The first film in my seventh, and final, match-up in the second round of the 90s Far East Bracket is about the forgotten medium of the radio drama!
Screenplay By: Kôki Mitani
Directed By: Kôki Mitani
I didn’t need the end credits to tell me that Rajio No Jikan was based on a play. The film is very closed off, barely opening up, not really bothering to stray from its studio setting until seventeen minutes into the film. Even then, the film quickly takes itself back into the studio, that’s where everything happens, that’s where all the action can be found. The theater setting, or motif, can sometimes be restrictive, stopping a natural progression in the narrative because the film is tied to its primary set. I never found that to be the case with Rajio No Jikan, its narrative belonged in that primary setting. When Kôki Mitani, the director, decided to leave that setting it may have only been for short bursts but the movie sputtered and faltered outside of its primary setting.
There’s an organized chaos on display in Rajio No Jikan, that chaos is mined for comedic gold. Well, maybe not gold, but at the very least it turns out some silver. Outside of one hilarious case of yelling by Keiko Toda, as Nokko Senbon, I didn’t laugh out loud while watching Rajio No Jikan. The humor I found in the film was of the quiet variety, by understanding the organized chaos at work I understood why what was happening on the screen was funny. There aren’t any characters who stand out in the comedy category, nor are there any bits of writing or directing that scream comedy (sans the yelling I spoke of earlier). Yet, there is comedy throughout Rajio No Jikan, and my laughter, no matter how quiet is a testament to the movie being funny.
The way in which Rajio No Jikan approached its comedy and its characters reminded me of another movie I’ve watched for the brackets, Shall We Dansu?. Rajio No Jikan operates on much the same level as Shall We Dansu? in other areas besides comedy, most notably in how it peppers some thin social messages beneath a slight story. However, what mainly made me think of Shall We Dansu? while I was watching Rajio No Jikan was how the film was an enjoyable experience without really trying for much more than that. I have time in my life for movies that don’t seek to be important, that don’t add unneeded weight to their existence. I slightly prefer the laid back style of Shall We Dansu? to the manic tendencies of Rajio No Jikan, but it’s still a very pleasant movie and an enjoyable experience.
That’s not to say that Rajio No Jikan is all lollipops and tootsie rolls. I had a hard time with a few elements in the film, specifically some moments where elements within the film became overbearing. There were a few scenes where the director pushed himself into the film, a prime example being the moment where Mr. Ushijima and his assistant Sumiko Nagai run towards each other in the hallway. That moment, and a couple of others, stood out a lot compared with the rest of the film, the aesthetic of those scenes did not match up with the aesthetic of the rest of the film. In that hallway scene there was also a swelling within the score, and that happened far too often in the film. There were moments that were supposed to be dramatically funny, and they were, but then the score would supply an on the nose bombastic swell and it just felt wrong.
As far as pleasant and enjoyable movies go I had a nice time with Rajio No Jikan. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, the performances are all amiable, and when the film was over I had a smile on my face. I’ve said it before, but leaving a movie with a smile on your face is a fine feeling. I enjoyed the intimate setting of Rajio No Jikan, and while I didn’t love the movie I liked it. Rajio No Jikan is a movie worth seeking out if you’re looking for an enjoyable movie from the Far East that is more off the beaten path.