Who’s Camus Anyway? Review

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AKA: Camus Nante Shiranai?
Genre: Neorealism/Meta-Fiction/Slice of Life
Year Released: 2005

Distributor: Film Movement

Origin: Japan
Running Time: 115 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: 15+

Related Films/Series: N/A

For Fans Of: 8 1/2, Closed Curtain

Notes: N/A
Fun Facts:
-Who’s Camus Anyway? was directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi who is most famous for his debut film God Speed You! Black Emperor. To any of you that listen to post-rock and/or experimental music, that is the same film where the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor got it’s name from.

-Actor Shuji Kashiwabara has also been in the parody film Alien Vs. Ninja.

-The title refers to Albert Camus who is a Nobel Prize winner who dealt with philosophy and is known for his book The Stranger which is name-dropped in this film.


I have a habit of re-watching things I haven’t seen in a long time. Part of it is a semblance of familiarity while also honing my critical eye on any cinematic thing that I review. Before I begin the review proper, I haven’t written any reviews in over a month due to life circumstances and other things. The reviews you’ve been reading for over a month straight have been backlogged and scheduled for every Saturday. Sorry, my fellow readers.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive into this independent Japanese meta-movie.

Who’s Camus Anyway? deals with film students at a university in Tokyo. These young filmmakers at school have been assigned to make a movie called “The Bored Murderer” for their class. Unfortunately, their lead actor who played the murderer got really sick, so the crew comes up with a replacement named Ikeda, who’s a very flamboyant student that’s a part of the university’s theatre club. The director Naoki Matsukawa is dead set on finishing this film for his teacher Prof. Nakajo. He wants no distractions, but his manipulative girlfriend Yukari is begging to be with him despite not being a student at the school he attends. There are other situations such as Nakajo pursuing a female student as it’s close to the two year anniversary of his wife’s death. Also, other students deal with other drama such as budgeting for the film, cheating on each other’s loved ones, wondering about having a good future after graduation, but all of these situations directly and indirectly parallel “The Bored Murderer”.

This was certainly a film that was both quirky and deadpan in it’s presentation, but I did like the production. Mitsuo Yanagimachi masterfully filmed this project with a realistic setting. There are some creative camera takes such as the opening scene where there are long takes as characters are walking and talking around campus. The final scene of the students filming their own movie was handled very well as the cinematography switches from a realistic setting to something more cinematic with the altered frame rates and glossier quality while still looking cohesive. The big plot twist near the end (spoilers avoided) had a great shot where it was in slow-motion as the action and intent of one character is left ambiguous for that moment. Who’s Camus Anyway? had an organic feel to it which really lends to the plot and atmosphere of this meta-movie.

The characters in Who’s Camus Anyway? certainly had their quirks. Naoki is a workaholic and really wants The Bored Murderer to be a great film even though he hasn’t seen Yukari in a while which resorts to her stalking him. He even refuses to get married until he makes a great film much to the detriment of his girlfriend and her mom (her words though). I will admit that drive to work really hard is something I relate to a lot as I haven’t been able to see my friends most of the time. However, Naoki does have a flaw when he uses whatever free time he gets to do other things. Yukari was certainly an emotionally unstable character. She lies about cheating on Naoki and guilt trips him constantly every time they see each other. Yukari is a yandere in live-action form and it’s surprising how much Naoki tolerates her despite giving her the cold shoulder. Prof. Nakajo is a teacher who’s very stoic, but he harbors so much hidden sorrow after his wife dying. He used to be a filmmaker until she died and used to be a dictator whenever he directed, but he gave up that passion. Nakajo sees the student Rei as a potential second wife which I found creepy even though she’s obviously a consenting adult. There’s a twist in that subplot that eventually leaves Nakajo completely emotionally wrecked. Ikeda, the student who becomes the replacement to play this murdering villain protagonist was certainly a surprise. He’s quite effeminate and the first scene with him involves dressing completely in drag with makeup a dress, and the works. I thought he looked like Miley Cyrus in that getup, and thankfully he doesn’t twerk unlike the former Hannah Montana. I did have issues with his character being very effeminate while also wearing tons of pink and purple clothes for most of the film. I thought he was going to be a flaming LBGT stereotype until that scene happened where he talks to Nakajo in the park and casually brings up a tragic part of his backstory which explains why he acts and dresses the way he does. Ikeda slowly looks more masculine in the final act of the film and he did a great job playing this sociopath character as he looked intense without being over-the-top. Even though this person wasn’t a major character, I really liked Kamimura. He’s one of the assistants who is a VERY ardent film buff. Kamimura could school me in classic and world cinema trivia. He can remember scenes from various movies and knows how long each scene lasted down to the second. However, he’s socially awkward around people despite being a nice person. I found that character to be sympathetic and fun. I also liked the scene where him and another student run around the school posting fliers for extras while he names of his best three movies in various genres while asking his flier-posting partner. Just little quirks like that can make a secondary character work.

Who’s Camus Anyway? was an interesting watch, but I couldn’t say it was a masterpiece though. I thought most of the background music was generic and forgettable. They should’ve toned down the music and I think it would’ve been better if they went cinema verite by having the music be something that’s played by musicians or a stereo more often. There are some scenes where it happens such as the breakdancers or the music students practicing their instruments in the background which I thought was a very nice touch, but they could’ve not used incidental music. While the characters had their own flaws, sometimes it got to be insufferable. Yukari is the biggest example. She comes off as unlikable as she threatens Naoki, constantly lies to him, and uses him to make her emotionally secure. That’s saying nothing about the major plot twist where she plays a huge role. I won’t say what she eventually does, but how can any viewer NOT see her as a villain after that? There was also an abundance of the students cheating on each other which I found egregious. Even Kiyoko, the assistant director confesses to cheating on her boyfriend to his face. He gets angry and tells her that he will smack her after the movie is done. That was one of the few times I saw a situation like that be gender reversed and while I won’t excuse that threat from the boyfriend, there have been shows and movies where the women straight up kill their cheating husbands/boyfriends, so his response might be tamer if it was the other way around. I also noticed some plot holes and I thought there was way too huge of a cast for a film like this.

This meta-film was a good watch although it’s not mind-blowing. I found the situations to be believable most of the time and I thought it was cool how you saw these quirky things going on with these college students. The filming was great as it uses creative camera shots. I liked how there were subtle parallels with the real life situations and how they coincide with the movie they try to make. I wasn’t a fan of the incidental music used throughout the movie. Some of the characters do become unintentionally loathsome with some of their actions, but there are other characters that really shine. Who’s Camus Anyway? was a mildly enjoyable film.


Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like meta-fiction plots and elements
.
Subtract 1-3 points if you don’t like dramas that revolve around school.

Pros:

-Great neorealism cinematography
-Realistic quirks with characters
-Masterful parallel storytelling

Cons:
-Incidental background music was lacking and generic
-Cheating as an overplayed plot element
-Random plot holes



Final Score: 7/10 points



Content Warnings: Who’s Camus Anyway? is for teens and up. If this got an official rating, it would be either a hard PG-13 or a soft R with the content in the film. There’s brief strong language later on in the film. Some characters do get drunk including Prof. Nakajo as he drowns his sorrows in his office in the third act of the film. Some elements are disturbing such as Nakajo following Rei who has to be at least fifteen years younger than him. Keep in mind, she’s also a student at the school where he works. Yukari can really come across as unhinged like the big plot twist moment. Even though The Bored Murderer is fiction even in the context of Who’s Camus Anyway?, the filming scene of Ikeda as the Takeda character murdering an older woman gets very bloody. There’s even some implied sex scenes, but there’s no nudity or erotic imagery going on. However, Ikeda’s backstory gets very graphic when he explains how he was abused as a teenager.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

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