As I watch Satomi Ishihara on TV right now, interviewing the singer and voice actress Aoi Teshima (known for voicing Therru in Ghibli's TALES FROM EARTHSEA, she has a fantastic fantastic singing voice!), repressed memories of two weeks ago came back to me and filled my heart with sorrow.
There had been numerous instances when I've randomly posted Satomi Ishihara's photos on my blog because of my uncontrollable love for her cuteness...
But yes, two days after I returned to Tokyo, I went to see a film called FLYING RABBITS, it stars Satomi Ishihara as an air stewardess who was forced to join the Japan Airlines (the JAL is a sponsor of the film) female basketball team, JAL RABBITS. (yes, the team does exist)
Starring Satomi Ishihari?
Pretty girls playing basketball, what more do I need?
I didn't even need to find out more about the film (... there's really not much to find out, try Googling it), looking at the poster, I was immediately sold because I'm shallow.
And once again, my downfall is caused by my irrational love for pretty women. While I'm a lifelong basketball fan (I'm the only one of the two people in Malaysia who watch the NBA, the other being my Filipino maid, Susan), I know that women's basketball isn't as entertaining as, say, men's basketball. It's a way of life, just like how women's gymnastic will always be gazillion times more entertaining then men's gymnastic. I also don't expect much from a basketball film, a good basketball film is a rarity. SPACE JAM (the one with Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny) remains my Citizen Kane of basketball films, awful memories of KUNG FU DUNK remain fresh in my mind.
So I don't expect much. I just want to see pretty girls playing balls, that's it.
Thus I paid for my shallowness. Karma biting me hard in the ass. I thought I would get something like THE SIMSONS (not a typo, I'm referring to the Rosa Kato-starring Japanese film about CURLING), an enjoyable romp about female bonding, and some nice sports scenes, but what I got was something... else.
The basketball scenes were few and far between, there couldn't be more than 5 of them, including the climatic match, and of course, like all Asian basketball films, some stuff from the seminal basketball manga SLAM DUNK had been ripped off for this film during (not very well-shot nor choreographed) matches.
I want this post to sound happier, like how, maybe Satomi Ishihara's magnetic presence elevated the mind-numbing mediocrity of the film, how, in spite of its flaws, I found myself being able to love it because that is the power of true love. Yet I cannot be dishonest, like the handful of others in the cinema, I was bored out of my mind, but unlike the handful of others in the cinema, I didn't fall asleep like they did. I had thought that it was a problem with my inability to understand most of the dialogue in the film, but I've found myself being able to transcend that in many instances when I see a film in a Japanese cinema. But seeing a few others actually sighing and sleeping, I know the problem doesn't lie solely with me.
Why? Satomi? Was this a lesson? How brutal. You lured me in with promises of pleasure, yet what you gave me was agony. All these so I can cease being a sexist pig? Although I have to concede, she does have some good basketball moves (she really does know how to play basketball), so why let me see so little of that in the film? Was that a test of my love for her? To see whether her mere presence can hold my attention throughout the entire film? (it's nearly 2 hours long)
The film seems to have a rather low budget, and I've probably seen some Japanese TV doramas that have better production values, so with all these limitations, I would have expected the filmmakers to work around it by infusing the film with some originality and charm, not manufactured contrivances seen in gazillions of other sports films, and then twist that around by having a sparse amount of sports scenes, and lots of mundane stuff that are supposed to develop characters, yet fail to because they too, are unoriginal.
And thus I suffered, all because of my irrational love for pretty women. My soul was sucked clean, and I was left with nothing but sorrow that I didn't see Satomi Ishihara in a better film. Le sigh.
FLYING RABBITS trailer
Additional note 1: This happens in every single climatic match in almost every single sports film:
The protagonists always find themselves trailing by a huge margin early on, and then goes into an impossible and inspirational rally that cuts the lead down after halftime. The game is finally decided during the last few seconds with single shot. Winning the match means a happy, feel-good ending, losing the match is okay because they have won the love and respect of everyone else including their opponents.
Additional note 2: The director, Takahisa Zeze used to direct pink films before he moved on to doing that Gackt and Hyde vehicle MOON CHILD (that made many fangirls fantasized that the two had a gay relationship and spawned numerous horrifying yaoi fanfics about the duo). Oh yeah, I thought MOON CHILD was really bad too.