light hand, using the far greater weight of colour, music and the lush imagery of nature and our place in it to evoke an almost zen-like appreciation of the story. Then, with a deft left turn, he brings us out of any too-weighty contemplations of meaning with something so delightful and funny the most natural response is to laugh out loud. Through a series of vignettes – Samurai Fighter, Silent Female, Sounds Funky and Stereo Future – through a range of various and somewhat quirky-bordering-on-insane characters and and focusing on the once joined lives of seemingly perfect couple Keisuke and Eri, Stereo Future becomes the kind of rare pleasure that brings a fond smile to your face for some time after.

A loosely termed ‘sequel’ to the fantastic, funny and sadly underrated Samurai Fiction, Stereo Future is subtle in any messages it might be trying to communicate, leaving the viewer to enjoy without having to judge too harshly the almost seasonal changes in the main characters’ lives. Through clever introduction of contemporary issues about the environment, Nakano gracefully and subtly transcribes his metaphors and meanings into the main narrative, bringing with them an underlying sense of hope and belief, a sense that is inferred rather than stated.

But if you prefer just to watch rather than think, then it could also be equally well argued that for all its calming beauty the true heart of this film is in its comedy. From the appearance of the dear, geriatric ninja from Samurai Fiction (any readers having seen the first SF will probably chuckle merely at the mention of him), to the soon-to-be mishap in a van full of fireworks at the end Stereo Future is a delightfully hip grab-bag of humor, brought together in witty style via bad Samurai TV series sets, real-life Oxygen bars and many a well-timed pop-culture reference in between.

Masatoshi Nagase as the main character Keisuke Katsura shines as the least appreciated yet most talented actor in a low-budget Samurai TV show where the director is mad (in both senses of the word) and the main star is a hack who decides not to die despite what the script says. Nagase’s somewhat dry, serious delivery is the perfect foil for some of the film’s most funny and heart-warming moments. And while Keisuke’s story gives the film life, it is also a nice balance that the story from Eri’s perspective (played by Akiko Monou), gives the film its warmth.

And if you find yourself wondering, while you’re sighing at the gorgeous shots or laughing at the lessons in how to die from a cross-slash, who’s responsible for the cool-as music I’ve got seven words for you – Towa Tei and the Fantastic Plastic Machine. I recommend you get some stereo sound hooked up to your TV because the soundtrack (aptly enough) definitely warrants it.

With such a fine, quality mixture of imagery, sound and story in the soup, and with Nakano’s previously proven sense of fun and play, this is not an effort that is going to greatly disappoint anyone and will delight many. Even if it’s sometimes a case of ‘What the?’, it’s still a question posed with a sense of amusement and laughing surprise. No matter how you look at it (or how loud you listen to it!) Hiroyuki Nakano’s Stereo Future proves that life and all its changing seasons is something to be lived, appreciated and ultimately just enjoyed.

8 Slant Cuts, 1 Arm Up, 2 Turns with Dying Twitches out of 10.
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