To The Ends Of The Earth,A Japanese Nugget

To The Ends Of  The Earth(Japanese, with English subtitles)

Directed by Kiyushi Kurosawa

Rating: ***

Okay, films are often made for reasons other than art. And the ones that are done to promote tourism are  pretty disastrous(do you remember Bollywood’s Love In Tokyo ?). This Japanese film which was made  to celebrate ties between  Japan  and Uzbekistan  succeeds  in getting over  its propagandist design to tell a  stirring story  of a  young Japanese struggler actress Yoko(AtsukoMaeda) who travels to Uzbekistan  to  shoot a series for a  Japanese travel show.

This scarily vivid film on skewered gender-relations in a  society which  is   just opening up its doors to Western mores,  shows Yoko being  exploited in the most casual way, like eating undercooked rice  for the camera(which the woman doing the actual cooking fixes and generously  gives Yoko to eat at her leisure). As the film crew travels to various parts  of Uzbekistan ,Yoko is put into potentially dangerous  situations. In one  of these she is  repeatedly  run on   a rollercoaster at  recreational park while her genuine terror and  nausea are  filmed by the emotionless crew  who are not callous, just indifferent  to discomfort as long as they  get their require  footage.

At some  point Yoko finds herself a little mission  of rescuing a  goat from a local woman’s backyard , only to realize  that the  goat would  be slaughtered  by wild animals if left free in the  jungle. In this way, the film questions  the notion of freedom.If Yoko was not forced to earn  a living by endangering herself each time , would she value life and love the way she does?

Throughout the  film we see Yoko alone(the  boyfriend  is far away present in Yoko’s life as  text messages) , standing tall in her isolation as she  plays guinea pig to the experimental crew of  a travelogue that probably very few watch.

Towards  the  end  the storytelling assumes a  hallucinatory hue as Yoko imagines herself singing on stage  in Ubekistan’s  celebrated opera  house. This again seems  more touristic  propaganda than an  artistic propensity. But director Kiyushi Kurosawa  never  crosses the  line  to leap into the uneasy  rhythms of touristic  propaganda.

There  is  no lack kind sympathetic  people in To The Ends Of  The Earth. But at the end of the day  you can’t escape the thought that this film was made with a hidden agenda. As a  tourist  brochure of brittle motivations,To The Ends Of The Earth cleverly negotiates the pitfalls of propaganda to emerge as a strong statement on the perils of being a working girl in a society that has  lately woken up  to celebrating  roles  for women  other than  a housewife and a bed partner.Japan doesn’t quite know what to do with a independent  minded  under-privilegedworkingclass girl like Yoko.

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