Quirky Guys and Gals (Sabi otoko sabi onna), dir. Yosuke Fujita, Masaya Kakehi, Tomoko Matsunashi, Mipo Oh, Gen Sekiguchi

Quirky Guys and Gals is one of only five films on mubi with a 5-star rating. OK, probably this is because it’s fairly new (it could be only one person has rated it so far), and perhaps it’s not quite that good, but it’s still a pretty good film.

As you may have guessed from the credits above, it’s a portmanteau film, each director basically making their own film with the common thread being the quirkiness of the central character’s personality. And yes, they certainly are quirky. (Zadie Smith tried the same idea when she edited her book of short stories, The Book of Other People, but to far more paltry ends).

The first film is wrapped around the conceit (or belief of the protagonists) that cheer-leading does actually have an effect, and that, rather than just employ it in sport, you could use cheer-leading to make people succeed better in almost every activity. It’s a very bizarre film in fact, and shot in a very bizarre manner.

The second film is the weakest, about a shy boy in love with a girl (he is beautiful, except he wears glasses, you see, and his beauty will only become apparent when he takes them off), who dresses up as a girl and becomes her friend etc. etc.

The third film is about a woman who is obsessed with the idea of sincerity, and can’t bear the hypocritical and apologetic nature of other people. This seems to be a particular problem for her in the ultra-polite worlds of Japan and customer relations.

The fourth film is about a woman who used to collect stray cats and now collects stray businessmen who’ve lost their jobs.

There doesn’t seem to be a fifth film. Perhaps the fifth director directed the opening and closing credit sequences, which are also entertaining.

All the films are told in a mad, happy style; and often, though they start out as just odd, quirky pieces, actually start to become quite meaningful. It works well as a portmanteau piece: the stories mostly stand up on their own, they have their own characters, and yet there are strong themes and threads running through the set of them. There’s a sense in it all that Japan needs a bit of cheering up of late – and perhaps this is the film to do it.

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